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Cruising the Mekong Delta aboard the Dragon Eyes

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the Dragon Eyes - Mekong River

One of the best Mekong Delta tours from Ho Chi Minh City

There are a myriad of ways to traverse the Mekong Delta, ranging from DIY budget options, budget tours, right through to luxury boats.

There is also a mind-numbing number of reviews on just about every boat online. It gets really confusing, particularly if you are just relying on someone’s opinion on Trip Advisor. One of the key criteria I was looking for when selecting a company to travel with (and impart my cash to) was a strong reputation. There are plenty of dodgy operators out there and the last thing I wanted was to arrive in the Mekong and have issues.

Mekong Eyes – a  Mekong Delta luxury boat tour company

We chose to travel with Mekong Eyes, a company, co-owned by a German and a Vietnamese man with strong commercial history in this area, and plenty of good reviews overall.

Mekong Eyes offers a number of options to suit most budgets.  For the longer trip into Cambodia, the larger boat Mekong Eyes Explorer is used.  In our opinion, this was definitely Mekong Delta tours and I would gladly do it again.

The larger Mekong Eyes boat
The larger Mekong Eyes boat

Providing a less expensive option for the shorter Mekong Delta trips within Vietnam, the 14 cabin Mekong Eyes Classic is used.  If larger crowds are not your style, Dragon Eyes is suitable for four people only and a private boat, Gecko Eyes will see you sail the river on your own.

We went for the “middle of the road” option, booking a cabin on board the Dragon Eyes.  However, as  you make your way through this article, you will see it was anything but middle of the road.

The Dragon Eyes II
The Dragon Eyes II

The Dragon Eyes Mekong Delta

The Dragon Eyes is a luxury boat, built in the traditional style of the riverboats that grace the waters of the Mekong.  We chose this boat because whilst still a large boat, it is still able to get into the smaller waterways, that the much larger boats can’t.  This is important to be able to get off the main river and into some of the quieter canals, where river life changes from that seen in the busier areas.

At 25 metres long and about 5m wide, this is a big boat, with plenty of room for everyone. This boat can accommodate four guests, in two separate and spacious cabins.  On this occasion, we were surprised (and delighted) that we were the only ones on board.  Just us and five crew.  And, whilst this seemed a little weird at first having people wait on us, our non-demanding personas meant that they were there to help us when we needed it, but they weren’t being summonsed every minute to wait on us.  Although, I could imagine plenty of people might overuse this hospitality.

Checking in

With an ominous-looking thunderstorm bearing down on us, we were welcomed onboard and provided with an overview of the boat, our itinerary and a safety briefing.  The safety inclusions of this boat was one of the key criteria for my final choice so it was great to see it being briefed immediately upon our boarding. Life jackets are in each cabin, along with a hammer to smash the windows should the need arise.  The boat itself had a lifeboat, life rings and a variety of other safety equipment.  Given some of my boat experiences in Indonesia, I was very pleased about this.

Welcome drink and itinerary briefing Mekong Delta
Welcome drink and itinerary briefing
 
The briefing takes place at the back of the boat in the lounge area.  The lounge offers a quiet place to sit, in air-conditioned comfort, whilst still being able to take in the river views.
 
lounge onboard the Dragon Eyes
Lounge

The cabins on the Dragon Eyes

The cabins were much larger than I had expected and were very comfortable.  Fully air-conditioned,  with a king-sized bed and a full-size shower and bathroom.  Even when you are in the cabin, the views of the Mekong are not lost with windows that could be opened to let in fresh air (although discouraged from dusk onwards due to mosquitoes) and french windows in front of a sitting area.  In keeping with the tranquillity of the area, there are no TVs onboard, however, generators provide access to electricity for all the devices we travel with these days.

Toiletries and water are provided.  When staying longer than one night, a housekeeping service is also provided.

The cabins are fully lockable and also have a safe in the cupboard.  The staff will always ask permission before entering your room for housekeeping purposes.

