After touring Unicorn and Turtle Islands, our boat lady dropped us off on the island Ben Tre. It was pitch black by the time we arrived and when we got off the boat the moto driver we had met earlier in the day was waiting for us on shore with a flash light. He led us through the dark forest and to our homestay. It looked like 20 or so people could have stayed at the homestay, but we were the only people there along with one other couple. On our walk from the boat to our room our driver talked about how the lands are haunted with lots of ghosts and pointed out all of the graves in front of the houses. Most of the residents of Ben Tre are Buddhist. Since Buddhist graveyards don’t really exist most people just bury their ancestors outside their homes. Well I think now most are cremated, but there are still shrines and monuments set up to honor the dead. Almost all of the houses we passed had graves outside of them. Now adays Christianity is becoming more popular in Vietnam, but it is mostly wealthy city residents that follow Christianity and the farmers in the countryside are mostly Buddhist. So back to the homestay. It was pitch black, supposedly haunted, and we were basically the only people in the middle of nowhere. Creepy!!!
When we got to the homestay we put our bags in our room and then went to order dinner from our host family. Seafood is especially fresh in the Mekong so we decided to order an Elephant Ear Fish (it actually looks like an elephant ear) and shrimp. After we ordered a man came over to us with a huge fish inside a fishing net. It was our dinner! He showed the fish to us and then killed it. The fish was basically dead when he brought it to us, but I guess it was necessary to then hit it with a large stick to make sure it was dead. We got to go into the kitchen in the main house and watch a lady cook the fish for us. The wok she used was super big. I guess when you are cooking large fish you need a large pan. The dinner was amazing. She made fresh spring rolls with the fish and they were filled with fresh noodles, vegetables and pineapple. The sauce we dipped the rolls in was kind of spicy so the combination of the spicy sauce and sweet pineapple was delicious. Definitely the best spring rolls I’ve had here! We also had a bunch of massive shrimps, some vegetables and rice. We ate all of the food and enjoyed the company of our host family and some of their friends while eating. We went back to our room after dinner because we had a bike ride planned for the next morning at 5:30AM.
When we woke up the next day it was pitch black out so we had to wait until there was a little light before we set off on our bike ride. One of the guys had drawn us a map the night before, but it was honestly the worst map ever. All of the distances he estimated were wrong, there were no street names and he didn’t explain to us that we would have to first leave the wooded area we were staying in and make it to the main roads in Ben Tre before we started. It took us a while to finally make it out on the main road, but with some help from locals we were able to find our way. Our bike ride took us through the town of Ben Tre and past a set of rice fields. We got lost and had to stop for directions at least 10 times. And Ben Tre doesn’t have many tourists so people probably thought we were crazy. Even though it was a little stressful and the bike itself was unbelievably uncomfortable to ride, it was a fun morning. The town wasn’t that exciting but the ride through the rice fields was beautiful. We stopped at a local restaurant close to our hotel before finishing the ride to have breakfast. When we got back to the homestay our hosts helped us get to a bus station and we were back in Saigon before 1pm.
The Mekong is a perfect place to do day trips and there are a few other cities I’m really looking forward to visiting. On the way back to Saigon we met a guy who owns a huge fruit farm in Ben Tre. He spoke great English and told us we are welcome anytime to come visit his farm and try out all the different fruits. Since My Tho and Ben Tre are only a little over an hour away I can definitely see that happening in the future. Overall the trip was a success and a great escape from the bustling streets of Saigon.