We rose bright and early for breakfast in the hotel before boarding a bus to the Mekong Delta. A couple of hours later we arrive and pile into a tourist boat with a driver and a female tour guide. The boat drove us around one of the waterways, while the guide told us about life on the Delta. Most of the boats have creepy eyes painted on the hull to ward off river monsters, thought to be the crocodiles which have now been hunted to extinction. We saw lots of floating houses and houses with stilts built into the river bank. Our guide told us that some house boats farm fish, and have nets suspended underneath which can grow up to 30 thousand fish a year. We also saw a huge flat boat, which apparently is used to transport sand collected in the Mekong Delta to Saigon.
After our introductory tour, we stopped at Unicorn Island to see life on land. We went to a small house and saw pigs, ducks and tiny kittens, and then walked up the road to see bananas, coconuts, dragon fruit, ‘fish egg’ fruit (tastes like sweets) and jackfruit all growing in peoples’ front gardens. Our guide then took us to sit in the shade to try a variety Mekong-grown fruits, including pineapple, dragon fruit, papaya and mini bananas, all served with tea and musical accompaniment.
**WARNING** This post was draft written 3 years ago and I’ve only just my lazy arse around to finishing it. Everything from here on was written from a combination of notes and a fading memory…
After a random afternoon of music and fruit, we got back on the boat to another island, where we were transferred in twos and threes to our rowing boats! We rowed through narrow canals with overgrown trees either side – very Little Mermaid ‘Kiss the Girl’ esque. Except I was on a boat with two other girls, so no romance here thank you! After about an hour we stopped at another (very)mini port and tied the boats up. We were headed to a coconut sweet factory but stopped at a sort of open air cafe on the way (probably because another tour group was already in the factory, but with our elusive tour guide, we never knew!). At the cafe we tried some sweetened coconut (like crystalised ginger, very yummy) with a sort of orangey tea (yuck). For some very random reason there was an ENORMOUS snake in box which the cafe people took out and let us drape it around our shoulders and take pictures. I eventually plucked up the courage to hold this thing – which was not an entirely enjoyable experience! It was weird and smooth and cold and heavy, and I subsequently decided holding a potentially deadly animal was not exactly my cup of tea. Orangey flavour or not.
After our snakey tea experience, we eventually got taken to the coconut sweet factory. It was cool to see how the coconut was mixed with water and heated to form a sort of toffee. They then used rice paper to wrap it up, which as it’s edible can be eaten wrapped up with the sweet to avoid sticky fingers. Very clever! I bought lots back for the office, but ended up eating most of it myself. We then got another boat to a rather snazz open air restaurant for a very yummy seafood lunch with noodles. I remember there being an ENORMOUS butterfly, which had the most beautiful colourful wings I’ve ever seen. Sadly it soon was being chased across the ceiling and then devoured by a couple of geckos. It’s a dog eat dog world out here!
Boaty day over, we got tuk tuks to our next homestay. This was a slightly more formal affair; rather than sleeping in the house with the family, this time we were sleeping outside on campbeds (or hammocks for those who wanted) which were draped with mosquito nets. We took a walk around the village paths and climbed over bamboo bridges. We were soon back for dinner, which comprised marinaded and barbecued rat, caught by the homestay family from the surrounding coconut trees. They said it was the best rat you could have because the rats are just gorging themselves on coconut all day. I’ve not exactly got much to compare it against, but it was definitely yummy! We also had banana flower (weird and squishy), morning glory (like pak choi), yummy chicken noodles and coconut lemongrass curry. It was amazing! I definitely think the homestays were the best bits of the whole holiday, particularly because of the food they served. After a desert of lychees and numerous ‘digestifs’ of rice wine, we were shooed to bed at about midnight by our guide. Falling asleep we could hear the crickets chirping and the rats running around in the coconut trees….an odd mixture of creepy and idyllic!