Vietnam & Cambodia Trip – Stop Seven – Mekong Delta, Vietnam
The 14th was another early morning. We drove about three hours south of Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. The delta was our last stop in Vietnam and where we would spend one night on a river boat. Due to the Tet holiday, the traffic was really bad with tons of overloaded scooters and buses. Along the way we briefly stopped for coffee and were rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic. Everyone was okay, but our driver got out and, in Vietnamese fashion, negotiated a fee with the other driver before we could get on our way again.
In Can Tho, we were taken by tender to our river boat – the Bassac II. The boat, styled from a traditional rice barge, had ten cabins. Each had a large window facing the river bank and is just large enough to fit a bed, night stand, a small table for luggage, and a bathroom. The bathroom itself was a shower. A hand wand hung on the wall and the water drained through slats in the floor. I imagine it takes a lot of skill to avoid getting the toilet and sink completely drenched while showering; a skill I do not have.
Our cabin was on the lower deck on the same level as an enclosed lounge area. The upper deck had front and back lounges and covered dining area. Unlike our time in Halong Bay, it was very hot out so it was not an issue eating outside. As soon as the boat got on its way down the Hau river, lunch was served. It was a similar meal to others we had on the trip; shrimp steamed in coconut, fried calamari, beef and onion, fish served in a clay pot, squash blossom with garlic, and more fresh fruit. Everything was good but the squash blossoms were excellent.
We started to travel up the Mang Thit river and after lunch we were able to relax in the sun for a while. The landscape passing by us was what I had imagined Vietnam would look like – lush green along the river banks. The boat stopped late in the afternoon and we took a smaller boat to shore. Our group of English speaking tourists were taken on a walk through a small village. I am not sure a village is the correct term as it was a grouping of houses crossed with dirt paths. Our guide pointed out all the different fruits and vegetables growing along the road. The local children would wave and say hello to our group then get really happy when you waved hello back.
We were taken to one of the homes where a spread of different fruit was laid out. There were things we had seen before like pomelo, pineapple, bananas, mango, dried coconut, and jackfruit, but also mangosteen and various chips made from bananas, coconut and rice. I wanted to eat it all. I am seriously in love with tropical fruit but the crackers were very tasty too. After our snack break we walked by some rice fields. When we reached the tender boat a large log was blocking our way, which Chris crossfitted out of the way. The result was a clear path and ripped shorts.
We arrived back at the boat just as the sun was setting, so everyone went up to the front lounge area to capture photos and relax before dinner. It was quiet and calming as we made our way up the river. Added treat at dinner was a heart shaped chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day.
After anchoring for the night, the boat started again and we made it to the Co Chien river. The next morning, we ate breakfast as the boat moved toward the Cai Be floating market. Then we prepared to disembark. A tender boat took us and our luggage of the boat drove us through the floating market. Boats loaded with so many different types of food were anchored in the river. Families were living on the boats and smaller boats would pull up along side to buy or trade. It was interesting to see how simple of a life these people were living.
We also stopped further up the river from the market to visit a factory of sorts. It was set up for tourists with tons of things for sale but they were making coconut candy, rice paper, and popped rice. While we were there one of the women mended Chris’ shorts from the day before. Most of our group bought all the different snacks for sale, even the Snake Wine. There were more foods to try and some very tasty tea, but we did not purchase anything.
The tender boat then took us to the port. We drove back to Ho Chi Minh City and got a plane to Cambodia, leaving Vietnam after 14 days.
Chris’ Comments: The Mekong Delta s one of those places where an overnight trip is nothing but a tease. We were there during a holiday weekend, so travel was quite significant. Getting in a car accident was an interesting experience, if for no reason than to see how everyday life happens in Vietnam. The all cash settlement was made because most people don’t have insurance or insurance requires police involvement. The police are known to confiscate cars and maybe, eventually return them, so people tend to avoid it unless there are irreconcilable differences… which, according to our guide, very rarely happen. If you want to explore how rural Vietnamese live and immerse yourself in culture, spend a week backpacking the area. Here, the simple life is a happy life and it’s warming to see. Driving four hours, each way, for one night was a stretch… even if the boat and area was beautiful.
Views Along the River
Walking Tour of the Delta
Sunset on the Mekong Delta
Can Be Floating Market
Final Tour in the Delta
Note to our readers:
If you are interested many of the photographs are captioned, just select the individual images to open them in a new window. Also, we were surprised how large the country was for a small country. I have put together a Travel Map with the places we visited to give an idea of how we managed to cover a good portion of the country during our trip.