Category: Geen categorie

Mekong Delta Tour

Before passing the Vietnam-Cambodia border, we went on a tour with local Susan Bui for a Mekong Delta experience. Susan is born and raised in a small village near Can Tho so she knows what’s up in the Mekong area.

We were advised booking the tour with Susan by the Sigoong hostel in HCMC. A great place to stay when discovering the former Saigon. Thanks for the great tip!

From the very first moment we were in contact with Susan via her Facebook page, she showed her professionalism by giving us clear and detailed instructions on how to get from HCMC to the meeting point with Susan in Bing Minh. She even wrote a message in Vietnamese which we could show to the bus driver! This turned out to be very usefull, because unless you speak a fair bit of Vietnamese, communicating with these guys is bloody impossible.

Susan boat lady
Susan our tour guide from Can Tho Touring with Susan

 

After a bowl of phó at the bus station restaurant we boarded her father’s boat, which had some start up issues. Having floated around in circles on the river’s strong current and banging in to a few other boats, Susan’s father gave up. Susan called her back up boat which arrived within 15 minutes. After tying up the boats together, dragging daddy’s boat to the mechanic, we were on our way to our first destination.

The first stop was at a place Susan called the ‘baby veggie village’. A small village where the people are planting vegetable seeds and grow them until they are big enough to be sold to farmers and wholesalers.

A lady planting new seeds. The seeds are planted on pallets so they are easily transportable to the buyers.

In the same village we also had a look at how the traditional palm leaf roofs are made. We even got to try to do it ourselves. It’s a nice job for a couple of minutes, but can you imagine these ladies produce up to 80 roof panels per day?!

Having a go at the traditional roof making. A roof made out of panels like these lasts for 5 years! Not sure if the one I did will though…

 

Our last stop before getting back on the boat was at an ancient rice splitting factory. A massive 30-year old machine that separates the rice from its skin. As efficient as the Vietnamese are, instead of throwing away the rice skins, they burn it, making it a source of heat. It doesn’t end there, they use the ashes from the burnt rice skin as fertilizer for the baby veggie plant production.

The lady on the boat was waiting for us at the ramp of the rice splitting factory to bring us to our next stop, the local market to get groceries for our dinner. On the boat ride there we discussed what we would like to cook that night. We agreed on making a bbq eggplant salad, a traditional Vietnamese chicken curry, wontons filled with pork and as a desert we made rice cake steamed on jack fruit leaves. The market visit was a unique experience, with us being the only tourists there, we were constantly looked and pointed at by the locals. It was like we were the attraction here.

Live fish at the local market, one tried to escape it’s destiny!

 

When we got back from the market visit, it was Susan’s dad who was picking us up with his repaired boat! He had taken it to the local mechanic and the problem was solved, with the engine running like dream again!

While we thought it was time to head towards Susan’s house, she still had one more surprise for us. She took us to the Phu Ly Khmer temple. A beautiful 400 year old Buddhist temple which has been renovated 3 years ago so it all looked brand new! A very impressive place to be!

The beautiful Khmer temple

 

After the temple visit it was time to go to Susan’s parents home. She showed us the large house with a beautiful garden overlooking the rice fields. We sat down in the garden’s gazebo and Susan brought  a plateful of local fruits for us to enjoy, delicious! While the sun was setting, creating a magnificent scenery, Susan brought out a kite with which we played together with the neighbor’s kids. It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to take some beautiful photos.

Kids with kite at sunset
The neighbor’s kids playing with the kite at sunset
The magnificent view on the sunset from Susan’s backyard
Quite a sunset going on at Susan’s home stay

After the fun it was time to get to work in the kitchen. Susan’s mother had already started making the curry, and we were invited to help grilling the eggplants, making the wontons and preparaing sticky Banh Lá mít, jack fruit leaf cake. It was fun and educating. Susan set the table for only the 3 of us. It turned out that her parents had already eaten.       Only her father joined the table at some point with a bottle of red brownish liquid which we learned was Rượu nếp than. A special homemade variety of rice wine. After shouting ‘Mot Hai Ba Yo!’ meaning ‘1,2,3 cheers!’we downed the shots. The taste was very good! It tasted slightly more sweet than the white rice wine, but still pretty strong at around 25%. After two repetitions Susan’s father lied down in his outside bed and was off to sleep.


