There are two ways to see the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam. One way is to see the floating market, take boat rides for the day, and then be escorted back to your hotel room. The other way is to pay an extra dollar to allow a local family to host you for the evening. I obviously chose the latter…
When you are shopping the various options at the tour agencies in Ho Chi Minh City for the Mekong Delta they will offer you various packages. The budget hotel at that time was $10 per night and at a tiny corner of their brochure, there is a $1 upgrade option that advertises a homestay. By choosing the homestay, you allow a local family to make some extra money by cooking you authentic food for the evening and giving you a private boat tour of the Mekong Delta.
Choosing this option was absolutely fantastic because not only did I see the normal tourist sites of the Mekong Delta, but I also saw how the locals truly lived. The family I was placed with were some of the kindest people although they did not speak one word of English. However, through some sign language and smiling they were some of the most generous hosts I have encountered.
The next morning the father gave us a tour of his rice patties and paddled us around the less traveled routes of the Mekong Delta. The local people were waving to us and I was convinced that it was possible that some of them had never seen foreigners before. Had I stayed in a hotel that was more “Western Friendly,” I likely would have never had such authentic experiences. Thus, I recommend to the backpacker or more adventurous luxurious traveler who is not afraid of getting their hands dirty for one evening to look around and see if there is a local homestay in Vietnam or anywhere in Southeast Asia. You will be contributing to the local economy while encountering some fantastic cultural experiences. Additionally, you will be accompanied by some interesting company from the foreigners who are daring enough to join you!