Mỹ Tho and Bến Tre’s places of interest


Awash with greenery, islands, and with houses floating on its rivers, the Mekong Delta region is home to breathtaking landscapes and remarkable culture. To fully see and admire the lifestyles in various parts of the Mekong Delta, one usually needs 3 to 4 days. 

However, those who have only one day to spend can choose to visit the quaint towns of Mỹ Tho and Bến Tre, which are right next to each other. Here’s what you can do in Mỹ Tho and Bến Tre for a scenic Mekong Delta weekend trip. 


Mỹ Tho and Bến Tre



Mỹ Tho city as seen from the Tien River

Mỹ Tho is a city located in Tiền Giang Province, surrounded by the vast Tiền and Hậu rivers, Mỹ Tho is famed for its endless canals banked with towering coconut trees and fruit gardens, a common sight in the Mekong Delta, especially in popular imagination.

ben tre river with boats
Image credit: @itstaduuh

The capital city of Bến Tre Province, the picturesque Bến Tre is adjacent to Mỹ Tho and nicknamed “the land of coconuts” because of its great numbers of coconut trees. 

As they are only 13KM from each other, they make an easy day trip from Saigon for those looking to escape from the city.


How to get to Mỹ Tho from Saigon


The travel time from Saigon to Mỹ Tho City is only 2 hours. You can take a bus, which usually has 20-28 passengers, or a van, which can hold 7 to 10 passengers, depending on your preference. 

Van

You can take a limousine van from Saigon to Mỹ Tho with Nam Á Châu Tourist Agency departing from 203 Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon’s District 1. The van will drop you off at its Mỹ Tho office on 30/4 Street.

A one-way ride ticket is at VND150,000 (~USD6.48) per person.

Bus

You can take a Samco bus which has plenty of pick-up points across Saigon’s District 5 for your convenience. 

You can wait for the bus at locations such as 108-124 Tản Đà, Parkson Hùng Vương, Chợ Rẫy Hospital, Garden Mall, and Phú Lâm Roundabout.

The bus will drop you off at its Mỹ Tho office at 249 Nguyễn Thị Thập in Mỹ Tho Province.  

For more information on pick-up and drop-off points, check out Samco’s detailed itinerary. A one-way ride ticket with Samco starts from VND65,000 (~USD2.81) per person.


How to reach Mekong Delta’s most iconic islands from downtown Mỹ Tho


30/4 Boat Quay
30/4 Boat Quay

Next, you’ll need to take a boat to the most famous islands of the Mekong Delta Region – Long (Dragon) Islands, Lân (Unicorn) Islands, Quy (Turtle) Islands, and Phụng (Phoenix) Islands. From the van or bus drop-off points, take a cab for a 5-minute ride or walk to the 30/4 Boat Quay.


Visitors take these boats to the surrounding islands

Note: Most of the passengers traveling from the quay have bought tickets to book the whole boat. If you’re not with any organized tour, you might want to negotiate the price of your ticket with the captain. 

The more passengers are on a boat, the lower the ticket price per person. In case you’re the only one traveling on a boat, you will have to pay a higher price for your boat ride.


Enjoy a relaxing boat ride on the Tien River



The Tiền River

The boat will take you on a ride around the Tiền River, the largest river of Tiền Giang Province. 

From your seat, you’ll catch sight of Rạch Miễu bridge, a 8,331-long cable-stayed bridge that connects Tiền Giang Province with Bến Tre Province.

Rach Mieu bridge
Image credit: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên/Wikimedia Commons

You’ll also catch a glimpse of the most famous islands of the Mekong Delta Region – Long (Dragon) Islands, Lân (Unicorn) Islands, Quy (Turtle) Islands, and Phụng (Phoenix) Islands, all awash with towering trees and gorgeous flowers. 

Aside from the city of Mỹ Tho on the banks of the river, you’ll also find numerous floating fish farms.


