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Sorting out the Mekong Delta

  • Doniwarner

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2010
    Posts: 19

    The info here is GREAT!! However, I'm finding myself a little lost and I haven't even left home yet. I'm flying into HCMC and my intentions are to go up the Mekong to Cambodia and then make my way to an orphanage in Takeo. I have read that it is pretty easy to do the Mekong solo and that is my preference. I have also read that My Tho is the point from which all the tourist departures take place and that it can be difficult to get a boat from there.
    So here are the questions I'd like to have answered in order to sort it all out.
    How tough is it to find my way to the bus station in HCMC and where is a decent place to stay that is within the same area as the bus station? I have read about District 1, District 5, the backpacker district, etc., but without being there I have no idea which is which when looking at the maps I have seen.
    How long will it take to go from HCMC to the Mekong? From all the points, which would be the best for departing? And how long to make my way to Chau Doc ? I want to do this without using "land travel" if I can, boats sound so much better than buses.
    Once I cross the border will it be easy to get a ride to Takeo? My thought is to stay a night in Chau Doc (Lodging recommendations gladly accepted) and then leave in the morning for Takeo.
    I have looked at doing it through a company online but the first I contacted came back with a $700 price tag (which I feel is INSANE) and I would much rather be away from the hustle of the big tour groups.
    Anyone that has made a similar journey and wants to lay out their trip in black and white is more than welcome to do so. After getting into Cambodia I have three weeks sorted out - it's just these three or four days that I am struggling with.

    #1 Posted: 20/2/2010 - 22:57

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  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1225
    Total reviews: 53
    Places visited:
    At least 48

    From HCMC to Can Tho - the main hub of the Mekong and very much worth a at least a full day to enjoy - you can get a mini bus from the Western Bus Station (Ben Xe Mien Tay) for between 70,000 and 100,000 depending on the quality. The trip takes 5 hours but almost half of that is waiting in line for the ferry as the new bridge in not complete. If you get out near the ferry you can walk to it and just pay to ride across pedestrian style - it'll probably save a lot of time. Though, we went during Tet and that may have been the main reason for the long delay.

    I've had trouble finding Ben Xe Mien Tay on a map of HCMC, but with a bit of dispute we got the driver to take us from District 1 (near Pham Ngu Lao?) to the station for around 120,000 Dong - maybe that was too much, but I tell you, the only part I hated about the trip to Vietnam was the Saigon Taxi Drivers Association - otherwise the whole time was splendid.

    Anyway, from Can Tho you can make your way up the Mekong - can't help you with that though.

    #2 Posted: 3/3/2010 - 10:44

  • Husko

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2007
    Posts: 34

    You can get to the Mein Tay bus station by bus from the Ben Thanh Bus station - Easy! Just look for a bus with Mien Tay on the sign at the front. Should be 3000 dong or maybe 5000 can't remember but not much - takes about an hour.The BT bus station is walking distance from Pham Ngu Lao where there is plenty of accomodation - this area is west of Ben Thanh Market. Lots of hotels available behind Ben Thanh market as well but these are mostly business style hotels, where as there are all classes of accom in Pham Ngu Lao.

    For Chau Doc stay at Trung Nguyen Hotel - one of the best value hotels in the mekong. Clean and central.

    Arranging solo travel is easy in the Mekong - easy in Vietnam! Ask around a bit then book when you are happy with the arrangements and $

    Enjoy!

    #3 Posted: 3/3/2010 - 11:06

  • FlashWander-
    er

    Joined Travelfish
    16th February, 2010
    Posts: 8

    Hey Doniwarner,

    As I just finished replying to someone else's post about the Mekong, after reading all these posts about how to get from HCMC to the MD, I'm now leaning towards the organized group tour. Though not leaning towards the $700. I'm pretty sure I've seen an overnight cruise for much less than that.

    Happy travels!

    FW.

    #4 Posted: 3/3/2010 - 16:53

  • Doniwarner

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2010
    Posts: 19

    Thanks for the information! Husko, I'm taking your advice and planning to stay in Chau Doc at the Trung Nguyen Hotel (I'll post once I'm there and give my opinion/recommendation). My plans at this point are to stay the night in Saigon (I arrive after 10:00 pm), spend the day in the city, and catch a later bus out of town at Ben Xe Mien Tay for the 5 hour trip to Can Tho to stay for a night (thanks for the time line caseyprich and any lodging recommendations are welcomed). If anyone thinks that seems unrealistic please let me know.
    I'm still not sure how I will make my way from Can Tho to Chau Doc. I know Kim travel offers a trip but I'm uncertain of them and haven't decided if I want to go on a tour or just hit it alone. I feel solo is more exciting but there are some things (even if they are "touristy") that I would like to experience. Is it realistic to go from Can Tho to Chau Doc in one day and still get a fulfilling experience? My destination is an orphanage in Takeo and I want to see the delta along the way but I want to spend most of my time in Takeo.
    Any one have thoughts on going from Chau Doc to Takeo? I'm undecided on whether I will need to go into Phnom Penh or if I can find a more direct route (Guess I'll figure that one out in Chau Doc if I have to).
    Thanks again for ALL of your insight - Happy Travels!!

