The Mekong Delta is a two-hour drive from Saigon. On arrival the 4 of us plus our guide, Vu, boarded a small boat to travel to an island in the middle of the river delta. It’s a place where people’s lives are lived out almost entirely on the river.
Above: making sticky rice alcohol
Above: making lacy rice wraps
We visited a small shop where they make coconut milk and coconut candy by hand; another where rice paper wraps are made from scratch by hand; another where coconut palm roof shingles are made, stitched together by hand; and another where lacy-looking rice wraps are cooked.
We also saw the “floating market”. We had always imagined this to be something much like the land-based markets, but on boats. It turns out it’s really lots of boats spread out along the river. Many boats are anchored, and they fly a “flag” indicating what it is they’re selling.
Above: a pineapple seller
Others go along the river from boat to boat selling things like coffee or Pho. In theses cases, they leave the coffee or soup behind and return an hour later and pick up the dishes and money.
Our boat driver then transferred the 4 of us to a tiny sampan, rowed by an old woman, to tour the shallow, narrow canals of the island, lined by simple homes, gardens, jungle and water hyacinths used to capture fish and shrimp. It looked like a scene out of the movie “Apocalypse Now” for those who recall that.
After returning to our original boat, we stopped at a simple home for lunch consisting of 4 courses, served by a woman and her mother, followed by live traditional Vietnamese music performed by the father, daughter and son. The small eating area was lined by hammocks, and each of us spent 15 minutes lying in a hammock, swinging in the slight breeze of the otherwise relentlessly hot day.
Above: the woman who served our lunch.
Above: the fish that served as the basis of our Vietnamese version of “fish tacos”, served in rice wraps, of course, not tortillas.
(We’ll try to post a video link later)
This was one of the highlights of the trip and well worth the time; we’d recommend it to anyone coming to Saigon.