Deep in the south of Vietnam, you’ll find the laid-back Mekong Delta, an expansive network of water famous for its floating markets and traditional way of life. I’d arranged to spend a night in a home stay in the Delta to experience a slice of traditional Vietnamese hospitality and having spent almost two weeks touring the country, I was looking forward to some rest and relaxation. And this was the perfect place to find it.
To get to my home stay, which was nestled in the heart of the Mekong Delta, I boarded a boat in one of the waterside towns that was to take me across an enormous stretch of water to a series of narrow canals and waterways where my home stay was located. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the size of the river we were about to cross – it was ginormous, one of the biggest I’ve seen.
I was in awe, not only of the huge body of water, but also of the numbers of boats crossing it. There were small canoes, bigger ships that looked like tankers, as well as boats transporting the locals and their bicycles. The people here have really adapted to life on the water and it was fascinating to watch.
Once we’d crossed the large expanse of water, we hopped into a smaller canoe to tour the canals around Vinh Long. The waterways are quite narrow and had a swampy feel to them, and I was riveted watching the local people going about their lives on and around the water. I watched people transporting goods, such as fruits, fishing nets and logs, along the canals. I even saw one man swimming in the water.
We stopped off along the way at a fruit farm; a pottery, where we watched the staff making pots using traditional methods; as well as a small shop, where the people who ran it showed us how to make a toasted rice snack. We spent a good couple of hours touring the waterways, going in and out of the various inlets, and it was interesting seeing another side to Vietnam, one that was very different to what I’d experienced so far.
Late afternoon, we arrived at our home stay. It was a complex of wooden huts near the water’s edge and the family who ran it were really friendly and welcoming. It also amazingly had great WiFi. After dumping our things, we spent an hour or so relaxing in the hammocks that surrounded the complex, reading and watching the world go by. It was wonderfully peaceful and relaxing.
When the heavens broke to unleash a torrential downpour, I lay swinging in my dry hammock, enjoying the lightning show. After the rain, lots of wildlife emerged including giant white snails, frogs, and some bizarre amphibious/fish-like creatures with two front legs. I was fascinated by the wildlife, which was so alien to what we have in the UK, yet less amused when a giant tree rat also decided to come out to play. The rodent was running around the ceiling beams of the complex and I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. Mice I can cope with, but rats are another story…
After a few hours rest and relaxation, we joined the family to prepare supper – although I’m not sure I was much help as I kept getting told off! I really enjoyed getting stuck in with the dinner, even if I wasn’t doing a great job of making sure all my spring rolls were similar sized. We then sat down to a wonderful feast. Once dinner was over and the plates cleared, the family put on a traditional musical show for us, which was fantastic.
The next day, we were up bright and early, and headed back through the waterways of Vinh Long. Our destination was the Cai Be floating market, where the locals gather together in their boats to buy and sell their goods. I was really interested by the market and how the transactions take place, and it was great to watch it in action.
I very much enjoyed my visit to the Mekong Delta with its very traditional way of life and water-based culture. It was a peaceful and relaxing part of the world, and unlike anything else I’d experienced in Vietnam. There was a real laid-back feel to the place, which contrasted greatly with the hustle and bustle of the cities, and it was the perfect place to unwind before I headed to Ho Chi Minh City for the final leg of my Vietnamese journey.