Before we sent Mom and Dad back to Canada, we had one more adventure for them…. we were headed on down to the Mekong Delta!
The ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, where houses, boats, and markets all float along the non-stop canals, rivers, and streams of the Mekong River. This southernmost section of Vietnam is a beautifully lush area full of rice fields and riverside villages. It was one of the ‘must-sees’ on Mom and Dad’s list of places to visit in Vietnam, and there was no way Shawna and I wanted to miss out either…. so off we go.
We have been travelling nearly nonstop since my parents got here, and so a day after our 8 hour Nha Trang-Saigon train ride, it came as a surprise to none of us when we boarded a bus early the next morning and spent the next 4 hours headed out to Can Tho, the ‘big city’ of the Mekong. Fortunately this was only the base for us, and as soon as we stepped off the bus, we were taxied away some 8kms out of town to Hung’s Homestay. We hadn’t even made it out of the bus station parking lot however when Mom and Dad realized they had forgot their one and only suitcase underneath the bus….but once we go that sorted, there was nothing stopping us – we were Mekong bound!!!
We had found Hung’s Homestaythrough a quick Trip Advisor search, and decided to roll with it. What an amazing choice it turned out to be!
Hung has built 14 small bungalows, half of them along the bank of the Mekong River. They aren’t anything too fancy, but we really were looking for a place that was a bit more authentic Vietnam, and this place fit the bill perfectly. Each bungalow has a toilet, shower, mosquito net and a small patio… what else do you need?
We had arrived in the hottest part of the day, and so Hung suggested we just relax for a few hours until things ‘cooled down’. Never wanting to argue with someone who suggests drinking a few beer and playing cards, the four of us immediately went to our patio havens and proceeded to do exactly that.
It is absolutely mind boggling the volume of water that flows in and out of the Mekong Delta area with the tides. As we sat their riverside, the tide was low at about 2:30PM. Low enough that the lone fisherman we saw was actually standing in the water. We couldn’t believe it when three hours later the water had risen nearly 6 feet!!
Hung took us on a small walk later that afternoon, showing us what day-to-day life is like in his village. This included a visit to the local weaving shop, as well as running into dozens of the happiest children we have ever seen! Smiles and waves were bountiful everywhere we looked. We then took a boat back to the bungalow, roaring across the now full arteries of the Mekong.
Dessert consisted of rice wine, which we all sampled, some of us a little more greedily than others!
But it was indeed early to bed – Hung had a big day on the water planned for us in the morning, and sleeping in was NOT an option!
We have been so lucky health-wise on this trip, but alas, when we woke up in the morning it was Shawna who decided she was going to be MIA. She had run into a rather unfortunate flu bug (which she likely caught from me), and so after I promised to take as many pictures as possible for her, she flopped back into bed and the rest of us slid into the boat ready to explore the Mekong.
After a simple breakfast on the boat, our route wound up and down the watery lanes of the Mekong for over 17 kms! Our initial stop was at the Floating Market. Every day locals come from far and wide to the market to pick up the produce, meat, and other supplies which they need. For those who sell at the market, this is truly a lifestyle, but according to Hung it is one that is dying. The young people who live in the area are no longer interested in sitting on a boat all day selling their wares. For them they see much more opportunity in the big city of Saigon or nearby. It is Hung’s opinion that the Floating Market may cease to exist as time passes, and the youth all move to urban centres as opposed to following in the footsteps of their parents.
The rest of the morning consisted of stops at a rice paper workshop (to make rice noodles), a plant seedling farm, a rice field, the Monkey Bridge, and a rice husking mill.
The rice husking mill was the most interesting part of the day for myself. Did you know that rice actually starts out as brown rice, but the ‘brown’ is basically polished off in huge drums and fed to animals!? This leaves them with their much preferred plain white rice. All these years, I actually thought that brown rice came from a different plant than it’s white brother-from-another-mother. But nope….same plant, one of them has just had a little sandpaper taken to him.
And that pretty much concluded our short but awesome time in the Mekong Delta. It was one of many of our Vietnam highlights…thanks to Hung for enhancing this experience for us. It was incredible value! If you are ever planning to visit the area, be sure to look him up. His mobile is 0838 333 468.