The journey down the murky brown water of the delta was calming. In our boats we were paddled by a friendly paddler, and all wore large conical hats to protect us from the sun.
We stopped off at a bonsai tree garden, where a little girl ran up to me right before I stepped back into the boat, and handed me a tiny purple flower. She outstretched her hand as high as she could, and with a cheeky and unforgettable grin, she bared the gums where her two front teeth had fallen out – waiting for the new ones to arrive.
Kids have never gravitated towards me. I’ve never really been the one to swoon over a child. So when this young girl approached me out of nowhere, I felt so special. None of the others in my tour group received a tiny flower.
As we continued to float down the delta, I began to wonder what the home-stay would look like. Would it be small? Would there be bathrooms, and if there isn’t I certainly forgot toilet paper. Should I have bought a shovel? But most of all, I was concerned about the mosquitoes.
You see, I’m allergic to mosquito bites. I get hives and burn up. This one time, on the Gold Duke of Edinburgh exhibition with my high school, we were in the Kangaroo Valley and I got swarmed by mosquitoes after a day canoeing. That night I had to use cold tins of spam – ham in a can – to keep my face cool from the bites.
Back to Vietnam, I was slowly becoming aware that the night that was creeping up on me, could be a little uncomfortable.
The boats banked up on the muddy shores of the Delta, and we all heaved ourselves off the boats and scrambled up the slippery slopes. Once we had all landed safely on ground, our guide – Voung – took us on a gravel road that went parallel to the delta. Soon we came to a large red gate.
“Wait, what?” I gasped as I walked through the large welcoming gates, to see a huge undercover area that lead up to a pale blue, two storey house, with large open air doorways.
Roosters and ducks made their way around the new intruders, loudly announcing their presence. The whole family came out from the kitchen to greet us. The mother, the grandmother holding a little baby and a little girl. The grandfather was sitting inside on a deckchair near the entrance to the kitchen. The father of the household was out working when we arrived, but we met him later.
Before we stepped inside, we all took off our shoes and left them at the front door. The family had left us some house sandals to borrow for inside and around the home-stay. I took this opportunity to bond with the comfortable Vietnamese crocs. And I took a liking to them.
Up a very steep flight of pale blue stairs, we came to a wooden door where our shared toilet was. And to the left, after stepping over an entry to the very large area where we would all sleep. Beds with thin mattresses and large mosquito nets were set up through two large rooms.
We all picked our beds, and met back downstairs for an unofficial tour of the home-stay grounds.
Walking around out the back, we saw a large vegetable patch, and more roosters and hens. But what caught my eye, was a wire cage with a coiled up scaly creature inside.
I don’t have a big fear of snakes. Never really been affraid of animals. More affraid of people. People can be mean. Anyway – The home-stay python was minding his – or her – own business, when our assistant guide, Nam, opened the cage and started lifting him out. From first glance, Nam looked like she was struggling with lifting the heavy weight of the python. Ash was the first one to have the python rest on his shoulders. Next, it was my turn.
The python rested gently across my shoulders, and as I stood calmly, I could feel the muscles scrunching up around my neck, giving me a much needed massage after the bumpy bus ride to the Mekong. As the others snapped photos of me, I could feel the tail end of the Python coiling around my ankle.
“Is it supposed to do that?” I laughed and ignored the pythons attempt to keep a firm hold of my leg, before I passed him on to the next person.
Voung called us out the front of the homestead, and took us on a guided tour along the Mekong, to see the other local farms and family homes. Each home was strikingly different, with bright, mis-matched colours and stripes, hammocks dangling from the open doorways, and young children running to their front gates to wave and shout as we walked by.
By the time we got back to our home for the evening, the sun was setting over the delta. We all went off to have our showers and re-apply mosquito repellant before we all gathered in the kitchen to be taught how to make spring rolls.
The grandmother and Nam sat on the table, with rice paper before them, and began needing the delicious meat in with the vegetables that make up the inside of each spring roll. To my surprise, it was much harder to wrap the rice paper around each filling than I thought – although then again, I’m a shocking cook.
Before we ate, Nam poured us all a shot of traditional Vietnamese rice wine. Shuddering as I tossed it to the back of my throat, I grabbed my knife and fork, ready to tuck into the delicious 5 course meal served before us.
Swatting at my legs between each bite, I started worrying about my allergies to mosquitoes. Luckily, that night we all had mosquito nets to cover us as we slept. In the middle of the night however, I woke up to find a mosquito had been in the net the whole time.
The next morning, I woke early to the sound of the rooster in the yard. So I got up and walked around the garden for a while.
With a baguette and an omelette for breakfast, our bellies were full and it was finally time for us to wave goodbye to the Mekong family, before heading off to the floating markets.