What to See and Do In The Mekong Delta.
After leaving Ho Chi Minh on boxing day, we headed off to another homestay in the Mekong Delta.
We were staying at on Coconut Island which is in the middle of the delta and of course there being no cars we ventured off on a cycling trip around the island. The villages are pretty much divided up by elevated concrete/dirt/gravel paths about the width of one moped, that run above the rice paddies everywhere you want to go. Its very very cool and so much fun, until a moped comes the other way and then you can’t decide whether to keep your speed up (which means balance on a pushbike) and cycle past him on the edge of the drop off, or to stop and get off and get the timing wrong and go in the ditch anyway. Thankfully my “braving it” and just cycling past paid off and no ditch swimming for me!
Visiting A Candy Factory
A local guide we employed stressed that the candy factories were worth a visit. Factory being a loose term and it consisted of 5 little ladies, cooking, spreading, cutting and wrapping coconut candy. The candy (lollies we call it in Australia or sweeties for those of you from the UK) was really nice and not super sweet. It was kind of like salt water taffee is to toffee, technically the same kind of sweet but very different as well. It was not what you expect coconut candy to taste like but strangely addictive at the same time.
Try Cobra Rice Wine
Weirdly at the candy factory we also go to try Cobra wine, which is kind of like moonshine! I think Brad and I were the only ones to try it, and a lot of the girls on the tour were freaked out by the cobra at the bottom of the bottle, but I figure that they aren’t going to kill off the tourists, so I had one. OK – maybe a few! It was much better than the local rice wine and I could get used to it I guess. When in Rome and all that. It is very strong though and did upset my stomach a little later in the day.
Holding Snakes In The Mekong Delta
As in most places in Veitnam, they diversify their attractions and they had a yellow python you could get your picture taken with.
I hate snakes in boxes and will never do that – it amounts to animal cruelty to me, but I have to say Laura did so so so so well and got her picture taken. She is absolutely terrified of snakes and after a few goes, some screaming, massive heart palpitations and maybe a little pant wetting, she did get it over her shoulder and got a photo. Snakes must be like dogs and sensed the fear, for it promptly “snaked” (see what I did there) its tail up her shorts. I thought she was going to faint, and I very nearlly joined her in the pant wetting situation, although mine was from laughter. You're a pro Laura! Way to face your fears!
After Dinner Drinking Games
Like most home stays we did they seem to assume you like drinking games which I found a little strange, but maybe they just want to get rid of that damn rice wine that is everywhere. That stuff is like drinking rocket fuel so I didn't participate too much but of course a Vietnamese drinking game followed dinner which saw Paige end up with charcoal all over her face. The locals love their games and it was fun to get to participate in some way. Our homestay was actually a special dorm they have created so we weren't actually with a family, which seems kind of strange but was fun none the less. We had bunk beds with mosquito nets which felt very much like Asia.
Brad and I got up early and headed out among the village taking photo’s and got some awesome shots, but I have to say those little old ladies are tiny, but they are quick! You get your camera out, get the lens cap off and they’ve overtaken you on their 100 year old deadly treadly.
This pic on the right was of an elderly woman we met on our early morning delta walk. Through another young boy he managed to tell us that she was probably around 80 (he wasn't really sure how old she was), had 5 children and 21 grand children. I don't know if it was lost in communication but if I understood it correctly, her oldest grand son is somehow involved in the government. In what capacity I couldn't get. This is typical of how the locals love to interact with you, which was one of my favourite parts of our three days in the Mekong Delta.
After 2 days in the delta we headed back to Saigon which we thought might be a bit confronting after a few days of lazy village life. Not to be however, Saigon as busy as it is, and as cosmopolitan as its becoming, holds that “country town” feeling and it was great to see it again.
My Recommendations For The Mekong Delta
A day trip to the delta just won't do. You need to get in amongst it. While its the farming and fishing centre of Vietnam you can't appreciate life in the delta without getting amongst it. A boat trip around the islands and to the main spots won't cut it.
- Try to find a village home stay. While its not really a family home stay it is a village one and is necessary to see village life.
- Do the cycle tour – its fun and you get to see how the villagers really live.
Always have your camera out and ready.
- Find the kids – they can help you communicate and get some real life stories.
- Don't give the children anything. They ask for lollies and candy – don't give them any. That's not how they live here.