Mekong Delta Tour - Row Boats

Saigon to Phu Quoc – Vietnam – The Mekong Delta Tour


 

OCTOBER 2015:

 


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OVERVIEW:

I was in Saigon / HCMC to arrange how to get to Phu Quoc. I had booked myself into the Bizu Hotel for 4 nights so that I could sort the best option out without being rushed.

I used CHEAPFLIGHTS.COM and TIKET.COM to see how much the flight was from Saigon to Phu Quoc. I could get a one-way flight for about US$59 BUT BEWARE, once on Phu Quoc the last minute flights back were over US$100 (a frient had to pay US$175 from Phu Quoc to Nha Trang)!

By the time that you add the cost of the Taxi to the hotel and other expenses, the cost is about US$70.


BOOKING THE TOUR:

I heard about the Mekong Delta Tour and asked around in a few of the Tourist Agents. The tour, normally, returns to Saigon after a 1 or 2 night stay in the Mekong Delta.

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Costs varied widely… one agent quoted me a price of VDN6,000,000 saying that the tour left the next day and that they were offering a ‘special discount rate’ because they still had 2 seats left! Yeah right… sometimes they think that we were born yesterday!

Anyway, the fair ‘going rate’ was about VDN470k for a 2 day – 1 night bus tour returning to Saigon. Accommodation is usually for a couple sharing a room and they charge an extra VDN100k if you want a single room on your own. This put my price up to VDN570k. They include lunch on the first day, dinner on the first night (if you stay in the Homestay), and breakfast the next morning.

It is normal for them to ‘adjust’ the tour for people who want to continue on to Cambodia or Phu Quoc.

They adjusted my tour to include the following:

  • A local aircon bus from Can Tho to Rach Gia
  • Minibus Taxi from the Rach Gia Bus Station to my Guesthouse
  • A Double room with Ensuite in a Guesthouse in Rach Gia
  • The Ferry Ticket from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc

The one-way ferry ticket alone is VDN340k. The total price was VDN1,340,000 / NZ$92 / US$63. Meaning that their commission and the extra transport and extra hotel was VDN430k.

I thought that this was very reasonable (for what you get) and it was cheaper than flying…


THE TOUR:

 Mekong Delta Tour - MinibusMekong Delta Tour - Palace 3They picked me up in a minivan from my hotel at 08:10am.

After collecting a few other
people on the way…

Mekong Delta Tour - Happy BuddhaMekong Delta Tour - Reclining Buddha 2We were delivered to a bigger bus for the 2.5-3 hour drive to our first attraction… which was a palace with some large Buddha statues.

Mekong Delta Tour - Happy Budha 2 Mekong Delta Tour - StatueWe stopped once on the way for a rest.

Mekong Delta Tour - River Boat Trip Mekong Delta Tour - River BoatFrom there, we drove some more and jumped on a boat at My Tho to cross the Mekong River.

Mekong Delta Tour - Mekong RiverWe popped on and off of this boat a few times as we visited 4 of the islands and got treated to a Coconut Candy Factory (where the locals made candy by hand), a Bee Keeping Farm, a short (but amusing) trip through the canals on rowing boats, and some local singers (singing a few Vietnamese folk songs).

Mekong Delta Tour - Coconut Candy Mekong Delta Tour - Honey Farm Mekong Delta Tour - Row Boats Mekong Delta Tour - SingersWe finished the day on a ‘long tail’ boat cruising up the river for 30 minutes to our Homestay.

The next morning started early (6am) with a 45 minute ‘long tail’ boat ride back down stream where we got back on our main boat to the Floating Market. It is a ‘wholesale’ market with fruits and vegetables being transacted by the basket-load.

Mekong Delta Tour - Carriage Trip 2 Mekong Delta Tour - Carriage Trip Mekong Delta Tour - Carriages Mekong Delta Tour - Floating Market Mekong Delta Tour - Gardens Mekong Delta Tour - Noodle Factory 2 Mekong Delta Tour - Noodle FactoryFrom there, we proceeded on to a Rice Noodle Factory, took a short ride in some horse-drawn carriages, and finished up with an hour to wander around some gardens and / or hire some bicycles and / or go for a walk.


ACCOMMODATION / WHERE TO STAY:

 HOMESTAY:

Mekong Delta Tour - Homestay Ensuite Mekong Delta Tour - Homestay RoomI chose the Homestay because I thought that I would see a more ‘authentic’ side of Vietnam. The Homestay cost an extra VDN100k but you got Dinner included – which was the same that I would have had to pay to upgrade to a single room in the Can Tho Hotel anyway…

I was expecting something rustic. But, this was not the case. It was a reasonable standard.

The young backpackers got put 2 into a room. Each room had 2 Double beds, fan and an ensuite. Myself, and another more elderly single chap from Taiwan, were upgraded (at no cost) to our own Double fan rooms with ensuite.

HOTEL:

Of the (about 20) people on the tour, about 8 stayed in a Hotel in Can Tho City. They said that the rooms were ‘OK’. I think that the Homestay was, probably, the better deal.


EAT & DRINK:

The ‘hidden extra costs’ come from the fact that no drinks what-so-ever are included with any of your meals… so take big waters with you (you will pay twice the usual price for water on the tour).

We had a ‘simple’ lunch on the first day whilst we were on the tour. It didn’t even include a cup of tea (which, in many places, comes free with every meal).

In the evening, at the Homestay, we sat down together for Dinner. We were offered a can of beer with our meal… there was no mention of us being charged for it.

The meal was surprisingly good… we started with making our own fresh spring rolls. You get rice pancakes and fill them with vegetables, mint, coriander and strips of pork.

