A decent breakfast in the Sky Bar on the 8th floor overlooking Saigon river got the day off to a flying start. From here, we were picked up to join the Mekong Eyes tour – two days and one night on this lovely boat cruising the Mekong Delta. http://www.mekongeyes.com/en/home . It was a 2.5 hour drive from Saigon to the boat departure point, and it was a direct trip, surprisingly, with no random stops at places like the Handicapped Handicrafts shop, which were a prominent feature of my first trip to Vietnam.
The 39-metre Mekong Eyes, once a traditional rice barge, is a fine looking boat with 15 cabins, a spacious restaurant and bar area, and a large sundeck and outdoor restaurant. It has eyes painted on the bow for good luck. It’s a tradition for boats that ply these waters. That the eyes were painted to scare alligators wasn’t particularly believable, but that they provided sight for vessels returning home was. The eyes make the journeys fast and safe, and the crew alert, apparently. Vero and I were shown our cabin – small and cosy, with a double bed, a little wardrobe and a shower area with sink and mirror. A wandering cockroach caused us brief concern, but the crew soon eliminated it. There were 19 aboard for this trip, so there was ample space to move around.
We met an old Australian couple from Adelaide, Bill and Marilyn, tattooed, rough and ready. Bill is ex-Air Force – a real bloke, but very amiable. Bill told us they were travelling for 3 weeks in Nam, then going to Bali to stay in their timeshare in Nusa Dua. Then they went to the bar and got stuck into the 333 beers.
Vero and I chilled on deck, then we were treated to a nice lunch of pumpkin soup, fish and other things. After lunch, there was more relaxing on deck watching the world go as the Mekong Eyes cruised slowly down the Delta. I had to grab a beer too…..it was the perfect time and place for one.
Later, we got on a Sampan to a little village of 20 farmers and their families on the riverbank. They grow rice here, which takes 3 months to cultivate, which they do by machine here. They sort it, send it to get polished, and the husks are sold back to the farmers. Nothing is wasted.
The lovely guide, Tranh, took us around, explaining life in the village. I took a photo of her and Vero, then she said she wanted one too, to ‘put on facebook.’ Even on the Mekong Delta, Facebook has dug it’s social network claws in. It was a lovely scene here in the paddy fields – a relaxed way of life in the village. They had a bar with a pool table too, which was possibly the only source of entertainment for the local chaps.
Back on the Sampan and back to the Mekong Eyes as the sun began to set on a river full of life. Boats were chugging back to the city after a day at work selling or trading or whatever it is they’ve been doing for centuries.
We enjoyed a couple of Saigon beers as the sun set, and it was one of those beautiful, magical moments one tends to remember for a long time. We had dinner – beef, BBQ pork, and, of course, rice, washed down with a couple of glasses of red wine, then it was time to head on deck, where I fell asleep under a blanket of stars set in the clearest of skies. While I had the luxury of dozing off, poor Vero had had a Vietnamese coffee after dinner, strong, black as tar and sweet as candyfloss, and she was wide awake, head darting around, listening to music, hyper. When I came around from my doze 2 hours later, she was still buzzing. Retired to the cabin and fell into a deep sleep.