The second day of our trip we made our way to Cai Be, a pretty rural area around the Mekong Delta. This is where the family of my SO’s paternal side lives so we are going for a visit! I kinda wish we could have spent a bit more time exploring Ho Chi Minh, but there was a change in the itinerary. A new adventure awaits!
Cai Be Bound
The day started out with the leftover jackfruit for breakfast and waiting to be picked up at 6:30am. The first thing we needed to do was drop our unneeded luggage at an Aunt’s house and divide the Canadian snacks and candies we bought as gifts. Then we picked up another aunt and some cousins. With our swagger wagon full of people, we were ready to hit the road!
Have you seen what Ho Chi Minh traffic is like? It’s a mess of (mostly) scooters, cars, and buses. It’s a constant flow that is seemingly endless. At the rare traffic light, the vehicles pour in alternating waves. It’s a sight to behold as a pedestrian, but it’s a different perspective as a passenger right in the middle of all the action. People watchers will thoroughly enjoy the commotion.
I was pretty hungry. Thinking about the traffic you’re in does that to you, and I guess only eating jackfruit will do that, too.
I had a very positive first-time experience with Vietnamese drive-thru that morning. It was better than any McDonalds I’d been to that’s for sure! Here you can get anything you desire straight to your vehicle- really, you can. It’s just a matter of stopping your car/scooter close enough to a food stall or market type shop and yell (politely) to the staff what you’d like. Hand over some cash and tadaa, stuff! It’s faster and less tricky than enunciating every word into a metal box with crappy speakers. With our drive-thru capabilities, we also managed to pick up some Chả lụa (Vietnamese ham) and clams for lunch/dinner later on.
The drive from HCMC is about 2 hours along. It was the typical city traffic until getting out to the highway where there weren’t many vehicles and more green spaces i.e rice fields.
Before heading to the house we would be staying at, we dropped by the local market so we could grab a few more things for dinner that evening. If you’ve ever been to Asia, you’ll know what to expect coming to one of these markets. Some of my best childhood memories stem from going to these outdoor markets with my grandmother in Thailand. The smells of fresh fruits, seafood, ready to eat foods, and the desserts! Nostalgic.
I love seeing all the fresh produce and meat at the markets. The fruits and vegetables most likely came from someone’s farm nearby and the meat recently butchered. It always gets me excited about cooking, however, I won’t be cooking at all during this trip.
There wasn’t anything too unusual at the market that I haven’t seen before. I think Thailand and Vietnam have a lot of the same fruits, and I do find Vietnamese cuisine to share a lot of similar components as well (mmMm preserved shrimp paste) BUT I did see a bizarre fruit I am not familiar with. The red-orange fruit pictured above is called gac. Opened, the fruit has segments that alarmingly look like organs or something, and the spiny outer shell reminds me of jackfruit. I didn’t get to try it, but apparently it does not have much taste and is typically used to color a sticky rice dish. It is high in beta-carotene and lycopene which is really good for you!
The Mekong Delta
We did our meet and greet with some of the members of Danton’s gigantic family. We left our cases in the room and we are off again! An aunt’s husband has a motorized boat and that’s how you get around a place like Cai Be. To get to another relatives house we need to take the boat. Onwards!
The water is murky, but the wind in your face is cooling and welcoming. There is much to see here. Other boats with the painted eyes on the bow, commuter ferries full of bicycles and motorbikes, and the sides of houses hanging just above the water.
As we get further away from the more populated areas of the delta and towards the more jungly areas, there is more to see. Water plants behind man-made barriers meant to trap dirt eventually expanding the land, and tropical fruit trees just beyond the waters edge. At one point we saw a black and white dog sitting in the water and looking forlornly out into the distance. We realized he was watching his friend and the two chased each other. Just another day by the river!
I love animals. I’m always on the lookout for critters and I turn my attention to any movement in the corner of my eyes, or to the rustling of foliage. I was delighted to find mudskippers hopping in the mud as we cruised by on the narrow tributary. They dart towards anything that moves so when a leaf floats down from above they flop towards it. Bigger and brightly coloured blue skippers show off their large sailfin probably trying to attract a mate- just so amusing! The next find, spotted by and captured by Danton, was a blue and orange kingfisher. What a beautiful bird, and likely a predator of those funny little mudskippers.
After some eating at another relative’s house, it was time to go. The water had become significantly more shallow. We struggled to get down a slope and hop on the boat, but then we also needed to paddle until the water was deeper and the driver could start the motor again. Nothing like Vietnamese EDM to get the blood pumping and paddle with a purpose. We were on our way back to the first house eat some more!
Eating, A lot!
I feel like every time I travel, it’s very food focused. I love trying new things, and I think the cuisine and how people eat can reveal a lot about the culture.
Once we had arrived at our destination after our cruising. The walk to the house was lovely. The path was lined with guava trees with some fruit almost ready for picking. The back of the house had different trees abundant in a red fruit called “trai man”.
What we had in the afternoon was what appears to be a Vietnamese version of charcuterie. There was pate, two kinds of cha lụa, and some pickled carrots and radish. I suppose it is really just deconstructed banh mi with the baguette on the side. The banana leaf on the right is banh gio, steamed rice flour with a mushroom and pork filling.
There wasn’t much I could contribute to the conversation since I know zero Vietnamese, but I caught on to the drinking bit fairly quickly. In between bites, our ice cold Tiger beers are raised into the air and cheered with a “yo!”. I don’t think anyone took a gulp without signaling for the rest of the table to drink as well. They got me to say it a few times too, often encouraging me to say it louder. Very inclusive I’d say!
After this engagement, we went back to our home for the night for more eating. Dinner was being prepared and more family would be joining in.
I don’t know where to begin with the food. Remembering this meal gives me a food coma! In this photo, I have most of our meal in the shot. The clams we bought earlier, some fried prawns, soups, and salads all laid out on the floor. Most of the men sat on this side, and the same amount of dishes were to the left of me with the women sitting around those. There was more Tiger beer and more cheers of “yo!”
Overall, everyone enjoyed eating and drinking together and it was nice that because of our visit, everyone could get together.
That concludes our second day! We slept around 7pm that evening so eating was the last thing we had done.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for day 3! If you want to see more watch Danton’s video =)
**The watermarked photos were taken by Danton! Follow his Instagram for more!**