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A Day On The River
Mekong Delta (Vietnam)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Mekong Delta (Vietnam)
Advantages: Chance for a relaxing day and to see some local life
Disadvantages: Can be very touristy
Whilst on holiday in Vietnam earlier this year, during our stay in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) we booked a full day trip to the Mekong Delta through our tour guide, it cost approx $28 and picked us up and returned us to our hotel. We had an informative guide for the day for our group of 13, who told us a LOT of information about the region, it all became a bit much to take in after a while. The journey down to the river was about two hours in an air conditioned coach and it is nice to see the city disappear and see some of rural Vietnam, where a lot of the country's rice is grown. The place where we picked up our boat at My Tho had toilets and a few tourist stalls, I didn't check the prices, but nothing is that expensive in Vietnam. We boarded a simple motor boat that would seat about 25-30 people when full, which took us across the wide, brown river where we visited a local style farm house, where the owner (who lived in a more modern house) had traditional farm tools on display. There was also a gift stall, but nothing special, that you wouldn't find elsewhere I don't think. It was also a bee farm so here we had the opportunity to try honey tea (also had oranges in it), I really liked this and recommend trying it if you get the chance. Plus, we were also given some honey and peanut type sweets to try. Of course you could purchase if you wish. We moved onto another place nearby and we got to try some local fruits. Some were familiar: watermelon, and pineapple. Some less so: Jackfruit, dragonfruit and a type of lychee that you had to peel with your teeth and then when you ate it, you found it that it had a massive stone in the middle anyway, so you had very little fruit for all your efforts. Here there is also a local band you play local instruments and some ladies who will sing traditional folk songs. It is a very touristy trip. Call me a philistine, but Vietnamese folk music leaves me cold, the ladies sing in such high voices that it can sound a bit screechy. However they use some unusual instruments which make an interesting and effective sound, so it is not all bad.
On return to our boat we moved onto another stop for lunch where the meat/fish eaters got to try a local fish (Elephant Ear fish). With its eyes and skin on it was very ugly and scaly, and looked like it had maggots on it! Fortunately the staff here cut the fish as it looked quite boney. As a vegetarian I was spared the fish and got several other dishes such as some gorgeous spring rolls, salad, rice and stir fried veggies. The fish eaters also got a few other dishes to try. Portions were very generous and no one went hungry, the food was tasty and well cooked. We could purchase soft drinks and beer for reasonable prices here. The grazing water buffalo nearby seemed the only authentic thing about the trip. After lunch we boarded a small punt - four people per boat - and a local woman punted us up a narrow tributary. I really liked this part of the trip; we saw the mangroves, some wildlife and local people going about their business on the river. At the end we were greeted with a donkey and cart and four of us again got pulled down the road of a small village until we were able to join our boat again, they even provided traditional conical hats to wear in case you didn't feel enough of a tourist.
After this we stopped only at little touristy spots such as a coconut candy factory where they made coconut sweets before returning on our boat to greet our coach. It has to be said that we felt no pressure to buy in these places and it is interesting in part to see the local industries. On the way back, in the boat, they cut off the top off some coconuts and stuck straws in so we could drink one each, which was a nice touch.
I did enjoy the day overall, I know I moaned a bit above. It was a full day and I thought it quite touristy in places, especially when they sang to us and gave us the hats in the donkey cart, but apart from that we had a lovely traditional lunch, and saw some 'real life' activity on the Mekong. I would advise a day trip out here if you have the opportunity but do check the itinerary to make sure that you get some flavour of genuine Vietnamese Mekong life amongst all the activities they put on.
Summary: Experience life on the Mekong Delta - sort of!
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