The Mekong Delta.
After spending our first few days in Saigon wandering through war-related museums and trying pretty much every Saigon beer to try to figure out which one was best (turns out, they all taste the same), we spent the next two days doing that most time-honored of tourist activities: the side trip. Yes, because spending 48 hours in a capitol city of 6 million that's hundred of years old is more than enough to be able to offer expert opinions on it for the next five years (don't say you haven't been warned), we needed to get out of the city and see just a bit more.
Our first trip was to the mouth of the Mekong. And yes, that means we went to the Mekong delta. We were trying to catch a boat up river as far as it would go, into Laos (not Lao!) to search for some colonel that had gone mad ... Oh wait, no we weren't. I think that was a different side trip, and a different river since, as far as I know, the Mekong comes down through China and Thailand, not Laos. But whatever. But we DID go to a plantation, which the elder Sheen visits in the extended version of Apocalypse Now. Of course, this plantation was nothing like that, since it was staffed by a middle-aged Vietnamese lady who couldn't speak English and not delusional, heavily-armed French nationals. But besides that, the comparison is pretty spot on.
Anyway, the Mekong. It's big. Really big. At least, at the mouth it is. I think our guide told us it was over a mile wide--possibly more--and I didn't see fit to argue with him. It looked that big, at least. And sure, I don't have a lot of experiencing eye-balling large distances across major world rivers, but I doubt you do either, so who are you to argue with me? Whatever. Here's the Mekong as seen from the ridiculously large boat we were on, which could hold at least 50 people but instead held just me, Holly, our guide, the captain, and his young son. That's just how we roll, people:
These people don't roll in quite the same style:
Again, not rolling quite the same. Most fishermen in third-world countries don't, in my experience. But he does have his own houseboat, which is something:
Fishing boats. The eyes, as far as I know, are from protection. And to see where they are going. Obviously:
So I'm pretty sure there's no cable service available in the Mekong delta, but that's just a hunch ...
Now we're getting somewhere. At some point, we left the boat, hiked around for a bit (I think they used to call it recon--and yes, I was on point. Duh.), and got into this smaller boat to go down the smaller waterways. It was bit hot. And sweaty. And claustrophobic. And me without my M-16. Welcome to 'Nam, FNG:
This boat was exactly like ours, right down to the guy perched on the stern polling us around. Except this guy didn't have to pole around two overweight Americans and their normal-sized guide:
Here's a shot from the plantation. There would be more, but it turns out what used to be a plantation in the colonial days is now just a beat-up wooden house with some muddy dirt paths, a random collection of fruit trees, and a bunch of dirty chickens running around to make you think things like, "Wow, this is exactly how people get bird flu, I bet." On the plus side, the tea was really good. I wasn't sure what kind it was, but we added honey and fresh kumquat juice to it. Hmmm, tasty:
We did see something more interesting than the plantation, though: a coconut candy making factory! Yes, the Mekong is totally known for its coconut candy. I think they mention that in Platoon, but I'm not sure. This guy is mixing the melted coconut candy. His backup is sitting behind him. Because, you know, stirring chewy melted coconut and sugar with a big wooden spoon all day in the 95 degree heat gets tiring. No, seriously, it does:
These women were wrapping the candy. I think this is what would be referred to as "the easy job."
This woman was cutting the candy. I think she may have also been cutting the cheese. As you can tell from this picture, I was directly in the blast radius. I put in for my Purple Heart, but I haven't gotten it. Yet:
A random, cute Vietnamese kid. I think either Angelina Jolie is adopting him or Madonna is planning to just plain take him, I'm not sure which:
Coming up next: guns, bombs, and booby traps. Stay tuned!
Previously, on my vacation:
- Saigon: the Random.
- Saigon: Reunification Hall.
- Saigon: the War Museum.
- Saigon: the Streets.
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.
- Hoi An: the People.
- Hoi An: the Streets.
- Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hue: the River.
- Hue: the Imperial Tombs.
- Hue: the Imperial Palace.
- Hue: the Streets.
- Halong Bay: the Videos.
- Halong Bay.
- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton." '
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.