Thursday, 27 November 2014

Two Days in the Mekong Delta

So, earlier this week I ventured out of the Ho Chi Minh City area, towards The Mekong Delta!! 


It was me and three of my Saigon friends, and we went with a tour company called TNK tours, it was brilliant. A busload of about forty people from a variety of countries - I spoke French with a girl from Paris and Finnish with a girl from Espoo, had our first lunch with a pair of older Dutch ladies, had fun chats with the Spaniards and the Malays (is that how you spell someone from Malaysia?) and made good friends with two lovely Israeli girls we spent time with later in Saigon as well.

Our tour guide was a star of a human being called Mr Hai. He was hilarious. Best of Mr Hai:

“My name is Hai. You can call me Mr Hai... or Mr Hello...”

(after we clapped him): “Because of your beautiful claps, I don't need lunch... You make me full.”

(when AidZ wanted to drive the boat): “You want to drive the boat? Ok, just let me get my family off...”

& when he was explaining that if we don't “follow the handsome tourguide” (him), we may end up on a ferry to Cambodia.

& his slogan: “No money no honey”, said in a variety of interesting situations...

oh, AND, when he asked the bus load at the beginning what was the “first thing they noticed/liked about Vietnam”. “The people,” replied someone. “Ah yes, beef pho,” said Mr Hai. (Ie., noodle soup. And he did actually hear wrong. Bless.)

Ok, well, not so funny written down. Lol. Sorry. But if you heard his ACCENT and his way of speaking, his SARCASM, and the amount he spoke about his “family”. Family is very important in Vietnam. At the end of the tour, however, we got the honour of being called his “family”. Ah, bless you Mr Hai.

ANYWAYS. Our first stop was at this gorgeous temple. My first temple, very exciting!

Hanging out with Buddha

Second stop was a boat taking us to Turtle Island (I think).

Even boat drivers must use their phones 
We also passed Dragon Island and Unicorn Island. We were greeted by a gorgeous dog waiting for us to dock, it was like being part of a very cheesy dog-centered children's film. Lassie awaiting you with its hair (fur?) waving in the wind. Adorable anyways. The whole trip was full of ADORABLE dogs. And rest assured, none of them were lunch.
Greetings strangers

Very pretty

At this place you could have a free lunch of pork and rice and veggies or pay ten dollars for the funky fish. I don't think anyone chose the funky fish.
Mr Hai introducing the Funky Fish
Next stop was THE KINGDOM OF THE COCONUT, something Mr Hai was very enthusiastic about. Indeed it was full of many very high exciting palm trees, though I don't think I was able to enjoy it to the maximum due to Death by Heat. Have I mentioned Vietnam is hot? Tropical, even? (I still enjoy describing the weather, seemingly exaggerating, as 'tropical', till I realise that wait, it actually IS tropical. Like, literally. Like, literally literally.) I probably haven't, since I don't that often experience it – I'm either at work or somewhere where you can easily go into a cold air-conditioned shop/café/house. But, well, the boat had no air con.
I've not often been on organised tours, and the whole Kingdom of the Coconut bit was quite... interesting. We went to see a 'local family' make their 'coconut candies'. We crowded round them taking photos as if they were the zoo animals I so often compare myself to, and then we could taste the sweets and buy coconut sweets, or coconut whiskey, or coconut rum with cobras and scorpions inside, or coconut chapstick, etc etc, from the local family's local souvenir table. A very interesting and lovely experience, but at the same time, haha, so TOURISTY.
Coconut candies being made

Traditional Vietnamese island meets tourist needs

...all I know is that they are fruit.
(I am not necessarily one to critisize tourists if you have a look at the hat I bought... which was fun for a while, but then I decided I don't want to be THAT touristy, so I left it 'accidentally' on the bus.)

Another attraction of THE KINGDOM OF THE COCONUT was Coco the Miserable Snake. (I just named him.) Coco the Miserable Snake lives in a box except for his probably rather frequent outings of being draped over the shoulders of silly tourists, and I doubt his life is included in the Top 10 most exciting lives of snakes, and I did feel quite sorry for him. But, well, I was tourist enough to want a photo with him. And Coco did have a special affection for tourists, since it did start coiling itself around me and took special interest in my armpit (maybe better armpit than bum, as it was in my friend M's case). Mr Hai did reassure us earlier that Coco “does not eat tourist meat”.
Me with Coco
After Coco the Miserable Snake it was time for Super Authentic Mekong Delta Experience Number 1, the little boats through the little rivers. Like Venice except the surroundings were slightly different. We had our own, erm, gondola, and our own gondola chauffeur taking us down the canals of the Mekong Delta. Gorgeous.

Then it was time to move on towards our hotel destination, the town of Can Tho. Can Tho is comparable (in my mind) to Bien Hoa, except instead of Bien Hoa's 99,99% Vietnamese and 00,01% non-Vietnamese, Can Tho seemed to be like 35% Vietnamese, 65% tourists. Ish.

