After a gruelling day of city tour in Ho Chi Minh, we still pushed on with the Mekong Delta Tour on our second day in Vietnam. We booked the tour through our hotel and it cost us 410,000 VND per pax. This already included the transfers, an English-speaking guide, all the entrance fees, lunch, fruit snacks, ride on a horse-drawn carriage, and a couple of rowboat rides.
Mekong Delta Tour
Since our day was going jam-packed, we had to plan every minute. We had to wake up really early so we could have our breakfast at 6:30 am. Then, we were picked up at the hotel by our tour guide called Ken /’cane/ at 8:00am. Our ride was a coaster van and since we were the last tourists on it, the four of us had to sit separately. I found myself beside a Liberian woman named Mak. I decided to try something new right then and there and started a conversation with her. That was actually very uncharacteristic of me because I am not usually one for small talk and I’m generally too shy to speak with strangers. But with just the magic word “Hi!”, it’s like I made myself a new friend that day. ^___^ Before arriving at the My Tho, we had a short stopover at the Mekong Rest Stop where people could finally relieve themselves in the restrooms, eat some snacks (lunch wasn’t until 1pm) and buy some souvenirs. I just had some ice cream (10,000 VND) to get some sugar fix and cool off a bit.
We arrived at My Tho, the gateway to the Mekong Delta, at 11:00am. There, we took a boat that would take us to Ben Tre, a little province in the east of Mekong Delta. Ben Tre is composed of several islands that include the Unicorn Island, the Dragon Island and the Phoenix Island.
Our first stop was the Unicorn Island, the biggest island in Ben Tre. We were treated to some tropical fruits while listening to some singers serenade us.
After our little snack, we were herded off to a canal where we rode on rowboats. Each boat sits only four, but the four of us ended up sharing a boat with Mak who was traveling alone. We finally had a photo together.
The first few minutes of the boat ride was a bit nerve-wracking. The canal was so narrow that only a few boats could pass by side by side. The boats would squish against each other and I was nervous about toppling over. But our boat girl deftly maneuvered us forward into wider and calmer parts.
Our rowboat ride ended up at us taking our big motor boat again. Our next destination was to another part of the island where the bee farm was. When we got there, we had the chance to take photos holding the worker bees.
After that, we were treated to some mini-tea ceremony. A girl first poured honey on shot glasses, followed by a squeeze of calamansi. Then she poured a bit of jasmine tea and garnished it with some pollen. It was delicious!
Tea wasn’t the only drink that we were offered. There was also some banana wine for us to sample. I only took a sip of that one because I was afraid that my stomach would get angry at me for abusing it. I hadn’t eaten anything substantial for the last five hours back then and I just know too much acid would make things ugly.
After buying some honey and pollen that they had for sale, we were then showed this anaconda. Most of the other tourists were shuddering at that point but one guy was brave enough to hold it.
Next, was a tour of the coconut candy factory at the Phoenix Island where we saw how sticky coconut candy was made. At that point, I was thinking how easy it would be to create “tourist spots”. For example, coconut is also a primary commodity in the Philippines and we definitely do more with it than make candy. Maybe we could create something like this candy factory and package it off as a tourist destination somewhere. It’s all about marketing anyway.
Apparently, that was our last stop before the much-awaited lunch. On our way there, we passed by this stall that sold banana chips the size of a plate. They were really good and I highly recommend it for pasalubong.
Lunch was a horse-drawn carriage ride away and since we took our time buying banana chips, we were the last ones to board a carriage so Ken rode with us. Our horse seemed to have a hard time carting the five of us to the restaurant. Other carriages were whizzing past us the whole time.
Lunch was at the Tan Phu restaurant and Mak got to sit with us, despite Ken’s manic rearrangement schemes. The set lunch was even worse than what we had during the Ha Long Bay tour. It was composed of rice, pork, vegetables and fried spring rolls. It didn’t look, nor taste, fantastic. There were options for more food but they came with a price. Drinks were also not included and seemed too pricey. And since none of us were too keen on spending any more than we had to (we had shopping to think about), we just made do. Good thing we brought water from the hotel and that Ken gave us a bottle of water at the start of the tour.
After lunch, we had another mini boat ride to our main boat going back to My Tho. And with that, our Mekong Delta Tour was over. We got back at the hotel at 5:00pm and had our rest before seeing the A O Show.
The A O Show
After freshening up and scouring the area for dinner, we finally got to the Saigon Opera House in time to grab some welcome drinks (more jasmine tea) and do some photo op before the start of the A O Show.
The A O Show is this mix of cultural and acrobatic show that highlights the role of the bamboo and basket boats in the daily Vietnamese life. Because the show was action-packed, there was no need to understand Vietnamese in order to understand it. It was a far cry from the Water Puppet Show that opened with a description of the setting, sung in Vietnamese, and then peppered with more Vietnamese dialogues. Anyway, the A O Show featured different scenes from the past and well into modern Vietnam. There was no storyline and each scene seemed independent of each other. The actors had not perfected all the acts – a girl fell during the second scene – but most of them were flawlessly executed. There were numerous times during the show when I found myself letting go of that breath I didn’t know I was holding.
Unfortunately, and logically, it’s not allowed to take any photos during the show. So, here is a photo that they have in the official website as a teaser.
After the hour-long show, the cast was ready to take some photos with the audience at the Saigon Opera House lobby. We also took some photos with them and signed the guest book.
On our way back to the hotel, we strolled first to some of the spots we went to during our city tour to check out how they looked at night. Here’s a couple that I’ve taken:
Our hurried and light dinner caused us to feel hungry at that point. We went to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts and had some snacks. Then we returned to the hotel in order to recharge for the following day’s adventures.
August 16, 2014
***All photos were taken using an iPhone 5