Jun 092006

(Mekong photos can be found here)

May 6th, 2006

I didn’t have high hopes for our Mekong Delta tour. It had all the hallmarks of an uncomfortable experience – package tour, arranged through our hotel, and $10 for an entire day & lunch. Luckily I’m just a pessimistic bugger. It was a great experience.

Though there are a lot of tourists in the Mekong, it didn’t seem to be much of an issue for the locals – they all seemed genuinely friendly and happy we were there. After a day of driving around in a boat your face would be sore from smiling, and your arm limp from returning greetings.

Our Mekong Delta tour group was a pretty worldly mix – a Spaniard, Brazilian, Canadian, Pilipino, two Dutch, two Mexicans, two Japanese, and a couple Americans. Just to add to it, our guide spoke with a heavy mix of Vietnamese and New Zealand accents.

We started the tour by visiting coconut candy and puffed rice workshops. Though touristy, they were enjoyable. After watching the coconut press, we sat down for miniature tea with honey. The puffed rice workshop was educational, it was fun to watch the hot black sand puff the rice in a few seconds. It was also interesting to see things that weren’t part of the tour – a mayna bird speaking Vietnamese to his audience of baby chickens or the elaborate altars in the front and back yards.

Next up were the floating markets. We were too late in the day to visit a local’s market, but the wholesale market runs until you empty your boat. They would hang a sample of the merchandise on a pole off the front of the boat to advertise what was for sale; mostly pineapple and root veggies.

After that we cruised over the river to an island delta. We traveled up the narrow body of water, gawking at river business and homes. Eventually we docked and walked to a spot for lunch. Our bellies full of elephant ear fish, we were free to explore the island by bicycle. I was surprised, only a few of us took the bikes out for a ride. It was actually a bit cooler on a bike, the wind felt good.

We took the road all the way to the end – the ferry depot. A group of guys were enjoying the shade, and some beer. They smiled and waved me over. I really wanted to stay and have a drink, but our boat was leaving in a few minutes. “I’m sorry, I have to leave for my boat”. “Oh, ok” one replied, “Picture then!” and motioned me to take a photo. I smiled and obliged. They all waved as we rode our bikes back down the road to the boat. The delta folks are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever seen. After that it was back to the boat, then the bus back to Saigon.

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