I didn’t want to do the usual touristy stuff in Vietnam but that’s exactly what I ended up doing. It’s not that I was trying to be hipster it’s just that I wanted to write something different. Many bloggers have gone to the Mekong River and wrote about it so what more could I say that you haven’t heard of already? But I loved the Mekong River. It was a simple experience, but it was enough to remind me to focus on the joys of traveling and not dwell on the scamming incident that I had the day before.
One of the popular tours you can take in Ho Chi Minh is the Mekong River Delta. Vietnam doesn’t own the Mekong River okay, so if you hear someone say that “No, the Mekong River is in (insert the name of the country here),” don’t Kung-Fu the shit out of that person because this river flows through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, China, and Myanmar. But if he mentions a country that is not on that list then go ahead and Kung-Fu the shit out of that person.
Anyhoo, I availed the services of Happy Tour and again we were led by Cuonz, whom we’re better off calling by his English name, Andy to save us the trouble. The tour package rate is VND540,000 ($24 – PHP1136.52), with the inclusion of meal and a side trip to Vinh Trang Temple. [Read: How to Avoid Offending the Monks at Vinh Trang Temple]
I hardly talked with my fellow travelers during the Cu Chi Tunnel tour, save for Bing of course, but I was able to make friends during this tour. There were only 5 of us, Bing and I included, then a father and son, Huan and Steve, who are Vietnamese but are based in the States, and this tall white guy from Europe, Phil, who was traveling in his lonesome.
On our way to Vinh Trang we stopped by a nameless restaurant that has hammocks instead of chairs; well they did have chairs but only small ones. I was naturally confused whether I should drink coffee or catch some zzs; I tried the latter didn’t work so I went to the store owner, who seem to be a mother and daughter and asked for coffee. I said “coffee,” but they couldn’t understand me, so I said cà phê (that’s how they spell it). The girl’s face lit up in recognition then went to the back to prepare my coffee. In Vietnam, they like their coffee black and iced so that’s exactly what I got. I saw the girl pouring black liquid in a plastic cup, filled it halfway, added some ice to it then voila, I have my iced coffee.
As I went back to my hammock, I heard my companions guffawing over something. Apparently, the tall white guy fell on the floor as he was trying to sit on the hammock. I wanted to join in the fun but I didn’t witness the whole thing, so I guess I got blitzed. Aww man!
Our journey continued all the way to the port where we took a boat to get us to the river.
The Mekong River tour is not just about taking a boat ride across the river. There were other activities including free tasting of honey tea, which was so good I found myself singing Mariah’s Honey in my head. It reminded me of the delicious fruit tea of Bo Tan. [Read: Bo Tan Bubble Tea and Café]
And then got persuaded to buy some, but nope I didn’t buy anything. That’s what happens when you’ve lost a lot of money from a scam, suddenly everything seems expensive to you. To know about the scamming incident, click the link. [Read: Braving the Streets of Ho Chi Minh]
After the tea, we were taken to another restaurant where we listened to some women singing traditional Vietnamese music. Later on, I asked Steve what they were singing about. He said that the songs were in fact, depressing as they told the story of how fucked up a person’s life is. I was like wow, that’s heavy.
As the singer sang about how fucked up her life is, we were served a plate of fruits. There’s logan, dragon fruit, pineapple, chico, and rambutan. It was served with salt with crushed chili.
Eventually, Andy led the way to the small port where the boats for the tour are docked. Initially, I didn’t want to take the Mekong River tour because I was thinking, why waste money on a boat ride in a muddied river, without even a scenic view to enjoy along the way. Good thing, I changed my mind lest I would have missed one of the best things that you could ever experience in Vietnam.
How do I explain it? Well, let me try. Each boat is manned by one or two people. It is interesting to note that most of them are women. We were each given a non la (a traditional Vietnamese conical hat) to wear during the trip. Our boatman used a long stick to help the boat move forward. Soon we were sailing, to the view of the other boats navigating through the murky river. It was such a serene experience. I heard Andy singing a song and though I couldn’t understand a single word, I loved it.
Bing was busy taking pictures and selfies. I, on the other hand, was busy observing the other boats. I noticed that the boats on the other side of the river are empty while the boats on our side were carrying tourists. I figured the empty boats have dropped their passengers somewhere and they were sailing their way back to the port to get passengers.
The non la felt light on my head. I love that it is also comfortable to wear, in fact, much more comfortable than my straw fedora hat.
The cruise ended to an open area where all the big boats are. I was enjoying the cruise so much I found myself feeling a little disappointed that it ended quickly. Soon we were back on our boat, which took us to our next stop, the Coconut Candy factory.
Here we saw how the candies are made. Andy tried to explain to us the process but his accent was so thick I didn’t catch a thing. So I just took pictures and watched the factory workers do their thing. We were able to taste the candies in their just-cooked state hence they were still warm and soft. It was really good I gotta say. Again, I didn’t buy anything for reason already stated.
Food was not included in the Cu Chi Tunnel package, even when it was clearly stated in their promotional pamphlet that it includes meal, so when Andy said that this time there would be food I almost French kissed the poor fella from excitement. Don’t judge me, I love eating! I mean seriously, who doesn’t? [Read: A Crawl inside the Cu Chi Tunnel]
Andy took us to a restaurant where we feasted on fish, spring rolls, and vegetables. To be honest, I haven’t been enjoying Vietnamese food since I arrived because they are too damn healthy. I’m used to Filipino food where everything is fried you know, so switching to healthy food was a big adjustment. Anyway, on this restaurant, I truly enjoyed the food, still healthy, but at least, more flavorful than the food that I tried the day before.
On our way back to the city, I heard Steve and Phil talking about how Vietnam is like a whole new world in their eyes. The contrast of its culture, the people, food, and scenery are so different from where they came from that they were really fascinated. Obviously, I couldn’t say the same thing because there are many things in Vietnam that you can also see in my country. It’s probably the reason why I really appreciated the Mekong River tour. Sure, the Philippines has many rivers but definitely nothing like the Mekong River. I know I didn’t say something new about this tour, but I hope I’m able to convince you to take the Mekong River tour (if you haven’t yet) when you travel to Vietnam.