Mekong delta without a tour

Sep 15th, 2007, 03:34 AM
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Mekong delta without a tour

Yeh, I know tours are the thing. But has anyone decided to just go and see for themselves?

Seems to me, in an area that is so densely populated, and where most people don't have a car, that there must be public transport pretty much anywhere you want to go.

Haven't you found that in other countries you have been?

It's certainly true of India.

And of course families might have a motorbike, but still, that public transport HAS TO BE THERE!!

And you guys are such experts you must know about it. Anyone care to share?

Are there any hints you can give about leaving HCMC one morning, with no particular plan, and returning three days later?

chimani is offline  
Sep 15th, 2007, 08:45 AM
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We had a car and driver, but I know there is a public bus that goes to Can To and beyond.

Maye mari808 will chime in as to where you catch it. If not, i'll ask her later.

We used the Lonely planet guidebook for hotel info in that area. It had quite a few choices for many of the delta towns.
lcuy is offline  
Sep 15th, 2007, 02:41 PM
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We met a family in Siem Reap that had just come from Vietnam by river starting at the delta without a tour and not on the "nice boats." They got boats as they needed them from locals. They said the whole trip, though it seemed daunting, worked out very well and they saw a lot of countryside and met a lot of people beiing on t heir own. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk with them more, because I would have liked to...but they did plant a seed for's in the top 3 for our next trip.
KimJapan is offline  
Sep 15th, 2007, 04:12 PM
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You get a car and driver or the public bus if you don't want a tour. There is no car rental and you would know if you could you would not want to drive.
I do not know about the boat,but I am sure there is such a way as someone has suggested. I have been to the Mekong Delta 2 different times and always went with a car and driver. Yes, there are tours for sure and even if you don't want a tour you might ask one of the companies for this info.
maryanne1 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2007, 06:01 PM
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It can be done, if u have no expectations other than physical discomfort and a total lack of English.

For the 'public bus'--we called it the chicken bus--get urself to Ga Mien Tay, which means Station Region West. Don't even try to pronounce it as the tones will be off. Write it down and then negotiate ur transportation out there. It is far from District 1, the center of HCMC.

Nobody speaks English at the station, so write down ur destination and show it to people. I only took the chicken bus once and it was 10 yrs ago, so I can't remember if u pay on the bus or buy a ticket elsewhere.

I took the bus to Can Tho, then got off and transferred to another bus further on, to a tiny town called Phung Hiep where I had a friend. Stayed in Can Tho, the biggest city in the delta; lots of hotels in all price ranges.

Bus schedules can be ragged. This past May lcuy and I and some friends got ourselves to Phung Hiep by car and driver, but my friend and her friend took the public bus. Their start from HCMC was delayed for hours and they were exhausted when they reached PH. The fact there is only one main road into the delta and it crosses several big rivers by bridge and ferry also means u can expect significant delays in traffic while in the delta.

My friends say there are two levels of public bus--regular and air-conditioned. I've never been on the air-conditioned. The regular one seemed to be recycled Western buses, except we were stuffed 3 to a seat instead of the manufacturer-intended 2. People actually did bring live chickens in bamboo cages into the bus. I don't remember what kinds of luggage was tossed on top aside from bicycles, but this was obviously the bus people used in going to market. When the seats were full people in the aisles were given what looked like wooden sushi boards to 'sit' on. I don't know how the bus even got rolling, stuffed 7 people per aisle like that. When police were spotted, a signal went out and everybody in the aisle ducked below window level so it looked like we had a legal count.

If u go this route, u'll need a very secure, concealed system for ur valuables. U'll be in crowds, if not actually smashed up against other people all the time.

One other option: my friend's elderly Australian friend, who's been living in HCMC for 7 yrs and speaks a little Vietnamese, has bicycled into the delta. Made a lot of friends that way.
mari808 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 06:02 AM
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Thx all.

Car and driver is not on the agenda.

Thx Mari for the great info. You see, I am just thinking laterally here, never having been to Vietnam.

(And yes, I will acquire an up to date LP - the only one I have is a 1998 version bought at a junk stall last time I thought about going!).

Your comment about ordinary "chicken buses" and a/c buses is interesting.
I've done my stint on "chicken buses" here and there. Still happy to do so for short (2-3 hr) journeys, but age is starting to tell so something a little more comfy appeals!

Logically, it would be surprising if there weren't more comfortable options for local people who have a bit more money. If not an a/c bus at least a mini-bus shuttle.

True in India, true in Thailand; true in Guatemala; true in Kenya; true in Laos (in Laos for heaven's sake!)

It just has to be true in Vietnam - surely second on the SE Asian peninsula only to Thailand in terms of economic vibrancy.

Still thinking about it - maybe it will just depend on how I feel at the time.

Happy travels, all.
chimani is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 10:07 AM
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Hi chimani - you could also consider hiring a guy with a motorbike, which is very popular transport in Vietnam (although helmets are not). You'll see whole families on one smallish bike. Does require you to be able to handle your luggage while riding the bike (I travel with a convertible backpack).
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 12:35 PM
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I wouldn't recommend the motorbike...we saw five accidents (motorbike/car or motorbike/bus) just on our return form Can Tho.

If you won't be going by car, I'd really hunt down the AC bus.
lcuy is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 04:16 PM
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Of course! There ARE 15-seat vans that make the trip. I may even have ridden on one. Slipped my mind due to age/stress and the indelible impression created by the chicken bus.

I think the 15-seat minivans also leave from Ga Mien Tay. I think they're air-conditioned, at least when the van is running. That's normally how my Phung Hiep friend's family gets to and from HCMC. I think the fact she didn't this last time was bc she was w/ her elderly Australian friend, who really likes to go local and is also v cheap.

Whatever u do, choose an A/C option. When u're stuffed in w/ people, the heat is multiplied. Also keep well-hydrated.

And no, VN is not the next most vibrant economic engine in SEAsia after Thailand. It's still one of the poorest countries in the world. It's developing fast and is ahead of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, but that's abt it. Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia are more developed. U'll see when u get deep into the delta.
mari808 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2007, 04:49 AM
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Thx again, Mari.
All that lovely info noted.

But re economic development, I was careful to say "SE Asian Peninsula" - so that excludes Singapore and Indonesia. You are right, of course, about Malaysia (probably number one).

I guess what I was trying to say is more developed than Laos or Cambodia.

And with a much larger population .. therefore ...

Just can't wait to go see for myself.

chimani is offline  

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