Imagine

…you board your private sampan and float out into the mighty Mekong Delta…

Unlike the big ships that must stick to the deep canals, your little sampan explores narrow waterways, you lounging on the top deck while the crew prepares your lunch and the captain deftly beaches at remote villages.

Walk over “monkey bridges” to meet locals, hanging out on their front porch during “cocktail hour” – which likely means a jug of homemade rice wine, passed around for all to share.

Deep in the Delta, you’ll find the immense floating market, and there you meet Diem. She’s the noodle lady of the market, and her job is to make and serve hot noodle breakfast to all the vendors. To your great delight, your guide arranges for you to ride along as she paddles and sautes and sells her way through the morning.

More gastronomic highlights await!

In the southern city of Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, as the North Vietnamese call it), you hop on a back-of-the-bike street food tour, out of the tourist zone and into 9 districts rarely touched by tourists. There you’ll taste crab, and sticky rice, green papaya salad and the city’s best goat hot pot. At the Vietnamese pancake stand, your guide arranges for you to get behind the stand and play pancake lady. None of the locals know quite what to make of this, but you turn out to be a great sidewalk chef!

On to the capital city of Hanoi, where you experience a local market (imagine mounts of vegetables, and ducks floating around in pools until they’re swiped out and butchered on the spot for a ready customer). Then you take your groceries into a local’s home to cook dinner. Banana flower salad, handmade spring rolls – it’s quite an eye-opening night.
You can train on the Orient Express sleeper from Hanoi, overnight, up to Sapa, the swirling mountain rice terraces in the far north. Here the hill tribes from China – the Black Hmong, the Red Dzao, and others – live in traditional villages nestled in the cleft of the mountains. It’s the perfect place to hike, drink tea, homestay, shop for silver, and even motorcycle.
Then end up in Halong Bay, a karst landscape of islands and caves, pearl farms and floating fishing villages, many of whose residents have never, ever set foot on terra firma.
Between the north’s rice terrace, Halong Bay, and colonial capital and the South’s war-time tunnels and great Delta, Vietnam truly feels like two countries, if not worlds.

See Vietnam in

Riding along with the Noodle Lady:
Rowing though the market
I got to play Vietnamese Pancake Lady
How to eat Chicken FEet in Saigon
Fishing at dawn at Halong Bay
What does a local market look like?
Rice farming in Mekong Delta
My visit to Halong Bay
Bruce Hot Pot Shop owner
Hitting the streets at night on a motorbike?
Hello from Vietnam!
Sharing wine of local’s porch Delta

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