Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ben Tre Day Tour: Brick Kiln Factory and Entering Mekong Delta River

During my visit to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam together with family members a year and a half ago, we were able to take part in a day tour to Ben Tre province.

Brick production is part of Ben Tre's thriving small scale economies.

The Mekong Delta life.

Ben Tre is approximately 2.5+ hours away from Ho Chi Minh City and the province is home to the famous Vietnamese river called Mekong Delta. Like many others, we are curious tourists who want to get away from the city for a day and see Vietnam's lush countryside. We were also looking forward to doing the Mekong Delta riverboat cruise thing.

It is a whole day promised activity with hopefully interesting stops and places to see!

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

We booked the Ben Tre Day Tour at the travel and tours agency of our hotel. There were other similar tours offered by travel agencies around the Ben Thanh area, but for this particular package, we were promised a less touristy and less crowded one. I am with my mobility challenged parents and we cannot keep up with huge group tours in busloads. We prefer a more private experience, with only a handful of people to be led and taken care of.

The distance between Ben Tre and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon):

Personally, I am not very fond of guided tours, but I do have my own exemptions, such as when I am travelling to a new country and do not have the luxury of time, and of course, when I am travelling with the parents. It just makes my life, rather, our life easier.

Well, we got very lucky for this excursion. On the day of our Ben Tre Mekong Delta day tour, we found out that there were only 8 of us joining. Not too bad because half of that number is already us. The other 4 in the tour were a German couple and a Spanish. Our tour guide was also a nice young guy, full of knowledge about the country and passion for his work. Our driver didn't make much noise, except making sure we were safe on the road.

On our way, we did a toilet and snack stop in Dong Nai. Read here: On the Road to Mekong Delta: Graveyards and Mekong Delta Rest Stop in Dong Nai

Then we reached our FIRST official stop which is a traditional Brick Kiln factory. Just at the back of the factory are the boats leaving for the Mekong Delta Riverboat cruise. Good organisation, I thought.

Traditional kiln production of bricks.

The traditional production of bricks is a thriving industry in South Vietnam, especially around the Mekong Delta area. The locals learned the brick making technique from the French. Vietnam was once part of the French colonial empire.

The brick design and baking method have not changed for centuries. They bake the bricks inside this large dome-shaped kiln also made of bricks with a hole at the top. Everything is done by the hand which makes it very labour intensive, however, they are sold very cheaply for a piece though.

Bricks are used for building houses and many other constructions in Vietnam. The factories are owned by private owners nowadays but during the communist period, they were owned by the government.

The bricks are baked inside these dome-shaped kilns.

Boarding our boat in the Mekong Delta.

After the brick kiln factory stop, we were led towards the back of the production site where we saw a makeshift harbour with a number of medium-size wooden sampan boats waiting. Our amiable tour guide was standing on one of the boat's noses waving at us to also get on board. He is wearing red so it was easy for us to spot him quickly.

The boat was bobbing up and down which worried my mom a bit, but with the help of the boat guys, the parents managed to safely jump on board. As soon as we settled into our seats, we were offered each a fresh coconut juice to drink. Now that's a very nice touch, and very much welcomed by us as we were indeed thirsty.

We did not know what to expect, but we sat tight until the boat came to life for the cruise.

Welcome coconut drink.

The engine roared against the brown murky waters of Mekong Delta. So off we sailed for the first leg of our Mekong Delta River cruise. Surprisingly, the river did not smell.

We were quite enjoying the scenery, sailing past palm and coconut trees, houses, and other boats carrying loads. There is a sense of familiarity with the surroundings but it is different. We do not really have something exact to compare to in the Philippines but the tropical flora around us is recognisable. The Philippines do have seas and rivers around its 7,101 islands but they are nothing like the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

We also noticed many boats with eyes on its bow (the nose), which I learned has something to do with safety superstition. Vietnamese people are one of the most superstitious folks in the world. I guess it is better to play safe than sorry.

Sailing the Mekong Delta River.

All boats in Vietnam have eyes. It is a sort of talisman for protection during the voyage. Vietnamese people are very superstitious.

Scenes we saw along the way.

As we cruised and enjoyed the wind against our faces and hair, we took pictures. Typically tourists, haha.

Then the boat turned around a corner and entered a narrower and calmer part of the river. Here, we encountered locals with a much smaller boat. A number of them were fishing with nets, while some were busy checking or laying down their fish traps into the water. It took me a while to realise they were fish traps.

The fish traps were like long basket weaves. It's a very easy and tested method to catch fish I believe. Once you lay the trap in the water, usually on the riverbank and attached to vegetation so they won't be driven away by the tide, you just leave it there for a few hours or the whole day. When you are back, you're guaranteed to see your catch! Not bad at all.

So far, we were enjoying the cruise!

Locals fishing in the Mekong Delta.

Mekong Delta life: These are the fish basket traps.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Ben Tre Province, Vietnam

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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