Vietnam
Tỉnh Đồng Tháp

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  • Day21

    Local Markets

    September 10 in Vietnam

    Decided it was too early for Tai Chi as we are going to be so busy in the day. We need that extra hour or so sleep. Our tour starts at 8am.

    Again we took a tender boat to Tan Chau on the mainland. Once on land we took a trishaw ride through the village and ended up at the local market. The market was so interesting there were many things we have not seen for sale in other markets.Read more

  • Day20

    Binh Thanh Island

    September 9 in Vietnam

    After lunch we went to Binh Thanh Island via a tender boat taking us through the narrow channels of the delta. We went ashore at a local village which the Heritage Cruise Line assists with the building of their community area and support for some of the poorer families.
    We watched a mother and daughter make rattan matts expertly and quickly and then walked through the village to the community centre where we met two of the local villagers who gave us stories of their lives (via an interpreter).Read more

  • Day21

    Fish Farm

    September 10 in Vietnam

    We then walked a very short distance back to the tender boat.

    Now we are off to visit a fish farm. Again, this was different to others we have seen and visited. The fish farm is privately owned by a family and they are happy for us to come inside their buildings to see how they work, from the baby fish, to the fish to be sold at the local market or exported, and how they make fish food to feed the fish until they mature.Read more

  • Day21

    Relaxing on The Jahan

    September 10 in Vietnam

    Back in the Jahan and it is only 10 am, we have the remainder of the day to rest on the ship which is great

    For a few hours we were up on the pool deck, sat in the pool for a while and chatted to other guests, taking in the view of the houses and villages along the Mekong Delta.

    John also became Captain for a few minutes.

    We crossed the border of Vietnam and Cambodia during this rest time. Even in such a short distance you can see the difference between the Vietnam and the Cambodia river life. There are less boats, less commercial activities and the vegetation seems to be more lush. The children in the houses along the shore keep running out waving and saying hello.
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  • Day3

    Timetravel

    January 15, 2017 in Vietnam

    It feels like we have been in Vietnam for weeks and its only been two days. In a way I get the kind off time travel feeling we experienced in Cuba. It is just so incredibly different and such a rich cultural experience.

    I am still getting used to the Dong. We are getting around 22,000 to 1 USD, it seems expensive to buy a can of soda for 15,000 Dong but then when you work it out its 67c, it is not even a supermarket price. I think it is all the zeros that are so confusing . I mean I walk around with millions in my purse -mindboggling. In restaurants the local beer is the same price as a soda how strange!!

    As I am typing this blog, we are on a ferry to get across the river to our next overnight stop, we got out of the minibus to have a look around and this bike fully packed with ducks was on our same ferry.. Very entertaining I tell you!! I doubt there are any animal activists in Vietnam as this will cause havoc anywhere else in the world ( or at least the western world..?)

    So many crazy things all around that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Look at the wires where Roedolf is trying to cross the road- insane!!

    {Issy}
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  • Day53

    Life Along the Mekong Delta

    April 9 in Vietnam

    After a week in Cambodia, we have returned to Vietnam, crossing into the country on the water.

    The Mekong is the breadbasket of Cambodia. Twenty-two percent of the population of Vietnam lives in the Delta. And, of those who live in the area, 80% rely upon the river for their livelihood, primarily as fisherman, fish farming, or growing rice in the land that runs along the side of the Delta. Moreover, Vietnam is the third largest producer of rice in the world, and more than half of that rice is grown in the area around the Delta. So, to say that the Delta is of crucial importance to the economic health of the country would be putting it mildly.

    Geographically, the Mekong Delta includes both the area along the Mekong River, the tributaries that run off the river, and more than 1000 canals that were dug over the last two hundred years to supply water to the surrounding countryside. The canal system is immense, and extremely complex. Some of the canals are small, and are used for local transportation. Other canals are wide and deep enough for navigation by commercial vessels. But all of these canals, regardless of size, are man made, and are maintained by the people who live in the area.

    Coming from Cambodia to Vietnam, I was struck by the stark differences between life in the two countries. In Cambodia, people live upon the river, and fish on the river, but use the resources of the river in a somewhat passive manner. In Vietnam, the people actively grow and harvest the resources of the river by building fish farms, and diverting the water into rice paddies. The level of activity is incredibly impressive.

