Mekong Delta – A day Trip

After spending our first day in Vietnam exploring some historical monuments of Ho Chi Minh city, we spent the next day experiencing South Vietnamese sights, food and culture through a day spent in the Mekong region. We used Winter Spring Homestay’s tour which I fully recommend as we loved it wholeheartedly. The tour included several items like a visit to the Cai Rang Market, Noodle Making, visiting a fish farm, Cooking, and eating authentic south Vietnamese food, a wooded boat ride to name a few. From our hotel in Saigon (the colloquial name for Ho Chi Minh city), it was a 3-hour drive so we left at 3.30am to get to Mekong in good time so that we could see the sunrise over the market.

At the end of the drive, we reached a small river side town from where we would take a boat to check out the Mekong Floating Market. It is one of the oldest markets in Vietnam and this river is one the places that has been a hub for trade for ages. It is mostly a wholesale market where farmers sell wares to local retailers from their houseboats. The large boats were all mostly anchored in the river while retailers who were buying goods moved about in smaller boats like the one we were on. The way people display their wares is also very cool, the owners string a sample their produce on a wooden pole. The places sold everything from sweet potatoes to pineapples.

After exploring the market for a while, we pulled up to a food vendor who was selling food of her boat in the middle of the river. We tried some traditional pho (delicious) and Vietnamese Coffee (also delicious but super strong). The set-ups for restaurants were varied from single boats on the river giving out dishes to full on barges with carriages as seating.

As the open river stretch got sunny and hot our boat steered through a canal off the river which was in a shaded and wooded area of the river. The canal was flowing through a local riverside village in a forest. The water surface was covered with plankton and the foliage protected us from the sun. It was incredibly picturesque. The townsfolk were often on the porches of their houses so we always waved as we passed. The river towards the end ran quite close to a road.

It was very interesting to see the efficacy of the workers there and processes they used to make noodles. They actually have noodles in various colours from completely natural vegetable dyes. The steps are surprisingly simple. Grind some rice into a batter, make a circular crepe on a huge pan, move it into the sun and let it dry. The dried crepes are pushed through a shredder, and we then had to catch the noodles as they fell below the shredder. We each had a try my mother caught every single noodle while I caught maybe half. We also purchased some dried noodles for home.

On the way out we were gifted a bird made of pandan leaves by some people outside, it was surprisingly detailed bird. Back on the boat we tried some steamed banana and coconut cakes (delicious) bought from another food seller. Then we hopped onto one of the big houseboats and got to try some fresh pineapples that they were selling. After the snack we were dropped of at the port by the boatman., Then our car took us to a local village to an old house that the owner family had opened to the public. The house was incredibly opulent, featuring traditional wood carvings, paintings, and furniture. The tour guide showed us movie scene pictures hanging on the wall from a French film in which this house had actually been featured. We looked around the house and the surrounding grounds before proceeding to another boat jetty, from where in a local boat we were ferried to a fish farm.

The fish farm had some very interesting types of fish. All of them lived in a huge open-air tanks. We would toss food grains into the water and the fish would erupt forwards to catch the food as you can see in the pictures. The coolest fish were ones that ate insects, if you dangled an insect over their tank, they would shoot water pellets from their mouths at your fingers to make you drop the insect. There was one tank where visitors were invited to dip their feet for fish pedicure. We were not fans of the tingling sensation they created. Still the fish farm had some really cool fishes and things to explore.

A little later we took a different boat to go to Can Son, here we would see flying fish at a local fish farm. The fish leaped out of the water to catch food tossed in the air, it looked really cool. From there we took a bit of a walk to a village farmhouse to enjoy a South Vietnamese Lunch.

We also got to help cook some desserts; it was a simple but elegant dish. Our job was to spread sweetened rice dough on the side of some green leaves and then rolling up the leaves like in the picture. The leaves were then steamed, and we ate the steamed rice dough with sweet coconut milk.

The food here was also great, we got to try crepes, fish, chicken curry, pork, and a salad. The style of eating involved taking multiple bits of food in the rice crepes or on a large leaf and then roll it up and eat after dipping in various sauces. The main delicacy of this feast was deep-fried frog legs. They tasted a bit like chicken but were a bit bony for me). We also tried fish sauce; it was delicious. The desert we helped make arrived last, but we were too full to indulge properly. After lunch we stretched out on hammocks and relaxed for a bit.

That was pretty much it, after this we walked back to the port, took a boat back to our car and drove back to Saigon It was a lovely day spent exploring the sights and tastes of Mekong and South Vietnam

Tips –

  • Be open to the new food and culture you will see in Vietnam.
  • Be careful about the bookings you make as there are a lot of options including group tours, I believe a solo tour is more private.
  • On the tour listen to the guide as they share a lot of interesting notes on the history and culture of the place.
  • DO NOT try to swim in the delta 😉.
  • Enjoy the experience.

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