Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Today was Mekong Delta day. We used the same Saigon Tourist tour company to take this full day tour as we had used for our last two trips.
Fortune was with us today as the weather was sunny and with just a few clouds on the horizon. With further luck this clear weather might hold for the day.
We were picked up at 8.30 am for the 90 drive down to the Mekong Delta region. There were two other Aussies (Veronica from Perth and Phillip from Darwin) and an Indonesian girl (Mia) on the tour as well. They were friendly and talkative folk which made the day even more interesting. Phillip was a nurse and the two girls had worked together at Shell. Mia was still with Shell as a chemical engineer but Veronica, an economist, was semi retired.
Our guide was Thanh and he was a most well informed guide. Apart from some obvious Mekong Delta pieces of information he gave us some other interesting facts as well and so the travel time passed rather quickly.
Some interesting info included:
# The Average Vietnam wage is $1,200 USD per year.
# Vietnam is ranked No 2 for global rice production behind India. 7 million tones exported per year.
# Mekong Delta area is 40,000 sq km in area.
# Mekong Delta region supports 25 million people.
# A downtown HCMC 55 sq/m apartment costs about $100,000 USD.
# 50% of the country labour force is employed in agriculture but agribusiness is only 20% of GDP. Main is services.
# Most of the rice planting, cultivation and harvesting is still carried out by manual labour (mostly women) and with the use of water buffalo.
# Primary school is free but Secondary school and Uni is fee paying. Only Primary school is compulsory and so usually only city based and wealthy students attend high school and or university
# Yearly Uni fees are about $150 USD per year. Handy to keep in mind for Tom!
# The Mekong River is 4500 km long and starts in Tibet.
Following the 90 min car trip, and loaded with those any many more statistics, we then boarded a boat for a trip along the Mekong River. This 15 min journey took us to Unicorn island where a variety of tropical fruits are grown. We strolled along a path and visited a few local farms and sampled their offerings; honey, assorted tropical fruits and coconut candy. There was a short canoe trip whilst on this island as well.
At the conclusion of our visit to Unicorn Island we got back onto our Mekong boat and headed back downstream to a different island, Phoenix (I think?) for lunch. This involved an additional canal trip inland and our group spent a pleasant hour together chatting and dining on local fresh cuisine.
After lunch we headed back along the canal and then back on to the Mekong before boarding the mini bus for the trip back to HCMC. It was a great day and we were indeed lucky as the sun had stayed with us for the entire time.
We got back to the hotel at about 4 pm and headed back out at around 5 pm. We took a taxi to the Opera House area in HCMC and strolled around from there and on to the Rex Rooftop Garden Hotel for a drink before heading to Lemon Grass for dinner. This restaurant had been highly reviewed but we thought it only ‘so so’.