Bury Me In Food

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Staying at Bich Duyen Hotel and travelling along the Mekong Delta, Vietnam April 6, 2010

I wanted to start this post off by saying, “Recently, I returned from a trip to Vietnam…” but then, I realised, I’ve been home for over a month, I can’t really say it’s recent anymore.  Yes…I must say, my travels seem like a fond, distant memory…work gets to you like that.

I haven’t been eating out much, just eating really bad junk food like Pizza.  Dominos does gluten free bases, and I have to say, they’re pretty good…alot better than Pizza Capers (which is soggy and cardboard-like) so ever since then, I’ve been eating pizza on a weekly basis.  So, instead of blogging about Dominos pizza (I always get Hawaiian with chilli flakes and garlic oil), I’ll blog about a day tour along the Mekong Delta when I was in Vietnam (nearly two months ago!!) where there was some food involved.

Following advice from forums, my friends and I didn’t book any tours until we got to Vietnam.  In Ho Chi Minh City, we stayed at this great little place called Bich Duyen Hotel.  It was fairly central and it was manned by this great guy called Jan.  It was 4 storeys with no elevators, so my friend KK was trepidatious when she thought she may have had to lug her 27kg luggage up the spiral staircase.  No worries, Jan hoisted the suitcase on his shoulders, picked up another 15kg bag and was up the stairs and back down before we could sit down and take off our shoes.

The place was very clean, no shoes allowed and the rooms were basic, with air-con, fan, firm mattressed beds, and showers.  No room service or that kind of stuff but Jan, the reception/bell boy/conceirge/travel agent/currency exchange was absolutely lovely.  He gave us great exchange rates, was full of useful local tips and above all, honest.  He’d tell us what we should expect to pay and even cautioned us to be careful with certain type of transport.  The rooms were cheap too, maybe about $20 or something per night.  We also woke up to freshly cooked breakfast, Jan would ask us everyday, “Would you like egg or bread with jam and butter?”…eggs were an omelette with capsicum, onions and the bread was always a crusty fresh baguette.

We also booked a couple of our tours through them.  Don’t book online before you go to Vietnam, it’s such a rip off.  We booked while we were there, through Delta Adventures – listed in the Lonely Planet Guide, and it was cheap and great.  For US$15, we got transport, with a young jovial guide, who spoke excellent English to the Floating markets, where we were transported on ‘long boats’.  For me, it was spirit-changing, families living on the boats on the Mekong Delta, they have barely anything and yet, as we drifted past, children would run out, so happy, and wave to us.

We then stopped off to see where they make coconut candy and they also showed us some snake wine – rice wine steeped with snake and peacock – taste like bad tequila.  True, this part of it was just a blatent excuse for you to buy stuff, but nothing was expensive, the candy was like $1.30 for a packet (of like 20 or 30) and you got free samples.  During all this, it was also interactive too, the guide told us great stories and histories, so it was never boring.

Our next mode of transport were small boats rowed by standing people with two long oars…we all wore conical hats, very relaxing.  Lunch was in a locality where as soon as we got there, the food were served, lunch was included in the $15 and a simple fare of rice, spring rolls, clear soup, and yummy pork chops.  We decided to pay and extra $5 (between the three of us) and we got a big, crispy fried Elephant ear fish which was eaten with rice paper rolls, rice noodles, vegetables and peanuts.  Very yummy and fresh…despite the fact that it was fried.

After that, we were given 45 minutes or so to relax, most people grabbed a hammock and had a nap, I pretty much was the only one to get a working bike (no flat tyres, wonky seat or askew handle bars) and rode for a bit…not very safe though, I felt nervous everytime a car or motorcycles went past…with friendly honks of course.

We had the option of paying extra to head back by speedboat as opposed to the bus, heading back by bus is included in the $15, speedboat costs extra…I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but I think it might’ve been $15 or something…nothing unreasonable.  It was worth every penny…it was a different way back, and the guide allowed us to sit on the top of the boat where I felt I was at one with nature. Very, very relaxing.  As we sped into Ho Chi Minh City, the sun was also setting, turning the sky this beautiful display of pink and orange…absolutely blissful.

I would highly recommend it.

Tours was with Delta Adventures – www.deltaadventuretours.com

Hotel I stayed at was Bich Duyen Hotel – basic, the staff was wonderful and it was very central, within walking distance to Banh Thanh markets.