Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Mekong Delta Tourist Attractions

Prior to arriving in Vietnam, the Harrington's had a general plan to spend a day or so in HCMC before heading into the Mekong Delta with plans to finish out the vacation trip island-getaway style. The Delta is the nation's farmland, rich with water sources for rice and fruits of numerous varieties. Typical to farmland regions, the people of the Delta were rumored to be peaceful, hospitable and taking life at a slower, more enjoyable pace. Fearing that getting a taxi to the bus station and a bus into the delta might prove more troublesome than enjoyable, the Harrington's opted to duck into one of many tour operators outside their hotel on their last night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Roughly $25US each and the couple had tickets for a tour package which would extend two days and include transportation to the river, on the river, a small lunch, accommodation and dinner (since the couple chose the homestay) and a number of tourist attractions throughout. Similar packages had been seen online and while they would have provided more beautiful and potentially private experiences, the Harrington's were thrilled to pay a meager $25 per person rather than the $350-400 they had seen quoted through online tour operators.

So it was, on the morning of Saturday the 18th, at 7:30 am, the Harrington's made their way to their tour provider and were led to their bus to begin their journey into the Mekong Delta. With Sozo treats and a rest stop in between to make a quick purchase of 'Adidas' sunglasses and snacks the Harrington's and other tour-goers eventually arrived in My Tho, Vietnam where they quickly and eagerly transferred onto their first of many boats for the day.

First along the tour route was a stop at a beekeeper's farm where tourists were welcome to try the sweet and rich honey tea and a few sweet snacks as part of the tour fee. It was here also that the group had the opportunity to hold up a honeycomb slot of sleepy bees and for a few brave souls to hold a ridiculously large snake.
From honey to small canoes, the Harrington's and others donned the quintessential conical hat and made their way through the winding river under the shade of coconut palms and to the occasional chatter of canoe guides requesting that the foreigners 'givemoney, givemoney, givemoney' although this too was covered in tour costs. Unique, perhaps, to the Harrington's experience was watching the semi-drama of a woman (Vietnamese) go overboard on her small crew causing a small bit of moans and giggles as she was able to re-board and continue on her way.

Reunited with the larger river and the larger boat the tour was forced to make a quick change of plans as enough boats were not present to take guests from the large river, down the small river to a coconut candy factory, therefore the candy was postponed and lunch took place earlier than planned, which was perfectly timed as the Mrs. was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger.

A small lunch of rice, overly steamed and flavorless vegetables with a couple pieces of fish sauce chicken were included with the meal price. For those feeling a bit more famished, the tourist restaurant also provided a variety of dishes including Fried Elephant Ear (a local fish) Spring Rolls, a Mekong Delta delicacy. The Harrington's, who are always down for a bit more food and a few adventurous eating experiences leaped at the chance to enjoy such a dish and were not disappointed.
Filled with rice and fish and with the promise of properly sized boats the group of foreign tourists made their way to a coconut candy factory which was a showcase of fine skill as local women prepared a sweet and unique to Vietnam coconut candy.
From the tourist attractions of My Tho it was time to board the bus and hit the road until reaching the city of all cities in the Delta, Can Tho. Here, each tour guest would go to their pre-requested accommodation which for the Harrington's meant a Homestay which can more accurately be described as Guesthouse or Bed and Breakfast.

Upon arrival, the Harrington's were quickly directed to take a small cottage on the river while the rest of the group dispersed into a garden area. After settling in a bit and getting a feel for property and surrounding area guests began chatting and preparing for a dinner spread which would include another taste of Elephant Ear spring rolls, fried pork spring rolls (partially made by the tourists/guests themselves), fried tofu in a fabulously seasoned tomato sauce and green beans. As if that weren't enough, the evening ended with fresh pineapple and what felt like endless rounds of local rice wine.


With a mosquito net draped over the bed and the sound of the river and occasional motorboats passing by the Harrington's were soon dozing off into a peaceful slumber before another day on the delta.

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