We spent an amazing day cruising around the Mekong Delta close to Can Tho and immediately fell in love with it! The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of over 40,500 square kilometres and is the ideal habitat for a wide range of animals and plants.
We started our tour at 5.35 in the morning when it was still dark. The first highlight was driving on a scooter through Can Tho, observing people in parks already doing gymnastics, dancing Zumba and playing Badminton! It was also a gentle entry into the world of riding a scooter through the big cities of Vietnam since there was not a lot of traffic at this time of the day 🙂
Fabulous floating market
We met with two other tour participants from Germany and started our trip. After about 30 minutes on the motorbike our first stop was a floating market. Unlike other quite touristy markets in the delta, this one was small but authentic. It was a true wholesale market where people buy and sell mangos, pineapples and coconuts not by the piece but by the 100kgs. 50kgs of mangos is not a lot for a restaurant, we were told by our guide Linh. Still, Linh managed to buy some single pieces of fruit for us to eat later, more about this further down… 🙂 Unfortunately we are told the market is generally in decline since more people shop in the big cities now and the produce is increasingly transported by scooter.
Still, it was a great sight to see people buying a lot of fruits on the river. Coming from Europe, there is just something magic about watching people buying a huge load of pineapples on small wooden ships on a calm river in the wee hours of the morning.
We also learned that many, usually rather poor, people live on boats on the river and we can only imagine how tough it must be to live with your whole family on such small boats.
Breakfast noodle bowl
After the floating market we stopped for a bowl of amazing rice noodles! Vietnamese seem to eat everything in the morning from soup to meat and fish to sausage. The soup was delicious with the extra pork hun dun acting as the “icing on the cake”. For us it was also the first great opportunity to ask Linh questions about Vietnam, in this case mainly about food. We also enjoyed talking to the other two people of the tour, a very friendly couple from German who have already made their way south all the way from Hanoi.
Local food market – of snakes, eels, frogs and so much more
A spontaneous highlight of the day was the visit of a local food market close by. This was as authentic as it gets in Vietnam! We just love local markets and this one was no exception. It was beautiful to see all the fruits and vegetables displayed and neatly stacked on top of each other. What was really unforgettable though was the fish and meat that was sold. We saw living frogs jumping around as well as people using scissors to cut off the feet and hands of barely dead frogs – truly a very shocking sight. Among all kinds of different meat, we also saw dead mice for sale.
Linh again proved to be a fun and adventurous guide. She made us hold a snake as well as an eel – a slimy and slightly scary affair! 🙂 After the tour Linh actually admitted to being afraid of snakes. We guess this is why she made us touch them… 🙂
Another amazing benefit of having Linh as our guide was that we could simply point at any food from the market and she would not only explain to us what it was but also buy it for us to taste! 🙂 This way we got to eat a lot of different stuff including the filled and roasted bananas in sticky rice below.
Linh also bought small packs of milk, which we later gave small kids as a little present.
Floating through the delta
After the market we jumped back onto our boat and continued the cruise. It was simply fantastic to steer through the small arms of the Mekong and observe the landscape, the flora as well as the people who live there. We luckily got to pass by a wedding party and were quite passionately invited inside to drink with the guests. Unfortunately we did not have a lot of time and had to decline…. We then got to walk over a very thin bamboo bridge – which ended up being surprisingly stable! We saw countless banana and coconut trees and so many jackfruit plants.
Thanks to Linh and her funny attitude we not only had a great time but we also learned so much! At some point she made us stand with our backs to a pepper bush, a pineapple tree as well as dragon fruit tree and describe how we think they look like. Having eaten pineapples and pepper so often before, we felt really stupid not knowing anything about these plants!
Linh also let us row the small boat. To be precise, she made Tanja do the rowing. Her argument was that in general in Vietnam women do all the work while men sit in coffee shops and read the newspaper 🙂 As you can see on the picture, rowing these boats means standing on the back and pushing the oar forward. Given the two oars overlap, this turned out to be surprisingly difficult.
Another highlight for us was to see how people lived in the delta. We saw quite a few houses and Linh explained to us that usually people have the kitchen outside (see below). Quite often this means that the path between the kitchen and the house is actually a public pathway.
Within Vietnam the Mekong Delta is known for all the fruits that grow there. On our way back we had the most amazing time eating all the fruits we learned so much about! We had pineapples, mangos, lychees, jackfruit and star apples.
Going back to the city we hopped back on our motorbikes and did a big detour through the small paths next to the water. It was an unforgettable ride to bike through those small paths in between banana trees and jackfruit plants! After we arrived back in Can Tho we then had delicious sandwiches at the Mekong Logis and we used our last chance to continue to ask Linh many, many questions.
What an amazing day! Linh knows how to make you feel special and how to satisfy tourists that want to go off the beaten track and see something special. Thank you for this unforgettable adventure!
Book the tour via the Mekong Logis hotel. While the tour is more expensive than the standard one ($33 per person vs $20) we found it was absolutely worth the extra bucks. Linh just has a great way of showing you the delta in the most enjoyable way! 🙂