Do you want to get off the beaten path in the Mekong Delta? This nature-filled 3-day road trip in the Mekong is for you!
With a couple of days off work, we decided to pack up the motorbike and head off for a road trip in the Mekong Delta, south of Saigon. What awaited us on this last-minute road trip was a very pleasant surprise; think boats drifting through floating forests, lily pads and floating markets. If you’re looking for a nature escape from Saigon, add this road trip to your bucketlist. Here is the itinerary of our 3-day road trip through the Mekong Delta, including things to do and places to stay.
Where is the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a vast region, spanning the entire southern tip of Vietnam. Nicknamed the “rice bowl of Vietnam”, the delta is an agricultural powerhouse supplying the rest of the country with fresh produce. The Delta is a maze of intertwined canals as the Mekong River makes its way to the ocean, making way for floating forests, seas of rice fields dotted with intricate temples and of course, the iconic floating markets.
Check out our motorbike route at the bottom of this itinerary guide for a closer look at where the Mekong Delta is.
Planning a Road Trip to the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta can be easily reached from Ho Chi Minh City, through gateway towns like My Tho, Ben Tre and Vinh Long. To get out of Ho Chi Minh City you might have to drive south through an industrial area, so I highly recommend bringing a pollution mask.
Safety Driving in Mekong Delta
The roads of the Mekong Delta are well maintained, thanks to the region’s role in supplying fresh produce to the rest of Vietnam, so a road trip here doesn’t include the same challenges as the winding mountain roads of the central highlands and northern Vietnam.
That said, there can be lots of trucks on the roads so it’s important to take caution when driving and limit your time driving in the dark.
✍️ For more tips on how to stay safe motorbike in Vietnam, check out this post.
Where to rent a motorbike
Tigit and Rentabike are great options that specialise in rentals for road trips with pick up and drop off in Ho Chi Minh City. Unlike motorbiking in the north of Vietnam where a semi-automatic or manual motorbike is more suitable, an automatic motorbike is a good choice as the Mekong Delta is flat so you don’t have to worry about power to get you up steep hills.
Automatic motorbike rentals start at around $10 a day from both Tigit and Rentabike, so you’re looking at about $30 for a 3-day rental to explore the Mekong Delta following this itinerary.
3-day off the Beaten Path Mekong Delta Itinerary
The Mekong Delta is one of the most underrated, but also overrated places to explore in Vietnam. It’s a popular place for backpackers to do an overnight trip, mostly to see the Cai Rang floating market and floating forests, but the Delta has a lot more to offer when you scratch below the surface of the tourist hotspots.
Drive 1️⃣ Saigon to Tan Lap Floating Village
Starting with an early rise, we hit the road and drove southwest out of Saigon towards Tan Lap floating village. Tan Lap is a nature reserve just outside the small town of Kien Tuong, on the border with Cambodia. Getting here was pretty straight forward and after a stint on the highway, we found ourselves driving along forest-lined country roads. We arrived in Kien Tuong at lunchtime and grabbed some street food before heading to Tan Lap.
Tan Lap Floating Village
My expectations for Tan Lap were non-existent, having done next to no research, so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that tickets into the eco-park include a motorboat tour of the large canals, followed by a traditional boat ride through the small canals as well as access to the floating boardwalks.
The highlight was definitely the paddle boat tour of the canals. Overhung with trees and vines, this was exactly the view of the Mekong that I envisaged.
📍 Tan Lap Floating Village (Làng Nổi Tân Lập – Long An)
💰 130k per person + smalls for parking
Where to stay near Tan Lap
After a relaxing afternoon exploring Tan Lap, we headed back into Kien Tuong town to find accommodation for the night.
Now, let me warn you: there are next to no hotels in this town. An unyielding search online resulted in us driving around the streets searching for hotel signage, finally stumbling upon a pay-hourly hotel. It was approaching 7pm by this point and with no other options on the horizon, we accepted that we would have to sleep here. If you aren’t familiar with pay hourly hotels, then they are more-or-less hooker hotels and as such, not a very pleasant experience.
There is a hotel located within the complex at Tan Lap* and I would propose this as a better option than the “hotel” we stayed at.
Drive 2️⃣ Vinh Long via Sa Dec
We woke up early after our less than comfortable, though admittedly interesting, hotel experience in Kien Tuong and jumped onto the bike for another day of driving and exploring. Our goal was to sleep in Vinh Long, stopping at as many sites as possible on the way.
