Continuing our exploration of southern Vietnam with Mr. Vu, today we did a day trip to the Mekong Delta. Mostly the day consisted of floating along the waterways of the mighty Mekong in a sampan (traditional, flat-bottom wooden boat). The Vietnamese call the Mekong the Nine Dragons River Delta because the estuaries look like nine dragons from above. The river looks brown and dirty because of the current but is rich in biodiversity. Life on the Mekong revolves around the river and the area is steeped in tradition. Fishing boats are brightly painted with dragon eyes for good luck and to scare away alligators and crocodiles. The Mekong is where you will see simple floating villages and vibrant floating markets. Near our port of departure, we also saw a huge floating slum, a reminder of the poverty that is still so prevalent in this country.
Our favorite part of the day was visiting the home of a local coconut farmer. He did not speak any English but he had the warmest smile and was most welcoming. He gave us a tour of his home and coconut grove and allowed each of us to pick coconuts. Back on his patio he used a machete to hack into the coconuts and in that simple and quiet setting, we enjoyed the freshest coconut water we’ve ever had. It was pretty idyllic, aside from the old man’s creepy son who we nick named Ruprecht because of the way he leered at Katie from the kitchen window.
Some other stops of the day included a tour of a coconut candy “factory” (if you could call it that), a horse-drawn carriage ride (horrible), sampling tropical fruits while listening to traditional music, lunch of local cuisine and a visit to a very colorful Cao Dai Temple on the way home. It was a lot to squeeze in, and in hindsight the Mekong is an area that deserves more than one hurried day, but of course we were glad to see it.