The Mekong Delta

Trip Start Oct 12, 2006
Trip End Oct 31, 2006

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The Mekong Delta

Dear Readers:

We leave the hotel at 8:30 this morning travel to the Mekong Delta. This is a new experience from my previous tour in Vietnam, and I am looking forward to seeing this region. The drive is just under two hours, and I sit at the back of the bus with my Awards committee and we start getting our act together for the Farewell Dinner to come in a few days.

Arriving at the boat dock we take a few minutes to refresh and purchase water. I grab a new pair of "Ray Ban" glasses for $2.00. They are broken before I leave the Mekong. What is that old expression? . . . Oh, yes! "You get what you pay for."

The tour of the Mekong Delta begins with a forty-minute boat ride to Unicorn Island. We have a local guide, and she tells us about the area and serves fresh coconut milk in the actual coconut. Later she carves out some of the coconut meat and serves it.

Arriving at the Island we are amazed to see a monkeys in cages. They are quite attracted to sunglasses, and sit together on a pole plotting strategy, and at some unseen signal suddenly lunge to grab the glasses. It gives us all quite a start. The are Gibbons, and one begins a low moan that rises in tone gradually until both of them are vocalizing at a piercing level with shrieking ululations. I have never heard anything like it in my life!

In the next cage is a massive python looking quite capable of swallowing a child. We progress through a series of shops to the first refreshment stop where tea is served as well as a selection of local fruits. They are all delicious, though some are wary of eating them since an attack of "liquid tummy" the night before. We have really been quite fortunate that everyone has remained intestinally healthy so far with a few minor needs for remedies along the way.

We continue through another maze of shops to a place where they are making some taffy like candy. For the life of me I can't remember the main ingredient now. It was delicious but I resisted the urge to purchase. After another refreshment break we board small canoes for a delightful trip along some canals on the island. We pass groups from France and Taiwan along the route, with good-natured joshing between the boats.

At the conclusion of the canoe trip we re-board our large boat and cross the Mekong River again to the place where we boarded. Everyone is eager to return to Saigon so we race through lunch and get back on board our bus. There is some heavy napping going on during the drive, and we reach the hotel at about 3:30pm. My evaluation of the experience is that it was fun and interesting, but probably not worth the long ride. Accommodations in the region are not good enough to warrant an overnight stay for more in-depth exploration.

I run some errands this afternoon and prepare to meet with my local tour operator, who has graciously invited me to dinner. He takes me, with his assistant, to Nam Phan. It is located in a fabulous colonial French Villa, and specializes in Vietnamese cuisine. The same man owns several such reconverted villas in Saigon and all of them are top-flight restaurants specializing in different cuisines. The meal is wonderful, but it is especially nice to reconnect with the man who I first met in Chicago at an Adventure Travel Show many years ago, and who has now operated three tours for me in Vietnam. We talk about the future, and Myanmar (Burma) in particular. That will be coming along in 2008, for those of you who look that far into the future!

Back to the hotel at 10:30pm for packing, organizing tips, and working on the awards. I am fortunate to get Jonathan online in Chicago, and we hammer out each award in a marathon chat session that lasts until 1:00am. Another night with precious few hours available for sleep, but I'm powering into the home stretch!

Big hugs,
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