Sip on honey tea and munch on dried bananas on Thới Sơn Island



Thới Sơn Island

Of all the 4 islands, Lan Islands, also known as Thới Sơn Islands, is the most visited one because of its larger size and plenty of fun activities for visitors to engage in. 

Upon reaching Thới Sơn Island, you’ll walk into a rustic and quaint A-frame roofed house built from bamboo, a charming architectural structure commonly found only in the Mekong Delta region.

Sit down and recharge your batteries over some sweet and crunchy dried bananas and sweet and sour honey tea, which are the region’s specialties.

You can buy some bottled honey tea to bring home for future use or as gifts for your family and friends. 


Take a stroll around the Thới Sơn village market


Mekong garden

After recharging with tasty snacks, exit the house and walk further into the village on scenic roads lined with trees.

Mekong village
Visitors at a local market on the island

Here you’ll chance upon plenty of souvenir shops selling crafts and cone hats made of bamboo straws as well as áo bà ba and khăn rằn, the iconic garments of the ladies of the Mekong Delta Region. 

village shopping
Plenty of áo bà ba for kids and adults on sale at the village market on the island

While áo dài is the staple of Vietnamese fashion for both formal and casual occasions, áo bà ba has long been a popular casual garment among the residents of the Southern countryside, especially in the Mekong Delta region.  

Mekong woman in ao ba baA woman clad in áo bà ba

This is a long-sleeved shirt made of silk with a scooped neck, often paired with silk pants for a loose and comfortable feel suitable for casual occasions. This traditional garment is often worn by both men and women in the region. 

Mekong scarf
Image credit: Tourism Can Tho

Khăn rằn, or checkered scarves that are usually in black and white, is also a traditional accessory derived from the Khmer krama and donned by the residents of the Mekong Delta Region. 

Even though khăn rằn is a popular fashion accessory among the residents of Mekong Delta Region, it’s little known that the scarf itself is also a weapon used in Vietnam’s traditional martial arts, such as Takhado. 

khan ran martial art
Image adapted from: Nhip Song Que Huong

Soft and long, khăn rằn can be used for both short and long-range combat using techniques such as hooking and tying opponents’ limbs to send them tumbling to the ground. 


Watch live performances of Đờn Ca Tài Tử, traditional music from southern Vietnam in Thới Sơn Village


Don ca tai tu
A Đờn Ca Tài Tử band in 1911
Image credit: Wikipedia

Đờn Ca Tài Tử is a famous traditional music genre in southern parts of Vietnam, especially in the Mekong Delta region. 

Founded towards the end of the 19th century, Đờn Ca Tài Tử boasts a combination of Hue chamber music and folk music, using instruments such as steel guitars, violins, plucked zithers, and bowed string instruments. 

don ca tai tu

At Thới Sơn island, you’ll get a chance to watch live performances by local Đờn Ca Tài Tử musicians. 

don ca tai tu


Cruise along the canals on longtail boats in Thới Sơn Island


Mekong boat ride

For an authentic Mekong Delta experience, a 20-minute longtail boat tour around the islands is essential. 

Mekong boat ride

With a dense maze of canals that stretch across 1,200 hectares, Thới Sơn is the largest island in Mỹ Tho.

Mekong boat ride

During your cruise on the longtail boats rowed by local residents, you’ll catch sight of verdant fruit gardens and luxuriant trees such as star apple trees, orange trees, and coconut trees lining the banks of the canals.  

Mekong boat ride

You’ll also find numerous quaint wooden houses alongside the canals where people sell snacks as well as home-cooked fish sauce. 


Visit the manufacturing hub of coconut products at Hương Dừa Candy Factory


Lo Keo Huong Dua

The cruise will take you back to the dock where you’ll get back on the big boats that brought you here from downtown Mỹ Tho, and which will now take you for a 20-minute ride to Bến Tre Province just across the river.

coconut processing machine
Coconut processing machine

Known as the hometown of giant coconut trees, Bến Tre is also Vietnam’s largest manufacturing hub of all manner of products made from coconuts.