For us it had  been a long day too so we also went to bed. Besides we were told to get up at 4:30AM the next day to get to the floating market at sunrise.

After a good night of sleep in our extremely pretty ‘hello kitty meets pink princess’ design bed, we had a quick cold shower. The ‘road ‘to Susan’s parents house is only accessible by motorbike, so Susan’s father and her cousin took us and our backpacks on their motorbikes towards the taxi stand where Susan was already waiting for us. The taxi took us over the immensely long bridge towards Can Tho city. From there on we continued by boat. It was a beautiful boat ride with the sun rising behind us.

Going to the market at sunrise!

After a 25 minute boat ride we arrived at the famous floating market. And we weren’t the only ones! It was crazy busy with boats crisscrossing all over the place.


Susan told us this specific market was a wholesale market specializing in fruit and vegetable. Meaning that the buyers here would sell the products on to local markets on land. The buyers have to take at least 10 kg of a product. Each boat sells specific product(s) only. There were boats full of watermelons only, and a bit further another boat was loaded with ton of pineapples. All boats have a long stick pointing in the air showcasing the products they sell.


There were also smaller boats maneuvering between the bigger ones, selling breakfast items such as Banh Mi, Dumpling stuffed with minced pork, and bun rieu ca, a crab stock based noodle soup! Yes, we had all of it, so it was a big breakfast! We also got coffee and a coconut from a guy who Susan called ‘The floating Starbucks’.

With our stomachs stuffed we left the market and headed on to our next stop, the rice noodle factory! To be honest this place was a bit touristy, but it was still very interesting to see the process of rice noodle making. We got to try some of the production steps ourselves which was good fun.

It was time to get in the boat again and head to the last location of the Can Tho tour, the fruit gardens. A garden filled with a huge variety of fruit trees.

On the way there something very special happened. Daphne and I got married by Susan and her boat lady. From palm leaves they made rings, a tiara, and even a bouquet of roses! They thought it was very strange that we are together for more than 9 years and we’re not even married yet. So that’s arranged now!

Oh my god, it’s a tiara! It’s a tiaraaaaahh #amyfarrahfowler

 

Back to the fruit gardens! They had everything here, mango, jackfruit, pineapple, star fruit, water apple, custard apple, you name it. All kinds of exotic fruits we don’t have in Europe. We enjoyed a large plate of fruits together with a pot of tea after which it was time to get to Can Tho city.
Susan arranged a bus to get to our next destination: Ha Tien and even a hotel where we could store our backpacks until we were picked up by the shuttle bus there. It was there that we said goodbye to Susan, thanking her very much for a great experience! The tour we did costs 65 dollars each. This is all inclusive so there’s no need to reach for your wallet at any point during the tour. If you would like to book a tour with Susan you can do it here!

 

Happy times in Hanoi

As opposed to most travelers exploring Vietnam, we commenced our adventure in Hanoi. Leaving the phenomenal Philippine paradise behind, we flew from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino airport to Noi Bai airport, Hanoi.

Did you know that you need a letter of approval before you are allowed to enter Vietnam? Well, we casually forgot about arranging this in advance. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s easy to obtain a rush visa from Vietnam Evisa for roughly 50 USD, depending on the hurry you’re in.

However, we booked our ticket from Manila to Hoi An on the 29th of January 2017 quite some time ago while still traveling Australia’s East coast. Not realizing the Vietnamese would be celebrating Tet at that time.

