Thursday, August 05, 2010

Vietnam Diary Part 2: The Mekong Journey

Day 2 - April 30: The Mekong Journey

Today we will have a scheduled one-day tour in southern provinces of Vietnam. This tour was scheduled yesterday in a nearby travel agency found near our hotel. Actually, there were many tour agencies around Pham Ngu Lao street that offers various tour packages for a tourists... all you have to do as a first-timer in Vietnam is to choose which tour agency gives the best tour package at a right price. At 8:00am, we were picked up by the tour bus at the agency. Many people at the tour were Vietnamese and only few foreigners like us. At the bus we met Tiun (pronounced as "Tuan"), a local who were with his family and friends who are taking the opportunity to have a holiday trip.

The highlight of the Mekong Journey - a paddle to the canals.
The bus trip range from 2 to 3 hours duration. Our destination - My Tho City. It rained when we arrive in My Tho City, which I thought will spoil our Mekong tour. There were still few raindrops but right after it stop we took a ferry ride to visit Ben Tre. The ferry ride we took crosses the Mekong River, which was a huge river and actually Asia's 7th longest river to reach Ben Tre. Mekong River is colored brown that it looked a like a river of milk chocolate drink. During the ferry tour, I saw 4 islands of shape, Tortoise Island, Unicorn Island, Phoenix Island and Dragon Island as instructed by the tour guide. Then, we changed our mode of transportation again from a ferry to a smaller ferry at a small station in which I got nervous because the smaller ferry is like a small boat now that shakes up easily when it is not in balance . I am also afraid to fall into the water river. My mom was also nervous and cautious at the same time while transfering to the smaller ferry.

Ferry to Ben Tre province.
When we reached Ben Tre, we were treated to the demonstration of how the locals make coconut candies from a home-made factory. Then, the locals gave us a free samples to taste their coconut candies. It taste good especially when it is just newly-made. Then our tour guide explains to us how the locals use the tools in making coconut candies. There were also restaurants and souvenir shops there. Then we hop again in the small boat and continue our tour in Ben Tre province through the canals again. On our second stop, we walked towards a narrow road with many trees around leading to a restaurant place. The local tourists with us excitedly picked "makopa" fruits from trees that surrounds the area. They are happily giggling in picking it up in the trees while speaking Vietnamese that I don’t understand. We had a short rest at the wood-designed restaurant. Then, our tour guide show us the bee-keeping box nearby, He then proceeds to show us a slide full of bees. He tells us that the locals were collecting honeys to sell. After the demo, a Vietnamese girl wearing an Ao Dai went to our table and serve us honey lemon tea. She demonstrate to us on how make a honey lemon tea. She put a drop of honey on the tea cup, then pour it with a tea. And she then squeeze it with a lemon that looks like a calamansi. Well, its my first time to taste a honey lemon tea and the sweetness of honey mixed with the tea is relaxing and invigorating to the palate. There is also a beer made out honey served to us, which look like a vinegar because of the translucent color. But we did not try to taste it. Later, I am annoyed by a bee who keeps on flying near our honey pot. My mom tried to sway it away. But I warned her that it might attack us. Then, our tour guide showed a large snake (a python) taken from a cage to which my mom was alarmed (she is afraid of snake). We stand up and went away from the others as they were busy taking pictures in the surrounding trees. 

After that, we ride again to the small motorized boat and went out of Ben Tre province to the station where we left the first ferry we rode earlier. It seems that bigger ferries cannot travel inside the narrow water canals of Ben Tre. Our ferry lead us to the Unicorn Island where we ate our free launch from the tour package. The restaurant was placed strategically under a fond of hyacinths with the background of the vast Mekong River. Then after a few minutes of rest, we proceeded to Tortoise Island. There is a large open cottage for an activity area in the center of the island. Me and my mom's colleagues seated in one of the tables inside the cottage. Then, we were served with cuts of local fruits like papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit (my first taste of this fruit) and mango while being serenaded by the local children in their Vietnamese folk music. The whole audience applause after the children finished singing. 

To continue our tour, our tour guide told us to walk further inside the island where we saw many fruit gardens of many trees. We headed to the end of the road and lead us to what I really don’t expect to see! We headed to another canal, the Tan Thach Canal - where we will be taking a small paddled boat just like what I saw in a scene in Vietnam Rose! Vietnam Rose is a Philippine TV series that is partly shot in Vietnam and specifically in Tan Thach Canal! The canal is surrounded by many water coconuts that guides the paddled boat going through the canal. I quickly remember a scene that I saw in TV series because of the water coconuts lining the canal. My mom and Ate Yoly (my mom's colleague) excitedly hop first towards the paddled boat while talking that is what they saw too in Vietnam Rose TV series. I am also elated to experience the paddled-boat riding to the canal. I told my mom that we were like in a scene of "Vietnam Rose". Then the local who will paddle the boat gave us their famous native conical hat, Nón lá (leaf hat) which we excitedly wore. It is called "salakot" in our country. Wearing Nón lá only made me feel a deeper ambiance of being part of a scene in Vietnam Rose TV series. The local paddled us through the canal that was fully covered with water coconuts. It was a beautiful sight to see and a wonderful experience. While enjoying the sights of the water coconuts, my mom keeps on quoting the unique experience of being inside "Vietnam Rose." Maybe it is because of the amazement of the experience. I am too, also feel amaze to the experience of Tan Thach Canal tour. The trip crosses us to the Unicorn Island again and headed us to the floating station for a ferry ride back to My Tho City station. But before we got off the paddled boat we made sure that we got a souvenir picture with the paddled-boat while wearing Nón lá. After the souvenir shot, we cruise on with our ferry to My Tho City again via Mekong River.

