Two Thousand Eight has been declared the year of tourism in the Mekong Delta, namely the Can Tho area, and there has been no shortage of wonderful activities sprouting up in the region. This morning I had the pleasure of traveling to My Khanh orchard, located just a stone’s throw away from Can Tho, for an eagerly awaited fruit festival.
The event, aptly named Le Hoi Trai Ngon Dong Bang Song Cuu Long, featured every kind of tropical fruit imaginable, including rambutans, durians, jackfruits, rose apples, and mangosteens, just to name a few. While the prices were fairly steep in comparison to those at normal Can Tho markets, the enjoyable atmosphere of the My Khanh festival made up for the price disparity.
In addition to the fruit at My Khanh, there were countless varieties of plants and artists’ sculptures made purely from the flora of the region, as well as freshly grilled bamboo stalks, catfish, and snails. And while it was far too sunny and hot to enjoy a full meal, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a few bites of banh xeo, courtesy of my best friend in Vietnam.
I traveled to My Khanh orchard during 2005 with the School for International Training, but today bested my previous experience by more than a hair. If it wasn’t the fruit, food, or Mekong Delta tributes being sung that took my breath away, it was the abundance of animals on the premises.
Vietnam is notorious for its lack of sanitary or humane treatment of animals. I have seen monkeys chained by their necks to makeshift poles, large snakes enclosed in captivity in suffocatingly small cages, and underfed horses forced to pull entire families via carriage. I saw much of that today, as well as pig racing and crocodile gawking.
What struck me about the crocodile watching were the young onlookers who taunted the thirty or so creatures with large slabs of inedible meat which were tied to the end of bamboo poles. Maybe it’s just me, but the thought of leaning over a weak balcony and dangling meat over a pack of crocodiles doesn’t sound too appealing. In any event, these dangerous beauties made for good photos and even better, albeit scarier, memories.
My friends and I ended our visit to My Khanh with an hour of Vietnamese karaoke. Word to the wise: if you ever have the opportunity to visit the orchard and sing karaoke (there is a modest selection of old English songs), request the “phong nui”. This absolutely beautiful karaoke room is enclosed inside of a mini faux-mountain and is a cool respite from the blazing heat of Mekong Delta mornings.
All in all this Saturday in Vietnam was the tops. I witnessed a true slice of Mekong Delta culture with good friends and despite being the sole foreigner at the festival, I felt absolutely at peace with the moment.