    One of the most interesting things that we saw on the Delta were the fish farms, although I would never have understood what I was seeing without someone explaining it. As you cruise through the Delta, you see these large square buildings that look like modern houses. Upon first glance, one would assume that people are living in these buildings, although they do have a commercial feel. But, it is what you cannot see is the important part of the structure— below the houses sits these enormous cages, which extend down approximately 30 feet below the water, in which fish are being raised. The fish are actually purchased elsewhere, and transported to the Delta when they are about 2 inches long. Over the next 3-5 months, the fish are raised in these cages, where they are fed twice a day. Tending to the fish takes 2 or 3 people, depending upon the size of the fish farm. At the end of a few months, the fish are big enough to be sold. Each cage can hold tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of fish, depending upon the size of the cage. You can actually see some of the cages that have not yet been submerged, and are being built. Typically, the fish are then transferred into huge nets that attach to the bottom of boats that can sail the 300 kilometers to Saigon, where the fresh fish are then sold. It is ingenious. We were told that building one of these fish farms costs $50k to $100k, which includes the cost of the farm that sits below the water, and the build above the water that is also used for living quarters.

    Side by side with these fish farms sit traditional nets that are used to pull fish up each evening, small houses in which people live, and houseboats that float along with the tides. The contrast in the lives being lived along the Delta are completely reflective of the contrasts in Vietnamese society — people striving and succeeding, next to people who are barely getting by.
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  • Day54

    Walking through Long Khanh A

    April 10 in Vietnam

    Yesterday we crossed the border into Vietnam. Today, we went on a walk through a “wet” market (which is a produce market in which live fish are sold) and went to a monastery where a goddess is worshiped. Even stepping off the boat into this small town had a different vibe than in Cambodia — more people, more motor scooters and more prosperous.

    Today we visited Long Khanh A, a small village on a tributary of the Mekong River. To get from our boat to the village, we road in a sampan. (We learned that traditional sampans are much smaller than the one we took, which was large enough to carry all of the passengers on our ship.) Our cruise company — Avalon — really prides itself on using as many means of transportation as possible. The village is on the far edge of one of the islands. The total population of the island is approximately 20,000 people, but the village that we visited in quite traditional and probably has about 1000 inhabitants. Once I again, I was struck by the differences from the villages we saw in Cambodia. In Cambodia, the houses were made of wood and straw, the roads were unpaved, and there was no running water. In this small village in Vietnam, the roads are paved with cement, the houses are made of bricks and cement and are substantially larger than those in Cambodia, and there is running water. And, as you look into the houses while you are walking around, you spy television sets in lots of the houses - although that is often the only modern item in the house.

    Long Khanh A is known for two features. First, there is a order of nuns that live in the village. This is pretty unusual, as nuns are relatively rare in Vietnam (in contrast to South Korea, which there are apparently quite a few nuns). A few of the nuns live together, full time, in a house in the center of the village. They are joined by other women from the village who are referred to as nuns, although they still have families and actually live at home. We had a chance to talk with one of the nuns, who told us that she joined so that she could meditate. We were surprised to hear that the nuns don’t really engage in teaching, although there are books that they do lend to members of the community.

    The second notable feature of the village is a scarf factory. But, to say that it is a factory suggests that it is a large operation. Not so. It has single manual loom, and about 5 electric looms. Around the village you can see the thread that is being cleaned and then dyed for use in the scarves. We were told that a single person, weaving all days, can make about 6 scarves ... tough way to make a living.

    We also had a chance to meet, and chat with, a man who had been a Vietcong soldier. I had thought (erroneously) that the term Vietcong referred to anyone who was fighting on the side of the communists/North Vietnam. Actually, the term specifically refers to those men and women in South Vietnam who were opposed to the “puppet government” that was supported by America, and were fighting on the same side as the North Vietnamese Army. The Vietcong received supplies and reinforcements from the north, primarily with with people and resources being moved along the Ho Chi Minh trail. This gentleman was trained as a medic. He not only fought during the “American” war, but was then called back to fight with the North Vietnamese soldiers who were sent to help liberate Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. (If the Vietnamese had not intervened in the genocide in Cambodia, it is hard to say how long it would have taken to defeat the Khmer Rouge.). The former “freedom fighter” told us that he was injured in the war, and raised his shirt to show us his battle scars — a piece of shrapnel still sits near his lung. He also told us that he does not blame the Americans for the war, but blames the American government. He explained that he knows that many Americans opposed the war and that there were lots of protests, which is the reason that the US finally left Vietnam. I suspect that this is a very diplomatic explanation, but it certainly is the same thing that we’ve heard throughout our travels. Must be the Buddhist influence, as it is also pretty widely acknowledged that if the US hadn’t intervened, the war would have turned out the exact same way, but it would have taken 2 years, rather than 20, and a lot fewer people would have died.

