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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 10.75, 106.667
After our second day in Ho Chi Minh City in VietNam, I really wanted to do something different, since we had pretty much explored the city as much as we wanted by then. And I really wanted to see the Mekong River Delta. As we walked along the main streets and through the alleyways and rabbit warrens (no rabbits, but plenty of warrens) we saw travel agencies everywhere; they offered bus rides to other cities in VietNam or to Cambodia or Thailand, but they also advertised boat tours on the Mekong River. The boat tours were all pretty much the same, varying in price from $8-$10pp for a whole day's tour! We could not pass this up, and signed up for Sunrise Travel VietNam's "One Day Mekong Delta" tour for only $8 each.
The tour left at 8AM on January 6, my father's birthday. A 1 1/2 hour bus ride took us to Mytho City where we boarded our first boat, a large motorized boat with slatted wooden seats; on this boat we cruised out onto the beautiful Mekong River. The Mekong River is huge! It originates high in Tibet, and passes through China, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, and then VietNam. I don't know why, but I was surprised at how wide it is, and how beautiful. We saw houses on stilts, passed many islands, and many many other boats all out on the river. Once we crossed we disembarked, but got right into smaller, eight person canoe-type boats propelled by a young man pushing on a long pole, that took us through the Bao Dinh canal to enter the Bao Tre province, where coconuts are grown. Here we stopped at a coconut candy factory.
Our group watched coconut candy being made by hand, and tasted free samples. I love young green coconuts, but coconut candy is even more wonderful! If I remember the recipe right, the candy is made from: 70% coconut, 20% malt, and 10% sugar; these three ingredients are cooked and stirred for 45 minutes, allowed to cool, and then cut, by hand, into little squares for packaging. They are delicious! Many of us purchased the candy there; I am sure this little factory does a good business each and every day as so many tourist groups are brought here.
The next boats we got into were even smaller wooden boats that fit only four people; we traveled up another even smaller canal of the Mekong River. These narrow canals are gorgeous: trees overhang the water and form green arched bridges our little boats passed under, sunlight filters through the branches, flowering plants grow all along the banks. The canals are lush and green, extraordinarily beautiful. Paradise must look like this. At the next stop we were to try some honey tea, and, of course, to buy it. The honey and lime and bee pollen tea was very refreshing, but this time we did not buy. But there was yet another surprise here; a young boy suddenly appeared with a python around his neck. If we wanted, we could choose to have the python hang around our necks too, while photos were taken. When would I get this chance again? So I did it. Laila does not like snakes, so I asked a friendly young woman in our group if she would take my picture. The python was very heavy (they had probably just fed him), but his skin was smooth and cool. He liked my shirt and tried to slide inside, but I got him off just in time. Who would have thought I would ever have worn a python?
Back into the bigger of the small canoes, we were poled to our unremarkable lunch at an orchard garden. Here were hundreds of school children, so it was the opposite of peaceful; everyone came to see the crocodile pit there. The crocodiles seemed very unhappy to me. Yes, they were well-fed (they would have to be, wouldn't they, with all those children running around), but there were at least a dozen huge crocodiles in a small enclosed pond; where could they run? Where could they swim? The pond was too shallow to allow them to fully submerge, and crocodiles love to hide under water and impersonate logs, and horribly surprise any swimmer who is unaware or careless.
After lunch there was another stop at another small island; this time we were invited to try many exotic fruits while listening to southern Vietnamese folk music. The fruit was very good, and the songs were interesting, if not pleasing to western ears.
Another boat ride in the first big boat we rode on that morning, and then our lovely day on the Mekong River was over. So many boat rides in one day! So many astonishingly beautiful surprise canals! I was very happy we had chosen to take a tour away from noisy, busy, swarming with scooters Saigon. We had had a fine, peaceful day on the Mekong River Delta, our best and happiest time in VietNam.
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