“It’s like a real life theme park!”, exclaimed my colleague, in awe, as we floated down the Mekong river in a long, wooden paddle boat- apparently waiting for the 100ft vertical drop waiting just around the next bend…
The Mekong Delta is lush, in both senses of the word. Lush!- as a younger me would have proclaimed every time I saw a puppy or a new jacket, or eaten a delicious sausage sandwich on a Saturday morning back in the Welsh Valleys. But also lush in the sense of tall vegetation lazily swaying in the gentle breeze, heavy and hydrated from the humid air in the run up to monsoon season.
Our guide was fabulous (again, this tour was organised by my workplace so I don’t have details unfortunately). A Vietnamese lady of traditional diminutive stature with a personality that sparkled like the sun on the rippling water. On the boat she encouraged us to sing our native songs (we were a mixed group of English, Korean, Taiwanese, American and Singaporean- to name but a few- so there was quite a variety!), then, jumping onshore she nimbly led us to the local coconut candy factory where we were heartily encouraged to dip our fingers into the creamy syrup of coconut flesh and caramel (it’s boiled afterwards, for those of you with big yellow health and safety beacons flashing!). Next, a shot of snake wine for the bravest among us. It tastes as you would imagine it- not to be sipped and savoured with delicate evening meal, that’s for sure! After this we were taken by horse* and cart to a local village, and encouraged to sit and eat fruit whilst listening to some traditional music. At every stop there was of course the opportunity to stop and buy trinkets, or leave a generous tip, but I’ll talk about that more later!
On our return we stopped at the Mekong Rest Stop for lunch and feasted on Elephant Ear fish, which we tore from the carcass like hungry cavemen and stuffed into spring rolls with fresh herbs and dipped in fish sauce. Glutinous rice was baked and brought to the table all puffed up, looking like something out of Jurassic Park! The dishes seemed to never end- spring rolls, cooked meats, salads… I had already eaten well on this trip, but every meal continued to surpass every expectation I had.
After lunch we returned to Ho Chi Minh City- just under two hours by coach- and rested for a while before a night that ended in a trip to “King Karaoke”. But I think it’s best if I leave what happened there to your blissfully ignorant imaginations 🙂
Have you ever been to the Mekong Delta?
*I actually found the trip on the horse and cart a little upsetting, as the heat was too intense to be working the animals so hard. Half of our group did the tour pretty much in reverse though, and missed the horse trip out, which I’m sure I would have preferred! Good to know for next time!