Because of its proximity to Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho, on the northernmost tributary of the Mekong River, is the most popu- lar daytrip destina tion in the delta. It is an ideal base from which to hire a boat and cruise along the canals, stop ping along the way to explore the surrounding islands. A stroll through My Tho’s wide treelined boulevards and waterfront market is almost a walk back in time. Wooden boats and barges crowd the shore, as vendors sell an impressive array of goods, from food to hardware and domestic items such as the giant earthenware urns used for bathing. The pungent aroma of dried fish and the fragrance of pineapple and jackfruit fill the air. In addition to commerce, My Tho is also a religious center, with Vinh Trang Pagoda being one of its most noteworthy edifices. The temple’s façade is embel lished with mosaics made from broken pottery, a custom followed throughout South east Asia. Lily ponds and stone tombs surround the beautiful complex, and an image of the Buddhist goddess Quan Am is set into the heart of a banyan tree.
Serving the city’s large popula- tion of Christians, My Tho Church functions both as a diocese and a Catholic school. Originally established in the 19th century, the current massive yellow building, with a highvaulted ceiling and a redtile roof, sits on sprawling grounds that are covered with trees and shrubs. A short distance northwest of My Tho is the small but historically signi ficant hamlet of Ap Bac. This was the site of the battle which resul ted in the first major vic tory of the Vietcong against the USbacked South Viet namese army in 1963.