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MekongDeltaTravel Guide

The Mekong Delta (Vietnamese: đồng bằng sông Cửu Long “Nine Dragon river delta”) is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of 39,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi).The size of the area covered by water depends on the season.

The Mekong Delta has recently been dubbed as a 'biological treasure trove'. Over 10,000 new species have been discovered in previously unexplored areas of Mekong Delta, including a species of rat thought to be extinct.


The Mekong Delta was likely inhabited long since prehistory; the empire of Funan and later Chenla maintained a presence in the Mekong Delta for centuries. Archaeological discoveries at Oc Eo and other Funan sites show that the area was an important part of the Funan Kingdom, bustling with trading ports and canals as early as in the first century CE and extensive human settlement in the region may have gone back as far as the 4th century BCE.

The region was known as Khmer Krom (lower Khmer, or lower Cambodia) to the Khmer Empire, which likely maintained settlements there centuries before its rise in the 11th and 12th centuries.The kingdom of Champa, though mainly based along the coast of the South China Sea, is known to have expanded west into the Mekong Delta, seizing control of Prey Nokor (the precursor to modern-day Ho Chi Minh City) by the end of the 13th century.

Beginning in the 1620s, Khmer king Chey Chettha II (1618–1628) allowed the Vietnamese to settle in the area, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nokor, which they colloquially referred to as Sài Gòn.The increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers which followed overwhelmed the Khmer kingdom—weakened as it was due to war with Thailand—and slowly Vietnamized the area. During the late 17th century, Mac Cuu, a Chinese anti-Qing general, began to expand Vietnamese and Chinese settlements deeper into Khmer lands, and in 1691, Prey Nokor was occupied by the Vietnamese.

Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyễn Lords of Huế by sea in 1698 to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the area.This act formally detached the Mekong Delta from Cambodia, placing the region firmly under Vietnamese administrative control. Cambodia was cut off from access to the South China Sea, and trade through the area was possible only with Vietnamese permission.During the Tay Son wars and the subsequent Nguyễn Dynasty, Vietnam's boundaries were pushed as far as the Cape of Ca Mau. In 1802, Nguyễn Ánh crowned himself emperor Gia Long and unified all the territories comprising modern Vietnam, including the Mekong Delta.

Upon the conclusion of the Cochinchina Campaign in the 1860s, the area became Cochinchina, France's first colony in Vietnam, and later, part of French Indochina.Beginning during the French colonial period, the French patrolled and fought on the waterways of the Mekong Delta region with their Divisions navales d'assaut (Dinassaut), a tactic which lasted throughout the First Indochina War, and was later employed by the US Navy Mobile Riverine Force.During the Vietnam War—also referred to as the Second Indochina War—the Delta region saw savage fighting between Viet Cong (NLF) guerrillas and units of the United States Navy's swift boats and hovercrafts (PACVs).

Following independence from France, the Mekong Delta was part of the Republic of Vietnam and eventually the country of Vietnam. In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge regime attacked Vietnam in an attempt to reconquer the Delta region. This campaign precipitated the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and subsequent downfall of the Khmer Rouge.


The Mekong Delta, as a region, lies immediately to the west of Ho Chi Minh City, roughly forming a triangle stretching from Mỹ Tho in the east to Châu Đốc and Hà Tiên in the northwest, down to Cà Mau and the South China Sea at the southernmost tip of Vietnam, and including the island of Phú Quốc.

The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes, ranging from mountains and highlands to the north and west to broad, flat flood plains in the south. This diversity of terrain was largely the product of tectonic uplift and folding brought about by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates about 50 million years ago. The soil of the lower Delta consists mainly of sediment from the Mekong and its tributaries, deposited over thousands of years as the river changed its course due to the flatness of the low-lying terrain.

Climate change concerns

Being a low-lying coastal region, the Mekong Delta is particularly susceptible to floods resulting from rises in sea level due to climate change. The Climate Change Research Institute at Can Tho University, in studying the possible consequences of climate change, has predicted that, besides suffering from drought brought on by seasonal decrease in rainfall, many provinces in the Mekong Delta will be flooded by the year 2030. The most serious cases are predicted to be the provinces of Ben Tre and Long An, of which 51% and 49%, respectively, are expected to be flooded if sea levels rise by 1 meter.

People and Life in Mekong Delta

The inhabitants of the Mekong Delta region are largely ethnic Viet, with Khmer minority populations living primarily in the Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng, and Muslim Chăm in Tan Chau, by An Giang provinces. There are also sizeable Hoa (ethnic Chinese) populations in the Kiên Giang and Trà Vinh provinces.The region has approximately 17.4 million people.

Life here revolves around the river; the homes and place of work are mostly near the river banks. Some natives, especially the fishermen, have even built houses on canoes. In a whole their lifestyle though simple, is indeed very fascinating and something that tourists love to see.

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