Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mekong via moto

So if you are offered the chance to ride a moto to the Mekong Delta, I would say you will have quite a sore bottom afterwards, but it is definitely the way to go. It is the end of day 2 in Vietnam and I have seen (as in literally seen) a max of 10 tourists, 2 of whom I had a chance to speak with. Everyone else I have talked and seen is Vietnamese.

I am currently staying in a 'hotel' in Ben Tre, a big island on the Mekong Delta. It is basicallly a guesthouse of a family that live here, complete with canals, fish farms, chickens, ducks and pet dogs.

I arrived here about 11.30 this morning after quite a long trip on the back of phung's scooter. He picked me up this morning from the hotel in HCMC and we took a ride to his house where I met his mother and got my first taste of Vietnamese coffee sweetened with condensed milk. The streets aroud have got venders and women selling chicken, fruit, vegetables and all sorts of food/non food items.

We then started the long, and i mean long drive to Ben Tre! However, it is quite pleasant and you get a great view from the back of a scooter. I will have to introduce you to the fashion of moto helmets - it is fascinating! Everyone does wear a helmet, and alot of the women particuly also wear masks to cover their face. I though originally the masks were to protect from dust etc, but was informed this afternoon its more to keep their skin pale and away from the sun! Anyawy, helmets. Street venders and the markets all have these helmets for sale which are mbasically a bowl-like hat, but there are all decorated ones, some to look like hats, very fashionable!

We did stop halfway thankfully at a rest stop on the side of the highway. These stops have hammocks in them which are very comfortable after a 1.5hr moto ride! On arrival you receive a nice cold wet towel to clean you face. its amazing how grubby you get, or maybe it was just me that got grubby! This pic shows me on our rest break... all tired and dirty!

When we arrived at Ben Tre I got lunch at the hotel which was a big fish and some fresh herbs and vegetables to make into rice paper rolls. i literaly got a whole fish on a plate which i'm guessing was fried (gutted but complete with scales)and standing up on a plate between some posts. It is a case of guess work sometime as to what to do-whether to use hands and fingers or chopsticks. I tend to wait a bit for example so I don't do the wrong thing! The mother of the house came and took the meat off the fish with a chopstick (scraping the scales off) and i ate half of the fish, the rest of which she put together into rice paper rolls with noodles, mint, basil, tomato and cucumber. yum! I was very full after this - I don't think i've eaten a full fish before. I then tried ice coffee - it literally is more ice than coffee but they do the same with tea.

After lunch we went into town to go on a boat ride through the Mekong Delta. This ended up being quite a bit more expensive than I had anticipated (also its confusing when Dong ends up in the millions and figuring that out in dollars!) but as I discussed with them later, it is because I'm on my own. When there is a group, the tours cost less per person as you share the cost around. The money bothered me a bit, but I grew to be okay with that as I know it was being shared around the people on the many sights I got to see.

I saw the 4 major islands of the area, visiting the coconut temple, saw coconut candy being made (i liked the one with ginger added, but too much and i felt a bit sick), wandered around the fruit gardens seeing where alot of the fruit grew. It is interesting to comprehend how alot of the things we apreciate in the west, are highly ikely made by hand by people in countries like Vietnam. For example, ladies were embroidering intricate patterns on shirts, tablecloths and things by hand, and the coconut candy was all cooked, moulded and wrapped by hand!

I also got to try alot of the local fruits, including dragon fruit which interestingly enough inside is white with black spots (I never knew that!). There was a bee farm on this particular island. Bees in vietnam are very nice! Not like australia where they get a bit aggro and will sting you, the vietnamese bees were quite happy for me to stick a finger into the honey comb to try!

I am finding that I feel at home here. It is strange how I feel more at home in a foreign country where i know no one and nothing, than i do in my 'homeland'. I don't quite understand how that is. It seems that change is necessary for me.

Anyway I have been unsocial by updating for long enough.. Tomorrow back on the moto and heading back up to Can Tho and the floating markets and Saigon again.

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