Vietnam: From inner city Hanoi to the Mekong countryside Part 5: Local impressions from the Mekong Delta

Typical channel in the Mekong river delta

We booked a local minibus trip from Saigon to Can Tho. The trip was a very comfortable ride in a new car. The driving was still crazy, but the highway was a bitumen road all the way at least. We arrived in Can Tho and were determined to make our way do find the house of a distant relative of Yen. Supposedly they knew who we were ..

It took us a while to find the place. Finding the road was not so much the problem. We managed that quickly with the map of Can Tho in the Lonely Planet. Finding the house number on the other hand… luckily we knew the name of the suburb and found out that number start from zero again in each suburb. So we arrived and Yen did her best explaining who we were. Luckily it was Sunday so a distant aunt of Yen was at the address and she knew who we were… she called up Yens aunt and her uncle picked us up with another uncle. On the back of two scooters we went down to Phung Hiep and further into the country to saty with Yens aunt.

The next days we spent with Yens relatives before we flew out from Saigon to fly back home. In Saigon itself we just spent a day exploring museums, shopping at the markets and hanging out. Saigon was not really our cup of tea, but the days before in the country were very memorable and revealed a lot about the local life in Vietnam. Following is a mixture of stories and impression from those days in no particular order:

On the first evening I became part of a men’s drinkng session. I had a few rice wines then. It seemed to be important to be a good drinker to be accepted. I didn’t have a problem with that ;-) . In fact during another evening with local Saigon beer I acquired a bit of a taste for it.

One evening Yen’s uncle had some snakes for a drinking session. Funnily he said that he bought two but while he killed and prepared one the other one escaped. I asked how it is possible to still buys snakes in Phuong Hiep althought it is illegal. The answers was ‚I didn’t Know that. But that is probably why they are a lot more expensive then they used to be‘. In fact we could see street stand with snakes for sale in Phuong Hiep during one of our day trips.

Nearly every plant you can see is actually planted and can be used for something. The Mekong delta is amazingly fertile. Grass growning along the street is actually lemon grass. There are coconut palm trees everywhere. Sweet potatoes, pineapple, papayas and all sorts of other fruits are growing in every corner. Even the floating plants on the water are used for fertilizers.

The canals and rivers are a central place for everything. Unfortunately this also means that washing is done in the same river into which the sewage runs untreated. Due to the heat it is still nice to have a splash. but sooner or later this is going to be become a problem. We both had a swim though. No local seems to be aware of this though, and they wouldn’t beleive a tourist either. When a woman sprained her ankle and we told her to put ice on she just believed us for a while. Half an hours later the local advice was more valuable again and heat was applied. Not surprisingly the swelling and pain got worse. I actually broke the plank of a jetty with my niece in my arms due to the rotten wood and fell. The ice worked fine for me ;-)

Drying anything on the road is very common. You will see rice, incense sticks, coconut leaves, coconut shells, and all sorts of other stuff is dried right on the highway and all other roads or concrete surfaces that are available. And the trucks, buses and scooters drive by in about 10cm distance, while people are sorting, turing around, collecting and spreading out things.

A lot of reuse of resources is already happening though. ane from pigs is used to runa gas cooking system. Most chicken feeding huts seem to be above a little pond full of fish living of the chicken . At Yen’s grandma the toilet for everybody is a mini jetty over the same pond. My first test was a wet and painful exercise. I had to go in the evening, so as soon as my pants was down mosquitoes attacked my bum like crazy. And then I got splashed from the fish a o. They only told me afterwards that the fish are a lot more active in the evening. Thanks ;-)

We also hired a bigger boat and took quite a few people to a trip to another part of the Mekong delta to visit some other relatives. It was all a party when we got there. Like everywhere the dogs were running around but a little while later we didn’t see one particluar dog anymore… and found out that a special treat for dinner was the dog. The kids and everybody seemed to love it. Yen refused and I am vegetarian anyway. We kept to all the other goodies including yummy fruits like mangoes, lychees and so on.

Being a vegetarian in Vietnam was a interesting experience especially in Can Tho. One of Yens uncles bought some vegetarian meals for me to take along and it had weird type of tofu things in it. It turned out to be fake meat in different tastes and forms. I had roast pig, chicken giblets, all sorts of mock seafood and a few other ‚treats‘. Definitely an experience not to be missed for any vegetarian (and also non-vegetarians). There are a few very nice places that offer these dishes near the temples in Can Tho. The coolest thing I found was mock vegetraian s with some seafood … hahah .. like s aren’t vegetarian already.

Two evenings Yen and myself went spearfishing with a few kids. Our head torches were a loved goodie. The boys had little self made spear and tried to catch anything that moved in the dark in the water. They also used bowls succesfully. It was a lot of fun to see the kids all hyped up about chasing some little crab and participating in the whole action. I didn’t catch anything though ;-)

After all these adventures going back to Saigon just showed us that we were tired and exhausted. We explored the big city and its markets a bit but were happy to leave and be able to relax at home for a while before we go back to work ;-)

All summed up we had a great time in Vietnam and will probably be back at some stage. If there wouldn’t be all these other countries we also want to see…

Meanwhile stay tuned for some pictures from our Vietnam trip on this site sometime soon.