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Mekong Delta

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Mekong Delta: a lifestyle rather than a place, thousands of square kilometres of waterways and islands, wide silty rivers, small tributaries and man-made canals. These are the motorways, A roads and B roads of life here – everything revolves around living on and around the water.

 

 

trip on the wobbly sampans down the back roads to the orchards

you can lead a horse to a bamboo bridge but......

Unusually we took a tour so that we got to see the main highlight of the floating market, but along the way, they showed us loads of traditional crafts. Things like coconut candy making, rice noodles and rice paper, bee keeping and trip through the canals on a sampan as well as taking us through the exotic fruit orchards to sample the local fruits. (for instance, I never knew dragon fruit grew on a cactus).

getting honey straight out of a frame full of bees was a new experience!

the delta is ram packed with boats

The floating market was on the second day, so to make things a bit more interesting, we put ourselves up for a homestay with a local family. The place was out of the main town, so we had a taxi to take us near and then walked through the rice fields to the village. Imagine our surprise when we turned up with little kids and big backpacks front and back and we were faced with a bamboo monkey bridge. This bridge crossing in the relative dark of early evening will probably be my lasting memory of the delta.

with all our bags, this log bridge was not what we were expecting

after a night with the family, it was time to teeter over the bridge again

The homestay itself was great – certainly at the more rural end of accommodation. After cooking us a lovely meal (they did great rice pancakes in a wok on an open brazier) we settled in to playing cards with some of the others we were travelling with before retiring to our room. I say room, more of a semi-open structure with a tin roof made from bamboo and banana leaves, with a raised area and a mattress. Being around slow stagnant water – the mosquito net was also pretty invaluable. And that was it.

Before we settled for the night, I spotted a suspicious looking hole near the door, so a put a couple of hefty books on top, and thus satisfied went to sleep – until the cockerels started at around 1am. It went on all night!!!! About 6.30 sunrise and we were up. I got out of my mozzie net to be greeted by a big toad, looking forlornly at the books that someone had placed over his home. I moved them and off he disappeared.

The kids loved the homestay – they don’t see the open sewers, lack of sanitation, adjacent river,  local dogs or the bamboo bridge as a danger. They just played around in the dirt and with their pet monkey trying to get the monkey to shake their hands without scratching their eyes out!

the bags meant you couldn't see your feet - added excitement

on her way to market

With all this excitement, we were ready to take on another day, scaled the bamboo bridge a second time, and made our way to the local market to be picked up by the boat and get into the thick of the floating market. This was more of a wholesale place, so lots of bigger boats rather than the small sampans you imagine, but nonetheless, it was pretty spectacular.

Once this was over, it was time for the tour to return to Ho Chi Minh, but we had already made plans to stay in Can Tho another couple of days so that we could slow down the pace and enjoy the delta without the straightjacket of the tours.

fishing out on the delta

boat building and coffin making are the main boatwright industries

some of the menu's are stomach turning

One of our first stops was for a bit of lunch; what we were not expecting was a menu of frog, snake, eel, coconut worm, bird, rat or turtle. Once again, we chickened out and we chose vegetarian – we are just not brave enough.

We were glad we stayed longer in the Mekong because Can Tho was a lovely town with a promenade, bustling little market, loads of restaurants and numerous little boats ready to taxi people around, usually driven by smiling toothless women. We chose one with more teeth than most, and hired her boat for a couple of hours to explore the smaller canals and get a taste of the place – and it was brilliant. Away from the hectic cities, life is much more peaceful, and whilst obviously poor, it is not poverty, and people are out and about on the river cooking, washing, collecting the floating greenery and occasionally emptying their bowels. It was all so harmonious; we wondered how they were not sick all the time.

roof top view of Mr HC Minh

the locust - now making it's way back home in the post

driving, model making and smiling - Vietnam's got Talent.

The kind toothless one did not speak, but instead, she spent the trip picking fruit out of the river and feeding it to us (before we saw the bowel incident!) then making us sculptures of locusts and flowers out of the bamboo she picked out of the river – all whilst standing up and navigating the boat down the narrow canals. Multi tasking – very clever.

hot, humid but very picturesque

on the steps of the museum

Our time in the delta had to come to an end, and we booked ourselves onto the local bus back to Ho Chi Minh and surprise surprise, as with all buses in developing countries, an inappropriate film for children was on. We thought Rambo was a particularly strange choice in Vietnam!! The kids seemed to like it though – luckily it was overdubbed and only a few of the “f” words came though.

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Categories: Vietnam Tags: , , , , ,
  1. Joe & Verna
    February 7, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Wow to much to take in, you will be happy that with all the pix and commentary great to look back on in years to come.

  2. JL
    February 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Ďáble!-)

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