Special Gift From Mekong Delta

I am a fan of getting first-hand experience about different cultures from around the world, so the three-day homestay tour in Mekong Delta did sound perfect to me. In the end, it turned out to be one of my best decisions of summer 2016 – Igot to experience all the things the booklet promised me and more: breathtaking natural landscape, hospitable local people and appealing traditional culture.

CREDIT: ivivu.com

I left the bustling Ho Chi Minh City early in the morning to head for Mekong Rustic in Cai Be, Tien Giang. When I got there after only two hours, I was surprised to be welcomed so warmly by the smiling faces of the friendly locals and a basket of just-picked tropical fruit. After having a hot bowl of pho for brunch, I hopped on a boat to go to Tan Phong Island where my host family lived. It was a brief but pleasant experience living with them, although I mostly communicated through the host sister, as the parents did not speak any English. However, they were still welcoming and generous. The only drawback was that I somehow felt obliged to eat a massive amount of healthy food every meal. My host sister said that it was common for Vietnamese moms to feed their family members as much as possible.


Booking.com


In the afternoon, my host sister showed me around the orchards and the small bonsai garden. The orchards were large and beautiful with a dozen kinds of fruits and vegetables. We plucked the ripe fruit and gathered vegetables for dinner, while she taught me how to care for each of the plants and how an orchard like this worked. In the bonsai garden, I was amazed to see tiny being styled so intricately. My host father happened to be one of the best bonsai artisans in the villages, so his works were impressive. He even taught me how to make a bonsai tree. I was no good at it, but it was fun trying to tend to every leaf.

After that, I helped prepare the dinner with authentic dishes: crispy golden egg rolls, lemon grass chicken and sour seafood soup. Mekong Vietnamese food was truly amazing!

CREDIT: hivietnam.net

The next day I visited Cai Be Floating Market, which was as my host family said a must-see in Mekong delta. And they were not wrong at all! It was an unforgettable sight – hundreds of wholesalers on big boats, all presenting different types of colorful fruits and exotic traditional crafts, hanging samples of their goods from tall wooden poles. Some of the kids talked to me in surprisingly fluent English, and thanks to them I got to know more about the interesting life of a floating markets’ seller.

Saying goodbye to the floating market, I went to Cao Dai Temple. The temple was majestic and beautifully decorated in a mixture of Neo-Gothic, Baroque and Oriental design. I was most impressed by the dragon wrapped pillars, seven-headed cobras and blue-sky ceilings. Later a friendly guide told me that the unique architecture was because The Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Confucius, as well as Joan of Arc and Julius Cesar were all honored at this temple. How interesting!

Inside Cao Dai Temple. CREDIT: wikimedia.org

Leaving the temple with a hundred photos, my next stop was Ba Kiet ancient house and the handicraft workshop. I also learned how to make biscuits and candies in the traditional candy factory to bring home as gifts.

After enjoying a delicious lunch with Mekong specialties, I decided to take part in a cooking class. I just could not get enough of those delectable dishes! Therefore, the afternoon of the second day was spent uncovering some secrets of Vietnamese cuisine.

In the morning of the third day, I chose to explore the Mekong canals by joining in the locals’ daily vehicle – hand-rowed boat. The boat cruised among the meandering rivers and criss-crossing canals, while I enjoyed the sounds from numerous birds and the beautiful view of Mekong lush orchards. We were free to pluck the fruits dangling right over our head and enjoy them right on the boat. It was pleasant and calming, losing yourself in a less frequented corner of the world, being in harmony with the nature.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       CREDIT: antravel.com.vn

After thanking and saying goodbye to my host family, I came back Ho Chi Minh City early in the afternoon, already missing the Mekong delta with its unique culture and untouched nature. It was an amazing experience to immerse oneself in the serenity of the nature and the warmth of sincere human beings.

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