Thought I’d finished with the Mekong on this trip? Well, not quite. I’m about to board a bus to visit the Mekong Delta with Urban Adventures doing all the hard work. The meeting point for today is outside the stunning Saigon Opera House, so I get a glimpse of some of Saigon’s beautiful french colonial style buildings while I wait.
My guide for the day is Thanh and he seems like a great guy. Jumping on a minibus, we head off for the village of My Tho, about 2.5 hours away from Saigon. I love getting out of the city. These days always end up the best, so I can’t wait to see what today has in store for me. I watch the streetscape change and flash glimpses of everyday life at me through the bus window as we move further and further away from the city.
Once we reach My Tho, it’s a short boat ride to the start of our journey through the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta consists of many islands Today, we will visit two – Con Phung (or Phoenix) and Thoi Son (or Unicorn).
Exotic fruit abounds when we enter the clearing on Thoi Son. Hot pink dragonfruit, spikey pineapples and ripening bananas great our eyes and after Thanh shows us how to carry a traditional bamboo pole basket across his shoulders, we take a seat to enjoy some tea and a plate of beautiful tropical fruit which includes dragonfruit, pineapple, mango and pawpaw. Nearby a small group of musicians perform traditional songs.
Cacao tasting is also on the agenda as we pass by a fallen fruit. Thanh breaks it open and we get to pull off one of the seeds and suck off the white pulp covering the seed, which tastes kind of tangy.
Wandering over the rough pathways of the village gives us a good glimpse of life on the island.
Honey awaits us at our next stop. Here, we are given nut snacks and a taste of local honey liquor which tastes amazing. Strong, but amazing. This is one of many cottage industries that help sustain life in the Mekong Delta.
Our visit to Phoenix Island starts with a Cotton Candy making business. We are shown how the coconuts are shredded by machine and heated to become toffee-like before being sliced and wrapped and eventually sold to a customer. The cotton candy comes in a bunch of different flavours including ginger and coffee and tastes yummy. The process was really interesting to watch.
Xe Loi are a kind of motorised cart. We are handed out helmets…very sexy helmets…
…and climb aboard for our next stop. It’s such a fascinating ride and a great way to see the island, even if the ride is a little bumpy at times.
We head through the end of town and out on to some even smaller, more rural roads. It feels like we are speeding along due to the bumpy ride and the tiny pathways we are travelling on. We dodge tree branches (hence the helmets) and narrowly miss crumbled pathways. And then all of a sudden, there are three xe lois. What happens now?
So much fun!! We do safely arrive at our lunch destination though and dish after amazing dish of food is bought out for us to enjoy, along with nice cold beers. The restaurant is a couple of large outdoor pavillions with tables and chairs so can still enjoy the outdoors, with chickens running amok nearby. The rain has started, but we have plastic raincoats and full bellies and we are having an awesome day.
Leaving the restaurant behind – I could have sat there for much longer – but our time is coming to an end. We walk down narrow concrete steps to some wooden sampans lined up against the dock and begin our paddle down the Mekong towards the bigger boat. I’m not going to lie, getting from the sampan to the boat was a little nervewracking, but we all managed just fine.
With everyone safely back on the ferry to My Tho, Thanh hands out fresh coconuts, shell partially removed, straws inserted, for us to sip.
And with that, the day is over, and we are back on the minibus and heading back to Saigon. This has been the best.day.ever. Well, not quite, but close. Very close.