There is so much to do in the city of Saigon, it is overwhelming. While there are many things we had to skimp on while making our itinerary, we decided to dedicate an entire day to the day trips which form an integral part of understanding the history and the cultural background of the country. As
all our other days were jam packed with other aspects the city had to offer, these day tours were all about an abundance of sights both historical and cultural in the city’s outskirts. Both these destinations made it to our list and as we could not choose one, we went with both!
We chose to do this tour with GetYourGuide which costed us about 55 USD per person. Our day started early on a bright sunny morning as we leaped into our one-day trip to cover Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta at 7:30AM.
Diving into the destinations:
1) Cu Chi Tunnels
An hour drive from Saigon, the moment you walk into the Cu chi Tunnels you feel like you have walked into the history, the horrifying past of survival and war. The tunnels were initially built in the 1940s to fight against the French but gradually were developed in 1960s by villagers who worked through the night. These tunnels were well built and planned considering access for water, alleviation to avoid floods, concealed holes for ventilation and well-equipped defence mechanism.
The maze of underground tunnels running kilometres aided in going in and around the jungle during the Vietnam war. All through the Cu chi Tunnels you can see improvised and thoughtful ideas behind the survival tactics using tunnels, tyres and bomb fragments where they were filled into razor sharp spears to serve the purpose of underground traps. The tunnels run for about 120kms and provided the much-needed supply routes for the Viet Cong. We were able to go under some of these tunnels just to get a sense of what the people here went through. These tunnels also had kitchens.
Crawling through: The Cu chi tunnels are well maintained and make for a must visit while in Vietnam owing to the ode to the historic war. Starting right from an introductory video to models of their survival tactics, the entire premise is preserved to create awareness and does that well! After spending a generous time here, we began our journey to Mekong at about 11:30 AM.
2) Mekong Delta
A little into our drive towards the Mekong Delta, the green countryside greeted us and got us all pumped for the scenes that lay ahead. The Mekong River runs a fertile course along China, Laos, Cambodia Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. By the time it reached Vietnam, it split into smaller branches of nine creating a delta. The Mekong Delta owing to its picturesque landscapes, unique characteristics, and an adaptive floating lifestyle has gradually turned into a tourist hotspot.
Located in western Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is a vast area comprising of many provinces and cannot essentially be covered in a day. And these tours come to the rescue by providing a glimpse into this section of Vietnam with the best itinerary covering everything starting from sights to food.
On our way we made a pit stop at a restaurant where we were served with some warm local dishes for our Vietnamese lunch which included fresh herbs, noodles and barbequed meat and a special mud chicken!
The Floating Life: A little over 1:30PM, we reached our destination and made our way to the highlight of this trip. Any trip to Mekong Delta is incomplete without a trip in a sampan (narrow boat) through the river along palm trees greeting fellow passengers many of whom are selling fruits and snacks. Much like the floating village in Thailand, life here on the river and along the river is adapted to the conditions with houses built on stilts to bear through the floods and other weather conditions. You will very easily find boats here looking forward to accommodating and taking tourists around.
Delicacies: Once this ended, we took a motor boat to an island where we were served fresh fruits and tea. As Mekong Delta produces about most of Vietnam’s fruit consumption, this is a place where you must try out the local fruits including water coconut, mango, star apple, pomelo, rambutan, jackfruit, mangosteen and dragon fruit. Most tours also include this in their itinerary. This ended our tour and we boarded our bus to head back to the city.
The necessary details:
Budget: Ranging between 40 USD to 60 USD there are many tour options which have varying prices depending upon their inclusions. If you choose to do a group tour the price is set to be cheaper and the exclusive ones run a little steeper depending on the number of people! Check out the different options on Klook and Viator for a better idea!
Time: With 2.5 hours’ drive one way to get Mekong Delta through the countryside and an hour to Cu chi Tunnels, a one-day tour typically lasts between 10 to 12 hours starting in the morning and concluding in the late evening with a drop back to HCMC.
Inclusions: Usually a group of maximum 16 or a minimum of two, the Mekong Delta day trip from Ho Chi Minh City includes roundtrip transfers, exploring villages in longtail boats, trying local cuisine along canals, sampling fruits and interacting with the people.
While there are many options of doing the trips to Mekong Delta and Cu chi Tunnels separately, we chose to finish the day trips from HCMC in one day so we could dedicate our remaining time to the city. Also, somehow apart from fitting into our itinerary perfectly, this also met out budget and worked out a little cheaper than doing the trips separately.