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Saigoneer Getaways: Can Gio and the Mekong Delta

A chorus of horns, makeshift mobile loudspeakers announcing "bắp xào đây!" to four city blocks, the never-ending construction sounds of “progress”: these make up the everyday soundtrack of Saigon. It’s so easy to forget that just a few kilometers outside of the city, life slows down considerably and the decibels fall to a manageable level.

While destinations such as Hoi An, Phu Quoc and, sometimes, Vung Tau are often mentioned as weekend getaways, the Mekong Delta and Saigon’s surrounding countryside are terribly underrated as far as getaways go. Whether hopping on a motorbike to explore Can Gio or jumping aboard a boat to explore the canals leading to Vietnam’s rich southern delta, there are countless adventures that lie right on our doorstep.

Within just a few short kilometers, the frenetic nature of Saigon gives way to the slow ebb and flow of the countryside. Life here reflects the rise and fall of the tides; the energy of the morning markets gives way to a languid stillness with the heat of the rising noonday sun. Congested roads give way to wide open stretches of empty country roads crisscrossing rice paddies, mangrove forests, fruit orchards and coconut farms.

Commonly referred to as the rice basket of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta consists of nine major river branches. Forming the agricultural backbone of Vietnam, the Delta provides nearly 50% of the country’s cereal production. The ubiquitous vivid green rice paddies stretch to the horizon, harkening to a simpler time. Taking a ferry is the only option when traversing the countryside. These ferry experiences, while commonplace, and perhaps inconvenient for those used to the rapid pace of city life, allow for a rare period of reflection.

Can Gio, the lungs of Saigon, is filled with mangrove forests as far as the eye can see. Filtering the pollution of the city with its rich biodiversity, wildlife is spotted amidst thick brush and mangroves. A quick ride out through Nha Be coupled with a ferry ride, and Can Gio opens up until you hit the beach. Salt farms and shrimp farms dot the landscape dominated by mangroves. The brackish water of the tidepools provides ideal conditions for shrimp farming (and with the rise of climate change, this looks to be a direction the Mekong Delta could be heading). Piles of salt line up between the grids of dykes holding the salty pools to evaporate.

Whether to Can Gio, the Mekong Delta, or other surrounding areas, one doesn’t have to go far to get back in touch with nature. 

Many thanks to the kind folks over at Les Rives and for making these excursions possible.

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