While waiting for the air-conditioning to kick in and cool down the hot and humid hotel room we had at the time, we started to look for trips away from the intense heat in Ho Chi Minh City. We found a tour called Mekong Delta River Tour which was highly recommended on TripAdvisor and it seemed like good value for money so we booked it and got ready for our pick up the next morning. The minivan and our guide Leo (no, it is not his real name but many people here choose a westernized nickname for some reason) came right on time and we started our day-trip along with four other tourists. On our way to the first stop, we had the chance to ask questions to Leo who answered them all and also told us some funny facts about Vietnam and Vietnamese people. Frida loves questions and took advantage of “question time”, asking as many questions as possible while the other tourists sat in complete silence all the way there. We learnt, for example, that because Vietnamese is a tonal language there are six different meanings to the word “Xin Chao” (Hello) meaning that if you don’t pronounce it perfectly, you might end up saying something slightly worse than Hello. We also learnt that Vietnamese people worship their ancestors by giving them food, money and all sorts of other things but that if one gift is too expensive, for example a motorbike or a money note, then they will just print it on paper and offer that instead. It’s supposed to work just as fine as real gifts… maybe something to try at home for Christmas 😉.
The first stop was the Xá Lợi Pagoda where we could see the laughing, standing and reclining Buddha, all representing certain meanings. Our favorite was the laughing Buddha which represents the future with his belly filled with health and happiness to the people. The next stop was the starting point of the boat trip and where we made our way on to the boat and started to head towards one of the islands located on the river. On arrival at the island we got to try some locally made honey, tea and fresh fruit while we listening to some Vietnamese folk singing in the background. The musicians ended their performance with “If you’re happy and you know it – clap your hands”, something we found quite amusing. We then walked down a narrow path to a shelter to see how they make coconut candy and had the chance to try snake wine, which turned out to be quite nice (if you ask Jack). After that, to a smaller river, a distributary channel in the middle of the island where we stumbled on to a small rowing boat. This place was absolutely chaos with all the tourists on the boats at the same time. It felt like we were in an amusement park sitting in a bumper boat crashing into everyone else from every angle. On top of that, when we noticed that the pretty little bird songs we were hearing were actually coming from speakers hidden behind the palm trees, we couldn’t do more than laugh and enjoy the rest of the ride. The tour ended with a shorter ride on a horse drawn carriage and a big lunch before heading back to mainland.
You do see a lot for your money, you just need to pretend that the other hundreds of tourists aren’t there, then it is quite enjoyable and you will learn a lot along the way.