When the Mekong Delta comes to mind, one visualizes every shade of green, colossal palm trees along the banks of the river, a murky green water reflection, and fertile agriculture. The tributaries and labyrinth-esque rivers travel through Vietnam before they vanish into the East Sea. People have found ways to live along the waterway banks by adapting to the Mekong Delta’s current.
Another image that comes to mind when one thinks of the Mekong Delta are the painted mosaics that seem to show up every day near the floating markets. Tiny wooden boats filled with multicolored produce make their way to the markets once the day starts.
At one time, the Mekong Delta was owned by the Khmer Krom, a kingdom in Khmer. During the 1690s, Vietnam ruled over the Mekong Delta. During the Vietnam-America war and the French colonial period, a significant amount of bloodshed and battle commenced on the Mekong Delta’s waters and along its banks.
Today, the Mekong Delta is a peaceful area with flourishing agriculture. The Mekong Delta, which is cited as the “Rice Bowl of Vietnam,” is one of the country’s largest rice producers. The crops thrive in the wetlands, where the nutrients are richest. Fruit, soybean, and sugarcane plantations grow well here, giving the region’s inhabitants a dependable income stream.
The Mekong Delta’s climate is divided between the monsoon season (May to October) and the dry season (November to April). The lands are saturated from heavy rainfall during monsoon season, swelling the river. The region becomes flooded once the water penetrates its banks. The long-term effects of climate change continue to be worrisome for the Mekong Delta’s natives, as there are no assurances of survival from the potential disaster (which is preventable).
It is easy to get to My Tho from Ho Chi Minh City. The town has seen a rise in popularity as a daytime attraction, as interest in My Tho from tourists grows with each year. Thousands of visitors take in the Mekong Delta’s beauty from sampan boats. Colorful facades on the riverfront are piled up on each other. The facades’ balconies extend towards the river. You can also explore the town on foot. The gorgeous architecture in the Vinh Tang Temple integrates elements of European, Chinese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese styles. The design of the well-maintained temple is mirrored all over the pagoda and grounds surrounding it. A pair of mammoth Buddha statues greet visitors in front of the pagoda – one of which stands while the other one sits.
Close to My Tho is Phoenix Island, the former residence of an eccentric man named Nguyen Thanh Nam, a.k.a. the “Coconut Monk.” The religion was established by Nam, who practiced it on his floating pagoda. Some say he lived off of coconuts while meditating on a slab of stone for 3 years. The religion fused Christianity and Buddhism, though the Vietnam government eventually halted it. A colorful but odd variety of structures are housed on the island, the strangest of which may be the Apollo Rocket model.
Anything coconut-related tends to be made in Ben Tre, most notably the sticky and sweet coconut candy often consumed in Vietnam. During your river exploration adventures, it is worth stopping by the coconut factory to gain insight into local trade. Husk files and rolling coconut mountains on the riverside are indicative of where the factories are located. Within them, women and men alike expertly split open coconuts and make them hollow. Tourists can watch them convert the flesh of a coconut into candy (and taste samples afterward). Visitors in Ben Tre also have the option to see how mats are weaved and learn how inhabitants preserve their craft in the modern world.
More than 140 of the Khmer Kingdom’s pagodas are scattered across the province. Khmer’s identity is maintained through language class and the practice of Theravada Buddhism. The most popular Khmer Temple in Tra Vinh is the Hang Pagoda, beloved for its tranquil ambiance, detailed architecture, and overhead views of flying storks.
Life in the Mekong Delta is exemplified perfectly in Vinh Long, which has rivers flanked on both sides. Vinh Long is situated within intersecting tributaries. It’s the ideal place to reserve a homestay – you’ll be able to experience the way of life of river inhabitants. You can plan a journey to Cai Be from Vinh Long if you want to engage in some floating market bartering.
The market tends to be the busiest in the early morning (6 AM), and the crowd doesn’t settle down until later in the day.
