Mekong Delta for a day - My Tho - review by Rusty Compass
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Mekong Delta for a day - My Tho

| 11 Apr 2012
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Mekong Delta for a day - My Tho
72 kms or 90 minutes SW of Saigon along Route 1

Our rating
11 Apr 2012

Day trips to the Mekong Delta from Saigon are popular for travellers that don’t have time to make a longer journey into Vietnam’s ricebowl. Most travellers head for My Tho, the closest delta town to Saigon. We’d suggest you consider heading a little further along into Ben Tre where Vietnam’s crass mass tourism machine hasn’t yet taken control.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

While a couple of nights in the Mekong Delta is the best way to see this sprawling region of rice paddies, fruit orchards, canals and river life, many travellers only allow time for a day trip - which is still worth doing. My Tho, about 90 minutes from Saigon, is the most popular destination for day trippers.

It’s a very regimented well worn tourism trail with the heavy handed local tourism administration staying well over the top of all things. Travel a little further into Ben Tre for a glimpse of a town that’s so far been spared the mass tourism assault.

My Tho

My Tho’s proximity to Saigon has made it the hub of day tripping into the Mekong Delta. The huge tourist complex that is the normal arrival point for travellers bodes ominously for those seeking an authentic look at delta life. It’s from here that a tightly controlled flotilla of small craft carry hundreds of travellers a day across the vast expanse of the Mekong River and along the the narrow canals of its most frequented islands including visits to candy factories and a bee farm. It’s definitely better than missing the Mekong altogether.

Mekong Delta,Mytho,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerOn the Mekong, My Tho

The town

My Tho was founded by Chinese immigrants in the 17th century and prospered on the back of its orchards and its ricecrop. It was an important commercial and strategic centre during French colonial times. Take a wander through the town (something not provided for in many tours organised from Saigon) and you’ll spot some French era shophouses and villas.

My Tho was also an important strategic centre during the Vietnam War. John Paul Vann, the subject of Neil Sheehan’s monumental book A Bright Shining Lie, was based here in the early 1960s.

The ornate Vinh Trang Pagoda is worth a stop if you’re taking a look at My Tho town.

Ap Bac

Close by My Tho is Ap Bac Hamlet, the scene of the first decisive Viet Cong victory over larger and far better equipped South Vietnamese forces in 1963. The US wasn’t officially at war in 1963 yet three advisors were killed in battle while 8 were injured. 83 South Vietnamese troops were killed. 

After Ap Bac, pessimism about the capacity of South Vietnamese forces to prevail over the communists grew and the clamour for a wider US military role gathered steam.

Ap Bac,Mekong Delta,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerMarking out the spots where US APCs were destroyed at Ap Bac.

Those interested in Vietnam War history will definitely find Ap Bac a worthwhile stop. Almost 50 years after that historic battle, Ap Bac remains a quiet hamlet of lush rice paddies. These days though, the paddies feature bizarre markers at the locations where US choppers and Armoured Personnel Carriers were destroyed by the VC.

Travel tips

All travel agents in Saigon organise day trips to My Tho. You can also assemble your own group and travel down by cab though My Tho is setup for tour groups far more than independent travellers. In both cases, you’ll need to specify it if you’d like to visit Ap Bac and take a tour around My Tho town.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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