Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Mekong Delta

After a night in Ho Chi Minh, we took an overnight trip to the Mekong Delta. The rest of our tour group hadn't arrived yet, so at this point it was just me and Bo, our tour manager, a local tour guide, and a driver. Having a private tour was pretty cool but it was also a little awkward at times since we were outnumbered. Good thing we really liked our guides!

We drove about three hours away, and once we arrived, our van driver dropped us off at the docks where a boat captain was waiting to pick us up. Everything was so well organized. We spent the majority of the day in a little sampan (Vietnamese-style wooden river boat), making our way through the delta with a few stops along the way.

We rode through the floating markets and stopped at one of the boats selling local fruits. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but each boat had a long pole sticking out at the top of the boat, with whatever they were selling attached to the top, so you could tell what they had available for sale as you rode by.

bananas, tangerines, lychees, jack fruit, milk apple, and durian

We rode a little further and got back on land to tour a small rice factory. We watched them make rice from scratch and turn it into rice paper, rice wine, and popped rice treats. They are so quick, and make a ridiculous amount of rice products at this one shop in a single day. It was very impressive.

They also gave us a complimentary tasting flight consisting of:
  1. Pure rice "wine" (this was gross, it was more like straight vodka since it was over 40%),
  2. Rice wine flavored with burnt crushed up bananas (actually pretty good), and 
  3. Rice wine flavored with snake (meaning, infused with dead snakes for over a month - gah. Bo drank it and really liked it but I just couldn't do it!).

pick your poison...

We got back in the boat and headed to lunch, which was hosted by a local family at Mr. Kiet's Historic House, a traditional home stay.

They showed us how to roll our own fresh spring rolls (first of so. many. spring rolls) and served us elephant ear fish... on a stand. It was interesting to eat the way it was presented, but was delicious - a very tasty, thick, white-fleshed fish.

Then we got back on the boat for a while...

Our next stop was at another local house for an afternoon tea with fruit, accompanied with traditional Vietnamese singing and dancing. It was a great performance, but definitely the most awkward part of being on a private tour since we were the only ones in attendance... in their living room.

While we were inside, our boat captain moved our stuff onto a much smaller sampan. There was only enough room for two of us, so our guides rode in a different boat. Once we got situated in our little boat, they gave us bamboo hats to wear for the ride! As you can see, Bo was not nearly as excited about the bamboo hats as I was.

This part of the boat ride was through a very narrow, shallow river. It was in the heart of the jungle and so very pretty, but at the same time, after our visit to the museum the previous day, I just couldn't fathom being sent there to fight a war.

Our tour guides up ahead.. at this point we were extremely outnumbered, but we thoroughly enjoyed it :)

That evening, we stayed at Bay Thoi Homestay, which was actually owned by our local tour guide's family. Vietnamese law requires a local guide for all tours and official site visits, so we had a few different guides throughout the rest of our trip. They were all really informative and helpful, and it was nice to have their perspective on everything. Our tour manager, Adam, was from Australia and was with us the entire trip. He basically coordinated all logistics, lodging, group meals, etc. and made sure we all had a good time. Mission accomplished.

We really enjoyed our stay there. It was by far the most rustic of all the places we stayed, and reminded us a lot of the outer islands of the Bahamas, but without the fishing - a mix between Spanish Cay and Fox Town for those of you who have been. It was just really low-key, very relaxing, and had lots of bugs (this was our first time ever sleeping with mosquito netting). Bo and I stayed in a separate building that had a few bedrooms and a shared bathroom. A definite perk of being by ourselves was not having to share!

Our guide and her family cooked us dinner that evening. It was a traditional Vietnamese meal, and the specialty feature was rat, which we chose over snake. I regretfully do not have a photo (though maybe some of you are grateful for that?) but it looked like quail legs, and actually tasted pretty good - somewhat similar to chicken but tangier. Aside from dinner, we spent most of our time there reading in hammocks. Take me back, please.


  1. So fun!! Did you drink the snake wine?? Did I read that correctly? A rat!! Ahhh so adventurous!!!

    1. Bo did! I updated the post to clarify :) but I just couldn't bring myself to drink it, especially with so many snakes there...ahh I hate snakes!!

  2. And after reading THIS post I'm not sure I could handle the food!!! Snake wine, that fish, RAT? Oh Lisa, you're so brave. My post about this part of the trip would be about how hungry I was because I hadn't eaten the past few meals. Ha

    1. Hahaha, not to worry they also offer regular boring food like fried rice, beef, chicken, and pork :) We just chose to eat things we couldn't get at home!

  3. First off...I do not like snakes at all, so that kind of freaked me out :-/ second,
    Did you eat durian??? I've heard it smells pretty awful :) your trip is reminding me of Amazing Race :)

    1. I couldn't agree more. It was even freakier since they had live snakes in cages next to the dead ones in the rice wine! I couldn't even look at them to take a picture if I wanted to...

      And yes, we ate durian! It did smell terrible, so I just tried to hold my breath as I ate it. My mom always says that my brother and I should go on Amazing Race :)

  4. I am officially grossed out. I totally would be on a rice diet if I went there. Rat, snakes??? YUCK!!! ...I agree with the comment above. Sign up for the Amazing Race! You would win!

  5. Oh man, whenever I get to it you are not going to enjoy one of our food-crazy meals later in the trip...it will make rat and snake look normal :P I'll be sure to put a warning on it!!


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