If travelling in Vietnam or Cambodia, the Mekong River is not to be missed. It has long been a source of sustenance for people in the region, as both countries’ breadbaskets rely on its silts that deliver fertile soil to provide for their populations.
Our time on the river started off in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we hopped on a speedboat taking us to Chau Doc, Vietnam. We had been debating over spending a night in town, but eventually caved after deciding to visit Tra Su Bird Sanctuary the next morning. The 850-hectare cajeput forest lies 20 km to the southwest of Chau Doc and makes for a worthwhile half-day trip that we easily arranged by negotiating with motorbike taxis in town.
Canals form in the forest when the grounds are flooded during the rainy season, rendering the area ideal for boats. Our tour began on motorboat to explore Tra Su’s wider canals, where light mist still hovered above the water in early morning.
When the canals started becoming narrower, we switched to a smaller longboat and explored by paddle.
On our way back to town, we stopped at Sam Mountain, where the view was of endless lush green rice fields. To the right top corner, in the distance where the land takes on a yellowish hue our driver explained, was Cambodia.
After our tour, we left Chau Doc and headed to Can Tho, famous for its floating wholesale markets on the Mekong.
At 5:15 am, we met up with our guide, whom we had hired the night before by walking to the boat departure dock in town and paying a deposit.
At dawn, we set out on a small, wooden motorized boat to the first of two floating markets, Cai Rang, the largest in the delta. In the early morning, this stretch of the Mekong serves as a key juncture for fruit and vegetable wholesalers, the area bustling with the shouts of vendors and noisy boat motors. These days, floating markets are becoming a thing of the past with commerce moving landward. A quick search of photos from Cai Rang years ago confirms this.
Vendors use poles of hanging fruit and vegetables to indicate the produce they carry.
A lot of waste from the market ends up entering the river. Our propeller became entangled with plastic several times that day.
A quick visit to a rice noodle factory explained how these noodles were traditionally made.
As we ventured further into the Mekong Delta, we stopped at the Cai Be floating market, which is to the north of Cai Rang and considerably smaller.
Our guide was incredible at handicrafts and made us a flower and headband out of river reeds, all while manning our boat at the same time.
The three days we spent along the Mekong where idyllic and a welcome break from all of the jetting around we had done earlier in the trip. Next we were headed to Halong Bay in northern Vietnam.