With one more day left in Ho Chi Minh we decided to do one last tour heading down into the Mekong River which runs from Thailand, through Laos and exits into the sea in Vietnam.
During my trip to Chiang Rai and the golden triangle almost 3 years ago I took a tour down from the top of the golden triangle from Mai Sae to Don Sao in Laos and loved it so decided it would be a good way to see the bottom of the massive River.
The full day trip with lunch included was only 180,000₫($8.5/£5) And would take us to three islands… dragon, unicorn and lastly phoenix Island. The tour guide was very animated and had a song for everything from getting on the bus to getting of it… fun at first however a tad annoying after a couple of hours!
Our first stop was to see Vinh Trang pagoda, three massive Buddha temples surrounded by beautiful flowers, the statues were huge but what was actually impressive was all the beautiful flowers dotted around! Was rather picturesque! We took another rest stop on the way there and again the place was filled with gardens of exotic flowers.
By the time we reached the river the heat and humidity was unbelievable with the humidity at 89%. Anyone who has not been in a humid country before all you need to know is it feels way hotter than it is As you sweat as soon as you step foot outside!
We boarded a water boat and set sail for Dragon island here we are able to see how they make coconut candy the area is famous for. We got to taste some which was very very sweet but nice, you could also buy the sweets, coconut ice cream, coconut juice, coconut toys and coconut plates and cutlery…. Basically anything you can think of making they have made it out of the coconut.
We continued though the island and arrived at the horse station which we got to ride on so we could see how the locals get around. Our woman was clearly just about finished for the day and while the other horse and carts gently jogged our horse was on a sprint for the finish taking a corner way to fast and almost toppling the cart over like a cartoon on one side! I’ll be honest I’m not a horse fan, and although we got a ride on the cart it was a bit of a gimmick as we went a few hundred meters up the road, turned a corner then turned round. With our speed machine the whole thing was over in about 3 minutes!
We bought some coconut juice mixed with water fruit and I also bought one of the famous
Vietnamese straw hats for the sole reason of trying to keep cool! We got back on the boat and headed for the next stop, Phoenix Island. This island is famous for its crocodile Farm, there used to be loads of crocodiles in the Mekong River however after years of eating them and hunting them for their skin there are no wild ones left!
We stopped for lunch which was included in the deal which was not bad however we got sat next to the minister of industry for Vietnam who bought us all beer and a massive elephant fish to share. was a lovely gesture especially as up until now we had only shared a few words!
Andy and I went exploring after lunch and walked across the ‘monkey Bridge’ consisting of stalks of bamboo tied together. At one point it was just one stalk of bamboo… If it broke or we fell it was right down into pond below! Luckily it held but there were a few loud cracks and it was very bouncy!
Across the pond there was a fairly large crocodile Farm, unlike the one in Cambodia there were barriers to stop anyone from falling in and if you wanted to you could buy a bit of meat on a string and lower it down to get snapped up by the Crocs!
We grabbed a couple of bikes and cycled down through the back streets until it was time to Get back on the boat and head to the last Island.
Unicorn Island is famous for its bees and there are many bee farms on the island. Awaiting us was some local produce, to start we were given a honey, lime and pollen tea with dried fruit which was delicious! It was just a spoon of honey, lime juice and pollen with boiling water… Simple but effective!! Then they pulled out the big guns… the tiniest pot of ‘Royal Jelly’. It is made from the worker bees and usually fed to the larvae or the Queen Bee. We were told of the multiple benefits of it such as skin care, libido boost and the healing of Hepatitis A,B,C and D but at $25 a pop it wasn’t cheap! We gave it a miss… not really a believer in that kind of thing!!
We then had free time to look around where we found a local playing with a giant snake! He put it round our necks and we got pictures expecting him to ask for money but he seemed quite content watching the funny sweaty white people squirm with his snake round his neck!
Moving on we walked though a market full of the usual tourist tat until we came to our next tasting- local tropical fruit with Vietnamese tea. We had pineapple, Melon, Jack fruit, water melon, dragon fruit and another that I have no idea what it was! Whilst eating We were given a local performance of traditional Vietnamese songs and instruments. Was nice to listen to and the fruit was delicious!! We even had a giggle trying on the traditional carrier that sellers use to carry their produce!
Finally we headed down to the river and climbed aboard small bamboo row boats and were rowed back up to the boat. The scenery was beautiful even if there were loads and loads of boats. It was beautiful but so so hot and SO humid!!
We climbed aboard our motor boat and crossed the river one last time back to our bus which would take us back to the city. It was a jammed packed day and the best $8 ever spent!
We got home to pack and get on a flight the next morning heading up to the North and the capital… Hanoi!