Meeting locals along the Mekong Delta
We were so fortunate to have Nhung as our guide. She was so engaging and with her effervescent nature, we were able to meet many local people, all so friendly and generous.
Back on our bikes in the morning, we rode down country lanes, passing by bright green paddy fields, through villages with children playing and farmers cutting grass for drying, all joyfully waving to us. The people here are so friendly. We arrived in the town of Vung Liem and headed for the Cao Dai Temple.
Outside, Jac was drawn to a lady in brown who was lying out herbs for the Buddhist temple next door, which offers these as natural remedies to the poor. She had such an expressive face.
We walked into the colourful temples where Nhung explained about Caodaism. This religion was founded by Ngo Van Chieu in the 1920s after he had a vision that combining religious and secular philosophies would lead to a peaceful and tolerant world. Caodaism is a mix of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Islam and has over 4.4 million followers in Vietnam.
We chatted in the Temple so much that Duc and Hanh phoned Nhung to hurry us up. They were waiting in the market for us. We cycled around and found them, while quickly peering at the weird and wonderful products being sold on the market stalls. We love wandering around markets. An elderly lady took a liking to me, and despite our language barrier, there was an instant warmth between us.
After a long cycle back, returning rather red-faced from the heat and excursion, we relaxed before our lesson of “how to make animals from two towels”. We had such fun watching Hanh folding and twisting the white towels artistically and voila, two swans appeared and then our favourite – a bear. We had a go, and I transformed my bear into a duck (by accident). I was quite pleased!
It was lunchtime, another overabundance of delicious food, with the highlight being an Elephant fish. We relaxed while the boat cruised along the Mang Thit River and eventually we stopped off at Cai Nhum village.
While strolling along the path, we admired some fruit trees in a garden and were instantly invited in. This friendly family grew a whole range of fruit and veg as well as having a small flock of ducks and chickens. Over the stream running through the garden, they had erected a rickety bridge with a hole in it. Was this really their outside loo?
After piling us with starfruit, we carried on our walk and saw a young boy picking kumquats off a small tree. He came from HCMC and was staying with his grandparents as all schools are closed in Vietnam due to the coronavirus. Again we were welcomed, and the grandfather collected egg fruit with his fruit catcher and once again we were given more produce.
Later we saw a lady lying in a hammock, and Nhung got chatting to her. She had a knack at quickly engaging with people; it’s fabulous to watch.
The lady invited us into her humble home, one large room which encompassed her kitchen, bedroom and living room. She opened up a brand new package of a honey and ginger sticky cake for us. We sensed that this lady was quite lonely and pleased to spend time with us. As we left, she embraced Jac and me, but when Tim went in for his hug, she nearly ran a mile! We all, including her, burst out laughing. Tim’s rejection wasn’t personal, it was cultural.
Another sunset before returning to our boat, Jac asked if we could climb up to be with the captains. Apparently, no other guests had ever made this request. Jac joined the captain at the wheel while Tim and I relaxed in the hammocks, watching container ships sail down the Mekong towards the sea.
Dinner was served, I think Duc had got the message. Thankfully the amount of food had diminished, but the flavours certainly hadn’t; it was another amazing meal and another fine day. Now on our way to Can Tho City.