Honestly, I had heard from countless friends how wonderful Vietnam was, but I didn’t have very high expectations. I knew the food would be good and the shopping would be cheap, but beyond that, I knew little else. When I decided to start my time in Vietnam I had two things on the list: Halong Bay and the Mekong Delta. I had visions of floating down a river surrounded by jungle, which is cliche, I know, but it’s cliche because it’s a flippin’ cool experience.
I booked a day tour through my hostel in Ho Chi Minh City. If I had more time I would have opted for a two or three day Mekong excursion, but unfortunately I did not have that luxury. I had planned on going alone but I had made a friend named Crystal on a food tour I had gone on the night before (post coming soon), and I convinced her to join me. We were picked up in the morning and set off in a small group towards the Mekong River Delta.
We made one rest stop at a pagoda built in the mid 19th century. Around the temple were three enormous statues of Buddha. Each were very different from a reclining Buddha to a jolly, Saint Nick, type.
Once we arrived in the delta area we disembarked from our bus and loaded onto a fast boat. Along the way we saw many floating houses and learned about the locals lives in the area. Our first stop was a fish farm, which unsurprisingly was a floating building filled with fish. There were only small planks of wood to walk from section to section of the building, it felt very precarious. There were about 20,000 fish to each container and it takes about 6 months for the fish to grow large enough to be “harvested.” I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this due to knowing that these fish are raised in such small conditions just to be eaten, but I will say it was fascinating and unlike anything I had ever seen before.
We then went deeper into the delta and transferred to a smaller fast boat. We came to a coconut candy making factory/building/thing. We learned the process of making coconut candy from start to finish and go to try and/or buy some at the end. It came in a variety of flavors from original to chocolate to peanut. I also tried a bit of snake whisky, which involves places a deceased snake into a jar filled with alcohol for months and it apparently gives it a special taste. Now, I already don’t like the taste of alcohol really and I don’t like the idea of doing that to a snake, dead or not, but it was a chance to try something odd, so I did. Not really a fan in the end, but it didn’t taste especially snake-like.
We learned about the local fruit such as the huge and heavy water coconut, the delicious jack fruit (that looks similar to durian but tastes and smells much better), and longan which looks like an eyeball.
We were served a large lunch of fish from the Mekong, fruit, and weird sticky bread orbs. I still have no idea what I ate, but it was good. The place we stopped for lunch was quite interesting beyond the orbs. There was an area filled with hammocks, a restaurant, and a number of animal enclosures. The animals consisted of crocodiles, frogs, and porcupines. Of course, this made me sad because the enclosures were not very nice, but they seemed to be fed well. It was a very odd place. We were then led to our next form of transportation, a motor-carriage-bike-trailer hybrid. We sped through the jungle and small town on our way to our final stop for the day.Once we arrived we were offered more fruit and an opportunity to hold a bee rack (complete with hundreds of bees) and/or a python. I, of course, volunteered first for both. The snake was beautiful but strong as fudge, he really wanted to turn around and look me in the eye. After I gave the snake back we were treated to a few classical Vietnamese songs. We had no clue what was being said and the singers and instruments didn’t seem to match up in the slightest, but it was still an interesting thing to get to hear. We decided the song was about a husband and wife having an argument about how he didn’t take out the trash. That’s a universal and timeless problem to have, right? Our final activity was my favorite of the day, the slow boat. We boarded four to a boat and slowly drifted down the river between masses of jungle foliage. It was a very surreal experience. The boat was paddled by an older woman with more arm strength than I’ll ever have. So, yes, maybe you can file this tour under “extremely touristy thing to do” day, but I honestly had a wonderful time. It was a bit of adventure, a bit of culture, and a bit of the abnormal. I will remember it for years to come and absolutely recommend taking a day or two out of you time in Vietnam to visit the delta region.