Tucked away into the river bank at night, I had one of the most peaceful periods of sleep of our entire trip.  A bit of gentle rocking from the river and I slept like a baby.  It was only when I heard the hum of the engine starting up in the morning that I actually remembered where I was.  I was pleased we were to be here for two nights!

cabin-dragon-eyes

 

cabin-towards-bathroom-dragon-eyes

 

Dragon Eyes Mekong Delta
Full-size windows offer a view out onto the river

The upper deck has plenty of space to move around.  The crew are rarely seen, keeping out of your way unless you need them.  When we were on board, and not exploring something on the mainland, we spent most of our time up here, either eating or just watching the world go by.

The sun lounges make for an extremely comfortable place to hang out.  The boat is fully licensed, so our lovely host Phuc was always on hand to grab us something cold to drink.

the-upper-deck-dragon-eyes

The upper deck of the Dragon Eyes

The upper deck has plenty of space to move around.  The crew are rarely seen, keeping out of your way unless you need them.  When we were on board, and not exploring something on the mainland, we spent most of our time up here, either eating or just watching the world go by.

The sun lounges make for an extremely comfortable place to hang out.  The boat is fully licensed, so our lovely host Phuc was always on hand to grab us something cold to drink.

the-upper-deck-dragon-eyes

These chairs located at the back of the boat were perfect for watching the sunset.

 

chairs for watching the sunset
Sunset chairs

Dining on the Dragon Eyes

There is no need to bring any food of your own on this trip, not even snacks.  The food is quite literally never-ending.  Each meal is a grand event, with at least three courses, sometimes five.  Prepared by the resident chef, the food was fresh, delicious and contained good variety, although we grew a little tired of the same fruit in the end.  Still, a very small issue.  Dietary issues are also catered for without any trouble.

We ate our first meal on board as we waited for the thunderstorm to pass.  As you can see, it was certainly a precursor for what was to come in the culinary department.

Relax

Kicking back on the sun lounges, with a cool drink was pretty special, and we made the most of it.

Dragon Eyes Mekong Delta
Relaxing on the sun lounges on the upper deck

watching another boat sail on the mekong

Other activities

When you book a boat with this company, there are many other great things to see in the Mekong Delta as part of the itinerary.  We visited a local village on foot one day, and another on a bike the next day.

Heading off on a bike tour with our boat host
Heading off on a bike tour with our boat host
 

We also hopped into a sampan for a leisurely ride through the very small canals.  It’s tough work for these guys, and there is a definite art in how to manoeuvre the oars.

sampan ride mekong delta
A morning ride around the smaller canals

We also loved visiting some of the local businesses, all family-owned and operated.  In some cases, many of the businesses were almost the last of their kind.  From coconut candy making to rice paper making, to rice production, to basket weaving, there was plenty to see and learn.

We also took a cooking class on board.  The chef was delighted to be able to come out from his kitchen and show us how to make traditional Vietnamese pancakes (Banh Xeo).  I’ve done cooking classes in some amazing places, but never on the top deck of a boat watching the world go by as I made pancakes.

A variety of itineraries on the Mekong Delta

The fleet of boats owned by Mekong Eyes is available for a number of itineraries.

  • 2 and 3-day trips between Cai Be and Can Tho (trips can be booked to start from either end)
  • 3  and 4-day trips from Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
  • 2 and 3-day trips from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc

Inclusions Dragon Eyes

Payment for a trip on the Dragon Eyes includes the following :

  • Return transfer by van/car from your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (District 1) to Can Tho where the boats are docked.  The vehicles are comfortable and provide a complimentary bottle of water for each passenger.  Amazingly, wifi is available in the vehicle also.  It is a 3.5 -4-hour drive one way so having this transfer was a hassle-free way of getting to the boat.
  • Accommodation on board, including toiletries and bottled water.
  • 7 meals ( for a 3 day, 2-night trip)
  • Continuous water, tea and coffee
  • Welcome drink on arrival
  • Side trips  eg bike riding, walks to villages, various businesses, sampan ride
  • Cooking class

The only exclusions are additional drinks (eg softdrink, juice, alcohol).  Prices are very reasonable and payment can simply be made at the end of the trip.  Credit card facilities are also provided on board.

