It is almost impossible to book ground travel in Vietnam online. So we waited to get some help from a travel agent when we go to HCMC and by then everything was gone. Becuase of TET (Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday) every single bus to Can Tho and ferry to Phu Quoc were booked. One reason why no one should travel in Vietnam during TET, everything is booked.
However, a miracle happened. There were cheap seats open on Air Mekong to the beach island Phu Quoc to and from HCMC. We grabbed them and decided to skip our night in Can Tho and do a day trip into the Mekong Delta.
Sam, Justine and I booked a full day tour with a travel agent group that was right next to our hotel in the backpacking district. You can find tours to the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chin Tunnels basically on every street corner. They are usually full day tours that cost anywhere between $5-$12.00. Our tour went from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm and drove us to My Tho and Ben Tre in the Delta for $10.00.
We were in a cramped mini bus traveling to the Delta during the busiest time of TET. That equals massive traffic. I had never seen so many mopeds in my life. Most of them had a whole family, their clothes and food for a week on them. Insanity. It took us almost 4 hours for a 2 hour trip.
Our first stop was a tourist trap. They told us it was a famous temple and Buddha. We then asked when it was build and our guide replied, "umm 2008." This is when we first realized we were on a tourist trap tour.
We then were dropped off at a dock along the river and hopped on a boat. It drove us down the river to our lunch destination (Turtle Island). The river was pretty dirty and mostly filled with fishing and shipping boats.
Turtle Island and lunch were pretty dissapointing. There were no turtles and the island looked like it was made for tourists to have lunch on. The only thing I found while walking around were some chickens in wire cages. We were forced to sit at tables with a bunch of random middle aged foreigners and have awkward small talk for an hour.
We were then taken to a "coconut candy factory". The workers showed us how they make the candies from the coconuts in the Delta and then we were asked to buy some of the candy. Another tourist trap. This was a low point in the tour. Our positive attitudes were diminishing and I think Sam's was completely gone.
However we did found this amazing Snake Liquor at the "coconut factory" that we all wish we bought to make someone drink. How wonder how bad this actually tastes.
The best part of our day was when we found a random table of toothless Vietnamese men drinking and playing three card poker." We finagled our way into joining their game for a little. I have never seen a country with such a unified card game. Everywhere we looked from then on out there were people playing three card poker. It must have been an addiction problem throughout the entire country. After 15 minutes or so of playing poker with these drunk men, we learned they would be our small boat drivers for the best of the afternoon. Oh wonderful.
Along the river we saw a bunch of above ground graves in the front yard of many homes.
We took these small boats down a river into smaller villages. This was by far the best part of the day.
Before we jumped back on the cramped mini bus back to HCMC we got a chance to hold a large snake. Exciting way to end the tourist trap tour.
I am happy I saw parts of the Mekong Delta but this was by far my least favorite day of my vacation. We were stuck on a tourist trap for a whole day, not being able to wonder off and see any of the real Delta. I would recommend being careful when booking tours in Vietnam. We have heard from of a hand full of friends that most tours in Vietnam are similar to this. I think it's hard to travel alone to more remote parts of the country without the tour and that is why most people do them. I wish we could have gone to Can Tho for a night without a tour, but TET got in out way!
Next stop is Phu Quoc. Vietnam's unfound paradise.