Most people only ever do a day trip to the Mekong Delta (which is what I did on my first visit to Vietnam). However, if you’re looking to really enjoy this nice, almost sleepy area, I recommend slowing down and checking out its various towns and cities. My first experience of this was a trip to Vinh Long, a city about 3 hours away from Saigon in its own little world!
If Vinh Long rings even the faintest of bells, it may be because you once saw The Lover, a film more known for its explicit love scenes than anything else. The main male character is from Vinh Long, and it’s on a ferry between there and Sa Đéc that he meets our narrator and main female character.
While I did see that film as a teen, I first remember hearing of Vinh Long and wanting to visit when I saw this photo by @soaipham on Instagram. If you’ve met me in Saigon, you know I’m obsessed with the multitude of interesting temples here and in Vietnam in general. Unlike Korea, where many of the temples are more or less similar in color and set-up, the temples here seem to vary constantly!
Anyway, I saw that Vinh Long was 3+ hours away on the Cổ Chiên River, and when I commented, @soaipham replied to check out Mekong Pottery Homestay if I ever made it. Well, I popped over to the website and within a week I booked myself a little four-day getaway from the city!
Vinh Long was such a charming visit. It’s both a city and a province, with over 150k calling the city home while over a million say the same about the province. A part of me wants to call it a sleepy town on the Mekong, but it’s really not! I guess compared to the hustle of Saigon, anywhere seems quiet. But it’s definitely a busy spot, much, much busier than Phong Nha up in north-central Vietnam, which was my last city escape.
I really enjoyed popping down and seeing all I could get up to while visiting. It reminded me a lot of Namwon, my home for two years in Korea, especially when it came to finding delicious Vietnamese dishes to try. After all, the Mekong Delta, like the Jeolla provinces for Korea, is considered Vietnam’s food basket with 1/4 of the country’s agriculture coming from here. Aka, you just know this is where you’re going to find the best versions of some Vietnamese dishes.
Anyway, I packed my four days with lots of bike rides, restaurant and cafe visits, and, of course, temple-hopping! Check out my complete guide below.
Vinh Long Travel Tips
Where to Stay in Vinh Long
If you want to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Vinh Long, then your best bet is to stay right in town. Here you can easily walk to any of the restaurants, cafes, and big sightseeing spots from your hotel, though getting out to the islands or further will require a motorbike or bicycle.
Most hotels are closer to the area with Vinh Long Market, and truthfully none of them look particularly charming. The best-rated I found were Minh Khue Hotel or for something fancier, Khách sạn Sài Gòn Vĩnh Long. Airbnb wise, I found this private room or a room at Hotel Phu Gia for super cheap.
On the Islands
Another option is to stay on either on An Bình island which is known for its homestays. I’d stay here more if you just want a relaxing getaway where you’re not really moving around too much. Otherwise you’d need to take the ferry across every time you wanted to go into town or to the mainland in general.
There are quite a few homestays listed and all are pretty highly-rated. Nam Thanh and Phuong Thao are right by the An Bình port, though Mekong Riverside Homestay or Mekong Nature Lodge look the nicest.
My Recommendation: Mekong Pottery Homestay
I highly recommend snagging one of the rooms available at Mekong Pottery Homestay. Currently they only have two rooms but are planning to eventually expand to a few more. After deciding to visit Vinh Long, I took a look at all their homestay and hotel options, and by far this spot was the best. The decor is beyond cute, especially with all the flowing plants and pottery designs, and the hosts, Yennie and her mother, are amazing. As soon as I got off my shuttle from the bus station, Yennie greeted me with a hug and a welcome drink!
Location wise, I found it to also be in the best spot for doing all the sightseeing I wanted to do. It’s pretty much half way between the two farthest sights: the Pottery Village and Jade Buddha Temple, both of which are exactly 10km away on opposite sides. If you want to go over to Bình Hòa Phước, the ferry port is right next door, and if you want to go into town, it’s only 3km on an easy road. Mekong Pottery Homestay has bikes as well that you can use for free, which is how I got around! They also offer free breakfast and have a menu you can choose from. I got the scrambled eggs on toast the whole time ha!
