Two vintage Vespas were waiting outside our hotel, chugging away. These old scooters from the 1970s were to be our transport for the next two days as we zoomed around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta with Vietnam Vespa Adventures.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to navigate HCMC’s crazy streets ourselves – we had drivers (this was becoming a theme in HCMC!). We sat on the back of the scooters while our drivers swerved around the chaotic streets with the other four people on our tour, into the outskirts of HCMC and off into the Mekong Delta.
Exploring the Mekong Delta by Vespa
It was such fun careening around the streets with what felt like millions of motorbikes coming at you from all directions. Despite being Vietnam’s largest city, it didn’t take much time at all to leave the craziness behind and soon we were meandering along little roads in the greater Mekong Delta.
First stop was at a coffee shop/shrimp farm (yes, apparently that’s a thing) for an excellent ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee). It had been a dry year so far so many of the shrimp ponds were dried up. It had been hard on the local people because for many of them, shrimp farming was their only source of income.
We left the coffee shop and continued through the back roads of the Mekong Delta by Vespa. The Delta is a huge place, stretching from Ho Chi Minh City all the way past the border with Cambodia. It’s one of the largest river deltas in the world and supports one quarter of Vietnam’s agricultural economy as well as a huge proportion of the country’s fishing industry. It was a fascinating place to visit and see how this important landscape feeds the nation.
The little skinny roads occasionally became bridges that passed over small channels. We occasionally passed other motorbikes but there wasn’t a lot of traffic around. It was exhilarating zooming along and not having to concentrate on where we were going!
Because there are so many channels in the delta, they can’t all be crossed by bridges and so there are tons of ferries. We caught a number of them – one was a big flat bed thing that could transport cars, but others were absolutely tiny – only fitting our six Vespas and barely all of us people! It made for a fun if not slightly terrifying experience when we all piled on a tiny creaky wooden boat with our motorbikes and ventured out onto a wide river channel in the middle of a thunderstorm…
But we all made it out alive, if not a bit wet!
There were many short stops at local industries and markets on the first day of the tour. We briefly stopped at a house where rice wine (happy water) was made, and of course had to try some. This place was amazing because they made their own biogas to power the rice wine burners from decomposing pig waste! This environmental nerd was totally impressed by that.
Finally, after battling our way through massive tropical downpours (the drought had broken, it seemed) we arrived at the edge of the delta where we had a late lunch. On a creaky crazy stilt village.
Our drivers actually drove the bikes (with us still on board) onto the wobbly bamboo stilt paths – freaky! We ate a delicious assortment of locally harvested seafood – clams, prawns, fish, morning glory, and more. So delicious after a full-on day on the Vespas!
It was only a short drive from lunch to where we stayed the night, in a nondescript town in a nondescript hotel. It was comfortable enough but a bit weird as there were no sheets on the tiny bed! Dinner was another massive (but amazing) feast, with hotpots galore – a new thing for us, and what a discovery! and so many other yummy flavours. Also to my delight there were cute kittens who I couldn’t resist feeding some scraps to – their big eyes made me feel so guilty…
Next morning we hopped on the Vespas again and headed around the corner to a pho restaurant – of course we had to have Vietnam’s traditional breakfast, and it was a great example of it. After a short visit to a furniture showroom (locally made, totally ornate and impressive) and a local house where incense sticks were made (quite fascinating) we zoomed along on the Vespas for a good hour or so.
Eventually we made it to Vam Sat Eco Park via a couple of big bridges and another creaky ferry laden with our bikes and building materials. A wedding party was on the ferry next door to ours at the dock and one of the men developed a sudden man-crush on one of the guys in our group! Quite hilarious and baffling (he was blowing kisses and everything…).
Once reaching the eco park, another thunderstorm threatened and lunch was well timed – we avoided being outside in the rain for once! After another huge lunch we explored the eco park.
A climb up a bird watching tower revealed a beautiful view over the mangrove forest. Crab fishing was somewhat unsuccessful but entertaining. The journey in teeny tiny row boats, where the water came within 10 cm of coming over the sides, to see bats a hundred or so metres away, was relatively scary (who knew what lurked in the water below) but it was nice to get away from the putt putt motor sounds.
The best part of the eco park was feeding the crocodiles. It was energising seeing these massive creatures with their huge teeth launch out of the water chasing the tidbits of fish on the end of our ‘fishing lines’. And the sound when their jaws snap together… it’s like cupping your hands and clapping really hard – try it, it’s like a loud hollow clap. Eek!
After leaving the eco park, we battled one last thunderstorm, stopped for a sugarcane juice (how had I not had one of those before now?!) and a boarded big vehicle ferry, and we were back into the madness of Ho Chi Minh City again.
The traffic! The noise! The chaos!
We had been so used to having roads almost to ourselves for two days that it was a bit of a shock coming back into the city. But nevertheless, it was a lot of fun riding through the traffic at rush hour back to our hotel.
What a fun couple of days – a different and absolutely enjoyable way to see a portion of the Mekong Delta. We really liked the mixture of stops at local homes where we observed the small-scale industries, as well as the conservation efforts of the eco park, and of course the food… Who could forget that!
Thanks to Vietnam Vespa Adventures for supporting our Mekong Delta tour. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill! Check out the Vietnam Vespa Adventures Facebook page here.