Navigating Vietnam’s magical Mekong

Navigating Vietnam’s magical Mekong

A short drive south-west of Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon), the Mekong River is one of Asia’s great waterways. From its source among the snow-clad peaks of China’s Tibetan Plateau, it flows over 4,000 kilometres through the Indochinese peninsula before eventually emptying into the South China Sea.

The so-called “rice bowl” of Vietnam, the bountiful Mekong Delta presents travellers with a seemingly never-ending expanse of ­greenery. Paddy fields ­carpet the landscape, patrolled by flocks of ­cattle egrets and farmers in ­conical hats. Boats, houses, and markets float upon myriad canals and streams, as human life moves to a distinctly aquatic rhythm. ­Remnants of ancient forests teem with bird life, while Buddhist temples house young groups of shaven-headed, tangerine-robed monks.

Cruise boats on the Mekong are typically luxurious affairs, with an array of mod cons and multi-stop cultural programmes. Most sail northbound from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap (or vice versa). The best time to travel is between November and February when the weather is cooler and the rainy season has finished.

Text and photo Daniel Allen