How to book a Mekong Delta tour

Booking inquiries can be made easily through a contact form on the Mekong Eyes website.  Basic details relating to dates, itineraries and number of people/cabins will be required.  A member of the Mekong Eyes team will then contact you with a quote.  I conducted everything from this point onwards through email, asking a heap of questions before I booked to ensure I was comfortable with it all.  Every question was answered thoroughly and promptly.

Payment

This process gave me a little bit of heartburn to start with, but some careful research made me feel much better.  Ultimately, my level of concern was simply because I am used to paying everything by plastic and having reputable financial structures that take the payment.  In Vietnam, their finance processes still have a little catching up to do but are legitimate all the same.

I have chosen to note this all here however, as it took me quite some time to find this information online.  Hopefully, if you come across something similar, you will find this reassuring.

Via email, the company will ask you for a deposit.  They will also ask you for more details including name, address, email, phone number and name of travellers.  Once you provide this detail they will send another email, this time containing a secure link from a company called “onepay”  to facilitate your payment.

Another email will then ask you to provide your visa and passport numbers, as it is required by local authorities.  I was not at all keen on doing this, but once again, with a little research, I realised it was normal procedure for Vietnam, if not a little antiquated.

Getting to the Mekong Delta location

As it was part of the overall trip inclusions, we were picked up from our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City and transferred in a very comfortable van to Can Tho. We were advised of our pick up time by the company well in advance, and we were told to wait inside our hotel for the driver to come and collect us.

Fearing that we might be left behind because a driver couldn’t find us, we told the concierge in the lobby who we were waiting for.  It’s a small tip that I recommend to everyone as the front of hotels can get quite chaotic at pick up times.  The reason they come inside to collect you is to ensure they have the right person and to ensure you don’t get into a copy cat (scam) vehicle.

Tip – the drivers are always punctual so make sure you are in the lobby of your hotel before your pick up time.

We stopped about 1.5 hours into the trip for a break at the Mekong Rest Stop.  There’s much written online about these types of stops.  Many people view them as a delaying tactic to get you to buy something.  As such, as we approached this stop I was a little wary.  This was to be the first of three trips I made in transfer vehicles and I can say that they were all anything but tourist traps as they like to be labelled.

Sure, there’s souvenirs and other things to buy here.  But there’s also a quiet place to sit and watch the animal life.  There’s a coffee shop selling good Vietnamese coffee, and for those who started off the day early as we did, a welcome for those who rely on a caffeine hit.  They also have clean toilets, and given this is a four-hour trip, then I’ll take clean toilets whenever I can get them.  Tourist trap, definitely not.

Mekong Rest stop on way to Can Tho
Rest stop along the way
The rest area en route to Can Tho
The rest area en route to Can Tho

One of the best Mekong Delta tours from Ho Chi Minh City

From a dream to get here someday, to having now been, there was nothing about this experience that I would have wanted to miss.  Even the crazy ride from Ho Chi Minh City adds to the whole experience.  The landscape is ever-changing, but the ever-present motorbike riders remind you every loud, honking, crazy minute that you are still in Vietnam.

If I had a dollar for everyone who has told me that they wished they hadn’t missed doing a tour through the Mekong, I’d be a rich woman!    Note it down as a must-do…..a visit to the fabulous Mekong Delta is a must if you are heading to Vietnam.  And for mine, one of the best Mekong Delta tours from Ho Chi Minh City is with Mekong Eyes.

If your time and budget allow for it, I would highly recommend spending two nights here.  By the time you check-in and get moving on day 1, it’s about midday.  The return starts in the morning and has you back on the mainland around 10.30/11 am.  With only an overnight, it would feel as though you had just started out.

Heading back to Ho Chi Minh City?  Check out these great deals for hotels in District 1 and be in the centre of everything.

Note:  The full cost of the three day, two night trip aboard the Dragon Eyes was at our personal cost.  I just happen to think this company looked after us with the greatest of care, as I would also expect given this is a luxury boat.

