Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Mekong river tour

We were picked up at our hotel at 8am, the first pickup of 4 stops. We had a total of nine people in our group - all English speaking.  A mother and son from Malaysia, a young couple from New Zealand, and two fellows from Britain. Our guide Yuan is very personable, interesting and funny he kept giving us riddles to solve.
He indicated Mekong River means the nine dragon river. It is one of the longest rivers - over 4,900 kms and runs through 3 countries. In the area we are there are 4 main islands and several small islands.  Turtle, Unicorn, Phoenix and Dragon are the large islands.
At the deepest, the Mekong is 22 meters deep. Also it is very polluted, the muddy appearance from the sediment in the water from all of the rice harvesting. Over 5 billions of rice is harvested from the Mekong river and tributaries.
No crocodiles live in the river any more. All have been harvested/hunted. Crocodile and fish farms are located in many areas. Many types of fish are only found in the Mekong Delta.  The world's largest cat fish was caught in this river a couple years ago - 300 kilos.
The trip from Ho chi minh city was to be two hours but very soon we ran into a traffic jam. This provided us with more time to watch the traffic and people operating the motorcycles and scooters. We had a brief stop at a rest area. This rest area had a few shops and vendors but it primarily was a scenic area great for picture taking.
After arriving at  My Tho we got on a river boat to take us over to Unicorn island.We transfered to small paddle boats operated by locals through channels. So many boats were travelling in some areas, bumping against each other that it reminded us of the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City.  At arrival to the islands center we were given local fruit and tea. The fruits were pineapple, loungren,  mango, dragon fruit, watermelon and other citrus fruit. A mixture of salt and chili powder was given to dip the fruit in. Some locals sang and were dressed tradionally.
We then took boats to a different part of Unicorn island and had honey with royal jelly tea and a selection of dried fruits. We were given the opportunity to try some fresh honey right from the honeycomb - with the bees still covering the comb. We also got to try honey wine.
We then went to Coconut island where we were treated to samples of coconut candy and cookies. We saw each stage of processing and watched the women cutting and wrapping the final product. We then got to taste  snake wine.  This was done by dipping a shot glass into a container with snakes in alcohol. We then we're given the opportunity to touch - actually have a python draped over us. Only Sharon and I took advantage of this.
Our lunch was also on coconut island. We were surprised with the lovely lunch area. The meal started with a whole barbecued fish. A waiter used the fish to make fresh spring rolls at our table. A huge ball of deep fried sticky rice was placed at the table, then taken, cut up and brought back to eat. Other items were deep fried spring rolls, huge prawns, squid, sour fish soup, morning glory with garlic, fried rice with sea food. The meal finished with watermelon.
After lunch we we give the option to ride bikes, rest in hammocks or explore the island community by walking. 6,000 people live on this island. We then returned to our boat and was given a coconut to drink while riding to the mainland.
We then went back to the mainland and visited a Chinese Pagoda built in the 1800's called Vivh Trang, in My Tho. It is an active Pagoda and many people were praying and making offering of incense. There was three giant Buddha's -they represent the past, present and future.
Overall the tour was much better than was expected, our guide was great, the fellow passengers were very friendly.  Their was some sales pitches but nothing too aggressive. The cost of this tour starting at 8am until 5:30 was about  $60cnd or 780,000vnd.
Typical riding gear in Vietnam

Rest stop 

Snake wine

Lunch at Coconut Island

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