Our tour of the Mekong Delta seemed to mostly involve driving long distances. We were picked up early in the morning and drove to My Tho, a city on the Mekong. We took a boat to a series of islands, starting off on Unicorn Island, which was disappointingly devoid of its namesake. We did however, visit a honey farm where we enjoyed honey tea and snacks, while bees flew around and landed as they so pleased; it was unnerving. We headed for a different area on the island and rode in long canoe like boats. The rivers we were navigating were packed with boats, it was a wonder we could move at all. We then headed to another island to visit a place that makes coconut candy, after which it was lunch time. Post lunch we were given the option to ride bikes, but I chose not to because, 1. the bikes were in poor repair 2. we were only given 25 minutes 3. I decided that I would much prefer to sit in a hammock and read A Clockwork Orange. We were then carted off to another island; we drank some tea and listened to a group of musicians perform traditional Vietnamese music which was lovely, but like all of our other activities, it was quite rushed. It was beginning to become apparent that they rush you from place to place for the sake of beefing up the tour description. We were then taken back to the bus, and we drove and drove and drove… until we pulled off to the side of the freeway. Those who had chosen to stay at the homestay rather that the hotel that night were to get off here; this applied to us. We got off, with others from the bus who had also chosen this option, and we were led across a very dark freeway by a man who spoke no English. We followed him in the dark, under an underpass, at which point we all began to nervously joke that we were going to get murdered. After walking for ten or so minutes, we approached a boat, which we precariously loaded into. After speeding down the river for a while, we arrived at our destination and breathed a sigh of relief that this place looked totally legit. We were supposed to be staying in a homestay, and while one family did run the operation, it was more like bungalows set up in the rainforest. They had the capacity for fifty or so guests, so it wasn’t quite as family oriented as we were expecting. Dinner was delicious though, and we got to help prepare spring rolls.
On Saturday, we had the option to go for a walk around the local village at 6AM, but I chose to sleep for thirty more minutes and just get up for breakfast. We left as soon as breakfast was finished, and took a boat to the local floating market, where we met up with the rest of the group, who reported that the hotel in which they’d stayed was fairly foul. The market was interesting; the boats all sell fruits and vegetables, but each boat sells only one item. They advertise their ware by tying one of said fruit or veg to their mast; it was certainly a sight. After the market, we visited a town where they make rice paper and rice noodles. Then it was time for lunch, and then we drove for hours. We stopped at a crocodile farm, which was indeed full of crocodiles, but was another whirlwind stop for the sole benefit of being able to put another bullet point on the tour description. Cut to more driving, and eventually we arrived at the floating hotel where we would be staying in the city of Chau Doc. A floating hotel sounds much more exciting than it really it; when it comes down to it, it’s essentially a glorified, stationary boat. However, this fact didn’t make it any less awesome. I wasn’t feeling to well, so I called it a night upon arrival.
On Sunday, we hopped on a boat to visit a fish farm. Essentially, we stood on the deck of someone’s floating house for five minutes, while they threw fish food into the fish. They flailed and flapped, maniacally devouring the food, splashing everyone in the process. It was becoming so ridiculous at this point, there was no way not to find it hysterical. The group divided in two at this point, as some people were bound for Cambodia, while others were heading back into Saigon. Ros and I said goodbye to Tamara, who was heading onto Angkor Wat, and headed back to Chau Doc with the rest of our group. We visited a temple in town and then a pagoda in a cave! Just as we were getting well and truly tired of the tour, they surprised us with something that we did genuinely enjoy. We drove a while longer to get lunch. We asked if they could drop us off at a bus station, because we wanted to head to Phu Quoc, an island off the Southern coast, rather than head back to Saigon. They happily obliged and before long we were on our way to Rach Gia, which is a coastal town that has a ferry to Phu Quoc. By the time we made it to town, the last ferry of the day had already left for the island, so we found somewhere to stay and were lazy the rest of the day. We were very pleasantly surprised by Rach Gia; it obviously did not see much traffic from tourists. We found that the consequence of this was that everyone was genuinely friendly and helpful, for the pure sake of being friendly and helpful, rather than to try and get money from you, as had been the case in the rest of Vietnam. That night we had a magnificent dinner of grilled shrimp, satay beef with noodles, and a drink each, and spent a measly $3.50 a piece. Rach Gia was an unexpectedly pleasant stop after our Mekong Delta tour. Despite the gimmicky nature of the tour, it had been a good time, and a nice way to see the Delta. Even so, Ros and I were ready to relax on the beach for a few days.
Honey tea, before the bees struck
River traffic jam
A house on the river on the way to the floating market
At the floating market, a small boat came and attached to ours, trying to sell us fruit and drinks. This little boy was working with his dad.
The floating hotel
Inside one of the rooms in the cave pagoda
Ros and I at the cave pagoda