Cruising the Mekong Delta is not as easy as one might think. A commonly asked question is how a person can exit or enter Vietnamand travel between the Cambodian border and Saigon. Until now, there are only one or two companies that offer such a thing and because they are based on a complete Mekong cruise experience they can be quite expensive and restricted to the larger waterways because of boat size. I have been discussing the possibility of some kind of alternative to these cruises with my friends at V’Explore and out of curiosity, Nghia, Hau, and I had decided to try a grand experiment and see if it was possible to enjoy a less
expensive Mekong adventuer travelling the waterways and canals through less touristic waters to connect with the hydrofoil at the Cambodian border in order to help passengers on to Phnom Penh. As luck would have it. I ran into a nice couple trying to travelVietnam on their own that wanted such a trip. We just said goodbye to Daryl and Ulrika as they boarded the hydrofoil forPhnom Penh. We had a great adventure and here is how it all came about…..
In my last blog I wrote about a tour of the highlands. While on that tour, I ran into a couple in Buon Ma Thuot who were trying to do Vietnam on their own avoiding all of the touristy places. I was talking to them of where they had been and where to go. They had just left Hoi An after hours of being there being disturbed by overly heavy tourism. I suggested they head to Nha Trang but they had decided to skip Nha Trangall together because of what the Lonely Planet
Guide and what some bad travel forum advice said. As usual I tried not to mention I had a hotel but told them of the rest of the city that is not touristy at all, and also talked to them of visiting Dalat. The next day I carried on with my tour forgetting the conversation. After a few days more I returned home and to my surprise, Daryl and Ulrika were staying in our hotel and enjoying Nha Trang. They both became certified
Open Water divers instructed by a friend of mine who has a small diving company called Aloha Dive. After spending a number of days in fun and friendly “untouristy” beach area in Nha Trang, they surprised me again by asking me about a way to go intoCambodia via theMekongRiver. I mentioned to them that I wad headed to Saigon in a week to discover if such a thing was possible and if they wished, we could turn their last week or so into
one grand adventure and we could travel to Saigon over days on motorcycles. The couple jumped at the chance to do a back country tour to Saigon so me and my partner Tien set out with Daryl and Ulrika for a 4 day tour to Saigon via Dalat, Bao Loc, Dong Xoai and visiting Cu Chi before ending inSaigon. I will not go into a lot of detail about the trip but suffice it to say that we had a lot of fun and experienced some real adventure. At one point we ever rented a private karaoke room and belted out Joe Cocker songs that will forever leave dong Xoai with raspy voiced echoes. All along the way I was in contact with Nghia and
Hau planning our next leg of the journey. I informed them that I had two guests that were interested in doing such a trip and after a little consideration we agreed that it would be a good way to have feedback on the tour. Daryl and Ulrika understood that this was an inspection tour and there could be problems and bugs along the way, but the adventurous duo would have it no other way…… OK!!!! Off we go.
TheMekongtour began with a comfortable bus picking us up at our hotel to transport us to Vinh long where we connected with the Sampan we arranged. On board were upgraded chairs, hammocks, bicycles and necessities for food and drink. The afternoon was filled with examining local industries such as visiting a brick factory and coconut candy manufacturers. We transferred to smaller watercraft and toured beautiful canals and ended the afternoon riding bicycles to our homestay for the first night. Daryl and Ulrika enjoyed a free cooking class while Nghia, Hau and I discussed the first day’s outcome. After a relaxing evening and restful sleep we cycled back to our Sampan and departed Vinh Long and made our way to Sa Dec through some of the smaller waterways not accessible by the larger boats. Along the way we enjoyed viewing the day to day life
ofMekongresidents. We visited an Ancient house where the movie “The Lover” was based and enjoyed a home cooked meal on the Sampan. The late afternoon had us arriving at our second homestay. OH Oh!…. Here we ran into a bit of difficulty as the homestay was set up like a dormitory and not really suitable for our purposes. Luckily were able to get to our boat before it was secured for the night and instead, we ended up in a nice hotel in Long Xuen. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise and we enjoyed an evening in a town that sees very few foreign visitors. The next day found us continuing through smaller canals and river systems. This
day was a bit lazier and we found ourselves swinging in hammocks and having brief naps with a countryside bike ride here and there. We also visited a dry dock to watch the hand crafting of a large boat. The day ended with us visiting the market in Chau Doc and arranging transfer for Daryl and Ulrika to the hydrofoil for the next day trip toPhnom Penh.
The advantages of this kind of trip over the larger cruises are:
A great way to experience theMekongand move between destinations.
Much less expensive
Access to places the big boats cannot go.
Sleeping on land in quiet accommodations away from the often noisy riverboats
Ability to enjoy evenings moving about without being restricted to a curfew.
Being able to cruise independently or in a small group making it a more personal experience.
Experiencing a much less touristyMekongadventure
I could go on in detail about the adventure and fantastic sights we saw and, but I will let the included pictures speak for themselves.