The tour didn’t start that well with me showing up at the tourist office at 8am as I was told the night before and the lady almost screaming at me why I came there as she told me to come to another place. She kept running around, I had to follow, searching for probably the bus but apparently it was already gone. I therefore joined other tourists at the tourist office for the tour who surprisingly booked the same tour as me with a few exceptions to those that booked only the day tour. I wanted to spend 2 days at the delta to see the real floating markets in the early morning hours and stay at the home of some local Vietnamese people.
The day tour was nice, we went to a bee farm, a coconut production chain and listened to some traditional story-telling music while enjoying local fruits. I’m not sure whether the singers were singing out of tune or whether it just seemed like that to my Western ears.
I met three Australians on the tour of which one knew Vietnamese. He also spoke to the locals and so I got to know a little more about the local people as well while we were on a little boat which was lead by a Vietnamese woman, passing by some villages with very pretty houses. It costs only about 20.000 USD to build a house there, which would be like 400 Million Vietnamese Dong, whereas in the city it’s more like trillions of Vietnamese Dong for building a house.
The tourists for the day tour then left to go back to Ho Chi Minh City and I was left with 4 more people staying overnight in the middle of no where waiting to be picked up. About an hour later we were actually picked up and joined another tour group on a bus for a longer ride to the Vinh Long Province. Just the moment the bus dropped us off with our tour guide it heavily started to rain. We crossed the street to drive the rest of the way to the My Hoa Village with Vietnamese on their motor cycle but due to the heavy rain they quickly gave up and we looked for shelter in one of the abandoned construction sites to wait for the rain to end. There was some thunder and it looked like the world was about to end but about half an hour later the sky was blue again and we continued our ride to the homestay village. It was a little scary as we were three people on the motorbike, driving on a max. 1 metre wide “road” through the village to the homestay place. We made it alive though 🙂
Our driver was also our host and he explained us that in his village live about 5000 people and they started to offer homestay about 7 months ago and it was very good for the village. The kids started to learn English (my god their English is amazing already!) and the locals started to learn about cleaning water, toilets and the environment.
We had a great dinner with Vietnamese pancakes and spring rolls that we made ourselves and afterwards joined to local men to chat and drink “happy water”: rice wine. Since it’s rude to decline drinking with the locals we had several shots, usually sharing 50/50 with one other person as it’s the tradition. We just needed one shot glass for the whole evening and the 1.5l bottle emptied rather quickly…
I went to bed rather early which was a good decision as the kids woke us up at 5.30am for breakfast and to leave for the boat shortly after. We rode about 1 hour to the floating markets that are still what they used to be and didn’t change for the tourists. Therefore all we saw was locals trading pineapples, sweet potatoes and other goods while we passed by and left. It was not as exciting as one would probabyl expect due to the hype of “going to see the great floating markets in the Mekong Delta”.
After the floating markets our tour guide brought us to a rice noodle production place after which we had to wait quite some time before leaving for the monkey garden. Our tour guide became very rude that day, making fun of all of us and refusing to explain us anything or telling us where we were going. In the monkey garden were no monkey but we were again left for a couple hours to wait until our trip continued. I had some really tasty local fruits while we tried to kill the time sitting on tiny wooden chairs with many other tourists.
Once we finally left our guide brought us to some place in a little city to have lunch. The 40 minutes we were supposed to have for lunch quickly became only 20 minutes as it turned out that our guide still had to do some shopping and other things for which he dragged us along. He seemed to have his own agenda for that day and we were just a bothering bunch of people he had to take care of…
After another wait we were picked up by a taxi to bring us to the bus transportation, our guide grinned at us and promised it would be a much higher quality than the bus we had on the day before. Well, he was lying. We ended up being shoved into a public transportation van with 20+ local people. The van smelled like dogs and horses and the AC was not working. I had about 30x30cm^2 for myself, sitting in my sweat for a 4 hour ride. Luckily there was no accident, we were like 10cm close a couple times… When a couple on my group started complaining our guide laughed at them, saying that we tourists always pay cheap and then expect to get more than we paid for. This is a great bus and we should not expect European standards… When we later complained to the tourist office he even lied about buying us beer all the time even though we had to pay for every single drink ourselves.
The lady at the tourist office didn’t really care about our complaint since we came back safe and there’s no way she could afford an AC bus for us even though this is what they advertise. Oh well, welcome to Vietnam!