Mekong coconut candies
Coconut candies

The boat will take you to Hương Dừa Candy Factory (Lò Kẹo Hương Dừa), where you’ll observe the process of coconuts being crushed, made into coconut candies, and served on site to visitors. 

coconut candiesCoconut candies are among the Mekong Delta region’s specialties

You’ll also find a variety of coconut oils and locally brewed wine.  

Mekong home brewed wine


Visit the relics of the Coconut Religion (Đạo Dừa) in Bến Tre


Coconut religion relic site
Image credit: Wikipedia

Founded in 1963 by Vietnamese scholar Nguyễn Thành Nam (1909-1990), the Coconut Religion is a unique belief system, with its cradle situated on the Phụng islet of the Mekong River in Bến Tre.


The marble memorial plate of Nguyễn Thành Nam, the founder of the Coconut Religion
Image credit: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên/Wikimedia Commons

Aside from combining the main principles of Buddhism and Christianity, the religion promotes drinking coconut milk and eating only coconuts. 

The cult had also permitted its monks to marry 9 wives each, which raised eyebrows among the administration of the former South Vietnam in the day, and led to numerous clashes between its worshippers and authorities. 

Nguyen Thanh Nam
The deceased Coconut Religion founder Nguyễn Thành Nam
Image credit: VTC

At its peak, the religion garnered around 4,000 followers.

Leader Nguyen Thanh Nam
The Coconut Religion worshippers in the past
Image credit: Cong An Nhan Dan

After the death of its founder Nguyễn Thành Nam, the number of followers was significantly reduced. 


The Dragon Court
Image credit: Wikipedia

You can still visit the Phung islet estate of the Coconut Religion, which includes spacious courts decorated with dragons and a Peace Tower. 

Coconut religion relic site
Image credit: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên/Wikimedia Commons


Visit Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda in Mỹ Tho


Vinh Trang Pagoda

Located in Mỹ Hòa Village, Mỹ Tho City, Tiền Giang Province, Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda is among the must-visit tourist attractions in the Mekong Delta Region.

Built in 1849 during the Indochinese era, Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda is a unique work of architecture featuring French, Roman, Thai, Champa, and Cambodian design elements, using yellow as its main color.  

Vinh Trang Pagoda

The gate of the pagoda is itself a masterpiece of art, made from broken porcelain and engraved with motifs showing Buddhist myths. 

Featuring exquisitely carved work with curved sloping roofs on both sides, the design of the main hall is reminiscent of Angkor Wat’s architecture in Cambodia. 

Vinh Trang Pagoda

The exteriors and interiors of the pagoda, on the other hand, feature Corinthian-style columns, an iconic feature of Roman classical architecture. 

Vinh Trang Pagoda

The pagoda is also a treasure trove of artifacts, playing host to 60 Buddha statues made of wood, cobble, and concrete, most of which were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century.  

Vinh Trang Pagoda

One of the most checked-in spots in the pagoda is a statue featuring the reclining Shakyamuni Buddha, a 7-tier tower, and a 20M-tall and 250-ton Maitreya statue. 

Vinh Trang Pagoda


Dine at the open-air, country-style Việt Nhật Ecological Restaurant by Tân Thạch Canal


Viet Nhat restaurant

Decked out with spacious pavilions built from wood and bamboo straw, Việt Nhật Ecological Restaurant is the spot for an authentic Mekong Delta-style dining experience. 

The restaurant is filled with fruit trees, flowers, ponds, as well as areas for team-building activities.

Viet Nhat restaurant

From the restaurant, you can enjoy a panoramic view over the peaceful river lined with coconut trees and charming boats sailing back and forth. 


Things to do in Mỹ Tho and Bến Tre


Filled with lush greenery and traditional architecture, a trip to the Mekong Delta will offer great insights into the region’s rich cultural and historical heritage. 

Within one to two days, you can experience a universe of excitement with breathtaking boat tours, eye-opening Vietnamese traditional art shows, and delicious specialties.

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Cover image adapted from: The Smart Local Vietnam

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