As for the actual accommodation, my room was absolutely gorgeous! Clean white walls with lots of clay-red touches and a ton of plants. If you do get warm at night, there’s a fan above and an A/C unit you can keep next to your bed.
They’re listed on Booking and Airbnb, but you can also just message them directly to book either through their website, their Facebook page, or Instagram. Yennie is seriously lovely; it felt like I was coming down to stay with a friend!
How to Get to Vinh Long
The best, cheapest, and most environmentally-friendly way to get to Vinh Long from Saigon is by a sleeper bus. It costs around 150K VND (maybe less). Get a grab over to Mien Tay Bus Station (Bến Xe Miền Tây) and head over to the Futa Bus counters. Do NOT get overwhelmed by the first 31 counters who will all be vying for your attention. Futa is where you’ll want to go and if you’re confused, just find the security guard and ask “Futa?” and he’ll point you in the right direction.
Anyway, from the ticket counter head through the station for the Futa bus area; their buses are bright orange so VERY hard to miss. Vinh Long is all the way at the end, and there’s even a water cooler in the waiting area if you want to fill up before you go.
The whole bus ride takes 3 1/12 hours, and Vinh Long will be the second stop. It’s actually quite a nice ride. Things might get a little bumpy, but I didn’t need my seabands at all and actually slept like a baby the whole time both ways.
Once you get off, just show the drivers what Yennie messages you, and they’ll direct you to one of the free shuttles. The shuttle will then drop you off right at the homestay!
You can also get to Vinh Long via motorbike or car whether it’s your own or you’ve booked through grab. It’s just, obviously, quite expensive if you book on grab! When I looked, just in case I couldn’t get a bus spot, it was around 550k VND for a bike and 1.5 million VND for a car.
How to Get Around
By Bike & Motorbike
Honestly by bike or on foot is your best bet! You can always rent a motorbike as well, but I didn’t think it was that necessary. Mekong Pottery Homestay is a bit outside of town, so if you walk, it’ll be about 40 minutes. Biking into town for food or coffee took no time at all.
Just be careful with traffic as always. Vinh Long may be in the countryside, but the main town and roads are still busy enough that if you’re not paying attention, you could get into a crash. Also everywhere has some sort of parking, so no need to worry about finding a spot.
Of course, to go between the islands and mainland, you’ll need to take a ferry across! They seem pretty regular, and the whole ride probably takes under 10-15 minutes. The port for Bình Hòa Phước is right near the homestay while the the An Bình port is more in town. Just a warning that if the tide is too low, they might not be able to run!
Tours in Vinh Long
Yennie offers two tours she customized herself for guests at the homestay. I took advantage of the half-day one which takes you to her great uncle’s pottery factory and over to Bình Hòa Phước where you’ll get a nice boat ride along the river, a little visit to the market there, a pop over to Nha Tho Cai Muoi, the pink church, and then get lunch at a Tien Hu Rambutan Garden.
Her other tour is a night food tour for those of you who want to know more about the Mekong’s food scene! I’m like 99% sure I’m bringing Autumn here when she can finally visit, so I saved that for her trip since she’s the bigger foodie in our friendship.
Southern Vietnam is generally humid and hot year round. The first time I was in the Mekong was in winter and this recent trip was in September, and I’m pretty sure I sweated all the same. Rainy/monsoon season is from about late June to early October, so keep that in mind if you can plan around it!
What You Really Need to Pack
Besides the obvious like underwear, shirts, shoes, etc, here’s what you really need for your trip!
Just a pair of good sandals
There’s not any trekking in the Mekong, so you don’t have to worry about bringing sturdy sneakers. The only time you might be worried about your sandals is getting in and out of the river boat or if it’s quite rainy. I wore my regular birks most of the time and brought my jelly birks just in case.
Because you have to take your shoes off for the sleeper bus, make sure you wear something you can just slide off and on easily.
