Days 224, 225… Mekong Delta/Overnight Train
Day 224… Today we head down to the Mekong Delta in a 2 hour private bus and visit unexplored Ben Tre and the village of Trang Long where coconut is everything and anything. And may I say we have as a group picked up the worst tour guide i have had to date (excluding the nightmare in Argentina)… its painfully obvious he is only doing his job with bare minimum interaction and just could not care less about us. Anyway… beforr we get there we do a pit stop at a local market and see a beautiful temple (comllete with dragon boat shaped hearse) then we are off to the fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, we board our private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries and see how they harvest wild honey and royal jelly before seeing refined coconut being made into coconut candies (very much like nougat) and the little lady bonus local guide is a dream… way better than our guy. After the sweet stuff we catch a shallow 4 seater row boat out to lunch (including me on an oar) before we then head to our overnight homestay along the Mekong Delta. After We check in to the simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms with all meals included not-really-a-home-stay, we grab some bicycles and head out into the village to enjoy the serene area and see some coconut fiber being turned into twine. Back at homestay i dive into some Uno, cook up some spring rolls, dine with my fellow tour folks before a rousing game of WHAT’S IN THE BAG (essentially a CELEBRITY HEAD game but with anything) before sleeping in my bedding under mosquito nets are provided.
Day 225… Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. Then we wander the markets for a bit (& glad we did… got a great photo of the kind of material i want for my suit… see later in Hoi An) and while here I spotted a tottery old little buddhist monk/nun lady who looked a thousand years old being led to a stall for food. I head off on a mission to do some good and return with a bottle of cold water for her, to which the locals are actually surprised. I guess westerners usually don’t pay attention to that kind of thing. Anyway, then i ducked across the road to see a japanese festival here in Vietnam. Afterwards we all board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Our sleeper train is a four berth compartments, and may I say these trains are actually way better than any train to date. China was awful, but Russian and European trains were only ok by comparison. Hell… I’ve been on worse in Australia!