God we are traveling faster than we are writing :) So Mekong Delta, the place where you can spend a month on its own and still not see everything, place where majority of the rice is grown, I think :) In any case its one big ass area and beautiful at the same time. I'm going to apologize in advance that some of the stuff might have been in different order, but in general those were all the activities we did at one point or the other whilst being on Mekong.
First of all I will say that the people who did the tour with us were: Tiki from Australia, Andres from Chile, David and John from Ireland and Nick from England.So there was 7 of us all together.We had met various people along the way from North to South in Vietnam and all happened to be in Saigon at the same time so decided to do the trip together
We started off our travels for Mekong as usual - 7 AM. We managed to check out without any problems, well the landlady was trying to charge extra by calculating the wrong rate from dollars to dongs - I just simply said no and recalculated correct amount gave her the money, since she foolishly gave us already the passports, then I think she gave up the arguing.
The original price of this trip was $39, which includes homestay, but since I argued that we are not coming back to Saigon they should give us discount, not to mention that we got a total of 7 people to sign up for the trip. Finally they agreed on $33, which was cheaper than just Mekong Delta tour without homestay ($34). Bargain!
Tra Vinh area
First we traveled on the buss to Tra Vinh, which took us around 2,5 hours, it went without any problems. From there we went on the boats and cruised on the big Mekong Delta itself. In our itinerary we had 4 Islands that we had to visit, I for the life of me don't remember the names of the Islands ( Turtle, Dragon, Unicorn ) I think. Our guide kept going on about how important is the river, which it obviously is, but he also was very persistent about how clean the river is and you should go swim in it - DO NOT DO THAT. The river is anything BUT clean, absolutely everything is thrown into it, the biggest hospital releases all of its waste into it and all of the local people dump all their stuff in it as well. Of course they also wash themselves and their cutlery in it. Go figure what logic is permitting that :)
First we went to see coconut candy farm, where they make coconut candy mixed with nuts, they are like toffee candy wrapped into paper from 80's, we tried, they were ok. They also did there fried bananas in sugar, which were delish. I told Amy, try it - she was like no! I was common try it you will like it, Jaan - I dont eat banana. So I gave her a looooong look and she then sighed and bit one. And guess what - yes thats right she liked it, she then ate it all and asked for more. Silly girl. After the farm we ventured to the river and we were put on small rowing boats to go among the canals to see locals who lived on the Island. 4-5 people per boat we made our way, I noticed that it was mainly kids and women rowing. Majority of the houses on this Island were on the higher ground but some were floating on the sticks above the water.Weather was rather hot so we were given the traditional Vietnamese hats for the journey (check the pictures).
I suppose we were ripped off a little whilst doing this trip as the food that we were promised was so basic that it wasn't even funny anymore. Oh well.
After the canals went to Rice Paper manufacturing farm. Its rather simple procedure, they get the guu out of rice, then mix it with potato like fruit and then just heat it up. It becomes very stretchy and strong. Check out our pictures to see the factory. All in all to make one rice paper takes approximately 20 seconds. Its made like pancakes, where they put the stuff on the pan, cover it up, leave it for 10-15 seconds and done. After that the paper is placed on the drying tray and put outside in the sun for 3 hours for drying. Conditions in the factory are very hot.
(It is now Amy writing as Jaan had wrote quite a lot more when his pc crashed - this is now 2nd time he lost entire blog - so he is on strike from the blog) :)
Lunch on the first day, as Jaan mentioned above, was very basic - but fine for me :)Rice, veg and spring rolls.You could order snake, tortoise and other weird things but it was like a million dong!Here Jaan held a MASSIVE snake.I had already held one in KL and wasn't keen to hold another one!Plus this one was huge!Next we were taken to a place where honey was made and given fresh honey and lemon tea which Jaan assured me was good!Honey was a lot runnier than the one we have in UK/Estonia.
We were then taken to another island by boat and given some different kinds of fruit to try whilst listening to a traditional Vietnamese live band - not to our taste :)Everywhere you travel in Vietnam (even 12hr overnight buses) they have Vietnamese music playing constantly.
