CanTho, Mekong River

Today we make arrangements for getting a private tour with a dedicated guide on the Mekong river. This turned out to be a university age student that spoke great English: she arrived at our hotel, and we walked down to the waterfront for a 5:00am departure. She called over our boat with the driver, and we were off our way down the river in the darkness, light by a lantern at the front of the boat.

Touring along the shoreline, we did get a waterside view of the river life, though our goal was to head over to the floating market for breakfast. Sure enough, as we arrived at the spot, our guide heeded over a vendor, and we had a great noodle breakfast with an assortment of fresh vegetables as we eagerly slurped down the hot mildly spicy dish. Dishes used and returned to the owner when we were completed! No breakfast is without a hot beverage, and the beverage boat also arrived next, and we got two hot coffees to round out the experience.

First shore stop upriver was a shop that made rice noodles. Here we got to see how the rice was separated from the brown husks, and then turned into a thick rice porridge type mix. This was poured out into large round shallow pans, heated to be cooked and then dried on racks. These were then dropped onto a simple conveyor that rolled the delicate pancake into a slicer that made a forest of noodles that were gracefully swept up and stacked: voila – rice noodles!

Back onto the boat and out of the canals – and into main river. The second floating market was for fruit and vegtables – we had drivers arriving to show us wares, and our guide purchased some mysterious fruits for us that we nibbled on

Now off to more of the river, down another canal. working our way through the channels, we stopped for another stretch at a fruit tree farm, where we got a great tour of the site. There were things growing everywhere, and our guide gave us a detailed walk though the garden. Water lotus pond as full of greenery as well. We got to tour lots of various fruit trees, along with our favorite the pineapple shrubs: bright red fruit centered in the green spiky plants. Part of the tour was also working our way across some ponds on slippery bamboo bridges, that were teeming with large fishes I have not seen before. Finishing our outing, we headed back to the main building and got a fruit tray (very fresh!), and some hot lemon tea to get us ready for the journey back.

We hopped onto our trusty boat steed, and navigated through more canals – a full maze of small channels that appear to be endless! Getting back to the main Mekong river, we started heading back to Can Tho. Along the way, we saw these immense boat barges stacked with materials – that turned out to be rice husks being transported downstream for fuel. There must have been a billion husks per boat! Of course, there were additional boats on the river which is truly a highway for commerce. Along the shoreline, we also saw other industries: some logging waiting to be picked up.

Finishing our Mekong river tour, we took a break and had a short lunch stop back at our hotel. The fresh bakery is always a hit with a spicy tasty sandwich. Checking out the wait at the local barber, I hopped in for a trim as a prep for our return back to Canada. Walking along the waterfront, there are also a number of major temples and parks – a great way to wander around the afternoon. To start, we headed off to Ong temple, and admired some of the Buddhist architecture. This is a picturesque spot, and we also found a photographer taking some pre-wedding shots of an upcoming bride (this happens for 6-12 months before the wedding!). Always part of the history, there is also a ‘War Museum’ where exploits of the American War are documented… here is an engine from a shot down B52 bomber downed by a heroic missile crew in this area.

As evening approached, the sunset and boats on the Mekong river once again came to life – tourist dinner boats and some if the waterfront walkways are very scenic! Off to dinner at our favorite local Pho shop recommended by our hotel, and highly recommended in Lonely planet as well. The soups are stunning, and huge trays of fresh vegetables: mint, cilantro, sprouts, and Chinese greens are all mixed into the spicy soup for an epic an fresh meal. Tourists are combined into a single table in the corner, and the place is teeming with locals having large loud festive gatherings. Touring town, stalls are setup everywhere and selling cloths, food, and other goods. I picked up a 50,000 Dong watch to replace my failed FitBit for now. Love seeing the family scooter outing.

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