"When I was in Nam"

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 9 › view all entries
With the bees.

There are no McDonalds in Vietnam, so that is reason enough to visit the country if you ask me...

After a tiring bus journey from Camobida to Vietnam we reached Ho Chi Minh city (formally Saigon).  We only had 7 short days in Vietnam but spent the first two days in the city due to John's bad belly and loose bowels!!  When he was feeling better I booked us on a two day trip to the Mekong Delta, to see a bit further afield...  The Mekong Delta is the region in Southeast Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of tributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southeastern Vietnam and we started by visiting the My Tho province which is a good few hours from Saigon.

Cheese!
  We went by boat along the upper river through a region where there are four islands with the names of animals found in the Buddhist religion - Dragon, Unicorn, Phoenix and Turtle.  Our first stop was Ben Tre, where we visited a coconut candy factory (a small outdoor hut where about ten people lived and worked on the banks of the river).  There they make sweets from coconut milk (no added sugar or preservatives here) and these are sold throughout Vietnam.  We had a chance to taste the sweets which were not bad - and thats coming from someone who doesn't like coconut! 

After a bicycle ride with our group through the local village, we stopped for lunch...Surprisingly, nobody choose the roasted squirrel option on the menu, definatly not, having just cooed at the live squirrels in the cages in front of the restaurant!  We walked along to a bee keeping farm where we could taste the fresh honey products and I was the only person in our group brave enough to hold the bee tray, which was swarming with stinging bees (without any protective equipment.

Me, with the two youngest girls, aged 7 and 9.
..bare handed!).  We also had a chance to hold a large snake that they had there (I forget which type of snake but let's just say the very large type!).  Even John had a go at this! :)

Next was a tropical fruit tasting session where some traditional Vietnamese music was being played. I have never seen most of the fruits before and tried to give them all a go, while John helped himself to the trays of pineapples on offer.  We were then rowed back down a narrow inland stream/waterway, where we had to keep our hands inside the boat for fear of losing fingers to hungry crocodiles.!  We whizzed down in no time as our fit rowers powered us through the water for an Indiana Jones experience.  We parted ways with some of the group soon after, as they were only on the one day tour, and we were then driven a few hours further into the jungle to Can Tho, a remote area in the Mekong Delta.

John playing ball with the kids.
  I had decided for us that we would take the option of a 'homestay' which meant staying with a local Vietnamese family overnight in Can Tho. 

After getting off our mini-bus 4 of us had to spread ourselves across one tuk tuk and a motorbike, with me ending up on the back of the bike clinging to the driver for dear life.....Sounds bad, but John ended up without even a seat, having to spread himself across the front of the tuk tuk and hope for a miracle.  We stopped in what seemed like a bus, built up area, and at first we were disappointed at the thought of not having a more rural stay.  But our fears were allayed when we were shown to a small longboat where we were about to be whisked many miles upstream.  Our driver was also one of the people living in our homestay, and we met his two beautiful children who were also taking the boat with us.

Sliding across 'monkey bridge'.
  On the way there they played games and laughed with us, and by the time we reached their house they were dragging us off the boat into their home....This was the trend for the night, as the kids kept us entertained and insisted we joined in their backyard games of volleyball.  There was little choice for us and the Aussie girl and English bloke who were also on the home stay with us.  There was very little English spoken by the majority of the family, so this was daunting but just encouraged us to make more effort. 

After a few games the family invited us in for food, and they were very welcoming and friendly as they ensured all our needs were met.   We dined on leaves, shoots, fish with head and tails and of course rice and rice paper, which on their instruction we combined together to make the equivalent of a Vietnamese burrito.

