The portion of the Mekong Delta that lies in Southern Vietnam is approximately 39,000 square kilometers in size. Unsurprisingly, an excursion in the Delta tends to feel a little rushed, even if you decide to spring for the two-day trip instead of one. The bus was crowded, but air conditioned, and only occasionally tossed us from our seats in the back when the driver forgot to slow down over bumps. Our boat was a wooden motor boat, about 50 feet long, with bench seats and chairs placed (not screwed) onto the deck.
After a quick stop at the Vĩnh Tràng temple to see the beautifully crafted Buddha statues, we arrived at the first island. Here, we drank honey tea—specifically, we drank a splash of tea poured over a healthy serving of local honey and bee pollen—which was delicious. Next, we sampled local fruits and were served more tea. After some time, we climbed aboard a 12-foot canoe and paddled (or rather, our guides paddled) through the canals of water coconut trees back to the shore and our boat. At the next island, we sampled coconut candies made from local coconuts, and stayed a bit to watch the candy making process.
My favorite part of the trip was our homestay. When booking a tour, you can stay in a hotel, or opt for a “homestay,” in which you are taken to a local home to experience a taste of traditional Vietnamese food and local living. To get to the homestay, Rachel and I were ushered (along with two women from a separate tour) to a bus stop approximately 10 minutes away from the hotel where the rest of our group was staying. At the bus stop, the driver pointed encouragingly to a man standing on the roadside and said, “Local guide!” The man smiled, spoke Vietnamese, and promptly began speed walking away from the bus stop. We scurried to follow, winding through poorly lit streets and alleys until arriving at a river. Our guide gestured to a small wooden motor boat and said, “We go!” So, we went.
With only his head lamp to see by, our guide steered us upriver, maneuvering through lily pads and debris that could entangle the motor. Bats skirted the water surface, and people settled into their stilt houses along the shoreline with dinner and chores. Dinner was waiting when we arrived, and consisted of spring rolls, rice, green beans, and fish.
After dinner we lounged in hammocks on the deck and drank a Saigon Green beer. Rachel, myself, and our two newly introduced acquaintances shared a room for the night. The room held three beds, each donned with mosquito netting, and was un-airconditioned, with a 1-foot opening between the top of the wall and the ceiling for air flow.
We awoke in the morning to a deluge of rain clattering against the corrugated roofing. A moment of panicked thoughts ran through my head, like how soaked would we get or how would we keep our cameras dry, but they passed in an instant. Instead, I felt lucky to be lying here experiencing this—it was a beautiful sound to wake up to. The rain stopped by breakfast, and we took a moment to observe our homestay in the daylight. Tucked away in vegetation and housing along the river, it was the kind of place you don’t mind staying awhile.