I will assume that if you go to Vietnam, you will be staying in a relatively urbanized city, so getting to the Mekong is a treat in itself. From the windows of whatever wheeled contraption you’re travelling in, you see giant open fields, rice paddies with non la-clad people tending them, and an overall sense of horizontality – a stark contrast from the almost suffocating, clustered cities. You can also see big, colorful clusters of monuments in the open fields, which are in fact graves. But don’t let that get you down, pretty boats are soon to come!
Sitting on the loud, vibrating riverboat is the proper way to tour the area. It is almost as if there is a city on the sea, made up of a landmass of boats. There are floating marketplaces; boats have a long bamboo pole at the stern, attached to which is whatever product they are selling – cabbage, gourds, fruits. If the bamboo pole bears nothing, I believe it means the boat itself is for sale. Many of the vessels are ramshackle, but I assume they must constantly be repaired since the river is these peoples’ livelihood.
The river itself is a muddy, opaque red, a color attributed to the clay sediment underneath. Gliding along the muddy waters, you wonder how fish can survive in it, but when you taste a fresh-caught fish at a restaurant along the river, you’ll be a believer.
In addition to seeing the lovely water foliage and some unique poor villages, you can alight from the boat to see things like brick factories (which use the clay from the river), honey farms (they bring the bees to you!), and coconut candy factories. I use the term “factories” lightly of course, as these factories consist of a few workers hand-working everything.
On the Mekong, you can see wonderful things. Besides for the Cambodian coast (just kidding, but this is a site about Vietnam after all). On the last leg of my tour, we were driven – boated, rather – to a bustling seaside city. Though it looked more like Ho Chi Minh City, it still had a unique, seaside feel. For some reason, I was tired as hell by the end of the trip even though I spent most of it sitting down. I suppose the unique and wonderful views drain you.