In which I fall over on a trip to the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta – a highlight of anybody’s trip to Southern Vietnam. I would have loved to have stayed for a few days but, time constraints meant that it wasn’t possible. Plus, Steph could probably only skip on on a certain amount of work whilst I was visiting. 😉
The day started with a xeom (motorbike) trip into District 1, the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, where our tour company was. First, however, we had to traverse the flooded crossroads just outside Aston school.
At this point I was glad I was wearing flip flops and shorts, as at least the flip flops and my skin were waterproof.
Once in town, I grabbed a bánh mì, which was a baguette with paté, mayonnaise, various meats, cucumber and coriander leaves in. I found it very tasty and for 15,000 Vietnamese Dong (£0.44/$0.72) I was buying what is considered to be one of the best street foods in the world.
Serious yum then, and it was very good. The bread is great in Vietnam because of the French influence – I haven’t had particularly great bread in China so far, so it was a revelation to me that Vietnam had such good bread!
OK, off the food sidetrack. We got into a small bus and inevitbly drove round for half an hour or so, stopping at various hotels to do pickups. What was mildly interesting was the fact that Steph and I were the only Westerners on this trip, the rest of the group were from Malaysia and Hong Kong. The guide spoke in English though, so that was ok. An hour and a bit later, and after a stop for coffee
(very important in Vietnam) we arrived at the pontoon for our boat on the Mekong Delta.
The boats on the rivers in Vietnam all have these big red eyes painted on the front of them. I think I heard correctly in the fact that it was to help scare off the alligators, but since Google-ing it, I’ve found various other reasons, using them to find their way home, or to find the best fishing spots.
The view of the Mekong Delta from the pontoon was pretty amazing. It was not what I was expecting at all. I’ve obviously seen other people’s pictures and was expecting more foliage, but no. This river delta is wide – very wide! We’d be going through on of the little tributaries of the Mekong Delta with the rowing boats later in the day, but for now, we had a motor-powered boat to get us through the current. There were large barges in the Mekong Delta, which looked loaded with soil. They way they appeared, they also looked like the hulls were deep underwater, whilst the rim of the hull was only a few centimetres above the water level. At this point, the rain decided to turn monsoon, hence this picture of Steph:
We were lucky that our first stop sheltered us from the rain.
We stopped at an island in the middle of the Mekong Delta. Where we stopped was a coconut product workshop where we saw coconut sweets being made.
We saw the fires that they use to cook the sweet mixture, and, like all good recycle-rs, they used the empty coconut husks, which made the workshop smell really nice.
We also got to try a whole load of other coconut products too, including coconut biscuits, dried coconut and even coconut wine. Steph and I were hoping that the wine would taste like Malibu, but unfortunately it didn’t. There were also interesting bottles like this on sale:
The rain stopped so we moved on through the island, following our guide. We finally saw a glimpse of what the Mekong Delta is famous for, the little, tree line tributaries where the rowing boats go.
This was not our next form of transport however. Instead, we had a ride in a horse and cart, randomly. I managed to get a follow up photo to the one I took the previous day with Darryl:
All a bit random, but the guide said that Steph and I should get a photo with the cart at the end too:
Finally though, it was time to go on the rowing boats!
Steph and I climbed in and enjoyed the view.
The guide also said that the water level was lower than usual, as the trees looked much higher in the water. In the pictures, you can see the dark patches on the water – this is where the water level usually is.
The Mekong Delta is tidal apparently though, so this is the explanation.
A stop for lunch, although as it had started pouring it down again, Steph and I couldn’t go on a bike ride. Instead we had to contend ourselves with posing in silly poses on a bridge,
After lunch we hopped back onto the boat to go to another small island in the Mekong Delta. We saw some fishermen and their nets in the water. At the next stop, we were given honey tea. There was also a snake, which I wanted a picture with, but it disappeared, probably back up a tree or something. Since coming back from Vietnam, I have, randomly, learned the words in Chinese for honey, fēngmì and bee, mìfēng, which is pretty funny if you think about it – Fēngmì is made by mìfēng! For someone who doesn’t like honey, it was palatable, especially as we were also given a plate of dried fruit too.
After the honey, we took a walk through the island, through many souvenir stands which the locals have set up in places where there will be tourists, to another little restaurant place where we had tea, fruit
and were played traditional Vietnamese music. Now, all day I’d wanted a picture with a traditional Vietnamese hat, the nón lá. Even though they were really cheap to buy, I couldn’t really justify a reason to buy one. I resorted to asking one of the women at the fruit restaurant to let me borrow hers. She kindly obliged, and I said to Steph “I’ll stand outside, it’ll be brighter for the photo.” Now, you know when I said I was glad I wore flip flops in the morning, because of the water outside the school? I was now going to regret wearing them. I stepped out into the rain and BOOM! I was suddenly roling around in the mud. There had been a slightly muddly slope as I stepped out into the rain, that my flip flops didn’t like, and so made me fall over. My flip flop flew some distance, and in the air, as it had ended up on a higher step behind me. Steph was in absolute fits, as I am writing this as it was such a funny moment. Still, I got my photo with the nón lá so I was happy, albeit now with one half of my bum muddy.
We wandered back to the boat in tears of laughter and the guide clearly wondered what was wrong with us until I showed him the half of my bum that was muddy. I had mud up my leg and also on my hands and the Malaysian girls who were in our group took pity on me and gave me some water to clean myself up a bit. The worst bit was the fact that the coat was not mine! I was more worried about having got Darryl’s coat dirty than myself!
We were now going to head back to the pontoon where we started the day. The guide told us a bit about the different islands, and also the floating markets and homestay visits you can do on the Mekong Delta, but as I didn’t really have the time in such a fleeting visit, I’ll just have to save that for next time.
We had a great day at the Mekong Delta. It was rainy, but what do you expect during rainy season, eh? It’s understandable how much of a tourist attraction it is and while it’s a shame that everywhere you walk there are souvenir stalls, you’ve got to think it’s a more reliable income than fishing can be nowadays. I know we only scratched the surface of the Mekong Delta, but I know Steph will be going back to do more.
All in all, a fantastic day and definitely a highlight for anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Despite my slip-up, I ended my visit to the Mekong Delta with a ca phe sua da (coffee over ice with condensed milk) so everything was right in the world again!