Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

On January 9, we took a bus to a small agricultural port on the Mekong River from Phnom Penh and got on a boat and headed towards the Vietnamese border with a small group of travellers headed for Saigon. Pretty early on I realised that Vietnam would be one of the highlights of this holiday.

Day 44 – 46, Chau Doc and Cantho, Mekong Delta area, Vietnam

I couldn’t help but feel the difference as soon as we left the first boat and walked across the border into Vietnam. There were still kids coming up and selling stuff or wanting to carry our bags (good luck with that) but we’re used to that. Maybe it was just me, but after doing our passport stuff and sitting down for that first ph? (beef noodle soup), I felt a sense of the positive here. After a short lunch break, we got onto the next boat, a small river boat and headed on down the Mekong River into the Mekong Delta.

We travelled down the Mekong River into the Delta region where we saw various river communities doing their thing. Lots of people fishing and taking baths in the river (not at the same time, and not naked). We were enjoying this tour somewhat for its non-touristy vibe, and didn’t originally know that there was a three day/two night option (we originally bought this ticket assuming it was simply boat transportation to Saigon), so we switched up. Accommodation was included with the transportation, all-in-all a pretty good deal for USD $39 each.

We stayed overnight at an unremarkable guesthouse on a nice hill overlooking rice fields and the nearby town of Chau Doc. That night we took a walk into town in search of my first Banh Mi (Vietnamese sub) in Vietnam. I was not disappointed. I’m a big fan of Vietnamese pork rolls (Banh Mi Heo), so much so that I must have had at least one per day during our stay in Vietnam – generally bits of meat with coriander, carrot, shallots, chilli, soy sauce and mystery spices on a French-style baguette. Often they’d put sardine paste on as well. Sounds weird but actually okay. And these rolls were damn cheap (although a bit smaller than the huge ones they make in Sydney).

Anyway, I digress, more about Vietnamese cuisine another time. In the morning we hit the road to see the markets and other happenings in the town of Chau Doc as well as getting on some small boats to see fish farms and river life. We also learned about various minority groups in the region, like the Cham, who are Muslims that have been living in Vietnam for hundreds of years, and Cambodians, who had come over as refugees during Pol Pot’s rule.

Cham lady, Vietnam
Cham villager, Chau Doc, Vietnam.

Chau Doc is a great place to see Vietnamese people doing their everyday thing and a great place to visit if you’re travelling through, especially if you want to get away from all the tourist traps of the bigger destinations.

We travelled further down the Delta into a town called Can Tho, and stayed at Hung’s Homestay located in a humble village on a small island in the Delta. Our host, Hung, lived in a large house on the river with space for about 8 guests where he and his family fed us large communal meals and showed us about the place. (He’d recently added a bunch of bungalows on the river in response to demand.)

From Hung’s we did a little walking tour of the area where we saw how the local people lived. The folks here were so friendly and the kids would come running out to play and say hello (not asking for anything!). We walked around the village and crossed a rickety monkey bridge over a small creek, and on the way back to Hung’s some old Vietnamese guys invited us onto the porch of their makeshift pub for a few Saigon beers. Conversation was lively considering they didn’t speak English and none of us understood Vietnamese, but we were still able to yell “YO!” which is “cheers” in Vietnamese.