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Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 25 - 27, 2013 – Saigon and Mekong Delta (Part 2)

 Mekong Delta
On Monday we hopped the tour bus headed for the Mekong Delta.

At the boat landing, we boarded a long wooden boat and were seated on folding bamboo chairs. 

As we headed down the river, our guide described life on the delta. For the most part, these folks are nearly completely self-sufficient. Most live either on the river or in stilt houses and do their trading by barge. Barges selling goods will hang a sample from the top of a tall pole to show what is available that day. 
This boat is selling yams

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Stilt Houses
 After cruising the river villages for a while we stopped at a rice processing plant (well, more of an exhibit area to show the process).  
puffing the rice
We observed them shucking the rice, making puffed rice (like rice crispies), making rice paper and candies and so on. The puffed rice is made by putting heavy black sand and the raw into a large wok and then tossed and stirred very hot fire. The sand helps to distribute the rice evenly while "popping it" out and over the edge of the wok onto a table, while the black sand settles to the bottom of the wok. It is a fascinating process. Everything about this factory was fascinating. We were given tasting samples throughout which of course encouraged us to purchase the products at the end of the tour.
making the rice paper

bamboo drying rack
Afterward we lunched at a quaint café where everything is locally sourced. There was even a beehive dripping with honey.
Next was a trip to the local market where we saw some VERY fresh items, including duck, hens, roosters and geese tied down to a pallet, squawking clucking happily away not knowing their fate would be the ax very soon. 

There was a tank full of live snakes that utterly gave me the creeps! It is quite unbelievable.

Our next stop was to a small tributary where the boat stopped and tied off to a pole. We were then gingerly dropped, two by two, down into little dugout canoes that were manned by a standing paddler. They were quite tippy!

Frank in the dugout
We had to very carefully maneuver ourselves to center. The paddlers took us on up the small tributary where the people live to so that we could see their homes and gardens.  I'm guessing these little dugouts are the local taxis.
We enjoyed this tour very much and were quite happy that we chose the one-day, rather than the multi-day visit in the delta. I don't think I could have stood the mosquitoes more than that one day!

Back to Saigon
Back in the city for our last day, we began with a stroll and continued to just wander throughout the city wherever we felt like meandering. We took a break at the local Baskin Robbins (which was our favorite stop), and then lunched at our favorite Pho café. We were already developing favorites and could have stayed just to eat here, especially after locating The Sandwich wagon that our friends Andy and Melissa (from s/v Spectacle) had rated as the best. Unfortunately it had taken us all these days to finally locate it, as she is not at her spot every day. It really is the best sandwich we have eaten to date, made on fresh baby baguettes with some sort of tiny meat patties and lots of fresh vegetables.  We lived the street experience and had a great time doing it, finally getting into the rhythm of life in this city.

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