Thursday, March 27, 2014

Friday five: Touring the Mekong Delta.

We went the easy route and booked a two-day Mekong Delta tour through our guest house. TNK Travel knows what tourists want; unfortunately what tourists want isn't usually what we want and in hindsight we would've done more research and found a tour more our style... or just done it ourselves.

It was still fun, though, and we learned a lot about life in the Delta and in Vietnam in general, including these five things in no particular order:

1. There aren't many formal cemeteries, at least in this part of the country. Back in the day there were no land titles so people buried their deceased on the property in order to claim it. Tombs are arranged in a feng shui design to bring luck and prosperity to the home.

tombs on properties along the road

feng shui at our lunch spot

2. Fruit in the Delta is delicious!

sample 1

sample 2

we bought a nearly-eight-foot bunch

3. Floating markets are a way of life in this part of the country. We went to the "wholesale" floating markets rather than the "retail" floating markets but even the "wholesale" area was pretty amazing. Boats carrying heaps of sweet potato, watermelon, taro root, greens, whatever was in abundance would roll up to other boats to sell or exchange products.

stilt houses along the river



It was definitely weird being on a tourist boat watching people go about their daily lives. I'm not sure how we could've made this a more personal experience, though, and it was really cool to witness.

4. Coffee shops along the highways have hammocks because it's a great way to draw in business. Remember all those motorbikes? Riding hunched over like that for an hour or more, especially on such bumpy roads, tires you out. What better way to refresh than a cup of coffee and a nice stretch in a hammock?

hey Portland biker crowd -
get on this, will ya?

and get on this too while you're at it...

5. Rice noodles are made the old-fashioned way here. Rice paste is mixed with tapioca and a few other key ingredients, spread like a very thin crepe, steamed briefly, then left in the sun to dry.

rows and rows of future rice noodles

Then the "rice crepes" are hand-cranked through a machine that slices them into noodles.

slicing, no dicing

Yep, the tour was touristy but we learned enough to make it worthwhile. Honestly, it was nice just to have someone else doing the planning. It gives us more time to sit back and just enjoy simple things...

like the full moon over the Mekong Delta

and delicious pork buns

and the sunrise in Can Tho

Food notes:

  • A few meals were covered by the tour. The first day's lunch was very typical of what the locals eat.
pork, egg, rice, greens -
simple and delicious

  • We stayed overnight in Can Tho which had a surprising number of food options. In addition to the aforementioned pork buns we finally bought some fruit...

lychees at last

the lady said it was like watermelon,
but we think she meant cantaloupe

  • Can Tho has an entire street lined with food carts at night and it was difficult to decide what to eat. We ended up going with rice pancakes at the most crowded cart figuring the locals were on to something. We were right.
  • There's no shortage of street stalls either. While the rest of our group dined on overpriced restaurant food we enjoyed a nice lunch watching Can Tho go by.
lunching with the locals

Lodging notes: the tour included a night at Huy Hoang in Can Tho. Not a place we would've chosen (or would recommend) but a simple breakfast was included and it was just a short walk to the waterfront. And someone else took care of all the booking logistics.

Next up: Dalat! All we know is that it's quirky and artsy, and near pretty waterfalls and hiking, and there's a big body of water in the middle of the city. Sounds familiar...

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