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Fruits of the Dragons in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

As the mighty Mekong reaches Vietnam and approaches the South China Sea the main waterway splits into a maze of rivers that form the Mekong Delta. The region is known locally as Cuu Long, or “Nine Dragons”, representing the nine main tributaries.

River Cruise

Three to four hours’ drive away from the relentlessly loud and energetic Ho Chi Minh City, the hectic hubbub of the city slowly transitions to rural rice fields. It is possible to undertake a river cruise from a number of locations in the area; there are plenty of choices and each offers various levels of indulgence. It’s a lovely way to see the country from a very different perspective and at a pace that is much more laid back. We made the journey from Cần Thơ to Cái Bè starting along the Sông Hậu branch of the river and sailing into the Mekong.

Depending on budget there are different boats available. Some are rather splendid – compact, but with all the facilities you might want.

All have decks with seating so that you can enjoy the view.

Land Excursions

Many of the boat trips offer excursions to various attractions along the way. These include floating markets and factories that produce rice paper, whiskey or sweets. It is also possible to visit some of the onshore villages in the area and to explore them on foot, visiting local farmers and learning about the food that’s produced there.

The area is extremely fertile and rice is the major crop grown. Due to the climate in South Vietnam it is possible to achieve three crops per year.

There are no cemeteries in Vietnam so families set up graveyards in the fields.

There are also a number of fruit trees that grow in the delta. Some are familiar.

Pineapples…

Coconuts…

Bananas.

Wild limes also grow in the area.

Jackfruit has become hugely popular in recent years as a ‘meat substitute’. Its texture and ability to absorb flavours make it incredibly versatile for vegetarians and vegans – mock ‘pulled pork’ is a particular favourite. But actually it is very tasty as a fruit in its own right.

Tapioca is the starch derived from the roots of the cassava trees and often used in puddings (which are far more delicious than school dinners).

Some of the residents are happy to open up their houses and it is possible to do home stays with local families. If you’re just on a day trip, visitors are sometimes offered some of the amazing fruits grown on the island.

This platter was exceptional. It may seem strange but there is an order to eating the fruit to gain maximum enjoyment: Always start with the sour flavours and finish with the sweet.

One plate that was a particular revelation was the pineapple. Of course fresh pineapple is utterly scrumptious, especially when it hasn’t travelled half-way around the globe, but it was served by sprinkling a little chilli and salt on each piece and was a taste sensation. It makes sense: like a lot of Vietnamese food it includes sweet and sour flavours (which the pineapple provides) plus an additional salty dimension and a good dose of heat from the chilli. Delicious!

Banana leaves are not only functional, they can also be decorative – just look at this lovely banana leaf ‘origami’ grasshopper.

It was late afternoon by the time we returned to our boat.

Time for a delicious, decadent dinner.

Then after-dinner drinks watching the sun set over the Mekong.


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