By Lisa on Dec 23, 2013 with Comments 2
In this post we will be examining the Mekong Delta tour that I took from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and we will decide whether a Mekong Delta tour is an amazing value for money gastronomic event or two solid days of commercial stops.
As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome…
I suppose that really the Mekong Delta tour was a bit of both of the above, but as I enjoyed myself so much I am quite happy to look at the tour as the gastronomic experience that I would never have had if I’d just made my own way in the Mekong Delta.
If you would like to read first what was included in the Mekong Delta tour, you can see the itinerary, price and booking advice here.
Setting off on the Mekong Delta Tour
We drove from Saigon to My Tho which was about a three hour drive.
During the Mekong Delta tour we travelled by coach, by many different boats around the various waterways of the filthy Mekong River and even by horse-drawn cart. We didn’t know what to expect and so we were quite content to go with the flow.
There was a guide (well several as they kept changing as we moved around) with us all the time who gave us explanations about the different places we were visiting.
As well as discovering this area of jungle and river and meeting the local people and seeing how they live we also got the answers to a few questions that, to be honest, we hadn’t ever bothered asking. Yet they were interesting nonetheless:
- What do the Mekong people drink?
- How long does rice paper have to dry in the sun?
- Do people eat crocodiles?
- What sweets are eaten here?
And the answers are:
- A strong distilled spirit made from banana.
- All day.
- Coconut candy.
So there you go! Our curiosity about the Mekong gastronomy had been aroused by these few simple observations. And now we were looking forward to discovering more about the local people and their habits. We realised that our Mekong Delta tour would not just be about sightseeing.
Exotic Fruits on the Mekong Delta Tour
When we got off the boat that took us from Ben Tre to My Tho we were allowed a short stroll through a few market stalls that were set up in the filth by the side of the river selling the usual souvenirs (clearly this was where all the tourist boats doing a Mekong Delta tour dock because the sellers were waiting to ambush us!) and then we were taken to a big outdoor seating area where we were served disgusting bitter tea and exotic fruits by locals who prepared the fruit so that it was ready to eat.
While we were enjoying the slices of mango, papaya, dragon fruit and pineapple we were treated to a display of local singing and dancing from a group of women.
Then we took a very pleasant ride down a tiny waterway where only long tail-type boats could fit. The boats were only small, rowed by a woman at the front and a man at the back and carrying only four passengers.
Mekong Delta Liqueurs
When we came out into the main part of the vast river we were dropped off at a place that made a sweet liqueur from honey and a stronger liqueur from bananas.
We were also given some dried fruit, typical of the kind they make in the area, and a local biscuit.
After we tried the honey liqueur they actually brought the bees out to show us!
Then a snake came out and was wrapped around the necks of those people who wanted a photo. I’m not really into snakes so I kept my distance.
Mekong Delta Tour: Coconut Candy
We were on and off boats all day, zipping around the wide river, down tiny canals and around the different waterways that all make up the Delta.
Our next stop on the Mekong Delta tour was with a family who made coconut candy. Basically these are sweets made with real coconut.
It doesn’t sound especially spectacular, but we were given a very nice demonstration and it was interesting to see the whole coconut at the beginning and then to watch the different processes as it made its way down the production line and was eventually wrapped in rice paper at the end and put into packets ready to be sent to Saigon to be sold.
Mekong Delta Tour: Rice paper
Rice paper is something else that they make in the Mekong Delta and we were shown how.
I’m sure you’ve eaten rice paper even if you don’t realise you have. It is used to encase vegetables like in spring rolls, it is used to keep things in just like cling film or foil are in the western world, and it is even used for sweet-wrappers for coconut candy.
Rice paper comes from rice. As you know, rice is a grain, so to transform it from its natural state to paper is quite a process: first the rice is boiled in water to make a thick gloop. And then it is passed through a sieve so the lumps are left behind.
It is then rolled into flat disks and left to dry in the sun on a bamboo rack for a whole day.
The place where we watched the rice paper being made was part of a huge farm that produced exotic fruits. We were taken on a tour of the orchards and shown the different plants and trees.
Lunch on the Mekong Delta Tour
After another boat ride and a lift on a horse drawn cart we were taken for lunch to a huge outdoor restaurant where we were fed a pretty naff soup and some rice.
We could also order things from the menu if we wanted and we could pay separately. On the menu were things like crocodile stew, goat’s head with chilli, dragon’s eggs, and dinosaur testicles – well, maybe that was not the exact menu but it wasn’t far off!
Arrival in Can Tho
We were taken after lunch on to Can Tho, the capital of the Mekong Delta and we checked into the hotel.
The city was flooded and the water came right up to the door of the hotel.
The locals said that the floods should normally have normally subsided by this time of year but that the river table was high because there had been a lot of rain in China (or something like that) and that was what had caused the flooding down here in the Delta.
We had had a very busy day and we’d seen lots of different things. As I said, the whole day had been quite a gastronomic experience and we were tired. What we didn’t realise though was that the best gastronomic experience of the day was yet to come…
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....