"Southeast Asia has a real grip on me. From the very first time I went there, its was a fulfillment of my childhood fantasies of the way travel should be."
We journeyed outside of Ho-Chi-Minh City to Vietnam’s famous Mekong Delta. We stopped at Cafe Sake for a bathroom break and coffee and relaxed on some hammocks, before continuing on to the picturesque province of Ben Tre near where our local guide Arthur’s family is from. Our group walked through the village along the canal which also serves as the areas irrigation system. People move to this area to escape the fast pace and noise of Ho-Chi-Min City. I can see why. We hardly saw a soul and it was so serene walking through the coconut plantations and passed quiet homes this area is known for. We saw a beautiful Torch Ginger Flower seen in one of my photos, Pomelo fruit, and Longan (Lychee type fruit).
At the end of our walk we climbed into a skinny sampan boat and was handed a conical hat to put on our heads. We cruised the canals and quiet waterways of the Delta. Cecile and I were accompanied by Lin, our intrepid, guide from Overseas Adventures Travels (OAT) who has been with us from the beginning of our tour and of course the oarsman who propelled us through the groves of water based coconut trees. We were taken by the simple living and the quiet scenic beauty of this part of Vietnam. We stopped at a village factory to learn how they make the sticky, toffee-like coconut candy. We were offered shot glasses of tea with honey and cumquat as seen by the photo of me and fellow traveler, Charlie from Florida. We were also shown how they break a coconut to get the juice out and tasted the coconut fruit. We cruised to nearby Phoenix Island where Arthur told us about a religion started by Ong Dao Dua, known as the Coconut Monk, after engaging in meditation at Chau Doc’s Sam Mountain. It was a fusion of Buddhism and Christianity. Toward the end of our visit we tried on a live Python on our shoulders as demonstrated by Arthur, and I was invited to have a beer and fresh fruit with a group of local guys from the village.
We switched off to a large paddle boat, enjoyed sipping fresh coconut juice and pulled onto a dock of a local plantation style restaurant for an elaborate six course meal that included sticky rice globular bowls cut into sections, vegetables, a crepe type dish, and a full large whole fish called Gourami that the staff deboned and prepared for us.
When we returned on our bus for our one and half hour bus ride back to our hotel, we napped and had our own private party, singing and dancing on the top floor of the hotel, overlooking Ho-Chi-Minh City's version of a Times Square building that was changing colors every few seconds. Our guide Lin had a playlist that got us rocking the night away. We then had pizza and pasta with newly made friends Eileen and Jerry from Buffalo, NY, before calling it a night.