From the glistening streams of the Himalayan valley, the melted snow seeped into the barren Yunnan gorges, forming powerful brown gushes at the base of the cliffs. After dropping through thousands of waterfalls and cascades, the waters slowed down on the plains of tropical IndoChina, spreading themselves over wide rivers and lakes.Their thick silted brown contrasted beautifully with the lush greeneries on the river banks. Little boats floated about, along with islands of water hyacinth and water lilies. The sights calmed the hearts. By the river banks, villagers bathed, cooked, washed and played, their splashes added charm to the tranquility. Behind the greeneries, narrow paths connected villages, markets, cottage industries and orchards.
Cai Rang Floating Market
Over two days, we cycled, strolled and boated about the Mekong Delta. We also stayed over at a village homestay near the famous Cai Rang floating market. The authentic market, one of the largest amongst many floating markets in South East Asia, was a hustle and bustle of boats filled to the brim with watermelons, pineapples, dragon fruits, cabbages and pumpkins. Little sampans peddled minimarts and cafes, serving Vietnamese coffee, tea and toasted bread (Banh Mi). Little children lazed on swinging hammocks on the top of the boats, waving “hellos” as we passed.
On the cycling trail, I was particularly thrilled manoeuvring the narrow paths so close to the river banks and had to give way to oncoming bicycles, pedestrians and motorbikes!
At the homestay, we had fun helping to pick guavas and pomelos, pluck morning glories for dinner and fry Banh Khot (miniature pancakes with prawns, wrapped in basil leaves). Dinner consisted of a homely spread of vegetables in abundance, pumpkin soup, cat fish and stir-fried chicken, topped with multiple toasts of rice wines. After dinner, as we munched rambutans, we were entertained by the very talented teenage elder son of the family with his amazing magic tricks, followed by a beautiful song and guitar rendition by our super guide. What a romantic evening with my wife!
Lastly, as with all our previous homestays, we tried to find out the demographic of the host family so as to prepare suitable gifts for the family in advance of our visit. We brought polo-shirts and some stationeries for the two kids. As much as the host family was touched, we were also deeply touched when our guide told us that we were the rare tourists who would prepare gifts in advance, all the way from our home country.