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The Mekong Delta or “Nine Dragon river delta” or also “Mekong 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 over 40,500 square kilometres.
The Mekong Delta has been dubbed as a “biological treasure trove” with over 1,000 animal species were recorded between 1997 and 2007 and new species of plants, fish, lizards, and mammals have been discovered in previously unexplored areas.
The Mekong Delta was likely inhabited long since prehistory; the empires of Funan and Chenla maintained a presence in the Mekong Delta for centuries. Archaeological discoveries at Óc Eo and other Funanese 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 AD and extensive human settlement in the region may have gone back as far as the 4th century BC.
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 modern Central Vietnam, 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. Author Nghia M. Vo suggests that a Cham presence may indeed have existed in the area prior to Khmer occupation.
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 region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes but is dominated by flat flood plains in the south, with a few hills in the north and west. 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.
The present Mekong Delta system has two major distributary channels, both discharging directly into the East Sea. The Holocene history of the Mekong Delta shows delta progradation of about 200 km during the last 6 kyr. During the Middle Holocene the Mekong River was discharging waters into both the East Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The water entering the Gulf of Thailand was flowing via a palaeochannel located within the western part of the delta; north of the Camau Peninsula. Upper Pleistocene prodeltaic and delta front sediments interpreted as the deposits of the palaeo-Mekong River where reported from central basin of the Gulf of Thailand.
The inhabitants of the Mekong Delta region are predominantly ethnic Viet. The region, formerly part of the Khmer Empire, is also home to the largest population of Khmers outside of the modern borders of Cambodia. The Khmer minority population live primarily in the Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng, and Muslim Chăm in Tan Chau, An Giang provinces. There are also sizeable Hoa (ethnic Chinese) populations in the Kiên Giang, and Trà Vinh provinces.
The Mekong Delta is by far Vietnam’s most productive region in agriculture and aquaculture, while its role in industry and foreign direct investment is much smaller. 2.6 million ha in the Mekong Delta are used for agriculture, which is one fourth of Vietnam’s total. The Mekong Delta is also Vietnam’s most important fishing region. It has almost half of Vietnam’s capacity of offshore fishing vessels. The Mekong Delta is not strongly industrialized, but is still the third out of seven regions in terms of industrial gross output.
The construction of the Cần Thơ Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge over the largest distributary of the Mekong River, was completed on April 12, 2010, three years after a collapse that killed 54 and injured nearly 100 workers. The bridge replaces the ferry system that currently runs along National Route 1A, and links Vĩnh Long Province and Cần Thơ city. The cost of construction is estimated to be 4.842 trillion Vietnamese đồng (approximately 342.6 million United States dollars), making it the most expensive bridge in Vietnam.
There are many ways to see the region and all just as enjoyable. From a horse and cart to boat cruises the region is a fantastic place to explore. A paddle boat journey through the mangroves is a must, as it does show how it was and still is today, the important transport method for the area.
While getting a taste for the region, try and sample of the locally grown and produced coconuts, honey, sweets and variety of gastronomic delights.
Also visit the variety of interesting attractions too, temples, statues, craft centers and even a snake & crocodile park.
VIETRAVEL was established in 1995 and has amalgamated a large amount of experience in the tourism industry. They were awarded the title of ‘One of the World’s Leading Group Tour Operators’ in 2017. They are also a member of ASTA & PATA organisations. They provide a wide range of tourism services for Vietnam and are highly recommended by NDN.
The Mekong Delta region is a special and unique place, as it is the life-blood of the country and its importance cannot be underestimated. It literally is the centre of everything that makes Vietnam the place it is, with its history, culture and way of life, plus its geographical, financial and employment significance. Therefore, a visit to Vietnam without visiting this region would a missed opportunity and would mean that tourists had seen what the country is really all about.