Today I started my 2 day Mekong Delta tour on the back of a motorbike. There are quite a few tours that come to the Mekong Delta but normally with an air conditioned bus. I liked the sound of this tour because you get to drive through small villages past rice fields, fruit and coconut plantations and along roads that a bus would not be able to.
My guide is super friendly and outgoing and willing to answer all of my 101 questions. His knowledge of the area and the history of Vietnam is most impressive, especially from someone so young. He very openly talks about The War, Buddhism, his fat cat and any other topic.
Today I rode on the back of a motorbike (yes my butt was sore at the end of the day), rode a bicycle with no gears, had a lift in a type of tuk tuk and went on two different types of boats. I was surprised to travel through so many towns but I guess the 90 million inhabitants of Vietnam have to live somewhere. Travelling through the Mekong was a fantastic experience and I look forward to the trip continuing tomorrow.
We stopped for lunch at a family run restaurant in what seemed the middle of nowhere, that servedus loads of food, all traditional Vietnamese of course. The piece de resistance was the elephant ear fish. Personally I thought it had the same shape as a lot of other fish but maybe ours was deformed. Along the way we also stopped at a coconut plantation. It was very interesting to learn how they use every single part of the coconut for something, very resourceful. I was also impressed with the 62 year old woman who had no trouble opening the thick, hard outer shell of the coconut. I always thought coconuts grew on the trees as the appear in the shop but there is an outer shell. Maybe I am the only one who didn’t realize this fact. We also visited a family who make mats from reeds and a brick making factory (though it’s not a factory as they do it all by hand). I was pleasantly surprised that at none of these places was there a shop at the end of the tour where you felt obliged to buy stuff. At no point during any of the tours/demonstrations did they try to sell anything. Of course they were paid buy my tour company but I don’t have a problem with that as they are giving up their time. Oh I did have a shot of the Vietnamese version of moonshine, whoa that has some kick to it and it tastes pretty awful too!?
The trip ended in Can Tho today. My guide dropped me off at my hotel (a 4 star hotel) which I felt incredibly guilty about as he was staying at a local guesthouse. I wanted to offer to pay for him to stay at the same place but thought I might offend or insult him. He mentioned to me that I could get a massage. I should say right now that I am a big fan of massages so I decided to go and check it out as the hotel book wasn’t very informative. The fact that it said in the hotel book you could get a massage until 3am should have given it away, the red and green flashing light as I got out of the lift should have given it away, as soon as I walked through the door I should have turned around but by the time I saw the half naked girls I was already at the “reception desk” asking the guy what types of massages they offered, turns out standard or vip! I was so freaked out, I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. I’m pretty sure my guide doesn’t know about this service offered or maybe he does and thought I was the sort of person who would appreciate it (hopefully not the latter!). After the massage fiasco I decided to check out the pool, this was also weird. As soon as the lift doors opened the floor was completely dark, not a single light on. I gingerly walked to the window to look at the pool which was also dark and creepy. Decided to give the pool a miss and go for dinner instead. The hotel in general had a very weird vibe about it. The room was nice but the rest of the hotel had a slightly seedier feel about it or maybe it was imagination playing tricks on me after the massage experience ?. Oh well every trip needs a funny story.
The second day of the Mekong Delta tour was an early start at the floating markets, something I had really been looking forward to. All the boats bustling with their speciality food was once again organised chaos. Boats filled with pineapples, watermelon, coconuts and pretty much every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. I loved that each boat has a pole with one of whatever they are selling hanging off it like a flag. Apparently these boats are like the middle man, shop owners buy bulk off them or sometimes an individual will do her daily shopping (because the woman always does the shopping and normally shops every day to ensure freshness). The boats stay at the floating market until they have sold everything, families live on the boat, and then they tag team with another boat who has come from up the river from the various farms/plantations. Of course we got yo board one of the pineapple boats and enjoy a half of a pineapple on a stick, like a pineapple lollipop.
At the port where the tourist boats leave there is a completely local market that sells fruit and vegetables, every kind of meat imaginable, noodles and sweets. The fish were still splashing around in bowls ready to be killed and gutted, which I saw happen. If that didn’t turn my stomach the dissected river rats and frogs and every pig organ certainly did. I don’t really like meat as it is so I walked quickly through section. I got to try sticky rice balls which have a very spongy gelatin-like rice texture, quite sweet but tasty.
After breakfast it was time to hit the toad and start heading back to Saigon. On the way we stopped at a place where they make rice noodles by hand. There were only four people working there and they produced an average of one tonne of noodles a day! The heat was quite stifling but the workers did not seem affected at all. Vietnamese do not seem to feel the heat like us westerners. They cover up their bodies to protect them from the sun so their skin doesn’t darken but they never seem to sweat.
Our journey continued through rice fields, back alley ways and bustling towns. Needless to say my butt was feeling rather sore by the end but it was totally worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Click here for more pictures of my vietnamese adventure
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