Jungle, Rivers, Sampans and Orchards

Trip Start Mar 18, 2011
Trip End Apr 15, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Saigon Day 1

Tropical humidity is the name of the game here.  Today we visited the Mekong Delta.  The Mekong Delta is about an hour and a half drive from Ho Chi Minh.  It seems only government refers to this as Ho Chi Minh. The residents all call it Saigon, which is an ancient name and not something created by the French or the Americans. We drove through many small fish farms (they can't export the fish in these farms as it tastes too "muddy" and no one will buy it).  We also drove through miles and miles of rice paddies.  The don't export Vietnamese rice to the US as apparently the Thai rice is better.  This is still farmed completely by hand, from planting to harvesting, with the help of a water buffalo.  It is all small family farms.  They get in three crops a year.

We drove to a small town called My Tho.  Our first stop was at a Buddhist Temple with a brand new concrete gigantic Happy Buddha.  The temple was quite different from the other temples we had visited.  Much quieter.  Very lovely.

After the temple we drove to a boat for a ride on the Mekong River.  The river is quite silty but they claim not polluted.  Many of the boats have eyes on the front but we couldn't really hear the guide due to a bad sound system and loud motor so you will have to research that on the internet if you want to know why they have eyes.  We boated to a restaurant for an exceptional lunch.  We had elephant ear fish which were fried and they stood upright on the platters.  They then took pieces of fish and put them on a rice paper wrapper with lotus root and cucumber and we dipped them in tamarind sauce.  Yummy. Along with that we had lumpia, soup with noodles, prawns, and pineapple.  They eat their prawns dipped in salt and pepper which you squeezed lime juice into.  Ther were wonderful that way.  After our lunch we saw an old lady with a gigantic boa constrictor.  You could pay a dollar to have your picture taken with the snake.  I passed on that opportunity.
We then went to a backyard family business that made coconut candy.  Now this would never be allowed in the US.  It really was all done in the open air with the family grinding the coconut, making the coconut milk, cooking it with sugar and rolling it, cutting it and wrapping it.  It was so good I bought 4 packages.

We then got into little 4 person sampans and were rowed by two people through a very small canal throughh the jungle.  Here we really got a glimpse of some of the poverty that still exists in Vietnam.  Through the dense growth we could see shacks made of corrugated metal with families living in them.  They all waved at us.  We saw two children playing on a boat and they waved and said hello but the living conditions were pretty primitive.  The sampan ride ended at an orchard full of exotic (to me) fruit: pomelos jack fruit, rose apple, mangosteen were all growing in this little family run orchard.  We sampled fruit and earned that you are supposed to dip sour fruit (pomelo and pineapple) in salt mixed with a little chili.  It was vey good.  We also sampled some more candy and they had some really good dried ginger candy that I am bringing home.  We then took a walk along the river and found out that hidden in the dense jungle and impossible to view from the water are really nice houses with beautiful gardens.  From the water all you can see is some rather broken down outdoor cafes.  We also saw where they do the cockfights that are so prevalent here.  From here it was back to the bus for the drive back to the ship.
In the evening the ship brought in some really excellent local performers playing on Vietnamese instruments and some young women dancers who the emcee told us were all between the ages of 19 & 24 and available.  They were virtuosos.  Vey interesting.  

 I have learned in the last few days that the Vietnamese are really into the Miss Universe contest.  Our guide in DaNang bragged that Miss Vietnam was from DaNang.  They clearly feel like they are part of the more sophisticated world because they now participate in the Miss Universe contest.  The bottled water they gave us says it is "the official drink of Miss Universe contest 2008".

A note to Nate: no 300 pound catfish sighted
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Mindy on

But if there were a 300 pound catfish he could sit anywhere he wanted.

Julie nelson on

BTW, I am really really enjoying your blogs. I start my day with a cup of coffee, a cat in my lap, and a travel-log instead of the morning news. Sounds like you guys are having a wonderful trip! :)

Carry on! When you return, you will be pleased that spring has sprung.

Bonnie J. Niemi on

You make travel sound so very appealing. I have never been on a long cruise, but the blog has piqued my interest. bonnie

Kirsten on

Andrea, It sounds like your trip has been a blast and so rich! Thanks for all the posts so we can experience it vicariously. Missing you and Ken, though. You'll be an Asian food snob when you get home, so you will need to pick the next place that we all have dinner!

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