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Things to do in Vietnam

Cruising the Mekong Delta by sampan

Our Mekong Delta trips are unique because our boat, the Song Xhan, is a traditional sampan so we can sail on narrow canals and get a glimpse…

Nghia Huu Pham
Operations Manager for Victoria Cruises

Cruising the Mekong Delta by Sampan

Our Mekong Delta trips are unique because our boat, the Song Xhan, is a traditional sampan instead of large liner, so we can sail on narrow canals and get a glimpse of real river life, stopping to visit villages and local factories. Our guests say they feel part of the community rather than tourists because we’re on the same level as local boats and can visit areas where the big ships can’t venture.

One of the highlights is just floating along the Mekong’s canals to observe river life, passing fishermen and farmers working in the fields. We talk to people about how they make a living, learning all about traditional fishing and farming methods. All our staff are from the Mekong region and so interacting with the locals is easy. Even if guests are woken up early by the sounds of people catching fish or boats heading to the floating market, they’re very happy to get a real insight into how Mekong people live.

The Song Xhan itinerary varies depending on whether you opt for a one- or two-night cruise, but everyone enjoys lunch on the first day at our Indochinese restaurant in Cai Be, Le Longanier. The set menu features delicious local dishes like elephant ear fish, which is very famous in the Mekong Delta, deep fried with fresh noodles, vegetables and tamarind sauce. Those on a two-night cruise also get a chance to cycle or walk into Phu Ang Village near Cai Be and spend an additional evening dining at a traditional earthen house.

We sail along wide sections of the river alongside big cities and small canals lined with stilt houses, so passengers will really see the contrast between modern and ancient life in the Mekong. We’ll spot large boats carrying rice and there’s a chance to stop on the smaller canals and enjoy a trip on a tiny rowing boat. In the narrow waterways, guests are very surprised when they spot kids swimming in the water. Sometimes, as they’re coming home from school, the children will run behind our sampan waving and shouting ‘Hello’.

To really understand the Mekong culture, we take guests to a brick factory owned by a local family, where you can learn the ancient technique of gathering clay from the fields, then sun-drying and burning it in a kiln to make bricks. At the candy factory, guests also get to see the whole process of cooking sugar into caramel with peanuts and coconut, then rolling it in rice paper. You even get to taste some at the end of the tour, accompanied by hot tea.

We choose remote areas with beautiful scenery to anchor the boat at night, so you can awake to sunrise over the green fields, with birds flying overhead. Early in the morning, we visit Cai Rang floating market, which is the largest in the Mekong. Here, we can watch local people buying and selling everything from rice to vegetables and noodle soup from wooden boats. The guides will show you how farmers advertise their products, by placing one on a bamboo stick at the front their boat, including cucumbers, pineapples and grapefruit. Sometimes, they sail right up to our sampan and show off their produce. Guests often say that Cai Rang floating market is the highlight of their cruise.

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Alfred & Nghia Huu Pham

Nghia is from the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam and loves exploring the countryside, especially by bike. As Office Manager for Victoria cruises, Nghia is keen to share his immense local knowledge of the Mekong waterways with guests, providing creative, off-the-beaten-track tours for guests.
Nghia Huu Pham

Alfred & our Vietnam holiday experts

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