My adventure to the Mekong Delta began in Saigon on New Years Eve. All the budget tour companies offer trips to the Mekong Delta, finishing in Phnom Penh - some of them for as cheap as $26 for a 3 day trip. However I decided I wanted to see as much scenery as possible, so I booked my tour with Delta Adventures, as they leave Saigon by boat instead of by bus, also the journey to Cambodia is mostly by boat instead of by bus, so I would see a lot more scenery than with the super cheap tour companies.
The first day we set off on the Saigon river on a small wooden boat and headed off towards My Tho, our first destination. I was surprised to see how poor all the people living along the river looked. Most houses were made from either wood or some sort of metal and they all looked a bit like shanty villages. Other than Sapa, this is the first time I'd come across this kind of poverty, as even though there is begging everywhere in Vietnam, you don't really see many people living in very basic houses. I guess most people don't
live in the tourist area of the towns I visited, also I think the Mekong Delta area is supposed to be a lot poorer as most of the people living around here do jobs such as farming, which doesn't pay as well as working in the tourist trade, or in an office.
We arrived in My Tho around 11am and went to visit some of the small river islands that this small town is famous for. We started at an island where they produce honey and our guide showed us the bees, who were apparently friendly and wouldn't sting us, but I didn't get too close just in case. We then tried some of the products that are made there, such as honey peanuts (delicious) and banana wine (not so keen on - it tasted like neat alcohol to me!!).
Our next stop was an island that produced homemade coconut candy. This stuff is delicious, but if you have any fillings then forget it - it could pull them straight out!! It had a similar texture to toffee, but with a coconut flavour. I really liked the stuff!! This time we were given a demonstration as to how
the coconut candy is made, which I found really interesting.
Our last stop in My Tho was the one that is shown on all the posters advertising Mekong Delta tours. It was a trip through the backwaters on a small rowing boat. This looked like great fun, but in reality there were just too many people doing it, for it to be enjoyable. Plus all the women coming in the other direction just kept shouting money - in other words make sure you tip your rower. I had been going to tip, but all these people pressuring me, made me not want to.
For lunch they took us to the middle of nowhere, so I had to pay a whopping 30,000 dong for fried rice. Usually I pay about half this!! It wasn't great either. In the afternoon we went back to our hotel by boat, then got a minibus towards Can Tho, where we would be staying the night. Apparently the traffic is usually very bad, so half way through the trip we changed to a boat and pulled up to Can Tho in the dark in our boat. It was really beautiful at night with all
the lights reflected on the water. Can Tho was a lot bigger than I'd expected it to be!! It was New Years Eve that night, so our group all went out together for a meal, which was nice, but again a bit out of my normal price range (meals were 50,000 dong this time!!). Me and the girls I was sharing a room with ended up going home before midnight. I wasn't really in the mood for it to be New Years Eve and I think they were just not night people, so it all worked out quite well.
The next day was the part of the trip I'd been looking most forward to - the floating market!! This time it didn't disappoint. We arrived at the floating market by boat at about 8am and then we split into 2 groups. I was in the first group so we got off onto a smaller boat for a tour around the market, as the boat we'd arrived on was too big to get through the small gaps in the market. It was great fun though!! Our boat guy had bought his daughter with him and she kept playing games with
me and Jessie (the Aussie whose room I shared the night before). She was so cute!! There were so many boats, it all looked really colourful, just as I'd imagined it. Once our turn was over, we were allowed to wait for the next group on the roof of our boat, which had great views of the floating market!! The sun finally came out for about 20 minutes, so I spent my time lying on the roof, sunbathing, it was great!!
Afterwards we got taken to more factories. This time for rice noodles and rice husk. The rice noodle factory was quite interesting - they showed us how they boil the rice up and make it solid and then leave it out in the sun to dry into sheets. However the second factory was really boring and I was tired and ready for lunch by then. For lunch we went back to Can Tho, where our guide took the group back to the same restaurant that we'd been to the night before. I decided to go for a wander by myself and I found a great place called Mekong, that did the best Cantonese fried rice EVER!! All for
the bargain price of 14,000 dong (in the restaurant this was over double that price). Some of the guys in the group had ordered rat and dog the night before - how gross eh!! Apparently dog is really chewy, but rat is tasty. Urghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!
After lunch it was time to transfer to our last destination, Chau Doc, which is small town on the Cambodian border - this is where we would be getting our boat to Cambodia from the next day. We didn't really see much of Chau Doc - we went on a brief tour of a floating village and a muslim village, but we headed pretty quickly by boat to Cambodia. As per usual, entry into Cambodia involved a scam. The cost of a visa for Cambodia is $20, but our guide was demanding $22 for getting our visa sorted. I only had $20 on me, so my tour guide said I'd need another $1 anyway to pay for transport to the border. I got a bit worried as I didn't have this money, but as soon as we got to the border everyone had to queue to get their passports stamped anyway, so the boat took
us directly to the border. What a con eh. All she actually saved them was queuing twice instead of once. I still ended up back on the boat before some people!! Once in Cambodia we transferred to another boat, which our guide had promised was bigger and better than the one we'd been on. Well it was a lot worse!! It was about the same size, but the seats were so uncomfortable - the seats were too high to rest your feet on the floor, they were wooden, but like a long bench rather than seats and there was no back to them, so the beams from the boat just dug into my back the whole time. It was one of the most uncomfortable journeys I've ever had!!! The boat only took us half way to Phnom Penh, as a bus was meeting us there. The bus turned up and was surprisingly comfortable (wish wé'd travelled by bus the whole way). However we didn't arrive in Phnom Penh for a while as it took a detour to a small village that the driver obviously lived in as his family met him. He dropped off a bird in a cage and
then went for a wander around his house for 10 minutes, before getting back into the bus and driving us to Phnom Penh. Only in Cambodia eh!!!
All in all I enjoyed the Mekong Delta trip, but I'm not sure I'd recommend this particular one to anyone. I think if i were to do it again, I'd spend a bit more money and get a guy with a motorbike to drive me around and just book a boat trip round My Tho and organise a boat to take me round the floating market.
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