I’m a sucker for choice. When people use the phrase ‘kid in a candy store’, they might think it’s a good thing. However, I’m filled with equal measures of excitement and dread. Excitement because I’m going to get some sweets (obvs), and dread because I can never make up my mind.
In the case of choosing actual sweets I’ll stand there for a good 10 or 15 minutes, going through all of the chocolate bars and mentally tasting them first so see what I’m in the mood for. It really is a frustrating sight for anyone witnessing it.
So when I received a shiny new gift experience box from Tinggly, my brain nearly exploded. Their concept is simple: One gift, three tiers of pricing, hundreds of travel experiences. You buy a gift box for someone and it’s up to them to choose their experience from locations all over the world.
They offer 3 different collections: Essential for 69€, Premium for 99€, and Ultimate for 249€.
I dwelled for days on my choice, and finally after MUCH deliberation, I settled on a Mekong Delta experience for two in the south of Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to visit the Mekong Delta, ever since one rainy Sunday back in London where I was stalking this Pinterest board – now was my chance.
The experience promised coconut candy tastings, a visit to a local market, and a boat trip around the various islands that call the Mekong Delta their home.
The Mekong Delta occupies the area of land flooded out by the Mekong river, just before it reaches its climatic end in the South China Sea. The river has carved out dozens of islands, and because of the tropical climate, rich soil and plentiful water supply, the going is good for the people who have settled there.
Coconuts, spices and wild flowers grow everywhere, and life on the islands is slow-paced and relaxing.
We started our trip with a visit to a local Cao Dai temple. Cao Dai is a religion almost exclusive to Vietnam, which is told to be a mix of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Geniism. They practice a mix of the concepts from each of the religions, and at the centre of all of this, they worship an all-seeing left eye of God.
Having spent a lot of time in India, I’m used to seeing a temple or two, but this one was different. The colours, the symbols, the statues! I’ve never been particularly religious but if I had to pick one based on its place of worship alone, I know I would be a Caodaist in a second.
Tucked away behind the temple was a local market, selling everything from fresh tropical fruits, to fish still flapping in dry bowls, to knock-off Converse shoes selling for the equivalent of about £3. The market was so local that our guide, Diez didn’t even know if it had a name. It was just known as ‘the market’. It was also one of the friendliest places I’ve been in Vietnam, with all of the locals literally amazed to see Westerners. We felt like film stars!
We walked around, feasting our eyes on the wares, and feasting our bellies on it too. A slab of tapioca pudding went down a treat, and I was already regretting that pastry I’d forced myself to wolf down two hours previously in Ho Chi Minh City.
I also tried the local favourite, Durian, a fruit which according to Diez ‘smells like hell but tastes like heaven’. I can confirm that after having tried it myself that it does indeed smell like hell, but it also tastes like hell! Why people would eat that stuff is beyond me! Check out the video at the top of this post for my durian reaction.
Leaving the friendliest market in the world behind, we boarded our PRIVATE boat to explore the Mekong’s islands. Other boats were heavy with tourists, but our VIP service from Tinggly included a private boat, so we had the whole thing to ourselves. It even had a hammock to relax in!
The first stop was to an island famous for its all-natural honey. We met the bees tasked with creating the famous Mekong honey, and tasted some of the fruits of their labour, first straight from the comb, then dissolved in tea with a kumquat squeeze. Seriously delicious, and definitely the tastiest honey I’ve ever eaten.
Next, we visited an island famous for making coconut candies. Coconut flesh is churned for days to create a sticky, taffy-like substance which they flavour with all kinds of different tastes. No one seemed to know what the flavours were, but I plumped for one which I found out to be durian… Just my luck!
Still, the rest of the candies were exceptional, and we bought some to have on our long bus journey to Cambodia in a few days.
We also tasted a couple of different rice wines. One flavoured with coconut and one with… snake. Yes, you read that right. Take a huge bottle of rice wine, add a handful of giant dead snakes, leave for 3 years to ferment, and you’ve got yourself a beverage!
Snake wine is believed locally to have healing properties, and to be especially good for your back after a day working in the rice paddies. I’m not sure if my back felt any better after downing a shot, but it definitely tasted better than I expected it to.
We carried on our culinary journey through the Mekong’s famed islands with a plate of fresh fruit, served to a background of love songs, sung by a local band. Actually, I never stopped eating all day! Fruits, sweets, cakes, river fish served with vegetables and rolled in pancakes, clear broth-like soups filled with goodness. If you’re taking this trip, don’t bother having breakfast. You will spend all day feeling full.
After a stroll through the beautifully manicured jungle, we boarded a private horse and carriage to take us across the island. I’m a real sucker for horses so for me this was an absolute highlight.
We cantered through the narrow streets, finally making it to our final destination: The canal.
This is the quintessential experience you will think of when you hear the words ‘Mekong Delta’. Rowing through slim canals framed by reeds and tropicals trees. The only other noise aside from the gentle swooshing of your boat through the water is the occasional bird chirping.
We glided through the canal and after a few special minutes, emerged into the river where our private boat was waiting for us yet again to transport us to the next island.
My favourite of all of the islands, this one was exceptional as there were no other tourists. Just a beautiful elderly couple who were a delight to meet. They took us to their private coconut garden where we climbed trees to select our very own coconut to eat and to drink its sweet water.
The man was known simply as ‘Mr Four’, due to the fact that he was known as the fourth son in his family. What was strange was that he was actually the fifth child, but in Vietnam the first son isn’t counted… How strange is that?
After some gesturing conversations and much laughing (Mr Four and his wife spoke no English), we drank and ate our coconuts and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. Mr Four was kind enough to wave us off on our way though!
To buy this gift as well as the choice of over 350 other worldwide experiences, visit tinggly.com. Thank you to Tinggly for hosting me on this wonderful trip. As always, my views and opinions are entirely my own.
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