Tet is the Lunar (Chinese) New Years celebration in Vietnam, taking place in most South East Asian countries. It’s a 3 day public holiday. Long story short, it means that most of the Embassies are closed and arranging a rush visa is not an option. The only way to get in to the country on a Saturday, Sunday or a public holiday is if you pay. A so called penalty fee has to be payed in order to have a poor bastard, who has to work on weekends and public holidays, stamp your passport. My guess is that this poor guy isn’t actually that poor, as we payed 424 USD for two people to get a one month single entry visa 😩.

We looked at other options like flying somewhere else from Manila and wait there for Tet to be over, but that would cost us about the same amount of money, and have a big impact on our planned route through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. So, lesson learned: always check the required visa criteria way in advance!

Vietnam one month single entry
Probably the most expensive sticker I will ever buy in my life…

Fortunately, Hanoi made up for this big bummer by being such an amazing city! Especially when you’re into food and beer, which happens to be kind of my thing.

Read on to find out about my favorite Hanoi spots which I’d like to share with you!

Where to Stay

When in Hanoi, you want to stay in the Old Quarter area. This part of the city is full of street food stands and cheap beer cafes! We stayed in the Rendezvous hostel which I would certainly recommend if you’re looking for a cheap and comfortable bed in Hanoi. Check for availability here!

Hanoi Rendezvous hostel
The bunk beds at the Rendezvous hostel in Hanoi rise high, but offer privacy too!

By the way, the reception staff arranged a very reasonably priced and amazing rice field trekking tour in Sa Pa for us. Check out the beautiful photos in my post on this Vietnam highlight here!

Drink 

There are loads of options when it comes to drinking tea, coffee or beer in Hanoi! The city is packed with little coffee houses and bia hoi corners. Below are our favorite picks!

Raw Juicery

This is where we started our days in Hanoi. This tiny juicery with a fresh colorful interior has some delicious smoothies and cold pressed juices on the menu. You can also create your own smoothies. I created one with avocado, banana, soy milk, spinach, peanut butter, cinnamon and chocolate chips as topping. Try it out yourself, if they haven’t put it on the menu yet!

Raw juicery Hanoi
At the raw juicery, there’s a small but relaxed seating area upstairs too!

 

Cong Caphe
Sitting in a decor of war memorabilia, you’ll enjoy great Vietnamese coffee and tea specialties. They serve both the traditional Vietnamese coffee here as well as modern varieties. Definitely try out the iced coconut coffee! Cong Caphe is a chain and you will therefore find them spread through the city of Hanoi!

Black Vietnamese iced coffee
Black Vietnamese iced coffee at Cong. A great place to work on ReisPost.com!

 

Skyline Hanoi 

If you want to escape the traffic chaos for a moment, this is your sanctuary! On the 11th floor of the Tirant Hotel you can enjoy great views over the city, while not being disturbed by the traffic noise. Pick a clear day! While it looks quite classy up here, beers are still priced at just 25.000 dong, 1 USD!

Beercorner

The beercorner is where it’s happening! This is where locals and tourists blend and every night feels like weekend here. You can easily sit here from afternoon till midnight. Cheap beer, snacks and loads of people to meet! We specifically liked the Green Pepper bar for it’s friendly and alert staff! You’ll find this bar right on the big crossing of the beercorner.

Beercorner
Chiah! Or something like that, is Vietnamese for cheers!

 

Bar Betta 

This bar is not in Old Quarter but definitely worth a visit after you’ve been to one of the many museums in the area. Like the military museum where you’ll find some impressive exhibits. Read on to find out more about some cultural activities in Hanoi! It’s not easy to spot, from the street you only see the stairs going up! Check out my Stamp account for the exact location!

Don’t have a Stamp account yet? Sign up using the code ‘reispost’, so you will automatically follow me! It’s an easy way to find all my favorite bars and restaurants as well as interesting spots around the world!
Where to Eat

Hanoi is the street food capital of Vietnam! Especially is Old Quarter you’ll find delicious Vietnamese specialties sold right on the street! Just take a seat on the mini seats and enjoy! Check out my Stamp account for the best locations!

