Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Saigon Diaries - Mekong Delta Tour

Day 1

It was midnight (Viet Nam time) when our group arrived in Ho Chi Minh. After breezing through the immigration, we immediately went straight for the money changer counter just near the arrival exit. The next moment, we were already inside the van arranged by our hotel. 

Billionaire in Vietnam

It was already past midnight so we didn't get to see what the place was like from the airport to the city center. But the ride felt like we were traversing EspaƱa Boulevard and the streets of Sampaloc in Manila.

We checked in at Hoang Lien Hotel and immediately retired to our respective rooms to get some rest as we had a full schedule in a few hours. The hotel had rooms to one side, the hallway was narrow and the elevator wasn't spacious. The room (with its own toilet and bath) assigned to us was located at the end of the hallway, can accommodate four persons and has a view of the streets. It was bit cramped though. The room has cable TV and wifi connection (although its connectivity would fluctuate once in a while).

After just a few hours of sleep, we went downstairs to have breakfast at their restaurant. It was a buffet selection of Vietnamese dishes and the usual continental fare.

We made all of our tour arrangements with the hotel since it would could come out cheaper. With a big group like ours (we were eleven) and a coaster that can seat around 25 people maximum, it was almost like having a private tour.

The tour operator picked us up at the hotel at around 8:00 a.m. and proceeded to pick up the other guests in hotels around the city. Then off we went to Mekong Delta. 

Traveling to the countryside, Vietnam is no different from the Philippines as you will see in the pictures below. Yes, it was sweltering hot, too!

Rice fields everywhere.

A cemetery in the middle of a rice field.

We made a stop for refreshment, washroom break and souvenir shopping at the Mekong Rest Stop.

Some of the souvenir items being sold during the stopover.

From the stopover, we proceeded to Cai Be to visit the floating market. Unfortunately, it was almost high noon when we got there so the channel was almost empty save for a few boats with their products hanging from their vessels.

Vietnamese students

Looks like a typical provincial scene in the Philippines
but this is Vietnam.

Our guide, Mike.

Rice is a primary agricultural product in this country and products made out of rice abound just about anywhere. We visited one shop where they demonstrated how to make other food products out of rice.

Making rice paper

And candy bars

And rice puffs, too.

We also found ourselves in other shops where the following items are being sold:

Non La, similar to our country's salakot.
Painted bowls

Wooden Kitchen Utensils


I really like this painting.

We also visited a bee farm and had tea thereafter.

And the bees stick together.

Tea at high noon.

Then it was time explore the canals in the Mekong Delta. It was hot and humid at high noon. Thankfully, the shrubs and trees that lined the embankment provided the much needed shade.

So here's the thing. For a big chunk of your time, you just sit on the boat and navigate through the canals. It can be pretty boring (not recommended for those who've got adrenaline rushing through their system) but if having some quiet time being close to nature is your cup of tea, then you may take this tour.

By the time we had lunch, our tummies were making grumbling sounds. I suggest you bring light meals to tide the hunger while on this tour.

Our guide, Mike, brought us to this restaurant where we were served with plated lunch of rice, vegetables, spring rolls and fried meat. Nothing spectacular, really. Just typical dish you'd have in our own carinderia.

A specialty of this place is the fried elephant ear fish.

After lunch, it was time to explore by biking around the village. I was just too thrilled to be on a bicycle again. 

A lady selling bread by biking around the village.

We found ourselves inside a school.

Enjoying the afternoon breeze and sun.

One of the sights while biking around the village.

Then it was time to go home. It was already evening when we got to Ho Chi Minh, just in time for dinner and the night market.

Drop the last three digits (Vietnamese dong), multiply the remaining digits by two. You'll get a fair idea of the Philippine peso equivalent of your Vietnamese currency or your expenses.

Hoang Lien Hotel
15 Bui Thi Xuan St.
Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, HCMC

Tour Operator:
Rate: USD 20.00

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