“After breakfast at hotel, today we take a special one day Mekong Delta with homemade meal” : the modest one liner in our itinerary, for Day 8.
I suppose if you don’t say too much, you can disappoint?
The Mekong River Delta is some 200km south west of Ho Chi Minh City and around the halfway mark is a tourist trap (same type of concept we experienced en-route to Ha Long Bay – only smaller. Guess the Mekong Delta is not yet as popular with tourists).
With no specific expectations, we boarded a wooden boat with a Toyota steering wheel and started crossing a rather large body of utterly dirty looking brown water – the type that you know conceal enough exotic diseases that it will warrant an expensive medical evacuation, should this thing sink on us today. Luckily our super energetic tour guide got us focused on the greenery on the other side.
This is agricultural land and as we walk, one noticed the complete absence of borders or fences to distinguish the divide between farms. Yet another sign that one can live in peace and harmony with one’s neighbours. The humidity is taking its toll and thus time for a refreshing drink. The recipe is super easy: squeeze sugar cane through a shiny mechanical device along with some lime, serve with ice, sit next to road and drink it, get stuck in their silly small chairs.
Visually Vietnamese people fall into only four age categories:
- obviously children,
- very young – possibly looks under aged (yet working),
- middle aged
- historic, how come you are still alive?
We visited a fruit farmer, in the historic category. Fun tip: if you add a touch of salt to fruit, it tastes better. Turns also out fresh coconut water is overrated.
The whole area we visited is littered with canals everywhere. No desire really to travel on any of them, yet here we are, with no elegant way to board the little boat which is just waiting to capsize. With no nearby space for a helicopter to land, a medical evacuation is out of the question – better do this slowly then.
Hallelujah. Land! And time for lunch. We ate a lot of Vietnamese Springrolls, it is like regular springrolls, only fresh and not deep fried. The lunch spot lady gave us an impromptu demonstration.
We are having lunch in the jungle, in the middle of nowhere. I mean, this is the view …
… so as a joke, we asked our guide “what is the wifi password?”. She had such a wonderful sense of humour, we were expecting a cute joke or something. Nope. This place actually had internet and fast! A bit unexpected, but hey we will seize the opportunity to press a few random likes on Facebook. We found out later, that this whole area has fibre internet. Go figure.
On each of our international holidays we try to work in an excursion away from the normal tourist spots and try to peep around the curtain as to how the people of the country really live. In the Mekong Delta the people do not speak English at all (have a guide with you!) and think that all tourists are rich. Thus, if you do not tip them, they think you are cheap. We tend to agree. 10% minimum. Do not travel (or dine out for that matter) if you cannot afford the complete expense, inclusive of the tip.
On the way back to Ho Chi Minh City, we had a very interesting conversation with our guide. Vietnam is struggling to understand why most tourist visit them only once, yet Thailand gets repeat visits.
Despite my constant yearning to be medically airlifted, this day trip was remarkably peaceful (and safe) and a good way to say goodbye to Vietnam.
Next stop: Siem Reap, Cambodia.