Mekong Delta Tour - Homestay Meal

That was followed by a fish curry and rice.. and finished off with slices of melon.

We are woken at 6am for breakfast. We all get back together around the communal table. We are asked if we want coffee or orange juice. I had both. Breakfast is fried eggs and baguette.

As we are just about to leave, our hostess comes out with the bill. The can of beer from the night before is VND20k, the coffee is VDN15k, and the fruit juice is VND20k.

Later, we met other people who had done this and similar tours. Exactly the same had happened to them.

When will we ever learn!


RACH GIA:

It was a 3 hour bus ride to Rach Gia from Can Tho City. We got on the bus and showed the driver our ‘piece of paper’. This told the driver that we were going all the way to the Rach Gia bus station.

It also told the bus driver that we had paid for a connecting minivan from the bus station to our Guesthouse at the Ferry Port. You need this because, as with many countries in this area, the Bus Station is several kms from the centre of town.

We get off of our bus and we are immediately approached by scooter drivers wanting to take us to our Guesthouse. “Where are you going?” they say… we show our pieces of paper… the next thing you know, your luggage is on its way to a waiting scooter…

I travel with a suitcase (not a backpack) and me, the driver, and my suitcase on a scooter just doesn’t seem right. I politely grab my suitcase and walk back to the bus driver… the scooter driver follows me on his scooter… I show the bus driver my piece of paper again and point at the scooter questioningly… he points at an awaiting minivan! The scooters are another scam. Get on one of those and you’ll be paying for it.

The boot of the minivan is small, so some of us have to take our luggage in the minivan with us. I had my suitcase with me in the aisle.

Mekong Delta Tour - Rach Gia Room Mekong Delta Tour - Rach Gia HotelI get dropped off at Phoung Hong Guesthouse. My hosts know that I am coming and are waiting for me. They are very friendly. I get an ‘OK’ Double room with Cable TV, hot water ensuite and wifi.

Mekong Delta Tour - Rach Gia EnsuiteAs I book in, I show my hostess my ‘piece of paper’. She speaks a little English and says that she will sort out the Ferry ticket for me and have it in 1-2 hours. I hand over my last piece of paper.

I walk onto the street to get some dinner. The area is ‘unkempt’ and there are no restaurants to be found.

I ended up in a small local cafe grabbing what I could. “Feed me’ I ask in sign language. I eat what I am given. A simple pork rice with egg for VDN30k and a can of Tiger for VDN16k. I was ready for bed.

I return to my Guesthouse and collect my Ferry ticket. Grab another can of Tiger for VDN15k and head for bed.

Rach Gia - Pork Egg Rice VDN30kIn the morning I walk the 100m meters to the ferry past a morning market. I stop for Fried Eggs & Baguette for breakfast washed down with 2 Vietnamese coffees. VDN35k total.


FERRY TO PHU QUOC:

The Ferry leaves at either 8am or 1pm. You have to be at the Ferry 30 minutes before.

You should have a seat number – or not – it’s hard to tell.

BEWARE of another one of their scams… 2 backpackers had been given seats downstairs – I assume that they preferred the look of upstairs… anyway, they came up and asked if they could sit upstairs. There was an exchange of money with the ferry staff. As the backpackers walked away, you could see the staff laughing and looking at the money. By their reaction, I would say that they had just made some ‘free money’ and that the backpackers could just have walked upstairs and grabbed a seat for nothing (once on the ferry, nobody checked anyone’s ticket or seat number for the whole trip).

The Ferry was more than adequate. It was reasonably maintained. The seats were spacious and comfortable. It also left on time.

As you enter with your luggage an hostess directs you to your seat. I was given a seat upstairs in the front row in front of the flat screen TV. There are areas to stow your luggage.

Phu Quoc - Ferry Phu Quoc - Ferry ViewAbout 20 minutes out from port they open the doors to the outer deck. There you can catch some air amongst all of the smokers.

I was told by the agent that a Taxi from the Phu Quoc port to my hotel should cost about VDN100k (Vietnamese price). The port is about 8km from the main town (and main tourist area) Duong Dong. On the outer deck there is a kiosk where you can buy a minibus ticket to Duong Dong for VDN30k. I buy a minivan ticket. It wasn’t easy… they didn’t seem to want to sell me one… I had to follow the ticket seller and ask him 3 times before he deigned to sell me a ticket.

Phu Quoc - Minivan to Duong Dong Phu Quoc - Ferry TerminalWe arrive in Phu Quoc Ferry Port on time, show our minivan tickets to a couple of people, and get directed to the correct minivan. We arrive at a minivan terminal in Duong Dong by 11am. They can’t open the boot; it’s jammed.

We wait for 30 minutes whilst they try and open it without success. They, ask us to come back at 2pm so that they can take the minivan to the garage to get fixed.

Four of us (we had already met on the way) walked around town for a while and visited the local market. We returned at 2pm to find our luggage and a taxi waiting for us.

We share the taxi to go to our hotels. The taxi has a meter (so we don’t have to negotiate a price). It was VDN45k total to drop us all off on Long Beach (perhaps a total ride of 3km).

On reflection, I should have asked some tourists on the Ferry for anyone who wanted to share a taxi. Between 4 people, we should have been able to get from there directly to our hotels for the same price (and a lot less time).


CONCLUSION:

This whole trip was organised on 2 pieces of paper. Both pieces of paper had no more than 2 lines written on them each (of less than 20 words). You just have to trust… and it happens.

As happens often with these sorts of trips, the people were one of the best things. I very nice bunch and we had some fun.

For little more than the cost of 2 nights in a Saigon (or Phu Quoc) hotel and 2 days of food, you get that AND this tour.

Why wouldn’t you?


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