One of the two typical tourist things to do in Ho Chi Minh.
We were tossing between a day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta, but since we were planning to visit the War Museum and heard that it was wildly similar, we decided on a tour to Mekong Delta instead. And that was how we spent our Boxing Day – riding along crowded canals in the heat, doing trippy tourist things. We had the funniest Swiss guy in our group who basically laughed at everything, which kept us wildly entertained throughout the day. Probably the only plus side of tours; meeting other foreigners.
After about a two hour drive from the city, we arrived at a rest stop to stretch our legs and grab coffee before heading to the dock. The first leg of the tour is the bee farm, but looks more like local housing turned tourist hub. It’s nothing like what you would imagine when the words “bee farm” come to mind, which was both a relief to an apiphobia like me and a disappointment for photo ops. We were served honey tea (i naively thought it was like honey tea leaves or something extraordinary but turns out its just normal tea being poured over honey) which consisted of their local honey, bee pollen and royal jelly. My brother and i both laughed cause we grew up playing Ragnarok Online and royal jelly is a drop item haha nerd alert.
We were then taken past lots of stalls to an area where they served us local fruits and had people entertaining us with folk songs. And here is where the tipping started. It was funny cause we were all watching each other to see how much we should be giving and unknowingly gave too much for our first time. Once we were done eating, we were taken through the back way in a somewhat jungle area to where the canal journey began. Getting on the ‘sampan’ was rather scary due to all the wobbling and we were firmly instructed to place our hands on our lap to avoid our fingers getting crushed from the passing boats. The canal isn’t very wide so it was like a bumper-boat situation.
At the end of the canal, we arrived at the coconut candy factory which shows us how their products are made. The workers are super quick with their hands! They wrapped each candy in lightning speed and we got to sample a fresh batch. They were even selling alcohol with snakes, scorpions and other creepy crawlies inside the bottle yech.[/twocol_one][twocol_one_last]
Our tour included a horse-cart ride (more like a pony) past the local houses into a neighborhood where we had lunch. We felt really bad for all the little ponies being forced to pull carriages of tourists, also since it was pretty hot that day. It was a similar situation to when i was in Ayutthaya and witnessed the horrible treatment of elephants for the pleasure of tourists. We were given a local dish for lunch – ‘elephant ear’ fish in rice paper rolls which was pretty good. Initially, they gave us the impression that that was the only dish we were having so everyone started ordering more. Only when we were done ordering did they start serving the other dishes, which was a little sneaky since they got to charge us.
We got in another boat that took us back to the coconut candy place where we waited for our final boat ride back. I’ve never been in this many boat rides in my entire lifetime! There were fresh coconuts waiting for us onboard our final boat as we headed back inland. So yums.
The tour only takes half a day and costs USD39 per person in a group of maximum 15 people. We were also given the option of a private group for USD45 per person but justified that it wasn’t necessary. I’m not sure if you’ll experience the same thing we did but watch out for extra dish charges during lunch, and drinks (even bottled water) isn’t included as well. Just like any tour, there’s a lot of tipping involved so be prepared. It’s the only form of income for most of them as well so they’ll start dropping hints in a seemingly joking manner. I think there were at least 5 different tips we gave out (including our tour guide and driver) and according to our tour guide, the minimum amount should be 10,000VND for the miscellaneous local stuff.[/twocol_one_last]
It can get rather hot there so dress appropriately. Also, the climb in/out and even across the boats requires lots of flexible movement. I crashed my knee into one of the boats in my attempt to cross over cause i had my dslr hanging off my neck and a bulky bag of essentials over my shoulder so my souvenir that day was a nice bruise on my knee heh.
Not too sure which travel company we went with since i corresponded through a forwarded email by my brother (he found them on TripAdvisor). Our guide’s shirt shows A Travel Mate and i think i found the right one here (they’re wearing the same shirt so i’m just doing a guess here). I have a memory of a goldfish but if i’m not mistaken, our guide’s name is Tony and he’s extremely nice and doesn’t give you the whole you-should-be-buying-something aura. He even showed us some magic tricks while waiting for our boat to take us back haha.
I’m sure i’ve mentioned this before but i’m not a tour person. Most cases i just sign up for a tour because its the only way i can get to a certain place. This tour was surprisingly bearable, probably because there wasn’t much to do so there was no immediate rush.
Saigon diary coming up next!