Paddling in Tan Thach Canal.
In tour bus with our new Vietnamese friend - Tiun.
The sun shines brighter this time. It wasn't rainy anymore. I saw a ferry heading to Cambodia as told by the tour guide and from the distance I can see the city of My Tho. When arrive at the docking station we went to the bus again and drove us to a stopover in Bonsai Garden at 4pm. There we bid goodbye to Tiun, the local we befriend on the tour because their group is in a two-day tour. He was grateful that he met us. We also made sure that we have a souvenir photo with him. Then, we ride the bus that will head us back to Ho Chi Minh City. While passing through the highway, I wonderfully saw kite flying activities of the locals which also amazed the other tourists in the bus. I am very tired of the trip, though sleepy, I still try to have a good look of all the beautiful sights and places that we were passing through in the bus trip.

It was 5:30pm when we arrive in Ho Chi
Minh City, the tour guide thanked us for joining the trip. I am soaked again to a wonderful scenery of Ho Chi Minh City as the bus passed through the city streets. Scooters crowds the streets. Old French architectures is evident in the city buildings. Girls wearing Ao Dai while driving a bicycle. And the daily life of Vietnamese people is all around. We were dropped by the tour agency and then we headed to our hotel to rest from a tiring whole day "field trip."

Ho Chi Minh City at night.
I think after 2 hour rest, we were back again on strolling. We went to Saigon Plaza Center. There are so many people and it was noisy due to music at Saigon Plaza Center. It happened that the mall was on sale! And there were many people crowding around especially for gadgets like digital cameras and mobile phone. I am surprised that popular mobile phone brands are being sold cheaper here than in our country. Moreover, I saw a Nokia phone model that I like on sale! I long to have a digital camera and it is also cheap there at Saigon Plaza Center. Later, we continue strolling around Saigon. It was an amazing sight to see the lighted streets of Saigon at night swarmed by hundreds of scooters crossing around. I wonder how it feels riding a scooter and drive along with the other scooters. Saigon is alive again at night. Tourists flocks the bars again and some does night shopping. It feels safe to roam around as I heard Saigon has low crime rate. I have been fascinated by the simple life in Vietnam and I think I have enough exposure of it today. I need to retire for today to have enough energy to savor my last day in Vietnam tomorrow. I am hoping to find what is the meaning behind the enigmatic term -Vietnam Rose.

Vietnam Diary is a three part series story of my trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam last April 29 - May 1, 2006. I have reached the last retelling of my past travels as today I share the last story of my RetrotTravel series. Actually, this trip is a college graduation gift for me by my mom. This travel trip was a great exploration and discovery of the colorful culture, significant history and natural attraction wonders of Vietnam. I am narrating it via a diary format in which I tell the experiences I had their in my 3-day visit, exploration and discovery of Vietnam. Happy reading!

Read the other parts of Vietnam Diary: 


  1. Mekong river trip reminds me of my visit to Laos. We sat by Mekong river enjoying our breakfast during our visit in Laos. I think countries like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are sharing similar cultures and lifestyle. Reading your Vietnam trip posts really remind me of Laos and Sri Lanka trips. Did you go to the pub in Ho Chi Minh? Heard that the night life there is very happening.

  2. Thank you for reading. That's Mekong trip was really a unique experience. And yes, I think they share the same culture because the 3 countries are part of Indochina region.

    I never been in pubs in Ho Chi Minh as after the trip, I feel so tired but night life there is truly cool and active.

  3. The Mekong Delta is a breathtaking place with full of fun and watery landscape of green fields and sleepy villages.
    In Mekong offers during the night boat cruises along Mekong River in Vietnam & Cambodia and getting insight into Mekong Delta life. If you will think to visit Vietnam never miss this place.

  4. I'm torn between indonesia and vietnam.i'm planning a trip early next year and i'm not decided i read your entry about vietnam mas nahihirapan ako magdecide kung saan ako pupunta kasi mukhang you had fun in vietnam

  5. @Virgo: Indonesia is a good place too. But base on researches I made mas maraming mapapasyalan sa Vietnam kesa sa Indonesia lalo na kung sa Jakarta kalang mag-stay. Pero good try to explore Indonesia if you want. But Vietnam's charm is irresistible too. I had fun, everything is cheap for shopping, people are friendly and there are many sites to discover.


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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