Thursday, August 7, 2014

Missing the Mekong River

Somehow I got into my pictures from Vietnam last night and realized there was so much more I hadn't posted from my travels.

One of the most memorable things we did on the trip was a bike ride along the Mekong River.  There's a slew of different tours you can take, but the one we tried was Le Vietnam Cycle Tours. We did just a day trip, and wondered if maybe we should have stayed another night to pedal through more of this beautifully lush and calm area of Vietnam.

The trip was about 12km long beginning with a ferry ride to the villages of Durian Island.

Along the way you see how Mekong is the lifeline for so many people - easing transport of local goods such as these rice husks.

Before the war, the river was full of crocodiles, and story has it that fishermen painted eyes on the tips of their boats in order to scare the crocodiles away.  The tradition still remains today though there are much less crocodiles in the water (contrary to what our tour guide likes to joke).

On bikes, we pedaled around the dirt paths and narrow roads of the village.  Little kids are so excited to see tourists and always wave eagerly, shouting, "Hello!  Hello!"  It's adorable and heartwarming.  The ride is pretty easy, aside from the pure sand trails that make my wheels slip terribly, and of course there were nice little breaks in between to introduce us to Vietnamese food and life.

A family hosts us in their home for freshly cut durian.  The fruit is slightly underripe so not as pungent as it usually is - everyone enjoys it and goes for second pieces.  Take that, Andrew Zimmern!

The family had the cutest, chubbiest kid with no front teeth.

Later we stopped at a sugar cane stand.  These stands are prevalent throughout Vietnam - stalks of sugar cane are pressed through steel rollers until completely dry and shattered to extract all the sweet juice.

We had a few cups of sugar cane on our trip up until this point, but this cup was definitely the most refreshing.  

We also got to see how puffed rice is made - rice is added to a screaming hot, oiled wok and stirred vigorously for several minutes.

The puffed rice is then sorted to separate the husk from the rice.

Seeing things made from start to finish makes things taste all the more wonderful.

The best treat of the trip was the lunch held in the garden of a local farmer.

He is a six-generation longan wine maker - using the delicately fleshed fruit to produce alcohol.  He encouraged us to each drink several cups for strength and vigor.

The meal was simple and honest, and that's all you really need.

How meaty shrimp should be, minus my gross thumb.
Crispy little eggrolls
Banh xeo chock full of pork.
Elephant fish, used to make our own spring rolls.

You can see my spring roll is mainly fish skin. <3 td="">
Light vegetable soup.
Claypot chicken.
Dessert of fresh fruit - easily the best rambutan I've ever had.
After lunch, we took the ferry back to the van.  Heavy rains poured upon the river, blowing cold mist upon our faces and the boats around us.  We figured it was a sign that maybe we had made the right decision to do only a half-day trip, but it seemed bittersweet all the same to leave behind the stark beauty of the Mekong.

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