Xẻo Quýt Nature Reserve
The first stop was “khu di tích xẻo quýt”, a nature reserve on the way from Kien Tuong to Sa Dec town. As with the nature reserve yesterday, we had no expectations or idea what to expect here, so were pleasantly surprised by the lilypad ponds woven with wooden walkways. The site didn’t have as much to offer as Tan Lap but was worth visiting and breaking up our trip to Sa Dec.
📍 Xẻo Quýt Nature Reserve (Khu Di Tích Xẻo Quýt – Ấp 4, Cao Lanh, Đồng Tháp)
💰 10k per person (extra if you wish to take a boat ride, but they weren’t on offer when we visited).
Another place that you could stop at is Nông trại Ông Bà Tư, a Lotus farm where you’ll find fields of lotus flowers that you wander through (the flowering season is around June). We didn’t stop here on this trip but did on our 10-day road trip through the Mekong Delta, which meant we missed the flowering seasons. However, it’s still a beautiful place to visit with lush rice fields as far as the eye can see and board walks among them.
Sa Dec Flower Village
After the nature reserve, we headed back on the motorbike for the short drive south to Sa Dec. We stopped off at “Nhà Hàng Kim Trang” restaurant for lunch, where you sit in cute cabins overlooking a (man-made) lake. The skies started to turn after lunch so we made a quick dash to explore the flower village, the main reason for our pitstop in Sa Dec.
📍Làng Hoa Sa Đéc (Đường Hoa Sa Đéc, Tân Qúy Đông, Sa Đéc)
At Sa Dec flower village you will find hundreds of flower farms, with rows upon rows of floating flowers. It seems that this village is mostly for people coming to buy flowers and other plants, but it was really interesting to see how the farmers tend to their rows of floating flowers via boats. Unfortunately for us, it was at this point that the skies took a turn for the worst and we had to dash to the safety of a nearby coffee shop to wait out the monsoon downpour.
Stay in An Binh, Vinh Long
Still intent on our plan to stay in Vinh Long, we grabbed some ponchos and hit the highway, trying our best not to skid out in the dark, monsoon rain. We booked to stay at Mekong Riverside Homestay* on An Binh island just across the Mekong river from Vinh Long city. To get to the island you take the local ferry, which would be a really cool experience (similar to the ferry to Can Gio) if it weren’t for the torrential downpour we found ourselves in.
An Binh island is covered in lush greenery, making it a great place to explore Vinh Long while also relaxing in nature. Unfortunately, the rain put a damper on our evening and we decided to unwind at the homestay, but we did come back to explore Vinh Long more on our next road trip.
Drive 3️⃣ Cai Be to Saigon via My Son
We set off around sunrise on our final morning in the Mekong Delta, with the hopes of making it to the Cai Be floating market on our route back to Saigon.
Cai Be Floating Market
Historically road travel in the Mekong was challenging, leading floating markets to become an integral part of life and trade in the Mekong Delta. The most well-known floating market is Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho, but we opted to check out the Cai Be Floating Market on this trip as it’s a little more traditional with fewer tourists.
The floating markets only operate during dawn, so an early rise is essential (we arrived at 7:30am and it was already coming to a close). As we caught the end of the market, we didn’t venture out on a small boat to see it up close. Instead, we pulled over on the bridge and watched the remaining boats selling from above.
📍Cai Be Floating Market
There are a number of boat pick-up spots on Google maps where you can jump onto a small boat to get up close to the action. I would recommend coming around 6am to see the market in full swing as the market closes around 7:30am.
From Cai Rang, we drove alongside the Mekong River, stopping at My Tho for lunch before heading back to Saigon. Unfortunately, I had to work that evening (you can learn more about teaching in Vietnam here), otherwise, we would have spent a night in My Tho exploring the city and nearby countryside.
This is the route we drove on our 3-day road trip in the Mekong Delta, stopping at Tan Lap floating village, Sa Dec Flower Village and Vinh Long, making a loop back to Saigon via My Tho.
There you have it – the perfect mini road trip loop from Ho Chi Minh City through the Mekong Delta.
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Planning a Trip to the Mekong Delta?
For more information on planning a trip to the Mekong Delta, and other destinations in Vietnam, be sure to check out my Ultimate Vietnam Travel Guide which includes everything you need to know for travelling around the country.