Tien Giang province is the closest Mekong Delta province to Saigon and is a very popular destination for organised tours out of Saigon. The provincial capital, My Tho, sits on the northern bank of the Mekong (Tien Giang) River and has a number of offshore islands that can be easily visited on small tours.
A typical tour tends to encompass a bit of boating up a narrow, palm lined canal, followed by visits to a series of contrived attractions of diminishing interest, where you can see coconut candy or honey being produced, visit market gardens, perhaps a small pagoda, before finishing off with a visit to any one of a number of riverside restaurants. An entire tour tends to take three to four hours (excluding any transit time from Saigon).
While it is possible (albeit a little expensive) to organise tours independently, the vast majority of visitors to this area do these tours on an organised basis out of Saigon rather than My Tho itself. Carted down on tour buses from Saigon, these tours are run in boats that seat 20-plus people and while such numbers bring costs down to a more reasonable level, the downside is you'll visit attractions en masse and be herded around.
To organise a trip independently, just walk along the river front at My Tho and touts organising independent boat tours should find you pretty quickly. Prices start at 400,000 dong for four hours for three people, though when we showed little interest one afternoon, the price quickly dropped to 200,000 dong. While the "official" boat tour office by the river has signs warning against using such freelancers, in practise we'd suggest only to be clear with your bargaining and settle on a price and itinerary before getting in the boat -- and don't hand over any money until the boat has returned you to My Tho. In particular, if you are also being accompanied by a guide, clarify that their fee is included in the overall price.
If 400,000 dong is a bit much, consider taking a shorter trip, just for an hour, to just do the boating on the narrow canal and perhaps visit a candy factory, as these are, by far, the most interesting parts of the trip.
Another option is to head across the river to Ben Tre or further south to Can Tho or west to Chau Doc, where prices are more reasonable and well-tailored to independent travellers.
Off the river, My Tho is a fairly typical, bustling provincial Vietnamese centre. The most interesting area is the riverfront stretch along with the Bao Dinh river that runs perpendicular to the Mekong running parallel to Trung Trac Rd. There is precious little in the way of heritage architecture remaining, but the river front area, between Trung Trac and the Chuong Duong hotel has shaded cafes that catch a river breeze making them an ideal location to while away the afternoon heat as the sun sets behind the newish (opened in 2008) Rach Mieu bridge.
More intrepid travellers may also find My Tho of interest as a launching pad for a slow boat trip from My Tho to Tan Chau, near the Cambodian border. When we did the trip many years ago it took a day and a half (you sleep on the boat in hammocks) but we were told on our most recent visit that the trip now takes three days -- though we could get an explanation of why that was the case. The boats do not leave every day, but you can ask either at the cargo pier (western edge of town), or keep an eye out for Mr Nip (he'll most likely find you), a cyclo driver who speaks excellent English and is a fountain of knowledge about My Tho.
Lastly, My Tho is known for the sprawling Vinh Trung Pagoda with it's three buddha statues on the outskirts of town, but we found the morning market, considerably more interesting.
By Vinh Dao .