Nice to Meet You, Ho Chi Minh City [Part III]!
Out of the many list of Ho Chi Minh must visit attractions, I really wanted to experience the Mekong Delta. Thankfully, many friends in our work group also does too! With enough interest, RK, MR, LF, RY, SK, EG, GG, CC, and I booked a private tour! 🙂
I woke up in a panic after sleeping through my silent alarm. Guess I got too excited for the trip and forgot to switch on the sound. We were supposed to meet up at 7:30 am in the lobby and I woke up at exactly 7:30 am. I stormed around the room like a tornado and got dressed within 5 minutes. Phew! Thank you everyone for not leaving me behind!
We set off for the three hour drive to Cai Be. On the way to the port, we saw the rural countryside with beautiful green terraces, large extravagant temples, and undeveloped land. It was a quite a contrast from the busy commercial center, Ho Chi Minh City.
Arrived at a small fisherman’s dock, we boarded a motorized boat and headed for the floating market. Mekong Delta is known as Vietnam’s “Rice Basket”, a fertile area spreading nearly 50,000 sq km. Villagers rely on the river as a major trading channel.
Along the river’s bank, we passed by stilt houses, docked houseboats, and natural creeks. Since trading began before the break of dawn, most of the businesses had concluded their day. At this hour, villagers were either relaxing on their houseboat or busied with chores. We were very excited and surprised to see a little boat paddling up to another boat to trade a variety of fruits. What a sight it would be to see all the commercial activities take place!
Our boat dropped us off nearby a village where we walked through several local shops.
At the first shop, we first sampled honey tea and some dried fruit snacks. While we were browsing the shop, CC and I found the legendary snake wine! Little cobras were soaked inside mini bottles of alcohol! How do they fit them in so perfectly? Are the snake actually dead or simply drunk?!
Side Story: CC and I were looking at some postcards when all of a sudden she screamed. Apparently the postcards were set up right above a snake cage! We were standing right next to the cage! Holy cow! That was a close call!
We made our ways to the next shop. A lady was making the rice paper used for Vietnamese spring rolls. She spread a thin layer of batter onto a cloth that is stretched over boiling water. A few seconds later, with a long narrow stick, she gently lifted and moved the cooked sheet to a cooling bamboo rack. And this is why rice paper often has a design on it! Who knew?!
The next shop is a coconut candy factory. A worker stretched and pulled the salt water-taffy/toffee-like paste until it is long and flat. Measured against a ruler, he quickly sliced each piece. Then another worker individually wrapped each piece with rice paper. I am not a fan of coconut, but it tasted pretty delicious! I even bought a pack to take home! 🙂
We continued down a path to an old lady’s home/shop. She makes these crunchy rice cake. The sample we had was delicious! She was super sweet by constantly feeding us. 🙂
The last shop we visited is a rice popcorn factory. A man walked us through the steps of popping rice. He poured rice into a large hot pan with black sand. With just a few stir, the rice began to pop. All the contents were then pour into a pan to filter out the sand. Rice popcorn tasted similar to popcorn but more bland and healthier.
We headed back to the water for the most memorable part of the day. We switched to a rowboat to paddled down a small canal. Palms and ferns lined the river on either side. It felt like we were in a different world! 🙂 The ride was very scenic and serene experience. I even got a chance to wear the comical hat! 🙂
Our motorized boat picked us up at the end of the canal and we headed to a small village cafe. We were offered drinks and local fruits to sample. I reconfirmed my disliking for jackfruits…thought my taste buds had changed…nope! We were treated to local performance by a Vietnamese couple. It was pretty entertaining! Their performance reminded of me of those canto operas that Grandma used to watch.
Finally it was lunch time! A waitress brought out a number of dishes to us. A fish with all its scales is the most interesting. We attempted to figure out some of the foods, whether it is fish or pork or chicken. Unfortunately, our tour guide was nowhere to be seen, we took wild guesses. Our Muslim friend, LF accidentally ate pork for the third times during this Vietnam trip…#wereallyneededatranslator
After lunch we boarded our boat for last tour of the floating market. With that, our one day tour of Mekong Delta concluded. We were all exhausted and readied for a shower. We bid farewell to our friendly tour guide for sharing an eye opening look to the life on the Mekong Delta. 🙂