Had a few ankle bites while down here and, of course, my bed had a nice net to protect me while I was sleeping. If you’re usually a skeeter attraction, I’d bring some just in case.
Longer pant, skirt, or dress
Since Vinh Long is more in the countryside of Vietnam, it’s a bit more conservative than Saigon. Bring longer pants, a longer skirt, or a longer dress while you’re visiting the temples here. Honestly, my go-to has been my Old Navy cotton maxi dress. I took the polyester lining out of it, so it’s much more breathable.
A mini portable fan
I swear my body temperature was slightly elevated the entire time I was here! It got hot. And with tall the midday cycling, I was kicking myself for not packing my a little pink fan!
Lol I swear I turned about three shades darker on this trip without meaning to (I even had some sunscreen). The southern sun is stroooong, and you’ll be outside most of the time! Of all the places in Vietnam to make sure you wear some sunscreen, this is probably the place you want to the most.
Maybe a good hat
Like I said, the sun is strong in the Mekong and at some point you’re going to want a head covering! Honestly, I always saw the conical hats as a bit touristy but actually they came in handy when we were on the river and the sun was relentless! They’re also more breathable than a normal hat shape, so you won’t need to worry about hat hair.
Places to Visit in Vinh Long
First up where exactly to go and what to see in town! Most of these places are all within walking distance of each other or, at the very least, a fast bike ride away.
Bach Dang & Thieng Duc Bridges
- Vietnamese: Cầu Bạch Đằng & Cầu Thiềng Đức
If you stay at Mekong Pottery Homestay, then you’ll eventually cross over either one of these bridges (or both)! Take a moment to enjoy the river view because it really is pretty, especially if you catch one of the boats coming through.
Vinh Long Market
Had to make a stop at this bustling market, especially to see all the fruit stands (and buy fruit, which I then had to get back to my apartment in Saigon lol). I was hungry, so I really only popped around the fruit stalls and then the food court part, but the market is quite extensive, and you could easily spend a morning walking through it all.
Ruins of Thanh Long Ho
- Vietnamese: Di Tích Cửa Hữu Thành Long Hồ
While you’re in town, stop by this spot which was built to remember the old Long Ho Citadel. Long Hồ was a sort of barrack (Wikipedia has it as dinh?) that comprised of Vĩnh Long, Bến Tre, Trà Vinh, and some of Cần Thơ back under the Nguyen lords. When I tried to translate the name into English, it said “Ruins of Thanh Long Ho,” but I think what you see is fairly new.
Temple of the Mother Buddha
- Vietnamese: Điện Thờ Phật Mẫu thành phố Vĩnh Long
From my Googling (and subsequent finding of Vietnamese articles roughly translated with Google Chrome’s translation button lol), this temple was first built in 1966 and has been restored quite a bit in the Cao Dai style. It didn’t look open to go in when I walked by, but the outside sure was unique and colorful. Apparently this is what Cao Dai establishments look like! The most famous is in Tay Ninh, which is where the religion was founded.
Thanh that Vinh Long
- Vietnamese: Thánh thất Vĩnh Long
I had to giggle when I got off my bike to look at Than that Vĩnh Long! Pretty much all the temples I’ve been to still say “temporarily closed” on Google Maps, so I didn’t think much of it when I plugged this in to visit. Turns out there’s a very good reason it’s actually temporarily closed — it’s under construction! Doesn’t look like much at the moment, but here’s a picture of what it’ll be when finished! It’s also in the Cao Dai-style, so you can see the similarities with the Mother Buddha temple.
Thien Hau Pagoda
- Vietnamese: Chùa Bà Thiên Hậu
The more temples I visit, the more than Vietnamese names start to sound familiar! If you read my post on Saigon’s Cholon and District 5, then you might recognized the name “Thien Hau.” The name comes from the Chinese sea goddess named Mazu, who was once a Fujianese shamaness. This gorgeous temple sits right before Thieng Duc bridge and around the corner from Ori Coffee.
