Before we had even unpacked our bags in our sixth floor room in Can Tho there was a knock at the door. Upon opening the door in came a short, fiery Vietnamese woman that we could tell wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer before we could even figure out what she was selling. She squatted down and started pulling out photos, maps, a notebook and testimonials from previous customers. She jumped right into her sales pitch for her boat tours on the Mekong Delta for “good price.” Her English was some of the best we had heard in Vietnam and she was talking a mile a minute while writing down pricing in her notebook to show us. $20 for a half day private tour and $40 for a full day private tour down the Mekong Delta. Before we even had time to respond to anything she had presented she was shoving testimonials written in every language at us, clearly proud of all her happy customers.
Her aggressive sales pitch and excellent English landed us on a small boat at 5:30 am the next morning in the Mekong Delta. Breakfast was included, coffee too, as well as a driver and English speaking guide. Our guide was an affable older gentleman who had fought in the South Vietnamese Military alongside the Americans in the Vietnam War, which is where he picked up his English. They were a great pair for giving us a glimpse into life on the Delta and for getting plastic bags out of the motor so that the tour could continue.
The first stop was Cai Rung floating market, the largest in the Mekong Delta. Most of the trading, selling and buying happens between 6-8 am, so we were right on time. Next we headed to a small rice paper making operation, which also seemed to be raising pigs and pythons. With all the rice noodles we had been eating we didn’t know how they were made, so this stop was of particular interest as they made rice paper that was then made into noodles.
We continued down the Delta observing how people lived along the rivers and watching as new bridges were being built and barge traffic made it’s way towards Saigon. Much of the Mekong Delta looks the same, but we were kept entertained as our driver made us bouquets of flowers, grasshoppers and jewelry out of coconut palm leaves. Our guide also made us some pineapple lollipops and attempted to teach us Vietnamese.
The tour also included a stop for a short hike along one of the canals in the Mekong that took us through a small village. We got lots of sun and a sun burn to show for our time on the water as well as a good lesson in marketing as it seems many of the tours were relatively the same, but the other tourists didn’t get to meet Ms. Ha. In fact, when we returned to our hotel there she was waiting for us to make sure we enjoyed our trip. We assured her we were very happy and told her we would be happy to provide her a testimonial for her book. She wanted one better, a fresh group of tourists had just arrived and she was hoping I could sing the praises of Ms. Ha and her Mekong Tours. I happily shared our lovely day on the water.