The Mekong Delta : Disappointments and Diarrohea :(
My Tho Travel Blog› entry 134 of 268 › view all entries
Leaving Gray and his friend to their own devices in Saigon, Mario and I are off for a two day tour of the Mekong River Delta. The south-westerly extremity of Vietnam where the ‘Mother River’, the World’s 12th longest finally reaches its terminus after a 2,600 mile journey south. This is something I hadn’t originally planned on doing, and a former travel pal advised me to avoid it, but “Hey, I’ve got a few days to kill so why not!”. This will prove in so many ways to be a regrettable and ill-fated decision.
Vietnam is highly efficient tourism-centred economy these days. As with Thailand, there is not a hotel, hostel, guesthouse or coffee shop in the land that can’t offer you some variation on tours or transportation package to do anything, and go anywhere anytime you want for the ‘right price’.
We board our tour coach early doors at 8.00(ish) and as we trundle out of morning-traffic choked Saigon our tour guide for the 2 days, Jaing, a child of the Delta himself (whose name appropriately means ‘River’) introduces us to our itinerary and some facts, cultural and historical, about the delta region of Vietnam.
The first leg of the journey is a fairly long coach ride down to the edge of the Delta region. Trundling bus travel time unfortunately constitutes a depressing large part of your time on this particular tour trip.
Having “umm’d?” and “err’d?” about which of the various trip ‘options’ to go for, despite our best efforts to avoid it, most of Day 1 of our journey boils down to little more than the usual tired sheep-like shuffle from one faux-cottage industry ‘craft’ site to another. I kinda knew this would be the case. We hop on a boat (nice in itself) and ride to near Dragon Island in the Lomg An or ‘Peaceful’ province of the Mekong Delta. The river at the Delta before infinitely fragmenting into the Gulf of Thailand splits into two main branches referred to as the ‘Front’ and ‘Back’ river.
Here in the middle of the ‘Front’ river we are taken to a Coconut Candy ‘factory’ where besides the waters edge women prepare and package fresh, sweet, chewy coconut candy; a big hit in Vietnam and southeast Asia generally we are told. I try some. Like some. Obligingly buy some and continue to chew. We are permitted a huge 25 mins to walk through the local village. Pretty much a one dust-street affair this is a ridiculous way to try to experience the ‘Real Vietnam’ of course as it’s just the latest of 50 zillion single file processions of baseball cap wearing tourists to parade in a dazed fashion up and down the road in recent years. Mario and I desperately lunge off the main thorough fair to try and get a ‘private audience’ with the island.
Other activities on the day are lunch on Turtle island, another boat trip back; a honey and sugared fruits farm; a fruit restaurant where we are treated (ever so briefly) to traditional Vietnamese Delta music and singing. At this point my early warning immune system bells begin to hum distantly that all is not quite right somewhere Below but I try not to let this further dampen a tedious day. We then have a pleasant, but as ever, lightening quick boat ride through the bamboo/mangrove lined watery canals of the Delta.
The rest of the day is an absolutely torturous 3 hour coach journey to the Dekta city of Can Tho where we will stay for the night. The traffic is incredibly bad here. I swear at one point we barely move for 30 minutes. It’s hot and sweaty and I am definitely beginning to feel unwell. There’s a diverting 15 minute ferry crossing involved in the journey to Can Tho, notable for Mario and I again with our fascination with the myriad swarms of motorbikes that populate this nation like a never ending, exhaust fume spouting locust swarm of the roads.
When we get to our hotel in Can Tho I am knowingly but seconds away from dire (diarrhetic) straits! I’ll censor the worst excessive descriptive details that would be possible to note at this point in the name of public decency. But it’s not pretty. I take the (I now know very wise) decision to bail out of the proposed home stay night in favour of staying put at the hotel where I know cleanliness and all city facilities will be close to hand should I need them. The last Mario hears of me before setting off himself is a resigned groan through a toilet cubicle door. The Mekong Delta tour has not got off to a pleasant start. It will get so much worse.