Delta Force

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Departing quite early in the morning we drove along the bumpy Vietnam highway to My Tho City. We were part of a 'Join-In' tour which is essentially the type which has a coach which drives around all the hotels and picks up a few people at each place. This is substantially cheaper than private tours and you get to meet more people. There was the customary stop at a restaurant on the way to our destination where we noted a group of youngish Brits together who had joined the tour and looked like a nice little group who were travelling together. I recognised one of the girls from the Halong trip as she had been one of the pick ups on our second day. She seemed a little pompous then and she seemed more pompous now. Although they were travelling together they appeared to be all independant. Smiles on the outside, the girls got backstabby when one irish girl stepped away from the group "I cant stand her, she does my head in". This is the downside of backpacking. One poor girl thinks she has some new friends, when in truth the bitchy girls she has tagged along with hate her guts. She was a little irritating in truth, but these girls were a little like a witches group. After hearing this you could detect the undercurrent of nastiness from all their future conversations. A shame as they all seemed so chummy at first. At least I'm honest with Kate when she is annoying the hell out of me. I'll just tell her outright (and she is more than willing to do the same).
The arrival at My Tho harbour brought us onto our first boat, a small ferry across to one of the Mekong islands in the area. We would be visiting a couple of this group of islands. The islands are all named after special animals, high in the importance in Vietnamese culture. Firstly Dragon Island, and then Unicorn, Phoenix and Turtle island. I find it a little amusing that the special animals are all mythical except for the trusty Turtle. It gives the impression that they were fed up of bullshitting and thought - "I can't think of any other mythical creatures, why don't we worship a turtle, at least it will make em laugh". I know thats not the case, but I like to think it is.
On Unicorn Island we stopped briefly at a little honey restaurant who kept bees and the tour guide talked to us about honey production while allowing the little bees to swarm around him. They were a lot smaller than our UK counterparts and appeared unwilling to sting him. We trialled some honey tea (very nice) and some honey based snacks (I bought some honey peanut snacks to enjoy later) and then went on our way.
Into some little canoe type boats we were paddled along some very small tributaries, tight enough to fit maybe 3 boats side to side within the channel. I know this is quite an accurate measurement as for most of the journey there were 3 boats abreast. The channel was packed with little boats ferrying back and forth with little old ladies smiling at you with their hands out asking for money. They took turns in picking up tourists and so with the number of boats they probably only got a couple of trips a day. They still all smiled. As I stepped off the boat I handed my paddler (there were 2 paddlers, one at each end of the boat) a one dollar bill. She smiled and was extremely greatful. She didn't ask for more, she didn't even ask for the dollar. I felt extremely good. It's nice to make a difference every now and again.
We were paddled out into the open water and back onto our bigger boats. The trip then continued taking us to the Ben Tre province which was on the opposite side of the delta to My Tho. Ben Tre is the hometown of coconut. It is everywhere. They use it for everything and essentially waste nothing, except for the coconut milk which they have no use for (As they use older coconuts for making things like candy etc, the milk is pretty rank and so they just throw it away - young coconuts are where the good stuff is). The guide showed us how they make coconut candy and how this is the best coconut candy as it has a higher percentage of coconut oil etc and how you should buy it here because everywhere else is just a copy etc. What a load of rubbish. This is just a shopping trip. They let us taste it, and I humoured them.

We then bought 3 packs of the stuff in different flavours as it is sugary coconutty awesomeness in rice paper heaven. Sold. Nearly a kg of candy to add to our bags getting slowly heavier and heavier.

Another little boat transfer up a bigger tributary and I was delighted with the luck we were having. The blue skies were a welcome surprise. The guide had said earlier in the day "the tides changes by up to 2 metres at this time of year because it rains every day". Not today it seems Sonny Jim.

Lunch was had in a little dog riddled restaurant on one of the islands, and Kate spent some time sitting with a couple of puppies. Lunch was adequate but nothing special.

The last stop was back on Unicorn Island to sit and listen to some Vietnamese music and enjoy some local fruit. The music was gentle and chilled. The instruments were plinky, and the fruit was juicy. A nice touch was the chilli sauce powder to be enjoyed with pineapple pieces. It was strange, but a good combination.

We got back to My Tho ready for the bus pick up and we were pretty happy with our day. This little trip had cost $20. So what if it was a shopping trip, it was a pretty interesting one. It did pretty much exactly what it said on the tin. As we sat on the bus back we heard grumbles from behind us. The Brits were whining again. This time about how this was yet another poor tour in Vietnam. The tours are apparently so bad it's funny. What do these spoilt brats expect for $20 (that was for both of us, not for one of us). These girls had actually only paid $9 each (booked through a backpacker hostel). That included lunch, a coach trip, 4 boat trips and a tour guide for the region as well as some demonstrations and some taste tests. If you're going to whine, put it into perspective first. I am starting to hate running into Brits - the foreigners are far more welcoming and much less pompous and whiney.

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