We visited the night market (I love night markets. And markets here. The clothes are STUNNING. The only reason I haven't bought any more is because I am so horribly bad at making decisions I usually decide to leave with nothing.) and had a relatively expensive Westerny dinner at a French restaurant – even with a crepe for dessert! (AidZ had a formula called 'The Snake Menu', which we all tried a bit. I can now say I have eaten snake.)
Snake spring roll
Ice cream and chocolate crepe <3

The next morning breakfast was at the nice fresh hour of 6.15am, ready to leave at 7am for our next attraction. On a bit of a side topic, the Vietnamese have a very different rhythm to us. Many wake up at 5am, and even at 6am everything is in full order – streets full, food places open. This is because when it gets to midday it is just too hot for anyone to want to do anything, so everyone naps. It's not surprising to enter a shop, or a market, and have at least one of the staff lying on the floor in a corner napping. Xeom-drivers often nap on their bikes. (Not while moving, ofc. Lol.) And the policy for hotels is that the doors are locked at night with a member of staff sleeping in a put-up bed, ready to wake up for the silly tourists who arrive after midnight. In one of my hotels twice I had to climb over the spiky fence to get into my hotel because no one heard my “hello?”-shouts. Lol.
Green oranges outside our hotel
ANYWAYS. Early start. Time to see Super Authentic Mekong Delta Experience Number 2, the floating markets!!
Half of us were lucky and got life jackets
What is a floating market?

Well, a market that floats.

Ok, well, it isn't exactly a sight you go see because of its beauty. It is a market. BUT ONE THAT FLOATS. Ie. It consists of boats. We went round in a boat, all of us tourists, and there were boats everywhere, each selling some produce – mostly fruit and veg, but there were also smaller boats where the sellers sold lunch (noodles/pho) or drinks (iced coffee, water, Coke etc). If you wanted to buy something they would, erm, anchor your boat with a rope and then do business.

With a little boy as our server...
A drinks boat came our way, I bought an iced coffee (ca phe sua da in Vietnamese), probably my FAVOURITEST (like, so favourite it needs to have bad grammar to accentuate it YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?) consummation here. Maybe I can dedicate a blog post to it. I probably won't though. Well, it's basically a glass full of ice where you add a tiny bit of strong coffee and condensed milk. HEAVENLY.

Then the pineapple boat came our way, and that was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip. You could jump onto their boat and buy a lollipop-shaped pineapple they carve specially for you. You eat it off a stick. Absolutely brilliant. My mouth still has a little sore bit from Overdose of Pineapple.

Note how his finger becomes the man at the back's legs...
Good picture opportunities too, though this one did not mean to have a random Italian guy in it... I hovered nearby hoping he'd get the hint to move a bit out so I could get my picture taken, but he didn't, and happily joined me in the photo... If I actually knew him this could be my new facebook profile...
Apparently some of the boats had 'eyes' painted on them to scare off crocodiles. That's all I'm gonna say.

After the floating market we went to the Kingdom of the Rice Noodle. (It wasn't actually called that, but it was the Coconut equivalent.) Watching a 'local family' make noodles. Interesting.

So many sleepy doggies <3
Om nom coconut drink
The Fluffiest of Them All <3
Trying to help me open my water bottle
Our final stop was at a Barbecue-place. Not any old Barbecue though, but the menu was Barbecued Frog, Barbecued Snake and Barbecued Rat. AidZ had a plate of rat, enjoyed it so much he bought a second plate. I contented myself with a plate of fruit.
Frying frogs and snake. 
My choice
And then it was time to gradually head homewards, boat and four-hour bus ride.
But not before buying, erm, coconut pancake stuff? SO GOOD 
The second fun day ended in Saigon with me losing both my Pedicurginity AND my Manicurginity in the same night...
Beauty Salon timeZzzzZzz 
Nails feat. Delta bracelet which I got down to 38,000 from 60,000 :)
Followed by a nice dinner and drinks, followed by a night in my beloved Green Suites Hotel (the hotel I stayed at four weeks ago when I arrived...), followed by a breakfast with ca phe sua da with THIS view. <3
An excellent weekend. :) (Well, weekstart. Saturday and Sunday are do not fit the criteria of a weekend.)

Now all I can say is...

Toi mun ma kai nai ve.
('I want to take this away' is the translation but imagine it to be a fancy way of saying goodbye.)


PS. Thanks google maps and paint, here is a rough map version of where we went...

Admire the artwork please


  1. Brilliant blog, you had me laughing out loud (literally) several times. Excellent pix (some of which would look at home in National Geographic), and it seems a real cultural experience, even though you were tourists. Loved the hat too – you could have posted over here!

    Were the market “stalls” at the floating market moving all the time, or did they generally sit in one place and wait for you to come to them? I guess your boat had eyes painted on it, since you don’t describe any close encounters with crocodiles…

    lots of love, Zz

    PS: Appreciated the map

    1. The little boats selling refreshments and pho were moving, I dunno about the bigger ones actually...

  2. Yes, brilliant! I was sorry for the snake. I'm glad he doesn't like tourist meat. :) Did he feel dry rather than slimy?

    Why is the traditional Vietnamese hat touristy? All the Vietnamese people seem to wear such a hat - at least in the countryside - or am I wrong?

    Saw any crocodiles?

    It is interesting that you mentioned Mr Hai's sarcasm. Is that a common trait in Vietnamese people?


    1. Ummm! Snake was slimy!

      The traditional Vietnamese hat is not touristy for Vietnamese! However, however much I try I just can't pass as a local! But yes, loads of them wear them :)

      No I didn't see any crocodiles, that's why I was a bit sceptic about the comment about them...

      Nope, sarcasm is not common here. Or, well, maybe, but that's why I found him so hilarious, since it's not that common here!