The Mekong Delta

15 June 2012

The final day of our tour was spent on the Mekong Delta.  It's one of those place names I remember talking about in Geography, and for some reason stuck in my brain as an interesting name.  So it was kinda cool to see it for myself.  Another early start saw us taking a bus on the newest and I think the tour leader said only piece of motorway in Vietnam.  On the way we were surprised to see men working on the power transmission lines – apparently just sitting up there, doing whatever they were doing.  Everyone scrabbled to get their cameras out in time to take a shot from the bus.

Men sitting on the powerlines.

We arrived in the delta and caught a boat around the islands in the delta.  Large islands, some with hundreds of people living on them.  We disembarked at one and were led through a little jungle path to a village where we were given a short tour and some morning tea.  As we sipped our drinks a local group played and sang for us and encouraged us to join in with them.  

(I'll try and upload a video or two when I have the time - they take forever!!!)

All around us the thick tropical rain was falling heavily.  When the rain cleared we said our thanks and headed back to the boat and on to the next island. 
Here we were shown through a workshop making coconut lollies.  We were shown the process and how every part of a coconut is used for some purpose or other.  I was interested to find that if you press fresh coconut flesh the first product you get is coconut ‘milk’ then if you keep pressing it you get coconut oil.  They gave us a sample of some freshly made caramels which were still hot, but so soft, chewy and tasty.  Something along the lines of a coconut Mackintosh’s toffee.  Needless to say we all bought several packs at the end of the tour.  The mixture is poured out into a mould or long strips maybe an inch wide, where it is cooled a little then turned out and cut into individual pieces by one lady.  Another then takes these and wraps each piece in a small square of edible rice paper.  The next lady then wraps these in papers printed with the correct flavour and then they are packaged for sale.

The machine for making shredded coconut.

The toffee cooling in strips.

The workers cutting and wrapping the lollies.

After the tour of the workshop, which interestingly had no walls and was just a large room with a floor and thatched roof, we were taken for a short walk to watch women making rice paper.  On the way we passed a snake handler and were given the opportunity to wear a python.  I’m not sure if it was just because most of our group were Australians and snakes are so ho-hum for them, but only me and one other guy were interested, and so we were draped with a snake about one and a half metres long.  I was surprised to find it didn’t feel like I thought it would, somehow softer and less scaly than I expected, and while not warm, not as cold as I expected.  One of the women in our group had a go making rice paper, with limited success.

 Afterwards we were led to a narrow stretch of river within the island that leads out to the greater delta ‘sea’, where we were put into canoes of four people and paddled with the current back to our boat.  Our next destination was a large island where we were separated into two groups and put on the back of what were sort of motorcyles with large trailers on the back for us to sit in.  Then we were driven at speed through the narrow streets, ducking under the leaves of trees as we went, and stopping for oncoming vehicles to pass.  Scary and fun!  We were delivered to lunch at a sort of guest house or campground, I’m not sure, where we served again with a number of very yummy courses.

I can’t recall how we got back to the bus, but on the journey home we stopped at a temple of a religion our tour leader had told us about earlier that has it’s origins in Vietnam, called Cau Dai.  A very brightly painted building, with paintings of Mohammed, Jesus, Confucius, and several other people I can’t remember the names of for worshipping.  Some sort of complicated all religions religion.  I forget the details, but the tour leader wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of it.

We finished the day with another amazing dinner, and then drinks in town.  We were spotted miles off by the bar staff, and enthusiastically encouraged to take up the tables on the street corner, even though this involved the staff getting the people currently occupying the seats to move somewhere else.  I can only assume they saw $$ in their eyes, but I suspect they were disappointed as we only stayed for a couple of drinks then went home.  The bar was very western and the staff very pushy.  The only difference was the number of people coming up to us asking if we wanted to buy books, cigarettes, fans, cards, etc.  There was also a small child who challenged the guys to a game of pool, and promptly won, though I don’t think any money changed hands.


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