Exploring Village Life along the Mekong Delta
What lovely surprises; flowers for Valentines and an amazing trip along the Mekong Delta for our birthdays. A wonderful experience exploring and learning about village life, sleeping on a Sampan and eating amazingly delicious food.
Our day started with a lovely surprise, a rose and a sunflower for Jac and me respectively from our loved ones; it was Valentine’s Day!
Our driver arrived for our 2-hour journey to Ben Tre where a Tuk-tuk driver met us. We rattled down a narrow lane for our Mango Cruise for a few days along the Mekong Delta. What a treat! Jac and her husband, Simon, have generously given us this special gift for our birthdays.
There was our gorgeous large Sampan, home for two nights, with its curved woven roof and luxurious wooden interior. We took the time to learn the names of our marvellous crew; our two captains Dung and Hieu, house-keeper Hanh, a lovely young lady who transformed towels into animals and Duc, a 21-years-old lad, who we discovered was a talented chef.
Our Guide Nhung seemed more like a dear, knowledgeable friend who was taking us out for a few days and introducing us to many local people. An exceptional lady.
While the crew got Frangipani, our boat, ready for us, we were hopped on bikes with Nhung and Hanh and cycled through the winding lanes, exploring the daily lives of the villagers. With the sun shining, chickens cock-a-doodle-doo-ing, we passed by washing drying, dogs sleeping, vegetables growing with a sense of utmost joy.
Crossing a few narrow bridges, we stopped off to meet an elderly couple and the wife’s adorable mother to sample their homemade rice wine. Tim quickly connected to the grandma, with Nhung teasing that she was his new girlfriend. Their special bond reminded me of the Portrait photographer, Réhahn whose museum we went to in Hoi An. I tried to capture a similar photo to his. Not bad for my first attempt!
After being taught the one-week process of making this blow-your-head-off alcohol from sticky rice, we continued our journey to MyLong village.
Here we met Mrs Tuong. Despite her home being of modest size in Western terms, with the kitchen and bathroom outside and chickens and ducks scrapping in the dirt, I admired how orderly her home was. The logs arranged in neat piles, her pots and pans hanging tidily and glass display cases well organised.
Mrs Tuong demonstrated how to make her tasty coconut crispy rice paper, with her examples being perfectly round. We then all had a go, reminding us of our childhood, watching the Generation Game on a Saturday evening, but none of us could match Mrs Tuong’s expertise. “Didn’t she do well!”
After a stop-off for some fresh fruit, we climbed down into a wooden boat for a trip through narrow canals, lined with water coconut palm trees. We’ve never seen this plant before, native to the Mekong Delta. It’s known as the tree of life as it is used for so many things; roofing material, rope, firewood as well as nutritious food and drink.
Our little boat took us back to Frangipani for a short trip down to a brick factory, where Huang described the traditional method of making the bricks from paddy field and river bed clay mostly by hand. These are manually put into large brick-built furnaces - hot, labour-intensive work. Two furnaces were fired up with the heat bellowing, turning the grey clay into terracotta.
By the side of the kilns were cockerels kept beneath wire domes. Jac looked at these and suddenly announced that she thought they were Dorking Cocks! Jac lives in Dorking and on their main roundabout is a massive statute of said bird, the symbol of the town. What is unusual about this beautiful colourful breed is that they have five claws. Sure enough, the cockerels before us had four claws plus one at the back which had been chopped to a stump.
Back on the sampan, it was lunchtime. Our first course was a delicious soup, but to our astonishment, the food kept coming. Five courses, all scrumptious but far too much for our small stomachs. Afterwards, we sat relaxing on our bed with bellies bulging, watching the Mekong river flow before us, drifting off to the Land of Nod!
After our slumber, we cruised to the Mo Cay canals where we stopped and walked along a pathway lined with a variety of coconut processing factories.
Nhung connected so effortlessly with the local people that we were able to walk into their small workshops and watch them in action. It’s incredible how the locals use every bit of this “tree of life”: the wood, palms, shell, husks, flesh, water and even the roots.
Just as we neared our house-boat, a glorious golden sunset filled the sky. It was time for Duc to give us a cooking demonstration. With just one gas ring and pan, he created mouth-watering cuisine; a very talented young man. Needless to say that our evening meal was an excellent end to a fabulous day.