Ben TreApril 11, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C
Our last excursion of the cruise was to the island of Ben Tre, which is one of the largest islands in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Almost a million people live on the island, which is located relatively close to Saigon. Of course, we only visited the very tip of the island, and saw two very curated sites.
Our first stop was a shop where they made coconut candy, which is a traditional sweet in Vietnam. Everything is done by hand. First, the coconuts are split, by hand. Then, the coconut meat is separated, by hand. Then the meat and coconut milk are cooked, by hand. The result is a sticky toffee, which is pulled by hand, cut by hand, and wrapped, by hand. Yep, every stage in the process is done by hand. The cost to purchase a bag of 40 pieces — $1.25 USD. Watching the process was pretty interesting.
After we watched the candy making demonstration, we were also given a chance to taste some local spirits — coconut (meh), banana (ok) and snake whiskey (tasted like moonshine, but snake in bottle was huge). And, we were serenaded by three men playing traditional Vietnamese instruments. I can’t say that I particularly liked the music, but seeing the instruments being played was pretty cool.
We then walked through the jungle and got onto horse carts — another new form of transportation. The carts carried us about 15 minutes up the road, where we disembarked, walked down to a canal, and got onto sampans. Although all of the sampans now have motors, each of our boats had someone rowing with a long wooden paddle, which was operated by a villager who stood up (similar to the way that a gondola is rowed). We spent about 20 minutes going through a palm forest. The ride was just beautiful — quiet, shaded, and gorgeous. But, I couldn’t help think about what it must have been like for American soldiers to move through these forests. (After we got out, I spoke with a couple of my fellow passengers — one Canadian and one Aussie — and apparently I wasn’t alone in thinking about this as we were rowed through the canal.) The jungle is incredibly dense. There are shadows everywhere. It would have been incredibly easy for someone familiar with the land to plan an ambush. It must have been totally terrifying for the soldiers. And, I can’t imagine how anyone might have thought that soldiers who were unfamiliar with the area could possibly win a sustained battle.Read more