 

One of the best Mekong Delta tours from Ho Chi MInh City is aboard the Dragon Eyes luxury cruiser. There are so many to choose from that it can be quite confusing. This company have been doing it for years and have a strong and consistent reputation.

34 thoughts on “Cruising the Mekong Delta aboard the Dragon Eyes”

  1. Oh I love these boat journeys. You reminded me of my journey in a luxury boat in Indonesia. There is so much to explore once we get onto these. The riverside villages, their lifestyles…

  2. I’m heading to Vietnam for the very first time in May (excited much lol). We will only be in HCMC for a very short time but I hope to make it out to the Mekong Delta. A cruise would be sensational and the cabins look so spacious. I could see myself stretching out on the sun loungers on the deck with a drink in hand watching the world go by 🙂

  3. This is definitely something I would be keen to add to my Vietnam ideas list. The interiors are so comfortable, and those deck chairs..wow! How many people does this boat carry?

  4. The entire experience on your boat, Dragon Eyes, looks amazing! We’ve been looking into a trip to Vietnam, so I’m definitely going to have to remember this. The rooms and food look fantastic and I love the additional activities you participated in! The cooking class looked especially fun! Thanks for the info on the payment process too–that would have made me feel a bit uneasy without a heads up as well!

  5. The cabins and the upper deck of the boat is beautiful. Peaceful and comfortable. The sea from the window looks so calm and lovely. The food also looked delicious. Thank you for sharing all the details.

  6. Whoa looks super nice! I did the classic Halong Bay tour when I was in Vietnam, but this looks different, would love to do it next time I’m there!

  7. This looks like an incredible boat which was the perfect size – big enough to not feel crowded but small enough to get into the smaller waterways off the river too. What a lovely experience this was and thanks for recommending them – we found a lot of those offering ‘luxury boat tours’ from Ho Chi Minh were not always as ‘luxury’ as they made out to be – some of them I wouldn’t even class in the ‘budget’ category!

  8. I totally agree re the “budget” v “luxury”. This was my biggest worry and until I actually saw the boat I was quite stressed. Same went for Halong Bay too. That’s why I went to so much detail so that people could truly see what it was like if they are interested in this type of travel.

  9. This river boat tour looks first class all the way. This is the way I want to see the Mekong.

  10. This sounds like a wonderful experience and I really liked the style of the boat and the room looked quite spacious for a boat bedroom. I think I’d pick all the activities you did too, and it is nice to see that a variety of shore excursions were offered. Thanks so much for sharing. Not sure when I will be that way, but I will check this out when I do.

  11. Thanks for the info. We’ve been considering adding a trip to the Mekong Delta to our upcoming tour of Vietnam. I think you’ve just sold us on it. It sounds amazing. Just one thing. Does the boat rock much? I’m a bit prone to see sickness. ?

  12. This looks amazing and something for sure I would love to do! I love yes the safety and the trip in general just looks relaxing and I love the cabin! However, the food and cocktails might be my fave part! FUN and WOW!

  13. Castaway with Crystal

    I really enjoyed visiting the Mekong. It’s such a cool river alive with such abundance! Thanks for the post 🙂

  14. What an incredible trip! That boat definitely looks luxurious and relaxing. It’s incredible that you were the only ones on the boat! You must have felt like royalty 🙂

  15. What a surprise to have the whole boat just for the two of you! I love it when that happens!
    The sun deck looks super inviting as well. I’d spent the entire day reading there!

  16. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow

    I’ll order some of those Vietnamese pancake please!
    What a great cruise – even for only a couple of nights – it sure sounds delightful and great service, in particular the thorough safety briefing!! Would love to do this one day.

  17. Kate @ Love From Scotland

    It’s great to see a personal recommendation for these kind of boat trips. This boat looks amazing. Oh my gosh the food! Going on a river trip is a bucket list for me, so I’ve bookmarked this. Thanks!

  18. This was great! Very informative. Have you got the link for company you used? I’m off to Vietnam next week and I’m looking around for something like this! Thanks, Rachel

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