After our adventures with no sleep in Singapore (see: Day 1 – Singapore bound) we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s tricky to say how it felt coming off the plane and being thrown straight into Saigon traffic. It was just so different from anything I’ve encountered before. There was madness and chaos with everyone moving independently but somehow working together at the same time. It’s actually quite awing.
Turns out that for once my (Georgia) time was bang on. We managed to get out of airport transfer and meet our tour group as they were on the stairs leaving to go to dinner. Quickly rushing into the hotel, we went with the group for dinner and introduce ourselves to our fellow travellers (except for Josh who was doing his own private tour of Saigon at this time). During dinner, we could barely keep our eyes open and quietly excused ourselves so we could turn in for an early night.
Next morning feeling more human we jumped on a bus to go see the Mekong. During this time V (Tour leader and really awesome guy) gave us a bit of history and language lesson about the area. We learnt two key things. Saigon vs. Ho Chi Minh City is a preference (V prefers Saigon, and it became a habit for us on tour too) and one of the most useful phrases you’ll learn in Tiếng Việt is không cám ơn (no thank you). V told us a lot about Saigon infrastructure and how it had been set up to prosper but at the end of the American war, things fell apart.
The trip from Saigon to Mỹ Tho is about two hours, from there we all piled into a boat and crossed the Mekong. At this point I need to include this song as it is one that always comes into my head when I think of the Mekong Delta:
Now that is out of the way back to the tour!
Our first stop was a coconut candy factory. It was really impressive to see how the locals use every part of the coconut. I know I had heard it before but actually seeing it was another story. Joe also worked out why he doesn’t like coconut milk after watching how they extract it from the flesh. At this point, I brought some Durian coconut candy. I (Georgia) like it no one else seemed to.
From the coconuts, we jumped into Motocats. It needs to be noted that they are not tuk-tuks, tuk-tuks have roofs and are illegal in Việt Nam. We also discovered why we were wearing helmets, not for the standard health and safety concerns you might have in NZ, no it was more about protecting yourself from low-hanging palm fronds that will smack you in the head.
Pulling into a cafe, we were introduced to the local fruits (jackfruit, dragonfruit, sapodilla – tastes like a caramelised pear), hammocks and a little old place called a love shack. And yep. It’s just like the song. Except that it’s in a local cafe. And it is a shack, a proper shack. We were told that young couples would meet here before they got married to spend time together without their parents getting in the way. So yep, it’s a love shack.
Lunch was another short ride in the Motocats dodging low hanging powerlines. It was also our first chance to see what a real cockfighting cock looks like. Them legs. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a cock with spurs before. Lunch was a lesson in confusion as we hadn’t quite mastered survival Tiếng Việt yet. It is highly probably we ate dishes with the wrong accompaniments but that’s alright it was tasty all the same.
There was also a crash course on how to handle getting your boat stuck on the Mekong. An overloaded cargo boat prevented us from leaving the Mekong when we were supposed to. However, as they couldn’t go forward and we couldn’t go around we all just took naps in hammocks until the tide rose up enough for them to pass. We were able to cruise on back to our main boat on canoes and were rewarded with the first drinking coconut of the trip on our return. Delicious!
Hẹn gặp lại!
Georgia and Joe
Idiots travel tip #2:
Don’t sit on the side of the boat that crosses the Mekong in choppy water, at least 50% of you will end up wearing it.