Once again we braved the traffic of Ho Chi Minh City as our bus took us south for today's tour in the Mekong delta. It was only 7:45 but it seemed that everyone was out on their scooter. We drove along a canal dating from the French period, which was home to a floating flower markets with lots of yellow chrysanthemums, marigolds and pink and purple bougainvillea.
The traffic seemed endless and totally chaotic. As our driver tried to edge our huge bus out of a crowded roundabout he bumped a scooter that had tried to cut in front of us. Apparently no damage was done but some words were exchanged before the two riders picked up their scooter and went on their way.
The traffic came to a total gridlock. It was interesting watching the people on the scooters and all the things they had with them as they were going to visit relatives in other towns and villages. Finally, we took an alternate route and ended up on a speedier toll road that didn't allow scooters. There were no rest stops on the road so people just picked their own spot to relieve themselves.
Now we were in the Mekong Delta, the "rice basket". The landscape was carpeted in a variety of greens slashed with waterways. Rice fields were everywhere. We stopped at the Vinh Trang Pagoda, a beautiful sanctuary. Outside is a giant statue of the Buddha, surrounded by lovely, well manicured gardens. Inside were many shrines to Buddha. People were lighting incense and leaving offerings for their ancestors, including glasses of beer, gift baskets of food, and even a giant package of M and Ms.
A small boat took is across the Mekong River to a little island village where we saw coconut candy being made from scratch. They use old coconuts, pulp them, add malt and caramel, and then heat this over a wood fire. This makes a sticky mass that is placed in forms, cut and wrapped in rice paper. It was quite tasty in fact so tasty that we have hardly any left of the candy we bought. We were served jasmine tea and cookies, and were then offered samples of locally produced honey and royal jelly. I didn't like it when the royal jelly was put on our hands; it was far too sticky. This was followed by more tea and a fruit tasting. I liked the longan fruit the best. It had a very sweet taste and a huge pit in the middle. This was followed by some ladies singing Vietnamese songs accompanied by traditional instruments.
Our return trip to Ho Chi Minh City was through busy traffic once again. We said goodbye to the city as we sailed back up the Saigon River watching the twinkling lights from the passing towns and villages. Tomorrow will be another relaxing day at sea with a few lectures from our experts on our next port of call, Cambodia.