Friday, 9 May 2014

Mekong Delta Cycling Tour

DAY 8 - 04/05

We decided to venture South of Saigon into the majestic river canals of the Mekong Delta. The best way to discover its hidden treasures and soak up the unique culture of the laid back and happy-go-lucky farmers and fishermen of the area, was to do a cycle tour.

We met our tour guide, Lam, and our fellow travellers (a New Zealand sister act, Beverly and Gail) early on Sunday morning.
We were driven to My Tho by our awesome driver, Vu, jumped on a boat and took a cruise around along the river.

As soon as Joy took the wheel, Roxy took precautionary measures

 We went passed four islands, named after the the four mythical creatures of Vietnam - Dragon (symbol of power), Turtle (symbol of longevity), Unicorn (symbol of intelligence) and Phoenix (symbol of beauty)

One of the many industries of trade is displayed in the photo above. These boats suck mud from the river floor, remove all the sand which gets used for construction. We saw tens of these huge carrier ships, filled with tons of sand all along the river. This results in the river getting deeper every year and who knows the undertone ecological damage it is inflicting.

We hopped off the boat onto a tiny islet inhabited by a fruit-growing-families.

Exploring the fruit orchards...Joy getting up close and personal here with her favourite food right from the source - Gail got the big cocoa pod but trust the South African to go for the "Baby chocolates" 

 After poking around the garden we were treated to some delicious lemon and honey tea and some interesting fruit - Check Roxy munching on some dragon fruit (which co-incidentally is the fruit of her birth spirit animal)

Our river-rat paddler took us in his traditional vessel through the beautiful side streams of one of the outlets of the Mekong

 Some interesting topiary - dragons are definitely a symbol that is displayed everywhere, in every way, shape and form. Quite impressive!!

All the ships we saw have these ominous looking eyes on the front - apparently they are a symbol of there to protect the sailors from the threats of the untamed ocean.

We visited a Coconut Candy making factory. The coconuts flesh is shredded, pressed and then boiled in a sugary syrup before it is left to cool. It is then rolled out, cut into perfectly sized pieces and packaged. The whole process is done by hand and the precision is incredibly...almost more accurate than a machine could achieve. They make all sorts of flavours - peanut, ginger, coffee and original were definitely our few favourites. Yum!

This is in real time!!!! They first wrap the candy in rice paper and then in the coloured flavour outer paper covering.

We found this bottle of alcohol which has a snake and scorpion inside it. It is a traditional drink which is apparently suppose to increase 'man-strength'. Haha!
Our fun-loving guide, Lam, had a nice little saying appropriate for this drink,

"Man drinks it; woman appreciates it!!!!"

We stopped for lunch at this beautiful little resort and we had a little fun with the garden statues! 


After lunch we finally got to do a little cycling. The first challenge was to remember how to actually ride a bike, manipulating the seat and choosing the right gear, then came the true test of remember to drive on the opposite side of the road and dodging on-coming traffic and the other numerous obstacles that were out to kill us!
It took us a little while but soon enough we were riding like pros, not quite confident enough to take photies though.

We then boarded our private boat which would transport us along the river to An Binh where we were to have a homestay.

On the boat we took part in a little impromptu Karaoke session - Hotel California may have featured a lot!

Joy was being serenaded while enjoying the luxury of boat life!

Our amazing house on stilts
         The stunning sunset over the river

DAY 9 - 05/05

We woke up bright and early and were ready for a big day of cycling!! It was extremely hot - 34 degrees at 08:00!!!!

The children in the Mekong Delta were so friendly! This was the start of a Mexican wave of 'hellos' that we were to receive while cycling around the island.

We were always stopping on the side of the road when something peaked our interest.

This is an example of one of the extremely narrow bridges we had to cross. You may think it looks like a one-way, but this is actually used as a double high-way!

We had been cycling for the entire morning and our bums needed a little break, so Lam cracked us open a couple of fresh coconuts and we enjoyed the delicious, refreshing coconut water! A first for us!

A casually packed scooter! It is amazing the amount of luggage these scooters can carry! Impressive!

After cycling around the entire island (23km), we got on the ferry which would take is across to Vinh Long where we would stop for lunch.
We were given the most amazing buffet for lunch and our hostess entertained us with her cute little dog!!!

It was then back on the bikes for our afternoon session. We cycled around the little villages and came across a school that was having break time.

The children were so cheeky and playful. The best game was fun away from the white people which they found hilarious. Lam gave them a few coconut candies and we tried to communicate. They could say a few phrases and 'I love you' seemed to provoke the most laughter!

We found a frog farm - something we had never seen before. Later in Nha Trang we were to taste the fruit of the harvest!

 The incredibly constructed walking bridges used by the locals to cross the river. 

Look Mum, no hands!!! 

After our afternoon ride of 20km we were absolutely exhausted and ready for some well deserved rest!
Bum massage?

DAY 10 - 06/05

We were up bright and early to catch a boat to witness the Floating Market. There are many all around the Mekong Delta but we went to the largest on in the area, the Cai Rang Floating Market.

Hundreds of boats float around the market. The sellers store all their produce on their boats and the buyers sail to each on and purchase what they need. The selling boats advertise their products by hanging samples on poles. Much like flying a pumpkin flag! They selling boats are even arranged in isles according to what they are selling to make it easier for the buyer to compare price and quality!

We took an amazing ride through the forest and small villages around Can Tho. Every now and then Lam would spot some fruit and we would stop to have a snack.

Along the way we passed a few festive fruit farmers who were enjoying some social time at 10am. They beckoned us to join them and when we were offered shots of rice wine, we simply could not refuse!
From left to right: Beverly, Gail, The unmarried playboy, Joy, Willow (eternally young soul), the strong silent type, the hunter gatherer (provider of fruit and unnamed meat), Lam and the joker of the group 

Hmm...Delicious! That face says it all!
School was out so we decided to join them in their traditional game (da cau) which we had seen played a lot in Saigon but never been brave enough to attempt. Now we had the power of the rice wine, which could only improve our co-ordination!
Joy got her game face on

 You are suppose to kick the shuttlecock-like feather ball but after a few embarrassing tries, we decided that it was more of a hand sport for us!

We then headed back to the hustle and bustle of the busy city of Ho Chi Minh!
The Mekong Delta and the cycling definitely provided a well needed escape and was an amazing way to see the beautiful landscape, eat the interesting fruit/food and most importantly meet some incredible local people!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment