Toddlers on a Speedboat: Touring the Mekong Delta

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Ho Chi Minh City is a really fun place to visit for a short time. It is vibrant–there is an unceasing flow of mopeds and scooters, for example, and much of the city’s seemingly haphazard development gives rise to a huge variety of places to go and see. Despite being very heavily touristed, the city retains a very normal feeling–this is where people go to work and live, not just to play. There’s interesting stuff testifying to Vietnam’s fairly recent past with war and conflict, as well as architecture bearing a French influence.

Yet we found it tiresome. It’s chaotic, loud, and dirty. Perhaps if we didn’t have a 4 year old and a 2 year old in tow, we’d have liked HCMC better. However, we did have the kids with us, so we needed to do something to escape the city. So, we loaded the toddlers on a speedboat to take a full-day Mekong Delta tour, operated by Les Rives. We booked the tour through Get Your Guide. They offer quite a range of Mekong Delta tours available in a variety of languages and price ranges. We finally settled on a Mekong Delta Full-Day Speedboat Tour. It was a splurge but totally worth it.


Mekong: Get Your Guide We were scheduled for pickup at Hotel Majestic at 8.15 in the morning. This hotel was fun to visit in itself. We got a lovely Vietnamese coffee (Jenia insists it’s the absolute best we had in Vietnam)  and sipped it on the rooftop balcony while we waited. The pickup was actually a few minutes early. We loaded into a shuttle and headed for the river.
view from Majestic Saigon
This was our view as we sipped iced Vietnamese coffee

On the Speedboat

Turtle, who loves all things motorized, was very excited about the idea of the speedboat. He couldn’t wait to get on board! We were thrilled to see that the company takes safety very seriously: there were not only adult-sized life vests on board but a kid-sized one for Turtle and a toddler-sized one for Princess. We provided the children’s ages when booking and they made sure our little travelers could cruise around safely. Also, we learned that each boat has an engineer on board so in the unlikely case of something going wrong, there is someone who can sort it out.

Our Traveling Zoo on a speedboat
Don’t they look cute in those life jackets?

Initially, Princess was not so sure about the wind in her face. She settled in over time, though, and when refreshments appeared, she got comfortable. There was enough variety to keep the kids interested. They could move around if they wanted, within reason, and that was nice, too.

shacks on the Mekong
People living in these do not have it easy. There is no sewage, no running water.

We watched boats (with eyes painted on them!) go up and down the river; we watched sand barges being emptied; we saw floating markets. We saw apricot trees being transported for the Tet holidays. We learned about invasive water lily species. Our boat had to stop repeatedly to untangle garbage or roots from the propeller, and around the third time this happened, Turtle was able to explain what was happening.

boat with Tet trees
One of the boats with eyes carrying apricot trees to the city

Farmland

walking along the Mekong
A chance to stretch the legs

Just when this might have seemed a little bit long for the kids, we got out of the boat and walked beside rice and tapioca farms. While we had to keep an eye on them to be certain they didn’t go tumbling down an embankment, this was a good change of pace for all of us.

rice patty along the mekong
One of the rice patties the area is known for. Note the pink burial site on the right. The parents request to be buried on the land so that the children cannot sell the land and move to the city later (it’s bad luck to buy land with a grave on it)

Around 11.30 we arrived at a local farmer’s house for a fresh coconut and samples of locally made liquors, if we were so inclined. This was also a chance to use the bathroom. As one might imagine, the kids didn’t care much about the whiskey making process but loved seeing the garden, the various fruit trees, and the birds.

coconut farmWe tasted the coconuts that were grown right here

fresh coconutIt was amazing!

 

Another Boat

Afterward, we took a different boat–a small canoe–and donned traditional straw hats. The hats are great, by the way; it’s no wonder they’re still popular–they’re lightweight and keep the sun off not just your head, but also your shoulders. Turtle got a kick out of wearing his hat.

on the Mekong
Life on the river is different from everything we know

Market and Lunch

Our next stop was at a local market to buy some fresh fruit. The vendors got a kick out of our blond kids – not a common sight in these parts. We enjoyed seeing what they had for sale. Our tour guide instructed us not to buy anything, but he purchased a few bags of fruit for later.

toddler market vietnamThe lady thought Princess would enjoy the shrimp. Princess was not amused.

market goodies vietnamJust look at all of this!

shrimp pancakes vietnamThese were some kind of shrimp pancakes

market garlic vietnammarket fare mekong

Lunch time came around 12.45. For us vegetarians, there was a nice tofu dish that served as the main course. The kids liked the food, and the indoor/outdoor arrangement allowed them freedom to get up and walk around safely if they wanted.

mekong tour lunchmekong tour lunch food

Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai temple Vietnam
It is very colorful!

Then we toured a colorful Cao Dai Temple. This was something that Turtle loved; he liked the temple building and was thrilled when he was allowed to climb up stairs. As for us, while we found it hard to take seriously at first, the religion really does have a very noble aim–to build upon common beliefs shared by many religions to seek after God.

Victor Hugo Cao Dai
Victor Hugo (the one in the middle) is considered one of the saints.

