Friday, September 14, 2007

Vietnam: Mekong River boat ride

During my second day in Vietnam, I decided to go on a Mekong River tour. The thing I like about mainland Southeast Asian destinations is that it’s so easy to book tours even if you’re just alone.

I spent US$7 for a whole day tour which included lunch. I was picked up at my hotel at 8 a.m. and we were off to My Tho City, one and a half hours away.

We took a small roofed pump boat a few minutes from the city center. The river was very wide and we got to see many fishing boats, ferries and floating houses. Most of the tour was going to be in Ben Tre province across the river. Our first stop was a small coconut candy factory in Turtle Island where we got to see how they made the local delicacies.

From there, we went back to the boat and stopped over a fruit orchard where to my surprise, we were given bicycles for a ride around the area. Nothing fancy actually, it was the typical rural life in Vietnam which one can see here in the Philippines. But I’m sure the other foreigners in my group were excited with the new experience. We have better rural scenes in the Philippines. But there was no grassroots tourism program like this where the locals benefit directly. Our DOT is focusing too much on big resorts and golf courses, local residents don’t get to benefit too much from the tourism boom.

After the bike ride, we were served lunch in the fruit orchard. It was a small serving of spring rolls, pork, soup and rice. You could order more but it was a bit pricey. From there, we boarded our boat again and rode to Unicorn Island where first visited a bee-keeping farm to taste the honey, honey tea and honey wine. But we got more than that since we got to play with their pet python too. But the highlight of this part was that each of us was given a serving of snake wine!

We walked down the path to another area of the island where we enjoyed the local tropical fruits while being serenaded with Vietnamese traditional folk-song music performed by the locals. On the way back to the boat, we had to ride small paddle boats from the restaurant which took us through narrow river creeks shaded by nipa plants. We boarded our boat and headed back to the port.

From the port, we boarded our van and made a brief stopover at the bonsai garden in My Tho. Didn’t see much but I got some jackfruit snacks to munch on. We were back in Ho Chi Minh at 5:30 p.m. More photos in Multiply.
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