    As we strolled through the village, people were extraordinarily friendly — waiving, saying hello, and smiling at us. One pair of sisters — ages 79 and 82 — asked our guide where we were from, and told us about themselves. And, a group of women sitting on their stoop asked our guide where he was from, as they interpreted his western dress and English skills as meaning that he was not from Vietnam, which he found quite amusing. Just goes to show, wherever you go, people are curious about each other.
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  • Day54

    Cu Lao Gieng

    April 10 in Vietnam

    This afternoon we visited another Vietnamese village — Cu Lao Gieng. This village is known for making sampans, which are an essential part of life along the Mekong. Sampans, which are typically made from a few pieces of wood, are relatively small, as they are designed to carry 2-4 people, or to move items. People who live on the Delta generally own a sampan, and have it tied outside their back door, which is usually located on the river. The sampans are all hand made — the wood that is milled by hand, the boards are shaped by hand, and then the entire boat is assembled by hand. A boat usually costs about $300 USD, and lasts for about 10 years. We were told that we could ship one back to the US, but that the cost of shipping would be approximately $2000 USD (which probably still makes it quite a bit cheaper than buying a handmade wooden boat in the US)).

    From the moment that you step off the dock into the village, you know that making sampans is the local industry. Virtually every shop that you pass has a sampan that is in the process of being assembled. And, some of the shops have multiple boats being built at the same time. As you peer in to the shops, you feel like you’ve stepped back into time. Most of the techniques that are being used are identical to those that were used 100 years ago. The only nod to modernity is the presence of a few electric tools — a table saw that is set in a wooden table, a very old band saw for making boards, and a hand sander that is used in one shop. But, the boards are still shaped over a blazing fire, but a man who we were told has been doing this work for 40 years.

    At the same time as the traditional methods are being used by the boat builders, as we walked through the town we saw young men with mobile phones in hand. And, we saw flat screen televisions hanging on the walls in sparsely furnished houses. The new and the old sit side by side, which is clear metaphor for life throughout Vietnam.

    After visiting the village, we went to see the oldest Catholic Church in Vietnam. The church was built by the French in the 1880s, and protecting the Catholics was one of the reasons that the French used to justify the Indochine war. The church still remains standing today, and approximately 20% of the population of South Vietnam is Catholic. The village near the church must have a much higher percentage of Catholics, because almost every house that you look into has a picture of a white Jesus, or a statute of Virgin Mary. We spoke with a local Catholic doctor, who told us that he’d spent much of the last ten years working to cure leprosy on the island. As he talked about his work, everyone in our group looked on in wonder, as leprosy is not something that we ever hear about in our countries. Once again I was reminded that westerners, including myself, live in a very privileged little bubble.
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  • Day112

    Cambodia to Vietnam

    August 19, 2017 in Vietnam

    As you have all no doubt gathered getting wifi here is non existent. We have tried every night to no avail. Should be better now we have crossed the border. On boat all day today with various activities but like most of the passengers we just rested on the sundeck, just great. Had to stop for three hours for border crossing formalities. Trip in morning to silk factory so should be interesting.Read more

  • Day113

    Tan Chau

    August 20, 2017 in Vietnam

    Went for a small boat ride this morning to a tiny village on the river, passed lots of fish farms and stilt houses. Went into a private home where an elderly man & his wife live with their son & daughter-in-law & grandchildren. A wonderful experience. Then had a rickshaw ride to a mat weaving factory & then to a silk factory. Of course the silk factory was the best!!!!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Tỉnh Đồng Tháp, Tinh GJong Thap

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