The final full day of our tour was a trip into what would have been considered “bandit” territory during the Vietnam War – the Mekong Delta where some islands had 90 percent support for the Vietcong.
But for us it was a much more peaceful and contemplative trip, starting with a detour to the Cau Dai temple. This odd mixture of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hindu and Confucianism has about 3 million followers in Vietnam and is the country’s third largest religion after Buddhism and Catholicism.
The Mekong is about three km wide where we join it and we pass several floating fish farms, working freighters, working fishing boats and ferries as we cross to the four islands – Turtle, Phoenix, Unicorn and Dragon – and embark on the most touristy part of our trip.
The coconut factory makes sweets and other by-products of the coconuts grown nearby, there is a snake wine (whiskey) tasting, a ride on a wagon drawn by a pony and a paddle through a canal on a long punt.
We turn into tree sniffers as we try to detect chocolate aromas from the fruit of the cacao trees and one of our party has a close encouter with a python.
But then we have a fabulous lunch at the Hao Ai riverside restaurant (with its odd pictures on the wall of the mens toilet) featuring the famous elephant ear fish wish well and truly lives up to its reputation. We all agree this is the best meal of the whole tour, a plaudit that lasts until the evening when we returned to Saigon for a fabulous farewell dinner in the Hoa Tuc restaurant – located on the ground floor of a former opium factory.
The rain came lashing down as we headed back to our hotel (Liberty Central) for a farewell drink.
We never did find that Chinese restaurant …