Masterpiece Trip 2017, Mekong Delta, Saigon, Vietnam

Hello Pt. 2 (Saigon -> Mekong Delta Transfer Day)

We got up early and had a quick, tasty, breakfast at the hotel. The fruit there was amazing, especially the dragon fruit, which I think is my new favorite. Deliciousness. We went back to the room and figured out what we needed to take for the next two nights on our boat with Mango Cruises, and everything else would be stored at the hotel since we were ending the trip there. My cold/cough was getting worse, which was bad timing, but at least I didn’t have a sore throat anymore.

We checked out of the hotel and waited in the lobby for our transfer, which arrived a few minutes before the meeting time. Huzzah for punctuality! I thought we would just have a driver, and didn’t realize we’d have the guide that we would have for the next couple of days. His name was Quang. A young guy who reminded me of someone in a weird way. Sal eventually figured it out: from the side he looked like a young, Vietnamese Martin Sheen. Hahaha.

Our drive was going to only be a few hours, which was nice as I thought it was supposed to be longer. We stopped about halfway there at the Mekong Delta Rest Stop. Yes, that was the name of it. It was like rest stops back home, and the toilets were Western with toilet paper (!!) and soap (!!!). Obviously nothing to dry your hands off with, though. Duh. We got a drink and checked out the shop/pond for a few minutes then hit the road again.

img_20171125_0909471949578249583790151.jpgBefore we knew it, we were let off at the end of this road and one of the staff was waiting for us. He took our bag and we followed him through this path area that wasn’t wide enough for a car. Here’s a pic/example:

img_20171125_100338307313716632436893.jpgHonestly it felt like we were going into the middle of somewhere, as opposed to the outside where the water and the boat would be. We kept walking and walking, and it was hot, and at one point I wondered if I should ask how far it was going to be. Right about that time we finally got to the boat!

img_20171125_1005471910785351051140119.jpg

This is a traditional sampan, and it was ours for the night. It came with one captain, one co-captain, one chef, and one hospitality services person. We also we had our guide, of course. Really pretty cool and it was larger than I expected. Our room even had AC, but more on that later.

You know it’s going to be good when they have a fresh coconut waiting for you and a cold towel.

img_20171125_100909_1627886365127918953.jpgMy hairdresser back home, who is originally from the Mekong Delta area, told me to make sure to have coconuts whenever I could. Good advice. They are delicious!

We already had an activity planned before lunch: hop on some bikes in our traditional Vietnamese hats (Sal opted out of the hat) and go see how noodles are made! Those hats provide a lot of shade and you can have a big head, like me, and it’s not a problem.

We then had a local tea and snack break. Next up was a ride in a small boat that was paddled by two local women, through a small, canal-like area that had a green leaf canopy in spots. It was so peaceful and beautiful.

20171125120514_img_27776791262104568198363.jpg20171125120236_img_27704787674931194366081.jpgAnd here is a video of the gentle ride

The ride ended at the larger waterway where our boat was, and it was lunch time. 

After lunch it was time for a rest and to watch life on the Mekong Delta. Here’s a few videos to give you an idea of what this working waterway is like.

Mekong Delta 1

Mekong Delta 2

Mekong Delta 3

It’s definitely a working river, and the number of coconuts we saw that day, whether in boats or on land being processed was nuts. Pun intended. It was pretty amazing! Eventually we stopped and saw how they use the fiber of the coconut to make twine. We got off the boat and walked on the fiber to get to where the machinery was and it was like walking on straw; very squishy.

Here’s a better idea of what the area looked like.

We took a little walk from there to where the plant was that processed the insides of the coconuts to make the milk, etc. There was one woman working and explaining in Vietnamese what they were doing. Or at least she was starting to explain a bit, and then someone else showed up and basically kicked us out. They didn’t want witnesses there for some reason. Was there some secret recipe, like KFT? I thought it was on our itinerary, but guess not! Sorta funny.

We had cocktails before dinner, while slowly cruising on the delta. There were so many boats going by, and again, so many coconuts! But even more amazing than the coconuts were the number of people who waved at us and/or yelled, “hello!”. These people from the Delta were so genuinely friendly that night; one small group on the pier we floated by even motioned to share their wine with us. People would call out from land, as well. While we saw a lot that day, this was my favorite part; interacting with friendly strangers. I went to dinner with a smile on my face.

We got to have a cooking demonstration by our young chef, as Q translated what was being done. I think our chef was only 21 or 22, but every meal we had was delicious.

We went to bed sort of early as it had been a long day. The bugs had started coming out, so the mosquito net was over the bed. The bad part about that was that it was warm even with the curtain closed and the air conditioner on. And that boat was loud (even with earplugs) and always moving. Sal got a fan and that helped with the temperature and I eventually fell asleep. I kept waking up, though, from coughing/choking from my cold which was getting even worse. Not good sleep at all that night, unfortunately, but otherwise a great day!

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