On my first visit to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam last year, I was told that two must-visit places were the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta. While the Cu Chi Tunnel was a must-go and proved to be an educational trip, it was a very run-of-the-mill tourist experience. So apart from that, I was bent on making sure that my Mekong Delta trip had to be different. That’s when when I chanced upon Water Buffalo Private Day Tour.
Now mind you, my friend and I only had 4 days in Ho Chi Minh City and while we would have loved to spend a couple of days covering the Mekong, we could only manage a day; hence we went for their ‘Mekong Local for a Day’ tour. And lived like a Mekong local, we did.
Meet Hang, our spunky guide!
We woke up bright and early and met our guide for the day – Hang. Hang is almost around our age, friendly and we clicked instantly over our love for good massages and manicures. (We even had the same nail colour!) She was really excited when she found out we were from Singapore, having been there several times herself, and spoke excellent English, which was a huge relief given that our guide to Cu Chi the day before could hardly speak it though we did request for an English-speaking tour.
The intricate interior of the Cao Dai temple.
Hang and our driver then took us on an hour-long drive to the Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh, an intriguing place of worship that combines several major religions – Islam, Taoism, Catholicism, Buddhism and Confucianism, among others. Those who practice Cao Dai believe that all religions are the same in principle. The exterior of the temple resembles a cathedral, with two square towers at the entrance, a long central nave and side aisles. The décor however, is a fitting reflection of the mix of faiths that the religion encompasses; multi-coloured with a collection of oriental instruments and western figures.
We were there for a short while before we were whisked off to Can Duoc Market, a rural market with friendly stall owners. The moment we reached the market, the owners asked Hang where we were from and word soon got around that there were foreign visitors in the market. They proudly showed us their wares and while we couldn’t communicate with them, they spoke to us in Vietnamese anyway, always with a welcoming smile on their faces.
It was there that I saw baby ducks in real life for the first time, and skinned, chopped up frogs (which were still moving by the way). What a sight! We concluded the visit by getting some tropical fruits to go with our lunch later on.
Pardon my excitement. It was my first time seeing a duckling in real life!
Next up on the itinerary was Tan Hoa, a rustic village. Most of the reviews I’d read online chose to go with pillion riding a scooter through the village, but when Hang told us that the bicycles could bring us further into the villages, the choice was quite obvious.
Meet the friendly uncle who owns the shop we got our bikes from.
We got our rickety, old-school bicycles and set off on a short ride into the village. It was there that we met students who had just ended schools (they wear Ao Dais as their school uniforms, how pretty!), climbed a makeshift log bridge, and played around in the paddy fields. Hang also brought us to a villager’s house where we got to see how his home was like, and even attempt to take Instagram-worthy #OOTD shots with the retro exterior of the house.
These buildings housed swallows for the production of the delicacy Bird’s Nest.
Fooling around. It was really shaky!
Concluding our bike ride with a soothing glass of ice-cold sugarcane juice.
After all that physical activity, it was finally time for lunch. We took a short drive down to Tan Thanh beach where we had a sumptuous seafood lunch facing the sea. This beach isn’t quite your conventional beach though; it was a muddy one. Nonetheless, the view and the breeze was definitely a relief from the heat we felt earlier on during cycling. We also got to have the fruits that Hang purchased from Can Duoc market.
Once lunch was done, our driver took us to My Tho pier where we got on a boat onto the Mekong River. Ours was a special tour where we would need to transfer onto a sampan boat to explore the narrower creeks, unlike the other tours which just took a generic round around the river. Given that we were on a special cruise, and no one else seemed to be taking the same route as us, we actually got the boat all to ourselves!
Our very own private charter!
Upon reaching the sampan transfer location, we got onboard and our sampan began sailing through through the creeks in the Ben Tre province. It felt like we were on some safari boat tour, only that this was actual, real-life, lush greenery. The sampan ride was short, but those few moments spent in silence, cruising down the smaller waterways at a slow speed, was one of the highlights of my trip – you hardly get such quietness and solitude in Singapore.
When we disembarked our sampan (with much reluctance), we came to a little house where a lady sold houseware made from dried coconut husks. She also happened to have adorable Chihuahua puppies, which I later found that she was planning to sell. I actually got way too carried away playing with her puppies that were slightly delayed.
During the whole trip, Hang somehow picked up that Bernice and I were avid coffee drinkers, so even though we were a tad delayed, she made a concession to stop us by a cool hammock café, where you can order a cold cuppa and swing around on the hammocks. Perfect for a lazy afternoon. Alas, we were already running late, so we basically swung around for 10 minutes to take a breather, finish our coffee and for photos, before we went on our way back to the city centre.
Chilling with our hammock cuppas.
It was only a day, but we felt like we did so much. This was definitely one of the more comprehensive and worthwhile day tours I’ve done so far. Thanks for making our trip in Ho Chi Minh such a memorable one, Hang and Water Buffalo Private Day Tour!
Been to the Mekong Delta before? How did your experience go?