Saigon & The Mekong Delta

StrictlyNormal Travel Department

 2006 - Andria Thomas & Aaron Datesman Random Creative Pursuits. All rights reserved.

Andria and Aaron did their best to fit it while visiting a minority village built on the Mekong in Chau Doc, but somehow...they still stood out.  A view of Chau Doc from the river shows buildings (and cable antennas) proliferating, yet one-man (or woman) paddleboats are still one of the most popular ways to cross from one side of the city to the other.  While eating breakfast on the river one morning, we saw one unfortunate passenger take a tumble from a paddleboat into the river, while on her way to work. 
In Chau Doc, we took a 2-hour boat tour with a local fish farm as the first stop.  Apparently we were the first visitors of the day, as we pulled up to the house/farm and tried not to disturb the man sleeping soundly in the hammock next to the hundreds of swarming (and clearly hungry) fish.  The boat trip also took us to a minority village where some of the houses were built on stilts over the river. 
After Saigon, we took an easy-to-find local bus to the common tourist destination of My Tho in the Mekong Delta, then decided to make our lives difficult by taking a motorcycle, ferry, and another motorcycle to the small town of Ben Tre.  This early in our trip, we had forgotten that getting off the tourist track might involve much longer travel times and a total lack of English speakers.  However, it was worth it for the wonderful boat tour we took with Liem (pictured explaining Vietnamese politics with Aaron).  Our boat tour also took us past a friendly group of rice wine drinkers (at 9am) who offered to share their "breakfast" with us.  Cost for a two-hour private guided tour in a town with no other tourists: $5.
Our trip started in Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by basically everyone.  The Mekong Delta spreads below Saigon to the south and is one of the most fertile, populous, and economically well-off regions of Vietnam. 

One of the first things we did in Saigon was set off on a quest for the street with the least traffic, pictured above.  Trudging onwards, we (eventually, after many wrong turns and much sweating into previously-clean clothes) came across the Jade Pagoda whose highlight was a pond crawling with friendly turtles.  On the way back Aaron negotiated for an excellent $2 haircut despite a daunting language barrier.