Category: Vietnam 2017

GETTING SOAKED IN THE MEKONG DELTA

October 21.  At 8:00 a.m. Our guide, Hoan (pronounced like Juan) picks us up at the hotel. Hoan is 39, married with two children, and is originally from the central part of the country, where both his grandfather and father fought on the side of the Vietnam Cong. After the war they migrated down to Saigon. Ho was a great leader for the North, according to Hoan, but Hoan does not like communism. Asked what he calls the city, Hoan has no doubt—Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is for the North.
We depart for a two-hour drive from Saigon to Ben Tre, one of the country’s southern provinces, situated in the Delta of the Mekong River.  On the van we learn a lot about Hoan’s upbringing and background. The eldest son of six children, his family frequently did not have enough to eat. His father was intent on Hoan getting an education and through sacrifices by his parents, grandmother and a cousin in Saigon, he was able to get the money to attend Tourism University in Saigon and graduate. Since then, his other brothers and sisters have graduated from university. One is a lawyer and another a banker. We also don’t discussed politics. Hoan estimates that about 3% of American tourists support Trump. For him, though, the leader does not matter; it’s what they do for the people. His view of the war is that that’s history; what’s important is the future, which is why he and others welcome Americans and good relationships with the US. Hoan is now fully familiar with the wok of GOATs. Surprisingly, he had not previously heard of the group.
As we leave behind the busy city, we pass Rach Mieu bridge before reaching Huu Dinh Hamlet. There we see roadside stores and street traffic  


We have a full day of visiting local small businesses.  We get on our tri-motor cycle (tuk-tuk) ride to enjoy the lush surroundings of rice paddies and fruit farms alongside the narrow and very bumpy, pot-holed village roads. Here’s a view of our driver from above from the back of our vehicle

two natives in front of our tuk-tuk

a memorial to nine Vietnamese killed by the French

two ceramic dogs posted outside a house to ward off evil spirits

work by the side of the road

and a very large butterfly
Arriving at the waterfront, we board the Mango Cruise for a glimpse of the Delta scenery while enjoying coconut juice.   


Here’s Hoan, relaxing on the boat

Along the way,  we visit a coconut processing plant
and then a brick making shop, where the locals still use centuries-old traditional methods to make the bricks by hand
We then stop at the a rice noodles factory “hu tieu”, one of most popular breakfast dishes in the region. 

After that, our personalized rower paddles us in a rowing sampan through the maze of small canals, which is definitely the highlight of the day for us.  Traveling in these canals, it’s easy to see how Viet Cong and their supplies would have been nearly impossible to spot.  Here are a few views of our rower.

Then our rower takes us back to our Mango boat and we head to the Mango Home Restaurant for a 5-course lunch.   

 After lunch, the boat waits for us at the pier nearby to bring us back to Ben Tre city. Shortly after the boat takes off, we are caught in a torrential rainstorm, which adds to the adventure of the day and rather soaks us.  

Our van takes us back to the hotel, about an hour and a half later than we’d anticipated.
At seven this evening, we are met at the hotel by Thuan Trinh, the former ABC secretary who we’ve been put in touch with by Tony, the Japanese photographer friend of David Snell. I’d exchanged several emails with Thuan and arranged to meet her at the hotel. She’d asked if she could bring her 24-year old friend, Tam, with and we’d happily agreed.  We had dinner at the hotel.  Thuan is a total live wire, who left Vietnam in 1975, just as the government fell, and became an American citizen, living in Virginia, outside D.C., and working for ABC, until retiring and moving back to Vietnam in 2009.  She has traveled very widely around the world, has relatives in many places and obviously is a master at making connections and utilizing those connections very effectively.  It was great fun to spend some time with her.  I think that one comment she made sums up pretty well what it must be like to deal with her.  At some point, she asked whether I followed/ understood what she was saying.  I said yes, but admitted that I had not understood the last thing she’d said.  She said that her former boss had told her that when she spoke slowly, he could understand her, but that when she spoke fast, he just guessed.

GETTING SOAKED IN THE MEKONG DELTA

  • Aaron Freeman

    LOVE the hats! Are you bringing some back?

  • Zoe

    Love the pictures! I hope you have a great rest of the trip!

    -Zoe

  • arnie

    Thanks, Aaron. Alas, the hats were borrowed, but we can frame a picture for you.

  • Gil Cornfield

    Your pictures really help us to share the experience. Thanks! I would like to no more about what was in your meals–are they different than what we have at Vietnamese restaurants in Chicago?

  • Barbara Reynolds

    Thanks for sharing

  • Beth osten

    Brings back fond memories of our trip to Vietnam. I think it was my favorite trip of all that we have done.

  • Rick

    My son Chris travel there before he was married. Brought back tons of photos.
    He loved the country and people.

    A fellow who worked for me was a Navy Seal. One of his jobs was to retrieve
    dead bodies in the Delta. He said you could not see more
    than a foot in front.

    A fraternity brother was a Navy pilot. His father was a pilot
    with the former TWA. On a mission in the Gulf of Tonkin aboard
    an aircraft carrier, he would fly missions. One was his last. The launch
    catapault malfunctioned and sent him and his plane into the Gulf where
    he perished.

    As you probably know Miles and Charlie were in the Army there.

    Have a great trip.

  • lauri pollack

    Love, love, love your blogs. THANK YOU

  • Eve Levine

    Love the blog and photos! Thanks!

  • Ahdina

    Wonderful!

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