Walking in the backpackers’ area, De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao streets in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, you are overwhelmed by tour offers. Travel agencies located side by side, and most can arrange a Mekong Delta trip for you.
Let’s have a look at a one-day trip to My Tho City, the capital of Tien Giang Province. Taking a bus or riding a hired motorbike for about 75 kilometers, you will reach the city.
We left Ho Chi Minh City at about 7 am and arrived in ...at around ???. When we got off the bus at the boat station in My Tho, we were greeted with cool winds carrying a refreshing smell of river water. We boarded a small motorboat to cross the Tien River, one of the two large streams of the Mekong River. The other branch is the Hau River, which you will see when going further southward the Mekong Delta.
We saw many other boats navigating the river, bobbing up and down. Some were carrying tourists like us, while others transporting farm produce, bananas, coconuts, oranges, mangoes, dragon fruits, pineapples and may other fruits. Also crossing the river were ferries between My Tho and Ben Tre City, full of people and vehicles. I wondered what the ferries would do in a few years time when Rach Mieu Bridge, a suspension bridge about three kilometers long between My Tho and Ben Tre, will be put into use. It is under construction now.
All boats on the river looked impressive. Some with two eyes painted with various colors on the bow looked down into the water. Our guide explained that the eyes watch out for crocodiles and other dangerous reptiles, though there are no crocodiles in the river.
Our boat’s first stop was Con Phung (Phoenix Islet), where artisans make and sell handicraft from coconut trees and delicious coconut candies. You can enjoy some coconut milk here on board. You can experience how to chop away the top of a coconut and drink the sweet and cool juice inside.
The boat then brought us to another islet in the middle of the Tien River, where small rowboats were available to take us against the water flow into a small canal.
|Rowboats go upstream to a tourist destination (Photo: Tuong Thuy)|
In groups of five or six, we were rowed through the canal to another tourist destination where bees, honey, tea, rice wine, traditional music and snakes awaited us. Our rower was a young beautiful woman in sweaty ao ba ba (traditional southern dress). She must have been exhausted from rowing up stream, but she was not willing to show it. I saw many other rowers, both men and women, sweating but smiling . The downstream boats were empty, on the way back to the pier to carry other visitors. The canal was crowded with rowboats and tourists.
We came to an orchard and were offered a variety of fruits: oranges, pineapples, dragon fruit, bananas, durians, together with tea and some cakes. While we were enjoying the food, two boys, about seven or eight, in traditional dress put on a lovely show of southern folk songs in Vietnamese.
|(Photo: Tuong Thuy)|
It was around lunch time, my empty stomach has caught up with me. We walked to a restaurant for lunch and some people ordered tai tuong (elephant-ear) fish, deep-fried, which was garnished elaborately and looked a lot more delicious.
|Deep-fried tai tuong fish (Photo: Tuong Thuy)|
At the restaurant, culture was mixed with adventure. We put our fingers in a beehive full of bees to taste some fresh honey (surprisingly, the bees did not sting), and next to us, another courageous tourist wore a big python around his neck.
|Foreign tourists eat fruits at an orchard (Photo: Tuong Thuy)|
Then honey, tea, rice wine and fruits were served, while a group of traditional instrument players and singers took the floor to perform different Vietnamese songs.
The last stop was the coconut candy factory. Workers, both men and women stirred a white mixture, thick like chocolate, in pots, rolled it out on a table, cut it into little rectangles and then wrapped those for sale – all by hand.
Of course, we could not help trying some fresh pieces, buying some packets and strolling before we were called backed to the boat. We were then taken back to the quay, where the bus was awaiting. We returned to Ho Chi Minh City and finished a tour day full of activities.