I spent 3 amazing weeks travelling around Cambodia so now it was time to head to Vietnam. I decided I wanted to travel by boat down the Mekong river and then stumbled upon a 2 night/3 day tour which sounded like a great deal. I’m not usually a fan of tours and always sceptical there’ll be some hidden extras but this time I worked out the price of the boat only and the boat plus accommodation and tour so I was sold. The picture below shows my route Phnom Penh – Chau Doc – Can Tho – Vinh Long – Ho Chi Minh city!!
There’s something really relaxing about the water for me and I can sit on a boat for hours so sailing down the Mekong river was the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. We sailed for around 4 hours and then goat to the border with Vietnam so the boat had to dock and then a quick scramble up the river bank to a little office to get our passport checked and get stamped out of Cambodia.
We then had to change to a speed boat and 100 m further down the river we had to get our passports and visa checked to get stamped into Vietnam so all pretty straight forward and definitely easier than land border crossings!! Another 2 hours we arrived at Chau Doc at the border and time for lunch watching local boats on the river until I was getting picked up by bus. The tour guide gave me a piece of paper with something written in Vietnamese and told to give it to the bus driver…no idea what it said but at the bus station I showed it to the security guard and got given a bus ticket. I then had a 3 hour bus journey to the next town and again presented this piece of paper and someone came to pick me up in a taxi…it was amazing that this piece of paper got me all the way to the hotel!! The organisation was amazing and them moment you start asking questions about the logistics is when you feel your stress levels rising, so you have to trust everything will be ok !!
We had an early start the following morning and then boarded a boat to go and visit the biggest floating market on the Mekong Delta and it was more for the locals buying in bulk to sell at local markets than the tourists. The Mekong Delta occupies South West Vietnam and also called the nine dragon river where there’s a lot of river connections going off in all different directions.
After a day sightseeing it was time to head to the village to my homestay where I would spend the night staying with a Vietnamese family. This was amazing and I love these off the beaten track adventures where you get the opportunity to experience local life and get to know the Vietnamese people. The couple I stayed with didn’t speak a lot of English but we were able to communicate through laughter, smiles and sign language!!
Homestays are becoming very popular in SE Asia and this was one of the more traditional ones where you sleep in the house with the family. I was told a lot of the homestays are like hotels where you have a separate room outside. I had an amazing home cooked dinner with an early breakfast the following morning and the only sounds to wake me up were the cockerel and the gecko !! I never knew what was happening on the tour from one hour to the next but I relaxed and enjoyed every moment and a bonus not having to plan. After breakfast I had to walk to the river and there was a canoe to pick me up to take me back to the mainland…amazing organisaiton !! It was time to make the most of the peace and tranquillity before hitting the madness of Ho Chi Minh city after a 3 hour bus journey ! I’d only been in Vietnam 3 days but already experienced so much and definitely changed my opinion of tours as I would have missed out on so many experiences travelling independently. I think the balance for me is independent travel most of the time and pick up tours from time to time to go off the beaten track. I’d love to hear your experiences of travelling independently and going with a tour? What do you prefer?
Look forward to being back here soon with the news from Ho Ci Minh city and beyond.