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Big Indochina Adventure – Days 15 & 16: Mekong Delta, Vietnam

We left our hotel at about 8:20 AM and boarded a bus for the Mekong Delta. We saw the Mekong River in every country we’ve been to so far (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and now Vietnam), but the Mekong Delta is where the river meets the ocean. On the way to the Delta, we stopped at a rest stop with a beautiful pond in the middle that had a variety of food options. I tried Bahn Mi for the first time – a product of French imperialism, it is essentially a baguette with a few vegetables and usually pork. It was really good!

Shortly after that, we arrived at the Mekong Delta where we bought the famous Conical Hats (rice hats) of Vietnam for $1 and boarded a boat for a bit of a cruise around the region. Our first stop was the floating markets where our boat captain bought us some coconuts for later. The floating markets are where families sell a variety of items, but usually food to locals from their boats. The boat pulls up next to another boat and they buy items that way.

Our next stop after the floating markets was a bit of a tourist exhibition into life on Mekong Delta. We tried banana whiskey and shake whiskey before learning how rice paper is made. Rice paper is the paper that spring rolls are made from!  The process looked simple, but hard to master – a very thin batter is poured onto a tray heated by steam. After a few seconds, someone pulls the paper off and leaves it out to dry. The rice paper can also be used for rice crackers or as a canvas for painting!

The next stall we visited was someone making rice popcorn (essentially what you find in rice crispies). Once the rice kernels are popped, someone has to go through it all and remove the parts you cannot eat. It’s a very manual process!  Then, we saw someone making was coconut taffy. She showed us how the taffy is laid out before being packaged by hand. We even got to try some taffy that was still warm.

The final area was where we had some jasmine tea and a few snacks native to the region. I don’t know what they were, but they were pretty good. While we were having tea, it rained for the first time of our entire trip!  It felt so refreshing to walk back to the boat in the rain. Once we were on the boat, we headed towards a Historic House for lunch. As usual, the spring rolls were amazing. I even tried elephant ear fish!

We then boarded the boat for a ride around the Mekong Delta toward our guest house for the rest of the night.

After about a half hour, we made it to a meeting point for our transfer to our accommodations for the night. Five barefoot, old woman with conical hats standing on small row boats with oars in their hands pulled up along our boat and we transferred to their boat, grabbed a coconut with a straw in it, and voyaged down a narrow canal to our guest house. It felt like something out of a movie. The scenery was surreal.

Upon arriving at the guesthouse, we were greeted by their family pets – a dog, two puppies (including a 3 month old) and a snake!  While we all loved playing with the baby puppy, we had an opportunity to hold the snake. It didn’t feel slimy, but was over 50 kilos. It took four of us to hold it!

We then headed to our rooms to drop our bags off before a few minutes of relaxation. Shortly after, we stripped down to our shorts and climbed into a mud canal to go mud fishing!  It may have been the dirtiest I’ve been in my life, but was so worth it. Our tour manager was able to catch a fish with her bare hands while other people took an easier approach and used a basket. I only tried using my bare hands and failed miserably!

After a quick shower, we sat down for dinner and watched a traditional performance of unique to the Mekong Delta region. It was very entertaining and the singers were so animated you could see the story they were trying to tell.

Dinner consisted of the fish we caught, sticky rice, a few meat dishes and a vegetable platter. We also had the opportunity to try rat and snake. It was hard to get over the idea of what I was eating, but I was able to eat it this time!  The rat actually tasted good – it was just hard to eat because you could literally see the imprint of its rib cage in the meat as well as where its legs were.

After dinner, we played a few card games before heading to bed. The following morning, we walked about 20 minutes through the streets to get to our boat. After boarding the boat, we passed the fish farms that were set up in the river and a few other cool sites before arriving at the dock to board our bus.

Our two days in the Mekong Delta gave me a new appreciation for how resourceful the people are. Children learn to swim at a young age by using trees that float as support and people use every part of the animals or plants and waste nothing.

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