The Mekong Delta was our last destination in Vietnam. Aaron joined us again, this time coming from Nepal after completing the Everest Base trek.
As suggested by our guide-book, we took a one-day tour from Saigon and then bailed out at the conclusion by having the bus drop us in My Tho while it headed back to Saigon. The tour was a reminder of why we often prefer exploring on our own. The guide’s English was fair, at best, and the tour group got herded like sheep from one (sometimes cursory) sight or activity to another.
In fairness, we did get to tour an agricultural area, a rice cake factory, hear some local musicians and singers, tour a coconut candy factory, ride on a horse-drawn carriage and ride through some beautiful narrow channels on a motorized boat as well as a small boat rowed by a native.
While touring the candy factory, a minor disaster struck when the sticky stuff caused a crown to dislodge. Fortunately, I didn’t swallow the crown but was now facing a dentist visit in Ho Chi Minh City.
It felt odd but kind of cool when we left the tour group and the bus dropped off on the highway at an intersection of the road leading to the town of My Tho. We were traveling light as we’d left the majority of our luggage and clothes in HCMC bringing one small backpack each. I commandeered three xe oms (motor-scooters) with drivers and Cindy, Aaron and I motorcaded our way to the harbor and our hotel. It was only a few kilometers and a fun way to travel.
The next day we continued our journey south, this time taking a taxi to the highway where we would get a bus to Can Tho, the central hub of the Mekong and home to the Mekong Delta’s largest floating market. The ‘bus stop’ consisted of a few plastic seats, a food vendor and a couple of local ‘charges d’faire’ who would flag the buses down. We didn’t wait but a few minutes before a sleeper-bus stopped. I negotiated the fare down by a third, though, I’m sure we still paid a premium tourist price.
Since the best time to visit the market was early in the am, we walked around Can Tho on foot before Cindy and I rented bikes to explore the surroundings more afield. We took a small local ferry to cross a Mekong River tributary and rode down some narrow alley-ways where almost everyone had a big phat ‘hello’. We must have gotten hundreds of hello’s and had a great time; no other tourists, just the locals going about their day-to-day stuff and us cruising the slow road.
It had been raining almost every day in the late afternoon and we were keeping an eye on some clouds gathering in the distance. We headed back to catch the little ferry to Can Tho just in time to beat the big rains.
Our floating-market guide picked us up at our hotel at 6:30am and we walked to her small long-tail motor boat which we had to ourselves. She spoke no English, though, we didn’t mind. We enjoyed the ride passing several large tour boats carrying 10-15 passengers and feeling very grateful for our intimate experience.
We toured a rice-noodle factory (again, happy no English was spoken) and toured some beautiful tributaries while appreciating the sights of the local back-waters.
In the afternoon, we headed back to HCMC/Saigon. It was a day earlier than originally planned since I still had to contend with the ‘crown situation’ and I had been in touch with our hotel who recommended a local English-speaking dentist where I could get my crown re-attached. We had purchased our bus tickets through our hotel, and as if often the case, it was hard to tell exactly where the bus station was located. Once there, we could take a local bus to our hotel. It sounded pretty easy, though, it was confusing to find the right local bus. It turned out we only had to go a few stops and it was even a walkable distance to our hotel.
I was right on time for my dentist appointment which turned out to be only a few minutes walk from our hotel. I entered the office and was immediately directed to take off my flip-flops and to put theirs on. I waited about 5 minutes and then saw a hygienist who sent me upstairs to see the dentist after a quick look in my mouth. I met the dentist who did indeed speak English and had been practicing dentistry for 8 years….though, how much conversation do you really have with a dentist anyway? For about $10 he re-installed my crown and off I went!
The last day in HCMC was spent walking around and relaxing. We would not be seeing Aaron again for a long time since he’d decided he would probably return to teaching English in South Korea.
We tried our best to seek out some last great meals. We enjoyed our time in Vietnam, the sights, the food and of course, the people. They were so friendly, open and helpful. Oh, and did I mention the food?…heck yeah! We’re going to miss that, too.