An Excursion From Ben Tre With Pandaw
Our first excursion while on board RV Tonle Pandaw was on day two while in Ben Tre. Two tender boats were being towed along by the vessel and these would form our transportation for our first trip ashore.
The guests were split into two groups and each had a local guide as well as a member of the Pandaw crew to assist people on and off the boat. We sailed away from the ship in our small boat with park benches for seats, our captain and our wonderful guide, Yang, and made our way down the Mekong or ‘The River of Nine Dragons’ as it’s known by the locals.
After travelling some distance, we came to a small man-made dock where we climbed ashore. From here, we took a walk along the small well-trodden track while our guide explained about living in the local area, the fruits and flowers that are grown here and the ways of life for the people living in these small and rural communities.
New Food Experiences
We then boarded our second mode of transport for the day, a sampan – a small canoe which can seat up to four guests with a standing area for the person steering. In most cases, a woman from the surrounding villages fulfilled this role. We were in the sampan for 10-15 minutes, travelling through the mangroves and bamboo groves before arriving at the Coconut Workshop. Here, we had honey tea that’s local to the area, as well as a selection of fruits including pineapple, grapefruit, jack fruit and mango. The recommendation was to dip the pineapple into a mix of chilli and salt. Some enjoyed this more than others.
There was a selection of things to purchase such as handmade t-shirts, kimonos and various houseware items all made from coconuts. There was also a selection of belts and wallets which were made from crocodile skin, as well as a large snake which we were able to hold in our hands or around our shoulders.
Candy And Whisky
Once we had finished our tea, we walked further, past more houses and villages which turned out to be the guide’s own family village and where his grandfather still lives. We boarded 'the local limousine' (a horse and chart) and we drove to the Coconut Candy Factory. Here, you can see how the candy is made from beginning to end and then purchase some if you so wish. We were also given the chance to try two kinds of whisky, which seemed to be the drink of choice in this part of Asia. The first was fairly normal; the other was in a large jar with what I can only describe as pickled snake curling around the glass. Some of the group tried it but it wasn’t enjoyed by all.
At this point, our tender was waiting for us at the end of the bank so we headed back to the ship for a well-deserved lunch in the dining room.
I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion and I believe it was a great insight into local life in terms of food, transport and employment.