One of the most breathtaking places in the Mekong Delta is the U-Minh Forest. Away from the Amazon, the dense mangrove forests house many fascinating animal species. The crisscrossing mangrove roots emit from the river and converge into thin trunks before exploding into green vegetation. When you enter the forest, you’ll feel as though you’re in an undiscovered area of the planet. The murky waters and colossal trees will look foreign to you as you make your way through the opaque forest. Vietcong troops used the unfamiliar terrain, hiding in the mazelike forests during the war.
During the war, Agent Orange was sprayed all over the area by US forces to break down hiding spots of Vietcong soldiers, but the effects were disastrous. This kind of battle tactic was utilized throughout the country. The chemicals harmed both plants and people – including the ones who lived here. The forest has slowly reverted to the natural glory it used to be famous for. The alluring forest can be accessed by boat every day. Visitors will catch glimpses of otters, fishing cats, and 187 other rare animals – some of which are bird species you might’ve never heard of!
Chau Doc is a culturally diverse small town in the Mekong Delta, situated on the border of Cambodia. Those who reside here include Khmer, Cham, Chinese, and Vietnamese natives. The pastel shades of the homes here give this friendly area its charm, as does the mesmerizing architecture in each of its pagodas, mosques, and temples.
Close to Vinh Long is Sam Mountain, a sacred area where a number of Buddhists pilgrimage to every year. Several pagodas and temples are scattered along the path to Tra Su, most of which are tucked into caves and crevices. At the top of Tra Su, the view stretches out to the land under it –you’ll see Cambodia on one side and Vietnam on the other.
About 30 kilometers south is Tra Su, a flooded forest that currently houses a bird sanctuary. Tourists can get to it by boat and travel through rivers filled with water lettuce. This trip will bring you through the arching cajeput’s dense forests and mangrove trees. You’ll get to see birds fall from the sky, dip into the water, and sprout out of it. You’ll hear birds chattering and chattering away with one another in the afternoon throughout the forest. Your forest exploration trip will end at a watchtower with a vantage point that provides mesmerizing views. In addition to all the birds flocking within the forest, you’ll also see bee swarms that produce fresh honey (which you’ll be able to buy before getting back on the boat).
All of the religions practiced in the Mekong Delta have exciting and colorful celebrations to partake in.
Ky Yen transpires annually from the final lunar month’s 14th to 16th days. This festival unites the communities as they collectively worship the village’s god. Festival attire are what patrons adorn before visiting temples. They later engage in dragon dances, parades, and ceremonies. In the evening, you’ll get to see Hat Boi – a talent show where people sing traditional songs competitively. The melody of people celebrating and singing resonate throughout each village for a few days every year. Every 3 years, an even bigger event is held.
In 2009, Ben Tre held a coconut festival to celebrate the culture and history of the town. Taking place biannually in month one, the celebration features live music and dance performances. In addition to conventional activities for patrons to engage in, the river is filled with echoes of levity. Besides the entertainment and games, local craftsmen sell handmade items, including coconut candy, coconut jam, mats, and bowls.
In addition to celebrating Tet – the Vietnamese new year, the Khmer festival known as Chol Chnam Thmay is also observed in many villages. For a few days in April, people make incense and fruit offerings, hear what monks have to say, and partake in traditional dances and games. This vibrant festival is an opportunity for natives to ring in the new year and say a prayer for their ancestors.
Ok Om Bok – also a Khmer celebration – transpires in the Mekong Delta during the tenth month’s full moon. This event allows patrons to pay respects to the Moon God, a deity who is said to regulate both crops and weather. After a full moon has risen, families gather so that offerings can be made to the moon. Once the ceremony has completed, people visit Tra Vinh’s Ba Om Pond where the water and sky are filled with twinkling colorful lanterns. Traditional music fills the airways while this is happening. An intense boat race also takes place at the festival involving Ngo, which are conventional wooden boats. The settings of these races are always lively as people rally behind participants as spectators.
Because of its agriculture dependency, the God of Agriculture Festival is a crucial event for those in the Mekong Delta. This festival transpires in the 2nd and 8th lunar months biannually. People get an opportunity to express appreciation for the prior year’s growth, and also say a prayer for the upcoming year’s bumper crop.
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