Mekong Pace of Life

The Mekong Delta is the river delta in the south of Vietnam. Unlike the big city smoke and lively golden beaches in the rest of the south, the Mekong is lush and lazy. Its greenery and floating markets attracts many tourists each year, and it is accessible from Ho Chi Minh City.

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My plan was to visit for a few days independently, but when I was warned off doing that by (a handsome man) someone who had tried and failed, we decided to book a tour from a Ho Chi Minh City street vendor for around 250,000 dong for two people.

The bus arrives at around 8 and the journey to the Mekong is around two hours. Our guide was friendly and told us a little bit about Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong.

Before the tour begins, there’s a breakfast stopover at a fairly expensive tourist trap, but if you’re willing to cross the road with cars travelling at motorbike speed, there is a Vietnamese street food store, but when I arrived they had no rice to go with the meat.

From the pricey breakfast, we visited a pretty pagoda with a range of Buddha statues. It’s not very busy, and the pace is calm with the only pushy hawkers being outside the temple in the stalls.

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We were then taken to the port where you board the boat to the Unicorn Island. Sadly, there are no unicorns or anything nearly magical enough to warrant the name, but there are plenty of bees and we got the chance to sample the local honey and royal jelly. I didn’t think you could eat royal jelly -apparently you can and it’s vile.

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At this point they ask “Who wants to hold a beesnest?”

I thought it was a joke, or a rhetorical question because I am massively afraid of bees – but there was our guide, brandishing a nest of live bees.

“Why is this something anyone would want to do? Are we on holiday or on punishment?”

A flamboyant man on our table got up and grabbed the nest, a few bees flying in our direction. He thought my screaming was a joke.

I was still horrified when we moved on to see the snake farm, to hold a large snake. I wanted to channel Britney, so I actually did it. As soon as the snake got too active I handed him right back to the guide.

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It was onwards now to try some local fruits and listen to traditional Vietnamese singers cover “If you’re happy and you know it.”

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There’s an opportunity to ride in a horse cart, but they look a bit sad and are probably not well treated. I personally didn’t really like this, but its up to you whether you ride them or not. I did and regretted it when I realised how sad and tired they were. The ride doesn’t really go anywhere interesting either so it’s very missable.

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The famous Mekong pictures come from the row boat ride but unfortunately we were stuck with two annoying twats from Germany who had been swigging beers all day. They kept yelling things at the locals and being disrespectful – so we cussed them in Italian.

The ride is otherwise nice, it would have been peaceful if not for the two coglioni. Be mindful that people on other boats will ask for a tip as you pass! I’m not sure they get that tips are paid for services rendered?

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Following the boat ride, we saw how coconut candies are made. I mostly can’t stand coconut, and even when I can I react to it, so I avoided this but Alessio tasted them and wasn’t a big fan either.

After this very busy morning, we got a nice (but fairly small) lunch and the chance to roam around. This was my favourite part of the day. There’s an adventure park, a place to zorb, a botanical garden, as well as the chance to feed the hungry crocs that will later feature on the menu.

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It’s a really nice way to pass the afternoon until the coach comes!

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The coach back dropped off at the main tourist strip as most people were staying there, but they offered us a ride back to our hotel which we refused. On the way out, our German friends pointedly yelled “ciao!” at me, and much to my disappointment I said “ciao” back not realising who had said it. At least I gave them a nice stink eye!

The Mekong Delta is really lovely and worth a visit. You can stay for longer and see more things, but our day trip was sufficient. Although all the tours seem to have similar itineraries, they don’t feel especially touristy or like the sole intention is to encourage you to spend money. It’s not too pricey, and you’re guaranteed to enjoy it – as long as you don’t hold the beesnest!

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