Modern-day Vinh Long was part of Long Hồ dinh established by the Nguyễn Lords in 1732, comprising the provinces of Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, and parts of Cần Thơ. The area saw some of the heaviest fighting between the Tây Sơn brothers and the Nguyễn Lords in the late 18th century; in 1784 Nguyễn Huệ defeated Siamese forces aiding Nguyễn Ánh at the Mang Thít River.
In 1951, the Southern Resistance Administrative Committee of the newly-declared Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) merged Vinh Long and Tra Vinh provinces into Vinh Tra province. Vinh Tra existed until 1954 (however, as North Vietnam never administered the area for a significant period of time, this arrangement was not enforced). In 1957, the government of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) formed Vinh Long province, consisting of six districts: Châu Thành, Chợ Lách (now part of Ben Tre province), Tam Bình, Bình Minh, Sa Đéc, and Lấp Vò. In 1961, Cái Nhum District was split from Chợ Lách. Đức Tôn and Đức Thành Districts were added in 1962, but joined the newly-formed Sa Dec Province in 1966. As of 1975, the province had 7 districts: Châu Thành, Chợ Lách, Tam Bình, Bình Minh, Minh Đức, Trà Ôn, and Vũng Liêm.
After the fall of Saigon and South Vietnam was reunited with North Vietnam, the new government merged Vinh Long with Tra Vinh province, forming Cuu Long province in 1976. In 1991, Cửu Long was again split into Vinh Long and Tra Vinh. At the time of the split, Vĩnh Long Province consisted of one city (Vĩnh Long) and 5 districts: Long Hồ, Vũng Liêm, Bình Minh, Tam Bình, and Trà Ôn.
In 1992, Mang Thít District was re-split from Long Hồ District. In 2007, Bình Tân District was created.
The simplest way to see the river is to hop on the An Binh Ferry on Phan Boi Chau, and cross the Co Chien River to reach An Binh Island. Sometimes called Minh Island, it’s a jigsaw of bite-sized pockets of land, skeined by a fine web of channels and gullies, eventually merging, to the east, with the province of Ben Tre. This idyllic landscape is crisscrossed by a network of dirt paths, making it ideal for a morning’s rambling or cycling, though you’ll need to take your own refreshments.
However, most people fork out for a day or half-day boat trip to see several aspects of delta life, organized either through Cuu Long Tourist or Mekong Travel, or through local boatmen always on the look-out for customers near the tourist jetty. These tours often include the option of overnighting in a homestay in a totally rural environment, though as they increase in popularity, some start to resemble guest houses rather than home-stays, with visitors put up in custom-built bamboo huts separated from the family home.
Most tour itineraries head upriver to the floating market at Cai Be, stopping to visit fruit orchards, and rice-paper and candy factories en route; some tours also stop for a fish lunch at a rural outpost. Watching the river traffic, from the tiny rowing boats to huge sampans loaded with rice husks (fuel for the nearby brick kilns), is fascinating, and stepping ashore from time to time reveals insights into the lifestyles of the locals.