Coconut Capital

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ben Tre, Vietnam

We ate dinner last night at a garden restaurant very close to the hotel. The seafood spring rolls were amazing. We had a whole red snapper in sweet and sour sauce which Jonno said was like eating cloud. The salt and pepper squid was really tender and not battered, which made the flavours extra good. We all enjoyed our dinner.

We were ready for our boat trip at 8 am and headed off down the Ben Tre river. The first stop was a brick factory where we saw the incredible labour that goes into making bricks by hand.

They run a brick oven 24 hours a day, using rice husks as fuel. Someone has to empty a bucket of rice husks into the fire approximately every 15 minutes.

The bricks are shaped through a machine operated manually, laid in the sun to dry and brought in again at night before they are finally fired.

Apparently it is good luck to get your photo taken in an empty brick oven, and couples will get their wedding photos taken in one.

Next stop was the coconut factory where we saw how every part of the coconut was put to use. The husk is used to make door mats, the whites used for coconut jam, milk and candy. The water used for coconut water and wine. It was a very labour intensive operation seeing the coconut peeled, cut, drained and cleaned.

On then to the coconut candy store where we tried warm coconut candy with peanuts and had some tea and tropical fruits.

We then took a tuk tuk for a few kilometers and walked along a track to the middle of nowhere for our lunch - at 10.30 am.

There we had elephant ear fish which is a Mekong specialty in rice paper rolls, followed by seafood pancakes and chicken in broth. All very delicious but kind of bizarre in this little thatched hut amongst coconut palms and tiny cottages.

From there we took a row boat down a small tributary to meet back up with our big boat and head back to the hotel. The kids loved it and rated it 9 out of 10.

After some down time in the hammocks we headed off on bicycles to cycle to an island in the Mekong. We covered some of the same ground as yesterday but kept going across a punt to reach the island. We cycled the length of the island with glimpses of the Mekong river on both sides, passing fish farms and lots of kids shouting hello to us as we passed.

At the end of the island we caught another punt and cycled back up to the hotel, some 17 kms away, with more shouts of hello ringing in our ears. At times motorbikes would slow down to pass us just so the riders could say hello.

After a refreshing ale back at the hotel, we joined the English couple we had spent time with on the boat tour for seafood pho for dinner in Ben Tre, and also spent time talking to a lovely German couple.

Back at our room, the kids went for a swim, and we packed our bags, ready for our trip to Can Tho tomorrow. We have teamed up with four others from the hotel, and are taking a private boat down the Mekong and through some narrow canals to Can Tho. This will take about 7 hours but should be lots more interesting than the bus.