Ong Pagoda – That Phu Temple
- Vietnamese: Chùa Ông Thất Phủ Miếu
If you cross over Thieng Duc bridge, make a left to head over to Chùa Ông Thất Phủ Miếu before going back to Mekong Pottery Homestay. The origins of this temple can be traced all the way back to the Nguyen dynasty, though from what I’ve read what you see now was constructed more towards the late 1800s/early 1900s.
Temple of Literature of Vinh Long
- Vietnamese: Văn Thánh miếu Vĩnh Long
I didn’t get a chance to properly visit this Confucius temple during my stay, but I did manage to hop out to see it on my way to the bus station as we had to pick up someone nearby. Will have to go back to walk around. It was built back in the 1860s and almost destroyed when the French took over!
Other Places in Town
There are so many temples and quite a few parks in town you can always visit. One of the fun things to do is just to park your bike and walk for a bit to see what life is like here in Vĩnh Long. The market itself could be a whole morning if you really wanted to wander!
Outside of Town
Now for the sights to see outside of town but still on the mainland! You definitely need at least a bicycle to get to some of them as the farthest were 10km away.
Dinh Khao Pilgrim Center
- Vietnamese: Trung Tâm Hành Hương Đình Khao
Quite literally across the street from Mekong Pottery Homestay is this pretty Catholic cathedral (or pilgrimage center?). Its interior and bottom part were under construction when I stopped in, so I just did a quick loop around the grounds and got out of their hair.
Just a warning, there are some, uh, interestingly graphic statues of what I assume to be missionaries being executed… One included an elephant stomping on his head. So, you know, heads up.
Pottery Village of Vinh Long
- Vietnamese: Làng Gốm Vĩnh Long
Okay, you’re going to hate me, but I promise you won’t regret doing this. Wake-up before sunrise and head over to this area to see the giant pottery kilns line the river. It almost fees like you’ve stumbled across the ruins of an ancient civilization except these are all pretty lively factories!
If you go at sunrise, you’ll get to experience the warm, golden glow and avoid the worst of the heat. It’s about a 10km bike ride, and it took me around 40 minutes going at a pretty decent speed. Once you turn into the village itself, the easiest place to stop off is at the gas station where you can leave your bike and walk to the river’s edge.
Seriously, times like this are when I wish I had a drone to fully capture how incredible this all looked from above!
A Pottery Factory
To learn more about the Mekong’s pottery tradition and how exactly things are made, visit one of the factories! On Yennie’s half-day tour, we started out at her great uncle’s and she showed me around! First the clay is gathered from the Mekong, which is what gives the pottery its reddish color. They used to be able to gather clay from right near the factory but due to erosion concerns, they get it from much further out.
Once the clay is gathered, it’s mixed with sand and water and then it’s molded to whatever they need it to be (bricks, pots, vases, etc). After it’s molded, it’s polished and smoothed by hand before baking in a giant kiln. The kiln’s conical shape, which is what makes it look so unique in the village, is so that everything heats evenly.
Jade Buddha Temple of Vinh Long
- Vietnamese: Chùa Phật Ngọc Xá Lợi Vĩnh Long
Ten kilometers the other way from the homestay is this stunning temple. This yellow and maroon Buddhist temple is absolutely massive and is fairly new; having been completed in 2015. The huge statue of Guanyin (Quán Thế Âm in Vietnamese) sits to the right of the entrance and, of course, you can miss the towering pagoda on the second level!
If you climb up, there’s a really nice breeze under the pavilions, and you can see out to the river and bridge.
Ngoc Hanh Zen Monastery
- Vietnamese: Thiền Viện Ngọc Hạnh
On the way to the Jade Buddha Temple, you’ll actually see a lot of interesting places. If I’d had more time (and energy), I would’ve stopped at a lot more! The one temple I did stop at was the beautiful Thiền Viện Ngọc Hạnh. Its main feature is the giant Reclining Buddha, which is meant to show Buddha getting ready to enter parinirvana (or nirvana-after-death). I didn’t notice it at first from the ground, so had quite a shock when I got to the second level and turned around haha.
