Mekong Delta Travel Blog› entry 35 of 105 › view all entries
Knocking on my door brought me into conciousness. I was suprised the early morning noise hadn't done that already. Manic traffic densley packed the streets and as soon as i stepped onto the road i was hit by the locals trying to make a sale whether it be designer sunglasses, nuts or moto rides. I gathered by the travel agency where my tour was departing from and just people watched until our bus arrived. One of the guys in the group was a huge aussie with a bare skull and a laugh like a choking seal. But don't judge a book by its cover; he was a really nice bloke. A lot of diversity in the group. Young ones like me. Old ones hitting their late 70's. Malaysians, Aussies, English, Germans, Vietnamese, Americans, Italians, Japanese...and some unknowns. I wasn't hopeful when stepping onto the bus, realising the sheer number of us and the tour guide hooked up a mouth piece to a portable loudspeaker he attached to his hip. He had a guitar and started playing Malyaisan Tunes on the way to the Delta. It looked like one of those right typical and horrible touristy trips. To make things worse, we were instructed to wear the tour labels which hung from around our necks and emphasised the fact that we were tourists. Although that would have been pretty obvious already. On the positive side it was a beautiful day and i was in a beautiful place. We loaded onto a motor boat and travelled across the river which was unimpressive but reached the islands which were. Our first stop was a coconut candy workshop where the locals make candy from shredded coconut. Although all the tourists hit this spot it was actually really cool and the candy was damn tasty. They burn the coconut skin to heat the fires which turns the coconut creme into this lovely syrupy liquid which is then cooled and harderned into long strips of candy before being cut up into little pieces and wrapped up in a ridicolous speed by the workers. I had to buy a pack. It was 20000d for a bag of 40pieces. Bargain. Although when it came to eating the things I got annoyed. There was what i thought, a thin wrapping of plastic around the candy which was impossibly difficult to pull off the sweet and left a sticky mess as the sun melted the sweet. I only came to realise later that it was in fact clear rice paper and so was fine to eat. We also tried: coconut candy with nuts, with chocolate, with pineapple. Banana caramelized chips. Banana/Coconut wine and Scorpion/Snake wine. The latter two are made by simple taking rice whiskey and drowning a snake or scorpion in the liquid (after having its venom extruded). It tasted alright. Nothing special. They also sold a perculiar venom creme which was a creme and snake venom mix to use on bites, from snakes. Don't quite understand that. We then got the chance to ride around the island (on extremely rusty bikes that barely managed to turn) for 30minutes, following dirt roads under the shade of palm and coconut trees. Strangely many locals have tombs in their gardens where they keep the bodies of their passed love ones. I found it quite eerie and don't like the idea of having that constant reminder, sitting there in your back garden. Lunch followed and i sat down with a New York Chinese Women and two Italians who were very much gentlemens, calling each woman they spoke to "Madam". We went to honey bee farm where those willing got to try raw honey straight from the honeycomb by sticking their finger through the mass of small bees which covered the comb. It tasted good and we next had a seriously delicious tea mixed with honey and the juice from a small but very sweet orangey/lime type fruit. We drank this with a selction of dried exotic fruits under the shade of dragonfruit trees. Suddenly there was a rather huge python that a guy pulled out of a wooden cage, which i hadn't realized was sitting a few metres from us. We had the (free) opportunity to hold the snake. I have never done this before as I don't particularly like snakes and have passed up on the opportunity twice before. But, I told myself that i will try everything at least once on my travels (within certain boundaries of course) so the guy plonked it on my shoulders and it straight away began to wrap its body around my shoulders and leg. It was suprisingly heavy and its skin felt nice but very strange, nothing like i have touched before. Two older men also had the snake hung over their necks. The one, who was Iranian and probably approaching his late 70's, grabbed the snake just under its head and kept kissing it on the head and its mouth as someone took a picture. I wasn't brave enough to attempt that. The guy who owned the snake had to grab the snake out of the old blokes clutches as he was squeezing its neck too hard. We walked to yet another spot where we tried all these fresh exotic fruits while a group of locals played us traditional Vietnamese music, which i am not all that too keen on. It's one of things I just can't get to like. Instrumentals are fine, but that coupled with the singing just doesn't work (for me anyway). The next part was lovely. We took a row boat and glided silently without the noise of a grinding engine, along the rivers which snaked their way through the island. The banks were lined with palm and banana trees which hung over the water and created a partial canopy which softened the suns rays. A bus journey to a different island and then a boat ride crossing the Mekong River as the sun set, passing urban river dwellings and arriving at a brightly lit town where we would find our nights accomodation. I was suprised to find that only me and the older Iranian man had opted for the homestay (it was $2 more) and was glad that the moto ride took us 30minutes away from the busy town to the family who were giving us a room for the night. We passed over dark bridges, leaving the bright lights of the town and made our way down riverside roads which gave way to dirt paths before arriving at our spot. The house was basic and set right on the river. It was a dark night and mossies swarmed to the lamps which gave us light. The family consisted of a mother, father, 3 children and the two grandparents. Friendly people who sat us down and brought out an incredible dinner. They had caught an "elephant" fish from the river along side their house, and had also made these real tasty spring rolls with an unrecognisable but delicious filling. They showed us how to eat the fish. You take a sheet or rice paper, add a healthy plonk of fish, and then include some noodles and various vegetables before wrapping up the contents into a roll which you then dip into a chilli sauce mix. It tasted wonderful. We washed down the meal with tea and banana wine before walking along the river, spotting floating fire flies which drifted over the water. I fell asleep by the river in a hammock before finding my way to my bed where i sank into a deep sleep.