While there are certainly a lot of things to do and places to visit in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta – floating markets, historic wartime sites, and French colonial-era heritage buildings to name but a few – the Delta is so much more than a collection of individual sights.
Above all, it’s a feeling – a slow-paced way of life where time isn’t measured by the hands on a watch but by the rise and fall of the tide, the harvests of rice, fruit, vegetables, and farmed fish, and by the start of the rainy season or the beginning of the dry season.
One of Vietnam’s most productive areas, the Mekong Delta is actually one of the most populated rural areas in the world. However, just minutes outside of the cities, you’ll find yourself in true rustic surroundings of emerald rice fields, swaying coconut trees, and a veritable network of canals, streams, and rivers that irrigate Vietnam’s so-called “Rice Bowl”.
Because so much of life is lived on and near the water, boating is a great way to take in the sights. However, for a closer look at this gorgeous slice of the Vietnamese countryside, you really can’t beat cycling. You get the unique perspective of being on the ground, as opposed to on a bus or train, with the advantage of stopping whenever you want for photos or just to soak in the peace and quiet.
Another benefit of cycling the Mekong Delta is stopping to meet its warm, friendly people whose livelihoods depend on seasonal cycles of rainfall, river flow, sediment deposits, and more. This means that the people of the Mekong Delta live especially close to Nature, where the water and land are literally life.
While there are designated tourist sites throughout the Mekong Delta, taking visitors through fruit orchards, craft workshops, home honey production, and eco-friendly attractions, simply bike a couple of minutes off the main roads and you’ll find yourself among a sea of rice fields, particularly beautiful as they glisten gold just before harvest.
While rice cultivation is hard work, the really labor-intensive stages are during planting and harvesting. In between, there’s lots of free time to just laze in a hammock and watch the plants grow.
Cycling along the many rivers, streams, and ponds offers a wonderful look into the relationship between the people of the Mekong Delta and the water that surrounds them. You’ll catch glimpses of ferries carrying people, goods, and motorbikes from one bank to the other.
Need to get to market but don’t have a motorbike? No problem! Simply flag down one of the industrious women who provide a local “water taxi” service.
Or maybe take the family’s canoe out for a jaunt instead.
While the city offers cinemas, malls, and entertainment centers, kids in the Delta live in Nature’s playground. Cycle along the quiet village paths and you’ll often spot neighborhood kids cooling off with a swim in a nearby canal, perhaps hanging off a buoyant banana tree trunk or just dipping their feet in the water off the family jetty.
What kid wouldn’t want to grow up in the countryside, bicycling under the shade of coconut trees, fishing in the canals, or weaving a hat of leaves?
For you see, life here centers around Nature which provides almost everything the people need. Farm-to-table is literally eating what you grow yourself, from rice to a bunch of bananas from a tree in your back yard.
Feeling thirsty? Shimmy up a palm tree and grab yourself a coconut, perfectly packaged by Mother Nature. A thwack of the machete lofts off the top, uncovering the sweet, refreshing juice waiting for you inside.
While Vietnamese homes tend to be multi-generational all over the country, this is even more evident in the Delta where you’ll often see kids and older ones holding down the home while the adults are off working or studying, perhaps in the megalopolis of Ho Chi Minh City.
There’s a closeness between generations here that’s simply beautiful to witness. While in some other countries, older ones look forward to relaxing at retirement age, in the Delta, older ones continue to be useful members of the family, looking after grandchildren, or tending to small chores around the home, like stripping off palm fronds for some new thatching.
Cycling along the flat paths through quaint villages and on earthy levees in between rice fields in the Delta affords visitors the unique opportunity of experiencing life up close and personal.
Next time you find yourself in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, why not let Victoria Can Tho Resort take you on an insightful cycling trip for a taste of country living?
Have you ever incorporated cycling into your travels? Share your experience in the comments below.