The Floating Market at Cai Rang.
  During dinner the eldest daughter, 19, joined us and conversed with us in her more than adequate English (she was the only one with any English so she was very useful to us!).  She is training to be a teacher in September, so I had a good chat about that.  After we had eaten we sat with the men of the house at their table in the kitchen, trying some buffalo stew (which was foul) and some really strong home made alcohol.  One of the English speaking guides from our tour had popped in to say hi, and through him we asked questions on how the family lived and went about their lives.  We were surprised to learn that the women who cook the meal (there are 3 generations in the house so this was grandmother, mothers and daughters) are not permitted to sit with the men to eat their meal, and have to wait until they are finished.
With some of our Vietnamese family.
  We enjoyed our chat and then went for a short walk to see some fireflys in a nearby tree.  We went to our bedrooms early that night since we had a 5.30 am start the next morning as this is when the family always rise.  Our bedroom was basic but clean and tidy, with no glass in the windows so we had to sleep under a mossie net. 

The next morning we were aching from the tiled bed we had slept on (how they do that each night Ill never know) and before sunrise we had a cold shower in their outside bathroom.  Our breakfast was bread (no jam or honey or butter! and some of the local fruits.  We then waved goodbye to the youngest girl who was heading off for some extra tuition with her school teacher.  It was nice to see the money the family earned from our homestay going towards her education.

Watch out for that crocodile!
  We then had our photo taken with the family before we were back on the boat for a morning of sailing about.  We cruised to Cai Rang, a large floating market where sellers came right up to our boat with their and sold us fruit and other items.  We had a quick stop to cross the 'monkey bridge', one made by the local villagers who chop down a tree and put a rail on one side only meaning you have to slide across like a monkey.  Soon we were back on the boat to another floating market, Phong Dien, where we watched the bustle between the traders.  After this it was time to head back to Saigon, stopping at the way at a pagoda..  We were very tired by now since we had been up before dawn to the sound of cocks crowing.  It was a really good experience and gave us a much better insight into how the Vietnamese live.
Some local food.
 

Back in Saigon we spent the next day at the war museum.  Outside the main building were loads of U.S tanks and fighter planes, all relics of the not so long ago war.  Inside we learnt all about the war from a Vietnamese perspective, which I have to say is very damming towards the U.S....There are countless stories of American brutality and un-necessary aggression (like using Agent Orange) which suggested that the Vietnamese bear a very serious grudge....All and all the museum was very interesting and it certainly was a good advert for peace as it reminded you of the horrors of war. 

We enjoyed Vietnam despite the fact that Saigon has very heavy traffic including 3 million motorbikes, which makes crossing the road much like a game of high stakes dare!  You have to walk out into the road as confidently as you can safe in the knowledge that the cars and bikes will see you and whizz around you.

The girls find something amusing...maybe it's us?!!
.. well thats the theory anyway... We managed to survive though, and prepared for ourselves for our looooong journey overland, back to Bangkok....

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With the bees.
With the bees.
Cheese!
Cheese!
Me, with the two youngest girls, a…
Me, with the two youngest girls, …
John playing ball with the kids.
John playing ball with the kids.
Sliding across monkey bridge.
Sliding across 'monkey bridge'.
The Floating Market at Cai Rang.
The Floating Market at Cai Rang.
With some of our Vietnamese family.
With some of our Vietnamese family.
Watch out for that crocodile!
Watch out for that crocodile!
Some local food.
Some local food.
The girls find something amusing..…
The girls find something amusing.…
Fish like we had for supper.
Fish like we had for supper.
Drinking some yummy bamboo juice.
Drinking some yummy bamboo juice.
Before going to school.
Before going to school.
Pineapple anyone?
Pineapple anyone?
Half way across monkey bridge.
Half way across 'monkey bridge'.
Rowing along the market.
Rowing along the market.
Whoo hoo! Look at me!
Whoo hoo! Look at me!
Vietnamese lady on her boat.
Vietnamese lady on her boat.
In the market.
In the market.
On the longboat.
On the longboat.
Children play in the rain in Saigo…
Children play in the rain in Saig…
The view from our balcony in Saigo…
The view from our balcony in Saig…
Our group on the boat.
Our group on the boat.
I am sooo funny!
I am sooo funny!
Outside the war museum in Saigon.
Outside the war museum in Saigon.
Trying to get off the boat as lady…
Trying to get off the boat as lad…
The tropical fruit.
The tropical fruit.
Trying some Dragon Fruit.
Trying some 'Dragon Fruit'.
The crazy way they drive in Vietn…