Photo: This is the Delta.

Things to see and do

Around Vinh Long town, An Bing and Cai Bae

Vinh Long town is home to a few minor attractions that can be used to fill a few lazy hours while you wait for a bus or other connection, but the main attraction, for almost everyone who visits Vinh Long, is to do a homestay on An Binh island.

In town, but set a good four kilometres to the south of Vinh Long, the venerable Van Thanh Mieu Pagoda has been semi-recently renovated and the sprawling complex houses three buildings of worship. Unfortunately, these were closed to the public when we arrived. Stone pathways are flanked with towering trees, well manicured bushes, two reflecting pools complete with fish bisect the grounds and would be a great place to reflect, if there were any seating available.

Big trees small pagoda. Photo taken in or around Vinh Long, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Big trees small pagoda. Photo: Stuart McDonald

While you could walk out here, a xe-om shouldn’t cost more than 30,000 dong there and back including waiting time. If you feel like walking, just head south on 30 Thang 4, which becomes Tran Phu after the small bridge, and just keep going—the pagoda will be on your right. If you are parched from your walk, a small cafe sells drinks and snacks in the front courtyard.

Also in town is Vinh Long Museum, which is conveniently located right beside the river. Less conveniently, while the grounds are just about always open, the buildings seem never to be open. Explore the grounds and you’ll find some war booty including a F-5 fighter jet and a Huey helicopter among other war toys.

Get your vitamins. Photo taken in or around Vinh Long, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Get your vitamins. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Vinh Long’s central market is none too shabby and even if you have already seen a few, this is still worth a wander through, especially as it is just a couple of minutes walk from the boat landing. It spills out onto 1 Thang 5, and the pavement stretch here in the morning, loaded with cut flowers and fresh fruit is particularly photogenic. A little further down 1 Thang 5 you’ll see a laneway running into the market and this is loaded with desert stalls and small eateries—good for a cheap (though sweaty) lunch.

The closest floating market to Vinh Long is Cai Bae floating market (in the same-named town of Cai Bae to the north of An Binh island), but it is sadly a shadow of its former self. Primarily a wholesale market, the vast majority of the trade has moved onto the roads as trucks haul the produce quicker and more affordably. Tour operators generally package a trip to here along with a visit to Cai Bae market, a coconut candy factory and a paddle through back canals.

Floating around Cai Bae. Photo taken in or around Vinh Long, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Floating around Cai Bae. Photo: Stuart McDonald

If you’ve already been to one of the larger floating markets, like Cai Rang near Can Tho for example, then you could probably skip this entirely—probably the one point that still makes it notable is the cathedral at Cai Bae which is set at the confluence of two canals, but where there used to be dozens upon dozens of wholesaling boats anchored in the foreground, today you’ll be lucky to get a half dozen. Likewise the canal paddle, while pleasant, paled in comparison to what we did in Ben Tre for example. These tours start at around 600,000 dong for the boat, making them poor value for a single traveller, but more reasonable if you have a few people to share with. Overall we’d say if you are not going elsewhere in the Delta, then do it, but if you are, then swing another day in your hammock on An Binh instead.

While the floating market is easily visited from An Binh Island, the island is really an attraction in its own right. A sprawling, predominantly farming island, there are a collection of homestays scattered across the island allowing you to experience a taste of rural Vietnamese life with still a few creature comforts thrown in. Most are geared up to accept quite large groups and the activities which are put on are often geared to that. This means if you are a solo traveller and nobody else is staying where you are, activities can become quite pricey, and as they are spread across a quite vast area, it isn’t like you can walk down the street and rustle up a crowd.

Cottage industry visits are part and parcel with most floating market trips. Photo taken in or around Vinh Long, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Cottage industry visits are part and parcel with most floating market trips. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Probably the most common activity of offer is an organised tour which takes in Cai Bae floating market, Cai Bae market, a visit to a candy factory and a paddle in a small boat (see above for the details). Another activity includes visiting a fruit orchard, where you’ll most likely be plied with honey tea, rice wine and other concoctions.

You can also just skip the tours and just hire a bicycle or scooter and go exploring yourself. The island is dotted with villages and there are plenty of back lanes to explore—do watch yourself on those narrow bridges though—you fall off into a canal and you will be paying for the scooter. Also be wary of kids running out onto the laneways. In other words, ride slowly please.

Exploring An Binh. Photo taken in or around Vinh Long, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Exploring An Binh. Photo: Stuart McDonald

If you’re not partial to any of these activities, the homestays are also a good venue simply to put your feet up and enjoy a book or three. If you’re really more interested in this than organised activities, Happy Family Homestay is easily the pick of the bunch, as it takes full advantage of its absolute waterfront setting, with no shortage of hammocks and lazy chairs (and a swimming pool!) all on hand.

We’d say a stay on An Binh is well worth considering. One night would give you a taste, but two nights a better feel for the slower pace of life there. While the homestays are more small guesthouses than traditional homestays, they still make a pleasant break from the mini hotels you’ll come across in most Delta provincial capitals.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Vinh Long? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.

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