When we were transported to our Homestay we were taken by bus to some local village (by this time it was pitch black) and then showed to a little boat on a riverbank which apparently would take us 20 mins up the river to our homestay.The boat was so full with all the people staying the night and our bags.I didn't think we would all fit in but we did!The guy drove the boat in complete darkness apart from a torch he shone every now and again.When we arrived at the homestay we were greeted by the family there and shown to our rooms.As there was alot of people who had chosen to stay overnight in the homestay every room was full and Tiki had to share a double with a guy from Germany.The 7 of us were in the rooms outside.The bed was literally a frame of a bed and a tiny tiny think mattress.The bed did have a mossie net around it but ours had holes in :) The wallpaper on the walls was newspaper :)There was an outside shower/toilet block so it was like a proper homestay but it was still really good.The food they provided was really good and they also gave us some rice wine (40%).The guy was constantly trying to get us all to do shots of it but I kindly declined after 1 :)
We were told by the family that breakfast would be served at 6.30am, and we would leave for the largest floating market on the Mekong Delta at 7am.Apparently the market opens at 4am and the local people here get up at around 3.00am!!We were given the option of getting up at 5.30am to go to the local rice field and watch the sunrise.First of all we weren't that keen but then decided that we should.
The nights sleep wasn't actually that bad apart from the cockrels cock-a-doo-doo-doing every hour from about 1am onwards and roosters waking up at 3 am and screaming away till morning.So we all go up at 5.30am and was taken on a short walk to the rice field.The guy took us over a "monkey bridge'" which is a tiny bridge made out of trees so you basically walk across one plank and can easily fall in - it turns out he only took us across for us to experience it as when we walked back around the bank joined up with where we had crossed so you didn't actually have to cross it.
Watching the sunrise over the rice fields was gorgeous and we were really glad we got up.There was a farmer there also checking his crops.Next to the rice field there was a field growing water melon.
After we had eaten breakfast we all jumped back on the boat with our bags and met up with the rest of the group who had opted to stay in a hotel overnight (boring lot).We met them on the river and climbed across into their boat.We were then taken to the floating market which sold fruit, veg and household products.Meat, fish and souvinors were banned from the market.Whilst cruising through the market we were approached from both sides by two smaller boats which had a guy and little boy on one and lady and little boy on the other.The boys were probably around 4 - 5 and were trying to sell us things, beer, fruit, cola etc.It seems they start work at an early age here!! The little boys did not look happy and was quite sad seeing them as you could tell they didn't want to be there.
Half way through the market we came up to a boat selling Pineapple and was told if we wanted to get any we could jump aboard - so we all did.To begin with I didn't try any as I didn't think I liked pineapple but after the usual look from Jaan I gave it a go and loved it :)
After the market we were taken back to the local town and got back on the bus (We were on a bus or boat alot of the trip) and heading to Chau Doc where we would spend our second night in a hotel.Just before we got to Chau Doc we stopped at a place called Sam Mountain which had a pagoda on it and you could watch the sunset over the Vietnam/Cambodian border which was gorgeous.There were also a few caves to explore there.
When we arrived at the hotel we were told that they only had 3 air-con rooms (We were initially told by the travel agent they were all air-con rooms).We chose a fan room as there were a few elderly couples and a family with kids who would appreciate the air-con more than us).Checking into our room we discovered the shower was broke, the room wasn't the cleanest either.We would def not have picked to stay here but anyway we made the most of what we had.Jaan went to ask about the shower and the lady basically said to him could he help her out and make do to which he replied No :)We hadn't showered at the homestay and was long overdue a shower.Anyway, our tour guide stepped in and let us use his room to shower in so it was all good.
All 7 of us then headed out in the town to find somewhere to eat.We headed for the market and we had a gorgeous meal there - was sooooo cheap as well!! We were soon surrounded by a 3-4 kids who loved it by just us saying hello which soon turned to "high fives" and they took a particular liking to Nick.As soon as we had left our table they walked around our table eating our leftovers and drinking the end of our drinks (beer).
The others went to try and find the bus station as we needed to go there the next morning early to get the bus to Ha Tien whilst me and Jaan went to find an internet cafe so we could watch Ian and Julie's wedding.We managed to find a good internet cafe and watched it with no problems - wedding was gorgeous :)
So that's the end of our Mekong Delta tour.Hopefully we remembered to write everything as we've fallen a bit behind with the blog!We're spending a good couple of hours today getting up-to-date with everything whilst escaping the 30 degree heat :)
How's the weather at home?