After three action packed days on the back of a motorbike, in boats, exploring cities and sweating a lot with my tour guide Mr. Kim, it was time for our adventure to come to an end. The final day started at 7:30 as Mr. Kim and I decided it'd be a good idea to try and beat the heat. The plan for the day was to ride bicycles around the small village of Ben Tre, exploring and observing the local way of living.
Mr. Kim led me down small roads, dirt paths, and over tiny bridges to give me a better glimpse into his hometown. If you didn't pick up on it or already know, I'm not usually one to follow so by day four of doing so I was getting a bit tired of it. I would have enjoyed taking off on my own and trying to lose myself in the rice fields and banana farms but I sucked it up and accepted Mr. Kim's guidance.
Aside from my desire to be alone, the ride was thoroughly enjoyable, I was surrounded by more green and less noise than I had been in days and couldn't be happier. The clouds decided to save us from laser sun beams and there was even a cool breeze, at least mother nature knew how to treat a girl right. Our first stop of the morning was at a cacao farm, although it really just looked like someone's yard. There were two men sitting and drinking tea (actually one was rice wine) and eating noodles but they didn't seem to care about our presence. Mr. Kim cracked open a cacao fruit and presented its insides to me, which apparently you can eat, learning something new every day!
We sat and I enjoyed a fresh coconut while Mr. Kim continued on his smoking streak and struggled to make himself a cup of coffee, apparently his friend that makes the coffee was 'gone'. The two men asked loads of questions about me, nothing in English of course, but Mr. Kim was kind enough to translate parts to me. After our brief visit, it was back on the bikes and on our way through the fields. We made another stop at a memorial for soldier who died during the war but besides that, it was mostly on the bikes for the morning.
The scenery was like nothing I had seen before, aside from the rice fields of course. Down small roads and between tree lined paths I was intrigued by the flora and fauna that surrounded me. At a few points we came out to wide open, busy roads, and after nearly two hours I had no idea where we were. Mr. Kim proposed lunch but when I asked for fried rice made a different turn and in seconds we were back to where we had started at my home stay. I ate and he went home for a shower and rest before it was once again back on the motorbike and on our way back to Saigon, end of the line for me.
The ride back was more of the same, busy roads, lots of dust, coffee breaks and picture taking. When we stopped for our final coffee break about an hour outside of town we noticed some enormous rain clouds forming in the distance. "Maybe Saigon rain" Mr. Kim muttered, which had I not been riding on the back of a motorbike I would have welcomed with open arms. The rest of the ride I hoped it would hold off until we were back but no such luck. Only 15 minutes from safety the clouds opened up and dumped down on us, thankfully Mr. Kim was prepared with rain jackets which made the experience a little more bearable.
I was exhausted by the end of it but thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even if my mood seemed otherwise. I'm sure I could have navigated the Delta on my own for a cheaper price, but I would have had a completely different experience. It was nice not having to think about which bus to take, where to sleep or even what I should eat for a few days, but I did miss the freedom of doing whatever the hell I wanted. My only regret about the trip is that I didn't do a little more research, I'm sure had I asked Mr. Kim would have made my tour a bit more unique, stopping per my request, but I didn't bother to ask. Which leads me to my advice for these motor bike trips, know what you want. Whether you go with a random man off the street like I did, easy riders, or any other company throughout Vietnam, make sure you do some research. Know where you want to go, what you want to see and anything else along the way, while these drivers know the cities they don't know you, so the better prepared you are the more enjoyable your trip will be.
I was warned that I'd either love it or hate it. For some Vietnam is a food and adventure paradise while others just can't seem to find their grove. With a turbulent history and remains of division between north and south, it's an interesting place to say the least.