One of my days in Vĩnh Long, Yennie invited me to check out this new farm that had opened up! It’s actually down the same way Thiền Viện Ngọc Hạnh, so if you go to the Jade Buddha temple, it’d be a fun stop on your way back. All the fruits and vegetables are grown organically with no pesticides, and the owner is hoping to turn the one building into a little cafe! There are also some little things for kids to do to learn about farming.
Other Places Outside of Town I Didn’t Visit:
I had a bunch of places, mainly temples, marked down but you can only do so many temples in a few days! Also some of them, like the Chua Khmer Phu Ly, were quite far. But if you want to add more sightseeing, check out any of the ones below:
- Dinh Tan Hoa
- Tinh Xa Ngoc Chon
- Tinh Xa Ngoc Hoa
- Chua Quan Am
- Phuoc Kien Tu/Chua La Sen (Lotus Pagoda)
- Chua Khmer Phu Ly (super cool but quite far)
An Binh & Binh Hoa Phuoc Islands
Now for the islands! The two islands across the ferry from Vĩnh Long are An Bình and Bình Hòa Phước. If you take the port next to Mekong Pottery Homestay, it takes you over to Bình Hòa Phước and the one for An Bình is more in town.
These islands are actually pretty connected; on my tour Yennie motorbiked from Bình Hòa Phước to An Bình without needing to take another ferry or anything. An Bình is the more famous island and on the other side of it is where you’ll find the famous Cái Bè Floating Market.
One lovely activity is taking a boat ride along the river from Bình Hòa Phước to An Bình! One our tour, Yennie took me here and we met with the loveliest lady who then rowed us down the river. She gave us these delicious, huge bananas and coconuts to eat and drink before we made our way, and then Yennie pointed out the different plants and fruits growing around us.
Hoa Ninh Market
- Vietnamese Name: Chợ Hoà Ninh
At the end of our boat ride, we were let off at Hoà Ninh Market to walk around a bit. If you want to see the market in full swing, it’s better to go early in the morning, but it was still fairly busy around noon when we arrived!
Cai Muoi Church
- Vietnamese: Nhà thờ Cái Muối
Next door to the market is this pretty little pink church! I mean, if you have the chance to visit a pink church, why not?! I believe the pink color is quite new because when I was looking up its history, it was still a more neutral color as recently as 2012.
Tu Hien Rambutan Garden
- Vietnamese: Vườn Chôm Chôm Tư Hiền
Our final stop was in An Bình was at this very lovely rambutan farm for lunch (more on that below). Since it’s not quite the season for them, there’s not as much to see, but when things are in season, you can come to pick some fruit. It’s nice and peaceful, and you might even run into some sleepy cats and curious pups.
Other Places to Visit:
- Chua Tien Chau – very cool Buddhist temple near An Bình port. We drove past it on the motorbike, so I made a note to visit if i made it back over.
- Cai Cuong Ancient House – one of the old French colonial homes left from Indochina that you can actually visit since most of them have been turned into government buildings
Where to Eat and Drink in Vinh Long
Now, the number one thing to do in Vĩnh Long or anywhere along the Mekong is to eat. After all, you’re in Vietnam’s rice basket! I was very excited to try out some of the many places Yennie recommended.
Restaurants to Try
Bun Mam Co Ba
Once I arrived to Vĩnh Long and settled in, Yennie suggested I go here for dinner for a truly delicious Mekong speciality. Um, she was right. One sip of the broth, and I was messaging Autumn and promising her I’d take her here when she visits so she can experience the incredible umami flavor for herself.
For those of you from the US South, sometimes bún mắm is considered “Vietnamese gumbo.” It’s made with vermicelli noodles and fermented fish paste (the mắm in the name). There are veggies and seafood mixed in like shrimp, eggplant, and more. Ugh, guys, I cannot emphasize this enough: I’m going to be 80-years-old telling my kids about that first sip, and my mouth is watering a bit remembering it! The flavor was just so deep and delicious.
