Travelling the Mekong River: Ho Chi Minh City to Thủ Thừa, Vietnam


Immediately outside of Ho Chi Minh City likes the Mekong River, the world’s tenth longest river and a major trade route in South East Asia. From the Tibetan Plateau the river runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The river is a major trade route between western China and Southeast Asia. Any visit to Vietnam would likely be in complete without having a day exploring this mighty river.

This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Travelling The Mekong River; Ho Chi Minh City to Thủ Thừa, Vietnam

“A Day on the World’s Tenth Longest River affords a gentle glimpse into every day Vietnam”

This post is a two part post within our trip through the Mekong River in Vietnam. This post deals with our experience getting up river. Please see our next post for our experience in the canals of Thủ Thừa and our visit to the cities within the area.

We got out of the city on our last day for a day trip to the Mekong Delta. We booked with Les Rives, after a recommendation from a fellow Flyertalk forum Member and some favourable reviews from Trip Advisor. Les Rives mostly delivered on what was offered, and I’d describe it as a “very good” shared tour. 

Getting to the Dock:

We were picked up at the Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers. and taken by regular public taxi with our guide over to the boat launch. Like every other day, the streets were packed with motorcycles. 

A Busy Trip Over to the Dock

We boarded our river boat and headed up stream. There are speed limited sections of the river so it wasn’t an express trip by any means.

Our time on the Mekong River:

The river itself was a working river. Translation: it was filthy and packed with commercial or business boats. It’s to be expected, I guess. It was full of boats, worm fishing, and local shipping going up and down to various destinations along the way.

Starting Out of the Mekong River
River Life along it’s banks

There were many residential shacks along the side of the river. We were told by our guide that by Vietnam law, everyone owned the rivers, making eviction impossible. This has led to squatters building residences on the sides of the rivers. 

Stilt Houses Line the Shores
A Working River: Faced Boats travel the waterways
Transport Abound: Local Ferry Service

Life in Vietnam requires a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. According to our guide, this guy makes $50 a day worm fishing by diving in this goop. 

Local fisherman

Calling on the Local Buddist Temple:

Our first visit on our tour was to a traditional Buddist Temple. It wasn’t really much different than any other Buddist temple, other than it was on the shores of one the Mekong Delta rivers. We almost got left behind here as our boat was preparing to depart with us still on land. There were 3 other boats belonging to the same Les Rives group so it wasn’t a tragedy, but it was probably a bit embarrassing for the tour guide.

Tuong Van Buddist Temples, Mekong Delta
Inside Vietnamese Buddhist Temples

The Thu Thua Wet Local Market:

Our next stop was a visit to a local market. Although not a floating market, there were several live chickens and ducks available for an instant kill. There were also traditional Vietnamese vegetables (basil, coriander, chive, mint) available for purchase. We were also explained the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs. Haircuts were also available for $1 US.

Thu Thua Wet Markets – Almost Live Fish
Fresh Eggs of all Varieties
Shop Keepers Chatting the Day Away
Green Root Vegetables for Sale
Ancient Scales and Produce
Traditional Hats between Parsley and Green Beans
Sidewalk Sales

We were able to inspect some of the poultry markets. These wet markets have taken on a whole new meaning in recent years but they remain a way of live for many merchants around the world.

Duck and Poultry Markets
Fresh Poultry and Aquatic Animals

It’s always a pretty interesting experience to get guided through an Asian wet market. You can try visiting on your own, but I always seem to get more out of it when you hire a local guide that can explain things and even barter for you on occasions (if you get the right one).

My comments of Life on the Mekong River:

Getting out of the city on the Mekong River, Vietnam was a great way to spend a day. Although we saw a little more of the commercial side of Vietnam, it could be reasonably argued that we got closer to rural Vietnam than had we stayed in the City. Seeing a little of Vietnamese life on the waterways added to the depth of our experience. We also got to see a few little things that we wouldn’t have normally seen. Les Rives treated us reasonably well as a tour operator and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them in the future.

If you’ve traveled the Mekong River in Vietnam, what was your time like?

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