Mekong Delta, Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007
Posted by Lisa Hill on December 8, 2007
We began with a long drive down to the Mekong Delta, and then a somewhat alarming boat ride, followed by an even more alarming transfer into a sampan which took us up a narrow winding stream to Coconut Island. In the oppressive heat and with the ever-present threat of mosquitoes, it felt a little like the voyage of the African Queen – though the vegetation was different, and alas, nobody on board looked like Humphrey Bogart…
On Coconut Island we were shown a lot of tropical plants we’d seen before (in places like Safeway), had a morning tea of fruit and tea, and then watched coconuts being hand-made into coconut sweets – outdoors on trestle tables, along with flies and the occasional dog – but these relaxed hygiene standards seemed not to bother anyone much and trade was brisk. Tim then went to inspect some beehives while I and my allergy to bees kept well away. Then there was a silly photo shoot with a python kept miserably in a cage, followed by lunch and the trip back up the river. It was not really much fun, but our hosts tried so hard, and it seemed best to put it down to our good deed for the day and tried to buy pointless souvenirs to help the local economy whenever we could.
Back in Saigon we stopped at a brilliant Chinese temple that featured enchanting little carved figures all around the topmost walls, and then a too-quick tour through the wholesale market. We followed Long single-file into a rabbit warren of tiny stalls, where – had we had time – we might have bought dear little dresses, hats and tiny little shoes for my just-born grand-niece Ariella. It was a wonderful treasure-trove of sights and scents, but alas, night was falling. Long had already been more than generous with his time – and he had not yet finished his day…
Once before in the topics, in Bali, Tim had got a nasty rash on his feet and by this time into our Vietnam trip, the rash was back with a vengeance. So (with Long’s help to find it) we made an unscheduled visit to the International Clinic where anti-histamines were prescribed and we learned that it was probably an allergic reaction to the unrestricted use of chemicals in agriculture.
This somewhat alarming news did not discourage us from venturing out for dinner – to the Continental, where Graham Greene used to stay. (I had a Daiquiri in his honour). Our entrees and main courses weren’t especially memorable, but we had a wonderfully theatrical performance by the head waiter who made our crepes Suzette for the edification of his young understudy. A splendid cognac finished the meal off nicely and we made our way back to the hotel feeling much better!