 

Return Trip

After this it was back into the speed boat. Now on the way up the river, there were a few bursts of speed, but most of the time the pilot took it easy. In contrast, on the way back with less need for the tour guide to provide information, he picked up the pace. The kids did well on the boat, again aided by access to snacks (an interesting fruit called milk apple among them). At 4pm we were back at the dock in Ho Chi Minh. boat on the Mekong In the end, we were glad we went for this particular tour. The speedboat ride allowed the kids a lot more freedom to move and things to see than a bus ride of the same length would have. Besides, the simple fact of traveling by boat is a pretty cool thing when you are 2 and 4 years old. Our guide, Hung, and our server, An, were absolutely wonderful – thoughtful, helpful, knowledgable, and willing to share their experiences. We thoroughly enjoyed talking to them throughout the day. An is fantastic with kids! It turns out that toddlers on speedboats are good conversation starters, and the kids stimulated chats with our guides and with fellow Mekong Delta tourists. For us parents, we throughly enjoyed a day out of the constant noise and congestion of Ho Chi Minh City, and we gained quite a bit of insight into Mekong Delta life and culture. While this tour is not aimed at young children, it is very family-friendly. We wholeheartedly recommend it.

Our Traveling Zoo Mekong
Nope, this isn’t a great photo. We had a great time though!

Mekong Books

We like to read about places we visit. If you want beef up your knowledge of the Mekong River, consider checking out one of these books.

If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, please read this post about traveling on an E-Visa.

Toddlers on a speedboat
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22 thoughts on “Toddlers on a Speedboat: Touring the Mekong Delta”

  • Great post! I wouldn’t have thought about taking a tour of the delta by boat. I’m glad that the kids were able to roam and be free a little more than on land.

  • Wow! All these boat rides sound like fun for kids of all ages….like me. I love traveling around Vietnam because of the vibrant colors and markets. I’m curious why your tour guide told you not to buy anything. I find that a little strange. It’s part of the fun of being there.

    • Hi Corinne!

      Being that we were with others and had our hands full managing the kids, neither of us asked why! That said, while we were hoofing it around the rice paddies and such, our guide mentioned that it’s better to buy produce from a grocery store than a street market in Vietnam. That surprised us, and he explained that it’s because the farmers aren’t regulated at all, and you never know what you’re getting (maybe something laden with pesticides or pollutants). Maybe there’s some relation.

  • What an absolutely fun adventure. The kid in me agrees with Turtle that a speed boat ride is fun. Our kids would love to see the rice and tapioca fields. And, of course, they would love to see the boats with eyes painted on the front too. All that gorgeous fresh food has my mouth watering.

  • When I read the title, I was wondering about the safety options of having kids on board. Seems like a good thing to have engineers on board. I did notice very few safety equipments when traveling in some boats.
    Loving the pictures of the rice and tapioca farms. Seems like you had a wonderful trip

  • I’ve been hearing more and more great things about Vietnam. So glad your kiddos enjoyed their boat time! It looked like a fun excursion!

    • We were really amazed at the numbers of foreign visitors. Evidently it’s been on tourist radar for years, but we’ve only recently become cognizant of it. The boat trip was fun for all!

  • Great photographs! Your little are so lucky to have these incredible experiences, well done! I so miss the sights, scents and especially TASTES of SE Asia and these photos really brought them back for me 🙂

  • What an amazing experience – and so fun! – for you and for the little ones. The title sounded like it was going to be a little bit dicey, but I’m so glad it turned out so well! Those rice and tapioca fields look so neat. Great adventure!

    • The fields were definitely interesting. A tad less so when the guide informed us that there would be poisonous snakes in them! “The farmers drive the cobras out of the rice field before they harvest it,” he said. “They capture them and sell them.” Yet the people who live there don’t bat an eye. They just share their space with the snakes! Oh, and banded kraits also live there–yoiks!! -Shon

  • Looks amazing and really nice photos too. Vietnam is an incredible country, we spent a year living in Hanoi but unfortunately never made it down to the Mekong Delta. Definitely have to return to see it!

    • Thanks, Josh. Wow, you guys lived a whole year in Hanoi? We only spent a few days in there, but we enjoyed it. Sampling the egg coffee was something memorable from Hanoi! Yes, I’d recommend doing a tour of the Mekong, as it’s really very different from the big city.

  • Incredible views along the river! Glad to hear the kids had a good time on the speedboat. Im sure they will remember that for a long time!

  • I did it first by bus and eventually by boat – and I did spend the night. It’s nice to read how people responded to your kids – I remember that from travelling with my daughter and people hugged and cuddled her everywhere we went. From our own experience I can tell you that it is a fantastic, lasting thing to introduce your kids to the world – and the world to your kids! You are a very sweet family!

  • Thank you for this great review – I have booked this tour for us and our kids (same ages as yours) in a few weeks and was feeling very nervous about until I read your review. One question – should I pack my children their own food or did you have any concerns with the children eating the local food served in the area? Thank you!

    • Hi! I am glad to hear you found this useful. Hope you enjoy the tour as much as we did 🙂 As for food, we didn’t bring anything extra for the kids, as ours are pretty good eaters and easy to feed. The local food was excellent, we all enjoyed it.

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