Crocodiles. Creepy. That’s all I have to say!
After spending a day walking around Ho Chi Minh City playing frogger in traffic and seeing former colonial sites like the Notre Dame Basilica (looks like the one in Paris) and post office (has really cool old telegraph maps of the region), we opted for something more rural. We found a private guide and headed out to the Mekong Delta.
We drove about 85km to My Tho in Ben Tre province. In the Western world, Ben Tre is best known for the role it played in calling into question the war efforts of the United States. Heavy shelling of the area resulted in major civilian casualties. Peter Arnett captured a quote from a US major about needing “to destroy the town to save it,” which infuriated public sentiment in the US and evenutally led to the withdrawal of US troops.
Today the area is a haven for tourists. We visited four islands on the Tien River, a tributary of the Mekong: Dragon Island, Tortoise Island, Phoenix Island, and Unicorn Island. The girls enjoyed learning about coconut candy production (and eating it!) and mom and dad managed to down snake rice wine (seriously, they keep a cobra in the bottle). The whole trip seemed a little manufactured, but I guess it brings money to the area.
Probably the creepiest part of the experience was feeding the crocodiles. The girls held sticks with fish tied to a VERY long string over a pit with crocs staring up at them. The crocodiles would stay motionless with their mouths open; they almost looked like statues. When one of the fish neared a mouth, it snapped shut and the fish disappeared.
Apparently crocodiles are present in the area, but they stay away from touristy sections of the Mekong because there are too many people. Thank goodness for that. We were all feeling happy until the tour guide mentioned that a favourite weekend activity of families who live in HCMC is to come to the Mekong to observe snakes in their natural habitat. Kind of like a zoo without plexiglass!
My favourite part of the trip was being on the water. The boat ride on the Tien was interesting as we watched all kinds of boats from barges to dragon boats go by. Our guide loved to point out the ones that were dangerously overloaded, but we’ve already learned that health & safety is non-existent in Vietnam!
We also took a ride through a small canal on one of the islands, which is where the cover photo comes from. They naturally had to give us hats to complete the tourist experience!