Apr 30-May 1, 2015
Homestay Adventure in Cho Moi (An Giang, Vietnam)
GPS waypoint: N 10°26.269' E 105°33.653'
Location: Cho Moi District, An Giang Province, Vietnam
Hatched from Chau Doc
While staying at the floating hotel in Chau Doc, the owner asked if Tuyen and I would like to check-out a homestay in Cho Moi, to experience the cultural offerings of the fabled West (the rest of Vietnam west of Ho Chi Minh City). It is about 2 hours south, towards Can Tho, the capital of the West. We didn't really have any set itinerary - the whole point of our travels was to experience anything and everything under the sun. Of course, we said yes. The following day, we were already on our way to Cho Moi.
Getting there became an adventure all its own. The coach dropped us about 500 meters away from where they should. Tuyen and I asked directions and walked the distance under the heat of the sun with our heavy backpacks. We reached the pier and had to take a ferry across the river. From the other side, our hostess, Truc, met us. We took another ferry to another island after which Tuyen had to take a bus while I had to be passenger on a motorbike. Finally, after 12 more kms away from the city, we reached our destination - the homestay.
The place is a typical local house in the middle of a laid back farming community on an island flanked by the mighty Mekong River. I wasn't sure if there was anything to do there. I took a look around me and realized we were in the middle of nowhere. We were the only tourist. There was no waterfall, no cave, no mountain treks, except perhaps a dip in a shallow river with a muddy bottom. For the tourist, there wasn't anything I could see. I didn't get it.
Truc and her family were the nicest people you would meet. They gave us a big room in the house with a fan, and ensured our comfort by providing hammocks and more fans in the living room. We took part in the food preparation using only the freshest locally grown produce in the area. The fish dishes they served would rival the best restaurants. Simply put, they served us their regional specialties - the very best the region has to offer. We ate what the family ate - nothing commercial, nothing fake, no cost-cutting, no shortcuts. Just honest to goodness deliciously wholesome food you rarely eat nowadays. The West is probably the most abundant in all of Vietnam. The Mekong Delta gives them bounty from the river system, the plains are fertile where fruits and vegetables are abundant and rich with variety. It's not even customary in the West to 'save for the rainy day', because on-demand, the bounties of the Mekong and the plains are there to nourish them.
Truc wasted no time taking us around her island - the islands are simply separated from the mainland by the fingers of the mighty Mekong Delta. There are many such islands dotting the dominating riverscape. She arranged for 2 motorbikes.
- We were taken to the tofu maker's house and served hot taho.
- Later, we went to a farm where the landowner-farmer took the time to explain how they merge different varieties of mango to create a new one! Or what they plant near the fences and house to keep the snakes and rats away. We were treated to a fresh coconut.
- That evening, we were taken to the pagoda with numerous statues of their dieties.
- The following day, we had breakfast in the market to savour the local dishes - Truc did all the ordering for us.
- This was followed by a bike ride to the fish pond. We boarded a small wooden barge where sacks upon sacks of fish food were released as the barge made its way through the other side. The farmed catfish just went into a feeding frenzy, churning the entire pond with bubbles and splashes.
- We also went to a wine maker - well, make that a moonshine maker. Rice is fermented and distilled in one's own backyard to produce that strong intoxicating rice wine.
- Lastly, we headed to their mango orchard where we picked all the mangoes we could eat. In that island alone, they boasted of having 13 varieties! Favorites were the 3-color mango (green, red and orange), the Indian Mango and the sweetest of them all, their version of our carabao mango, which are mostly exported to China.
Tuyen and I only stayed overnight was it was quite an immersion. Looks could be deceiving as I had initially thought there was nothing in Cho Moi. But through the patient unlayering of our gracious hostess, Truc, she revealed Cho Moi's multi-dimension that speaks well about its culture and the wonderful people she keeps. If you are looking for a cultural immersion within a 24-hour period, nothing beats Truc's homestay program. Tuyen and I both left Cho Moi feeling enriched by our unforgettable experience.
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Location: Binh Phuoc Xuan, Cho Moi District, An Giang Province, Vietnam
Tel: to follow
Apr 30-May 1, 2015
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