    #5 Posted: 3/3/2010 - 19:56

  • Husko

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2007
    Posts: 34

    I would recommend spending the whole day in Saigon and another night then leave the next morning for Can Tho , 5 hours could become 7 hours??. Stay one night then off to Chau Doc using Mai Linh mini bus. I stayed at the Tay Ho in Can Tho but it was just a hotel and I would not either recommend or not recommend. Your hotel should be able to arrange/ advise on different modes of transport and prices to Chau Doc. I wouldn't call any bus travel as being "fulfilling" but at least you will have the views out the window and a truck stop or 2, I would say just get there. Once there hotel will give you advice on your next step - if they know where Takeo is. Ask a few sources regarding onward travel at each location and make up your mind that way. At the end of the day getting options should be easy. For Cambodia you may need to go through PP as all (decent) roads are to/from PP and border crossings need to be done at appropriate places for foreigners.

    #6 Posted: 4/3/2010 - 14:43

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1225
    Total reviews: 53
    Places visited:
    At least 48

    Lodging in Can Tho is pretty easy - we picked a random spot that was clean but with no windows right on the main street - it's a little place right in front of the statue of Ho Chi Minh on the river. Liked the central location but finding something off the main street would be a bit quieter and probably slightly cheaper. This place is clean, safe, and comfortable - if you don't plan on spending any time at your hotel it's nice.

    Tay Ho - they discounted our price when i frownd - but I don't remember how much it was . . .

    http://www.travelfish.org/accommodation_profile/vietnam/mekong_delta/can_tho/can_tho/all/2177

    #7 Posted: 8/3/2010 - 15:01

  • Husko

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2007
    Posts: 34

    Thanks for the link caseyprich - I was wrong, it was the Tay Do we stayed at.

    #8 Posted: 8/3/2010 - 16:59

  • Doniwarner

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2010
    Posts: 19

    Again Thank You guys!! A couple of "additional" questions which I may end up posting on the main board instead of just in this thread.
    How secure will my belongings be if I leave them in my room during the day? I will be staying my arrival night and one additional in HCMC but wonder how safe it will be to leave my larger pack in my room (I want to do this each day along the way). I have traveled throughout Brazil and Egypt and it has never been an issue to do this; I would like to think Vietnam will be much the same. I was also wondering if you would recommend that I lock my passport and money away at the hotel? My thought is that Vietnam is pretty safe, probably safer than Brazil, is the key here just to be smart or should I take extra precautions?
    And lastly - how should I go about carrying my money? Will I find ATMs that I can draw funds from or am I better off to tuck my cash away and avoid banks altogether?
    I'm leaving May 3rd and will post any helpful information I gather along the way - your help here has been a huge help in planning my trip and I will be more than eager to pass on the things I learn to the next guy.

    #9 Posted: 8/3/2010 - 19:22

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1225
    Total reviews: 53
    Places visited:
    At least 48

    Safety - My friend who traveled Brazil and lived in Rio for a few months hasn't been to Vietnam, but from the stories we've shared I'd say Vietnam sounds a lot safer. We kept our bags (and even extra cash and passports sometimes . . ssshhhhh) in our locked hotel room. You can judge a nice place (and often with many foreigners) that can lock up your passport for you if you like. When we stayed on Phu Quoc Island we just gave the owners our passports and all our cash to keep in their safe. Only kept some Dong for spending around the island and paying for snorkeling etc.

    Extra precautions when on the street with a bag as snatch and runs have been reported - best to keep it on your front. The main thieves are the Saigon Association of Drivers - SAD :{

    We didn't use the ATMs because we brought our cash - exchanged it on arrival because it was Tet and the banks close for a long time. However, we did see ATMs everywhere.

    #10 Posted: 9/3/2010 - 08:57

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  • Husko

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2007
    Posts: 34

    It's Ok to leave you big pack in the room - clothes etc. Your hotel will keep your passport on check in in Vietnam - no problem. I keep my cash with me in a secure pocket and daily spending money in another. I don't know what you will spend each day but probably wont be alot in Vietnam or Cambodia. Take some cash with you - I guess $500/$1000. Not that much really and top up with ATM - Cambodia gives you $US from ATM. ATM is worth the fees if you dont want to carry around 000's. At least take a few hundred to change/ spend (US$20's for Cambodia)in case you are stuck with no ATM. You can change any major currency in Saigon or PP. If you don't mind the fees then you only need some cash just in case.

    #11 Posted: 9/3/2010 - 15:47

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