Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Every morning I wake up here, I give a huge sigh of contentment and realize how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful place. Today I had lined up another tour in the area for 4 hours and they’d be collecting me by boat at 9am. Breakfast was delivered at 8:30 to my room and I enjoyed it outside, again watching the fishing boats putter along. The boat turned up at 9:30 and, to my surprise, it was the two guys from the day before who were going to take me around on my own private tour. On Mr Nam’s clapped out old boat, we went to a small jetty where we changed onto a smaller dugout-type canoe. The man stood at the back and rowed with one very narrow oar – don’t know how he managed – up the narrow, beautiful canal through mangroves and water coconut palms. They gave me the traditional Vietnamese hat to wear, all part of the tourist scene I guess. I felt a little silly but nevertheless, it was kinda cool.
After about 10 mins we came to another little set of steps built up from the water and climbed off there. On land there was a lovely little restaurant with a few tables all set with cups and saucers. As we sat down a lady came over and started making us honey tea – in small shot-sized glasses she put a dollop of honey, a squeeze of a tiny lime-like fruit of which I forget the name, and then poured hot jasmine tea over the top. It was delicious! Next she brought a tray loaded with 5 different fruits and another small dish of chilli salt to dip the fruit in. It was a weird but wonderful combination.
While we sat there a bigger group of tourists arrived and I realised another advantage of actually staying out here: you miss all the crowds on their day trips from the city. A small local band played a few songs and sang in their weird, ethereal voices. It was cool.
Then, ahead of the tourist groups we went. We saw a python which is there to be held and have people take their photos with. Yes, I’ve done it before. This time I did it out of politeness but I felt horrible using the poor snake as a photo prop.
From there we walked to a road and hopped onto a horse-drawn trailer. I cant really call it a carriage. In my head I apologized to the horse and felt dreadful for sitting there and letting her cart me around. I thought about all the animals I’ve met in my life and the ones who are lucky and those who are unlucky. Like people, I supposed, where you live and/or who you’re raised by, determines most of your fate.
At the next stop we walked to the coconut candy factory – included in all the tour itineraries for this area. It was actually pretty interesting to see how every part of the coconut is utilized for some reason. The milk, the flesh are made into candy, dried snacks, alcoholic drinks. While the outer husk is made into jewellery, handbags and all sorts of other things.
Hoa and I tasted the coconut brandy, banana brandy and sticky rice wine. They were all pretty potent. I gave the “snake & scorpion wine” a miss, but did a take a photo of the bottle.
We continued walking to the croc farm section, where Mr Nam’s wife works making rice paper every day. There was another python, bigger this time, which I was forced to hold again because this one belonged to Mr Nam himself! It was clear he was very proud, and stood next to me for a photo, telling me the snake weighed 15kgs.
Onto Mr Nam’s boat again where we went across to Phoenix Island which had been the home of the “coconut monk”. I’m not sure of too much of the story but he sounded like quite a nutter to me. Something about believing he could fly across America because he’d built a globe and a moon on a tower and he could climb over the moon…? More research needed.
Finally, the last leg of the journey, we went to Mr Nam’s friends fish farm, where other tourists don’t get to go. It wasn’t too much to see but the fish-farming family live on a floating house much like the one I’ve been staying in. You walk on planks which go over the giant cages/nets which house about 10,000 fish, so they say. Once the fish are big enough they get taken to the market.
My last afternoon/evening was spent relaxing with my book on my floating house.