Lush green Mekong delta has great tourism development potentials. Beside the popular image of floating markets which are now not so busy like they were before, there are also many other alternative destinations. Hundred of its hidden corners are waiting for the travelers. One of our great Mekong off the beaten path find is Tan Phong Island, not far away from Cai Be hotspot but a totally laid back place with beautiful green island of many different orchards and incredibly friendly farmers.
Tan Phong island is considered as a hometown of rambutan as you can find rambutan farms everywhere together with many other kind of trees on this fertile land. The attraction is not only from the scenery itself but it is also from the local people. You can catch naïve look from all of the people and you are greeted by “hi”, ‘hello” everywhere. To tour this island, there are several options. Depending on your schedule, you can do this island from HCMC within one day or 2 days. The island is about 2 hours from HCMC so it is not a long drive. Also, it is a unique experience to reach the island by a local ferry. That feeling like we’re going home.
n Tan Phong Island, there are many possible outdoor activities. Cycling in Mekong Delta is the best way to explore the region. It is easy and leisure, under the green carnopy on the small winding roads along rivers, canals villages and orchards. There are two cycling routes here and both of them are on small road, under the trees and along the villages, farms and people and more important, both of them are worth at the last penny.
For the first route, it is a 7km round trip to visit few local families who inhabit on this land over 40 years. Meet the man, chat with him about life, gardening experiences and enjoy his amazing verbal technique in singing traditional songs. Also, try as much as possible all fresh fruits in the farm and bring home great memories.
About the second part, which is longer and requires a bit more physical is including many activities. You can stop at a kindergarten to visit over hundred of kids from 3-5 years old. Join a class and teach them some basic English, sing and play with them and remember your crystal childhood. Cycle a bit more, we will stop at a durian farm and meet Ms. Durian and join in her “jackfruit leaves cake” class. We will have great time to chat with her about her family with a proud doctor son, a caring husband and her daily life. Keep cycle onward to a miniature garden and meet a shy and modest teacher who has fabulous millionaire garden with hundred of pristine trees. This cycle part is for about 16 round trip and you will need a hat.
For those who do not want to do cycle, driving pillion on a safe motorbike around the island and visit farmers homes is always available.
Besides cycling, you can also do fishing. In the delta, people try many ways to have fish in their net. And one of very funny way is “flish slapping”. They can build a temporary mud wall to stop the current of a canal, then set up a net and slap the water to drive the fish into it. You can catch fish by your bare hands or by using a bamboo basket.
The local people will help guide you thru each unique and exciting fishing adventure. Afterwards, you can enjoy cooking and eating your fresh catch!
Tan Phong island is still considered as an off the beaten path Mekong destination, accommodation for travelles are still limited. Mekong Rustic offers overnight service in their small 10 bungalow lodge or homestay with one of a farmer home.
At Mekong rustis lodge, there are now 10 simple but comfortable bungalows that are lying harmoniously in a garden of rambutan, grapefruit, flowers… All rooms are fully equipped with air conditioning, bathroom and double/twin bed and they have both side glass windows overlooking to the garden and they are roofed by coconut leaves. At the lodge, guests can join cooking class or gardening…
Mekong Rustic also offers 2 homestay choices which contain 7 rooms. The homestays represent a true slice of traditional life of the Mekong people, albeit a rapidly vanishing traditional life. Mr Hai and Uncle Ut are the best warm and welcoming homestay hosts ever and they offer simple yet comfortable living accommodation within their families. The rooms are nice and there are several toilets to share. No modern facilities with air-conditioning but wifi. Staying with the locals, you will have opportunities to experience life here with family works, gardening, farming and cycling around.