Banh My new style
A new style of Banh My, it’s delicious! Check my Stamp account to find this lady in Hanoi!

 

Green tangerine

Fancy a lunch or dinner in a romantic French ambiance? This is the place to go. It’s the complete opposite of what you experience on the streets of Hanoi. But that’s what makes it so special. We had lunch here and it was incredible! The food was served in very creative ways and tasted amazing. Try out the set lunch menu for only 265.000 dong, about 11 USD. We had some aperitifs and drank two glasses of white wine, which totaled our romantic lunch at about 1 million dong. This is relatively expensive for Vietnamese standards, but worth it! The next day you can eat for 2 USD to level it out 😉.

Great lunch at the Green Tangerine
Enjoying a great lunch at the Green Tangerine!

 

Banh mi 25

Looking for the best Banh Mi sandwich in Hanoi? Look no further! This is it! It looks like a street food stand, but due to the big succes they also have a little restaurant serving great coffee and juices next door! My advice: order the mixed sandwich and ask for a little bit of extra pathé!

Banh mi 25 Hanoi
The little streetfood stand of Banh My 25 with the restaurant in the back


Cultural 

There’s a lot to do and see in Hanoi! Just walking the streets is an inspiring experience on its own. But there are also some very interesting museums to visit. We arrived in Hanoi during the Tet celebration, and most museums were closed. Something to bear in mind if you’re planning on visiting Vietnam late January/early February. Below you’ll find a number of interesting tourist activities.

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

This museum exhibits the important role of the women in the Vietnamese history. The museum is divided in three main sections: the role of women during the Vietnamese wars, the role of women within the family and female fashion. There are interesting temporary exhibitions as well. When we were there, numerous beautiful photographs of old Vietnamese women were on display. At the time of writing, entrance ticket were only 1 USD per person. Definitely worth a visit!

Vietnamese women Museum Hanoi
The Vietnamese Women Museum


Military Museum

The military museum in Hanoi is hard to miss. A big fighter jet is located at the entrance and the Hanoi Flag tower is located right on the courtyard of the museum. Most of the artifacts on display are seized French or US aircrafts and tanks. To me, the most impressive was the arty statue consisting of parts of destroyed aircrafts. The statue symbolizes the enormous amount (nearly 2000!) of enemy aircrafts shot down during the Vietnam wars.

Statue military museum
The impressive arty aircraft statue at the military museum

 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum 

This is where the Vietnamese honor their previous leader Ho Chi Minh. Even though he reigned over 300 years ago, he is still a highly respected figure. As he is seen as the liberator of Vietnam. The balsamed body is on display. If you like to see it you have to get up early, as visitors are allowed between 08:00 and 11:00 AM. The earlier the better because cues can get as long as 5KM in peak season! And the doors to Mr. Ho Chi Minh’s bedroom will close at 11:00 no matter how long you have been in line.
Market visit

Definitely an interesting and free thing to do, visit a market in Hanoi! There’s many interesting things to see on the food market. Fish are kept alive in small tubs. There’s live frogs in cages. And check out the picture of this beautifully decorated chicken! 😜

Chicken with rose
Chicks like roses, don’t they?

City Architecture 

While wandering through the city of Hanoi there’s something interesting happening on every corner. Whether it’s the crazy traffic or a vendor trying to sell you some sort of food you’ve never seen before. Just try everything please, I tasted as much as possible and did not regret one thing I put in my mouth. But back to the subject here! If you like classic (French) architecture, Hanoi is your place. The city is full of beautiful buildings in which you’ll recognize the French influences. You’ll find yourself taking heaps of photos in the areas just outside of the Old Quarter.

Paris or Hanoi
Sometimes you wonder whether you’re in Paris or Hanoi!