For a quick meal, you can get the beefsteak options at Bittet 68. It wasn’t the most amazing stop for me (I’m not a big beefsteeak person), but it was right around the corner from a Banh Xeo place I wanted to visit and couldn’t find.
Hu Tieu Muc Thit Bam Ut
So this basically translates to minced meat and squid noodle soup which doesn’t sound as good as this was. The broth might be clear but it was super flavorful.
Vinh Long Market Food Court
While you’re visiting the Vĩnh Long Market, grab a bite to eat at the food court! It’s right next to parking, and the first two stalls were by far the friendliest ladies. Like they let these two darker cats hangout and eat there!
One had a rice counter (com), so I got food from her and then I got Sâm Bổ Lượng from the lady next to her. I do not know how to order che at all, so I also just ask them to give me whatever they think is the nicest haha. Turns out sam bo luong is made with jujubes, seawead, longan, lotus seeds, and barley. Yummmmm!
Tu Hien Rambutan Garden
Our lunch at the chom chom farm! This dish is known as an elephant ear fish or elephant ear gourami, and it’s native to the Mekong. Seriously nothing like getting fresh fish from a region known for it! Meal wise, this one’s quite easy. Wet your rice paper, add some greens and rice noodles, and then the fish on top. Roll up and dip in the sauce for an explosion of flavors!
Cute Cafes in Vinh Long
This is Vietnam after all! Even in the smaller cities you can find plenty of cute cafes to relax in. I came here to work on things and for the times I really just needed some icy aircon to cool down.
The 1996 Coffee & Tea
Popped in here my last day to do some work! Super cute, instagrammable cafe with lots of different drink options and a super pretty, feminine aesthetic. Also I think it goes up to 3 floors of space, so you’ll never feel crowded in. I treated myself to one of their frappes.
Sadly this place does not offer brownies despite the name but it does have some different cakes and things, so I just came in for a treat. I think I got the red forest cake with some iced oolong tea. It’s smaller and was quite crowded/noisy when I went after dinner, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for work or study.
The cafe attached to my homestay. I guess I didn’t specifically go here, but I had a nice ca phe sua da with breakfast every morning, a delicious iced tamarind tea as a welcome drink, and an iced kumquat tea for the road, so I’d say I got a good idea of the selection! Yennie’s mom has been serving coffee for years, so she knows her way around a good drink.
So the name “cochinchina” is what Vietnam south of the Gianh River was often called under Indochina times, which is where this name comes from. Super chic, European interior design. Hid from the rain here and enjoyed their fancy drink. Actually really delicious if you order it. I forget the name exactly, but it was something like “Cocochine Coffee” or “Cocochine Espresso.”
Nau Coffee & Tea
Nau Coffee is another super spacious spot to come and work or hangout with your friend. I came here at night to work and even though it was quite busy, there’s so much space, it doesn’t feel too noisy or crowded-in. Always a fan of the iced teas and this cake treat was quite good!
If you don’t mind not having A/C, Ori Coffee is a cute spot in the middle of town (close to some temples). It’s got some fun, retro-inspired decor and the owner was really nice! I didn’t work here, but just used it as a spot to get a coffee and cool down after a bunch of sightseeing and temple-hopping.
One more good place to work! You order from the front window and then head in to find a seat. Plenty of work spots, and it’s nice and air-conditioned. I came here quite late in the day so just got their iced oolong tea before finding a spot in the direct path of an A/C unit.
And there you have it! My complete guide to the lovely Vinh Long, Vietnam. Now I’m on a kick of wanting to visit all the cities and towns in the Mekong Delta, so wish me luck!
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I’ve been really loving getting to know Vietnam more and more while being here! I first visited for two weeks in 2016 and went from Ho Chi Minh City to Hoi An and the Marble Mountains in Da Nang to Halong Bay and finally Hanoi. Since accidentally moving here, I’ve gotten to know Saigon a lot better and have even visited new places like Phong Nha and Sapa. Click those links for more of my posts on this beautiful country.