We were nearing the end of our trip and trying to decide how to go about visiting the Mekong. We shared with our friends Jade and Michael our interest in going to the Mekong but that we were really not interested in being part of a tour. After going on a couple of them already, we just wanted to do our own thing and have the flexibility with the boys.
They told us that they had taken a bus from Ho Chi Minh down to My Tho and arranged their own tour of the Mekong once down there. This sounded like something that we wanted to do. So we caught a bus from Ho Chi Minh. As we waited we thought we’d get Mr 4’s haircut fixed. It was quite funny how people were doting over the boys and taking pictures with them like celebrities.
We caught the 12.45pm bus. It cost us $60,000 Dong per seat (which is around $3 US!). The 2 hour bus ride was somewhat interesting. We probably went the fastest we have ever gone in our entire time in Vietnam LOL. The bus got up to 109Km/hr. What was very strange was that rather than be a smooth journey – as one would imagine highways to be – the highway had rather big bumps/dips sporadically throughout, which took us by surprise.
We finally arrived to My Tho. Upon our arrival a lovely man greeted us at the bus station and made sure we arrived at our hotel Minh Quan. He claimed to work for the hotel and provide tour services. The hotel was decent but not great. We barely had a window, and we had to request that they change the bed sheets as they didn’t seem fresh. But from what we had read in reviews, this seemed to be luxury for My Tho! Breakfast was decent. We had a choice of juices/coffee, fried egg and Vietnamese roll, although the lady on the sixth floor wasn’t the most friendliest of people – maybe she was having a bad day.
Our friend Tung (think that’s his name) came back to the hotel to offer us what he described as being a memorable boat tour of the Mekong. At this point we were not really keen on spending too much time wandering around trying to find some tour info. He seemed legit and made it sound amazing! Too good to be true possibly?
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting 5-star as I knew we would be staying at homestay, but how he described it, it all seemed like the people would be so warm and welcoming and that the places would be decent. We sat down by the river and Tung mapped out our 3 day/2 night tour of the Mekong. He also showed us some hand-written reviews by foreigners. Some from France, Holland and Germany. Not that I could read them though, because they were all in another language!! So we made a deal and he was to meet us in the morning by the river.
That evening we wandered around My Tho and of course found some markets, which are full of interesting foods, dried fish and everyone wanting to say hello. The boys are little celebrities!! Unfortunately Mr 4 has just about had enough of all the attention, grabbing and kissing from the older ladies
For dinner we thought we’d try the famous Banh Xeo of the Saigon region. These are like giant savory crispy pancakes. They crunch when you eat them and are filled with bean sprouts and meats (either seafood/chicken/beef). You take some Banh Xeo and fresh greens (lettuce and mint) and roll it all up in rice paper. It was very similar to the one we tried in Hoi An, but this was crispier and a LOT bigger – very tasty.
Morning came and we were greeted by Tung and he bought a friend along. He was young, attractive and nicely dressed. I wasn’t sure what he was doing but it turned out that Tung farewelled us and we took off with the boat driver and this young fellow who was apparently our guide for half the day. The boat took us to the 3 islands off My Tho. One of them being Ben Tre. Frankly, we didn’t think much of the tour. We still felt like we were trapped in the tourist BS and everywhere we went all they do is want to sell things to you, but the guide was friendly and he always tried to engage with the boys and make them laugh.
We changed boats a few times to go through various canals in the Mekong and finally got one last boat that took us to our homestay for the night: Nha hang Tan Phu. Minh Quan hotel back in My Tho now DID seem like luxury! At least that place had bed sheets, the doors once closed were sealed. This place had a tiny toilet with a hand shower above it, so you basically just showered in that little cubicle where the toilet was.
No bed sheets, no toilet paper, no soap and no towels. But who do I ask? Tung wasn’t there and everyone else did not speak any English. Thankfully we found one guy who in his broken English understood that we wanted some towels and toilet paper. We only got a couple of hand towels (which I think they were expecting us to be able to dry ourselves with) and some soap, but not toilet paper! Just made do!
Staying at this homestay felt a little strange as no one spoke to us (language barrier), but beside the barrier they weren’t very friendly. We basically were shown the room and that was that! Thank God it was only for one night! Breakfast was ordinary. We only got a saltless egg and a bread roll – that was it!
The boys had some time to fish in the evening. We thought it would be a good idea to go on a bike ride with the boys on the back around the island and check it out. All was going well until Marcus got his foot stuck in the back wheel and we were forced to stop. Thankfully there was nothing serious, but we did think he had sprained it and he had a nasty cut on the heel. Never a dull moment with kids!
The second homestay was at Nam Giang homestay, Cai Lay district.
Again, whilst we were not expecting 5-star accommodation, there were a few things that just weren’t right.
- only 1 bed for the four of us, despite us specifically stressing to Tung that we wanted 2 beds.
- no hot water (guess that’s no big deal)
- no bed sheets
- Jason was walking to our room and the concrete slab that was acting as a little walkway gave way and he fell into mud, braising and bruising himself.
We later learned from Nam that Tung was a bit dodgy and not the most honest person. He had no idea that we had requested 2 beds and little information was given to him about our stay with him. I’m also sure not much money was passed on to him too, which doesn’t help! We learned the hard way that Tung was a liar as he didn’t come through on a few things he promised he would.
Thankfully, we were not short of company as there was a man from Luxembourg, Antonio, who was also staying in the homestay with us. Nam was kind enough to offer us a second room. Not what I could call a penthouse suite, but it would do!
That evening we all went on a motorbike ride for half the day. On one bike was Jason, myself and MR 3 and the other bike was Nam, Antonio and Mr 4. I should mention at this point that we weren’t even 2km’s into our bike tour when Nam’s bike ran out of petrol. A very interesting operation of tipping the other bike on an angle as to get petrol into the empty bike occurred. Very amusing!
The last day we visited the floating markets in Cai Be. It was amazing, but I must admit I was a little bit disappointed because there weren’t many floating markets and none of the smaller floating markets I had imagined or seen from docos. Instead, these markets were larger boats and there weren’t many. I think if you want to experience the 100s of floating markets as I had expected, you probably need to go to Can Tho.
If you plan on visiting My Tho, beware of Tung!