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Winter Vacation - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2006/12/25

Christmas with the Commies


View Winter Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

We woke up and realized "it's Christmas and we are in Vietnam". It was a strange feeling. We also realized Santa didn't get our forwarding address. But, that's ok. We wanted to do something different for Christmas day so we booked a one day tour of the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is about 3 hours away from Saigon and is the largest rice producing area in Vietnam.

This time our bus left at 8:15 and we knew that someone one was going to come a little bit earlier. We planned for this and we actually finished our breakfast before we left. We went to the departure spot and realized that there were a lot more people on this tour than the tunnels. This time there were about 30 people and we had a full sized bus on this tour. We left and it took about 3 hours to get there.

Along the way made a bathroom stop and had to navigate our way through many different shops and past many people wanting us to buy stuff. I have a feeling all these stops are planned and there are probably commissions paid to the tour companies. We didn't buy anything this time. But, with a bigger group it was a lot harder and we had to wait for people at every stop.

We arrived in the Mekong Delta and we transferred to a boat to go on our cruise. All the boats have eyes painted on the front for good luck.

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We left and went to a floating market. We were told that this was a pretty small market; there is a much larger market elsewhere in the Delta. Every boat has a pole on the front where they put an example of what they are selling. If they have melons, they hang a melon off this pole. This way everyone can tell what you are selling from a distance. We cruised through this market and continued on to a little village.

This boat had potatoes and was displaying potatoes on the pole.

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Here are some pictures from our trip up the river.

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In the village we saw a traditional Mekong Delta home. There are three or four rooms. In the front room there is a big table. This table is only used for greeting visitors. They don't eat on it. There is also a large armoire where they keep all of their valuables. They don't have many banks out here. Then the mother or father keeps the key to the armoire with them at all times. Also, in every house there is an altar to their ancestors and a picture of Ho Chi Minh ("Uncle" Ho).

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We went into the back room and watched this woman make rice paper.

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After touring this house we walked along a path between some huge plants, dogs and loose roosters to a workshop where they make coconut candy. We saw them flatten the candy, cut it into little squares and wrap it in rice paper to keep it fresh.

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After the coconut candy we watched a woman make a rice wafer. Next one of the guys on the tour tried to make it, but it didn't turn out very well. But, when Court tried it turned out very nice and was quite tasty.

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Finally we watched them make puffed rice. They would take grains of rice and heat them in a pot with sand (to attain a high enough temperature) and wait for them to pop. They popped surprisingly fast.

After we saw them make all of this then we got a chance to sample and buy it. Needless to say we left with a lot of coconut candy. They also had snake wine for sale here. We didn't sample any of it but in each bottle there were dead snakes. It was interesting to look at, but I don't know about the taste.

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After we finished our tour we cruised back down the river for an hour or so to have lunch. We passed a lot of houses built on stilits in the river and lots of people working on boats.

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When we arrived at the dock for lunch we had about a 10 minute bike ride to the restaurant. When we got there they served us "elephant ear" fish. It came propped up between two posts on a plate. We would take a piece of fish and wrap it in rice paper with some noodles, and vegetables. It was really tasty. Then they brought out some rice, spring rolls, vegetables and some soup. It was a great lunch and we finished it off with some fresh fruit for dessert. We sat at a table with two New Zealanders who are teaching English in Japan and a couple from Germany.

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After lunch we had some time to wander around, but it was pretty hot so we relaxed and chatted with other people on the tour. We then hopped back on our bikes to head back to our boat.

We boarded our boat again and made our way to another market where our bus would meet us. On the way, Courtney noticed some stakes coming out of the water with nets hangin off them, and got really excited when she figured out thet they were using fishing weirs, the same type that are used in the Bay of Fundy herring fishery. She proceeded to take lots of photos of them (there were a lot of weirs; maybe a couple hundred just on our way back to the dock). Here are some samples.

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We got dropped off and wandered through this market. There were lots of people selling fresh fruit for very cheap. Court bought 6 oranges and a big citrus thing for about $1. Some other people bought some rambutans which they were delighted to share with us because we had never had them before. They were tasty but had a strange texture, like a giant, ultra-sweet grape.

Eventually, our bus picked us up again. Except this bus also had people from the two day tour so we all had to crowd on. When we boarded the bus they were playing "My Heart Will Go On" from Titantic and then the music went down hill from there. It was entertaining beause the people behind us were rocking out a lot.

On our way back we crossed over the Australian bridge. It is a bridge that the Australian government gave 66% of the cost to build it. It is a large suspension bridge that makes road travel much easier through the Delta.

Other than the bad music it was an uneventful trip back to Saigon. The traffic was bad so it took longer than we thought it would. When we eventually made it back to our hotel we were told to wait because they were making our new beds. We just figured that they meant they were making our beds. But, nope. When we went up to our hotel later on we had new, bigger beds.

After supper we went and made our Christmas phone calls and then had a quite Christmas Day in our hotel. Overall, it was a very good Christmas.

Posted by agc_cwm 06:02 Archived in Vietnam

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