Enjoy a quiet river tour two hours from Saigon.
It was my first time in Ho Chi Minh, and we were all recommended the same things. Go to Cu Chi Tunnels, visit the Mekong river, take a cooking class. We made it to the cooking class, but I wanted to see more, so instead of going to a popular tourist area, we found an out-of-the-way ‘floating village’, a 2 hour drive away from the city. It was a long drive but it was worth it for the breathtaking views AND we got the entire place to ourselves as we were the ONLY people there that entire morning!
I wrote this guide to help others plan their trip here. I’ve included our itinerary, what to expect, complete budget, and links to other blogs at the bottom.
6:30AM: Wake up
7:30AM: Head out from District 4 in our car (we were delayed as there was a mixup in cars)
9:30AM: Arrive and eat breakfast
10:30AM: Buy tickets and start tour
12:30 – 1:00PM: End tours
3:30PM: Arrive back in HCMC (There was more traffic in the city on the way back than early in the morning)
To order a car, I would recommend getting a Sim card before you land so you can use Grab. I ordered mine on Klook which ended up being so much cheaper, and convenient since I just picked it up at the airport: 3G/4G SIM Card (SGN Pick Up) for Vietnam
Renting a car was easy, there are several websites where you can find English drivers and cars. For a 2 hour drive there and 2 hours back (including the driver waiting for you at the destination), the average came to be $100USD. We thought about Grab but finding a Grab to take us back when we’re out there would probably have been impossible.
We also looked into scooters but the ride would have been long, add the hot Vietnam sun and we don’t think we would have lasted.
Other options involved taking the bus, but as seen on other blogs, the travel time would be around 4 hours one way, a lot of it spent waiting on other people.
We figured renting a driver and car was priciest but most convenient.
Just 30 minutes out, and the city started dwindling, we were seeing more spaces between houses, less cramped streets, more chickens, less people. I was however, surprised by the amount of trucks that barreled past us. Even though we were heading out further from the city, seemed like the traffic was just as intense.
We were starving by the time we got there, so we decided to eat first in their restaurant. We ordered a chicken stew that came out in a big pot over some fire, along with noodles, and a large plate of lotus stems and vegetables. Since the cooking class I’ve been really into lotus stems, which I hadn’t had before. The sticky but crunchy plant is great in soups as it soaks up the flavors without losing too much texture. Lunch ended up costing 300,000VND (~$13USD), expensive compared to the rest of the experience, and food in Vietnam in general. I would recommend stopping at one of the local restaurants on the way to Tan Lap, we saw many signs for Pho and Bahn Mi along the way.
Finally, we were ready to start on our tour. The entire experience is a collection of three different tours around the park. The first one was a serene little boat ride around the large lily pond. The second, a water path through a forest, and the third a canoe ride.
The boat tour was a relaxing slow ride through the lotus pond. You sit in your own little ferry and it’s pulled along the tour.
Along the way we saw lots of birds, dragonflies, lotus leaves and flowers. Luckily the boat had shade so it was a nice and easy ride. The area is home to hundreds of different species of birds and insects, so it was fun to spend time watching the scenery.
This was the highlight of the tour. A long winding trail takes you through the wetlands and the melaleuca forest. The trail is only about a meter wide, but is 5km long, with multiple cross roads for you to explore. Along the way you might hear frogs, insects, and one or two birds in the thick forests, but the majority of the time the water is still and all you hear is your own soft footsteps on the leaves that have fallen on the path. Several times we had to walk under trees that had fallen onto the path.
After a couple of minutes of walking through the forest, you reach an opening that leads to a crossroad taking you in four different directions.
We didn’t have enough time to do the third tour as it was nearing afternoon and the sun was getting unbearable after our walk on the trail. We decided to skip it and head back to the city so we could explore more of Ho Chi Minh. I’ll share a few blog posts below that have more information on this part of the tour.
Overall, it was a great, relaxing trip. One that I would do again. I really recommend leaving early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day as the entire tour is outdoors. Bring water, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes.
Tickets and Pricing
Car rental with driver to Tan Lap and back: 2,000,000VND (~80USD)
Lunch: 300,000VND (~$13USD)
Tickets to the three tours (excluding buffet): 200,000VND ($8.5USD)
Total: 2,500,000VND (~$101.5USD)
Other Blog Posts on Tan Lap Floating Market
Life of Doing
This detailed blog post helped us figure out what type of transportation we wanted to use.
A descriptive account of Tom’s experience at Tan Lap.
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