Eight of us woke up early Saturday morning and took a three hour bus trip to a town called My Tho. There we would be begin our journey through the Mekong Delta river system; a complex river that flows through six different countries: Thailand, China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and of course Vietnam. It’s well known for its multitude of diverging jungle canal systems, scenic landscapes, and floating markets. We each got our rice hats and went to the docking station to board our little wooden boat.
There was an overcast in the sky, initially undesirable, but soon added to the mystic semblance of the Mekong. I even welcomed the scattered showers and booming thunder. My camera was in constant danger of getting soaked, but my rice hat also served as a shield for arguably, my most valuable possession on this whole trip. Along with the rain, came stagnant puddles of water – breeding sites for malaria carrying mosquitos. Even without the rain, this area of Vietnam is at a much higher risk of malaria than most regions in this country. I didn’t bring a malaria prescription with me to Asia. Why? I really don’t have a great answer for that. My solution was to wear my signature long sleeve shirts and saturate myself in deet. We’ll see if it works!
We cruised on the wooden boat for about 20 minutes before we arrived to a bee farm. Here, we were treated to a small offering of tea with honey, dried bananas and ginger, and some weird looking peanut things. This honey was probably the BEST tasting honey I have ever had! It was so smooth and had the perfect amount of sweetness. We were mesmerized!
We eventually made it to a docking station where we boarded those small canoes. These canoes, guided by a local on each end, took us on a cruise through the jungle. Out of all the places in the world to be, jungle type areas are always my personal faves. It was certainly humid and wet, there were insects everywhere, but I had a giant smile on my face as we glided through the river. I actually enjoyed getting rained on; it’s weird, I know. As a matter of fact, I was the only one in my group without a poncho. I partly did it because it is the rainy season here after all, so I may as well get used to all the rain. Once the cruise was over, we boarded another boat that took us to a small restaurant in a nearby village. It was here we had lunch which consisted of vegetable soup, and beef with rice. Immediately afterwards, we all took a bicycle ride through the village. The bikes were rusty and worn, but it got the job done. We took another boat back to the dock in My Tho and boarded a bus that took us to another part of the river. After a few hours on that bumpy ride (I was VERY close to getting motion sick!) we ended up in a city called Can Tho. I would describe Can Tho, as the younger sister of HCMC, as this city looked almost identical but on a much smaller scale. The eight of us had a hotel reserved here for the night. We had the rest of the evening to explore and spend our free time in Can Tho, so we decided to grab some grub. The restaurant we walked to didn’t really interest me much. The menu was more or less, the same things we eat back at the college. There was also tons of seafood on the menu which I’m not a fan of. So while my group ordered, I briefly left them to search out for cheap street food. I managed to find a sandwich stall and ordered two beef sandwiches. Right across the street I saw a dessert stall and bought two chocolate muffins. Around the block I found a smoothie stand and ordered a freshly blended pineapple smoothie. The two sandwiches, chocolate muffins, and smoothie costed me a total of $2. How crazy is that?! I went back to join my friends at the restaurant and told them about the wonderful dessert stall I found. Sophie’s eyes lit up! I found out during this weekend that Sophie has a ginormous sweet tooth. We’re going to get along just fine. 🙂 While some of us went back to the hotel for the evening – Lucy, Shantai, Tom, Sophie, and myself went back to the dessert stall and ended up buying a whole cake for 80,000 dong, which translates to about less than $4. We took it back to the hotel and devoured it like little fat children! Our thirsts grew for more tasty treats so we walked to a cafe nearby to grab some drinks. We initially thought we would be getting some alcoholic beverages but none of us could read the menu because it was all in Vietnamese. Our waiter couldn’t speak a lick of English, so we each individually picked a random drink out the menu for ourselves. It was like Russian Roulette with beverages! It was a mystery to what we’d be getting. I ended up getting some kind of kiwi juice, Lucy got some sugary sherbet juice, Tom got a lackluster papaya smoothie or something, Sophie got an orange mango drink, and Shantai had the best one – frozen sugar cane coffee. None of the above were alcoholic like we wanted but we ended up drinking them anyways. We called it a night and woke up early for our next leg through the Mekong Delta. We took a boat downriver and were introduced to the famous floating markets of the delta. Hundreds of small wooden boats on the river selling lots of locally grown fruits, vegetables, and other foods to local customers and tourists along the strip. It was a sight to behold as vessels chock full of pineapples and fish would float on by. Little kids in quick little motorboats would often pull up next to our boat offering to sell their fruits and drinks to us. It was during this stretch that I started to get boat sick. No surprise here. This reminded me, Why the heck didn’t I bring any motion sick pills with me from home? I completely forgot to do that! Since there were so many boats at the market, the river was a bit wavier than normal, which offended my stomach. Fortunately, we didn’t stick around long. We set course for another part of the delta that was known for it’s rice manufacturing. We got to see how rice paper is made and the lengths locals go through to make it. The villagers here work everyday for hours upon hours for a monthly salary for about $100. Experiencing situations like this always puts me in check and reminds me of how fortunate I am. We went to a factory that separates, weighs, and bags rice for mass shipping. Our tour guide told us that Vietnam is the new number one exporter in the world for rice. Thailand used to hold that title until recent floods destroyed many of their rice crops. Before we boated back to Can Tho, we cruised to another part of the delta where we were served with a variety of fruit and serenaded with traditional Vietnamese songs. One of the fruits were papaya, which when I tasted it, I’m fairly certain it was rotten. But I managed to convince Lucy to taste it, much to my own personal enjoyment! That was the last part of our Mekong endeavor. We took a long bus ride back to HCMC. Along the way, the bus made a pitstop at a gift shop and cafe where I treated myself to a vanilla and chocolate banana sundae. The perfect way to top of such a superb weekend! By the way, I managed to leave the Mekong Delta unscathed. No mosquito bites!