After a disappointing breakfast at Saigon Mini Hotel 6 (where they offered us bread, jam or butter but I could only choose 1 out of the 3?!?!), we checked out and took a taxi to Ben Xe Mien Tay (station in Saigon for long distance buses heading south). Upon arrival, we were overwhelmed by the hawkers for all of the different bus lines. Our online research indicated that Thanh Buoi has the fastest route to Can Tho so we inquired and purchased a couple of tickets (110,000 VND each) on the express bus right on the spot. The bus ride was less than 3 hours long and the vehicles were nicer than we had anticipated. The attendant even provided water and wet naps! From the bus station in Can Tho, we had to take another taxi (180,000 VND) to the bridge near our accommodations and then walked 5 minutes on a narrow road to Nguyen Shack.
Nguyen Shack is a recently opened hut-style homestay/resort in a very secluded part area of the Mekong. Aside from the free tours offered by the homestay, there is basically nothing else to do and I could tell that within half an hour Henry was bored. I was aware of the lack of AC when I booked the place online but it wasn’t until we arrived that I started to doubt my choice due to the heat and humidity. That night, with the fan on, bug repellant sprayed and several layers of mosquito netting surrounding us, we were able to fall asleep, only to be awakened early in the morning by a very active rooster next door.
There are three included tours a day: an afternoon boat tour along the river, an early morning floating market tour, and a bicycle countryside tour.
The floating market is the main reason we visited the region and we had to get up at 5:30am to depart for the Cai Rang market. I took full advantage of the floating vendors and ordered a banh mi and some sort of noodle soup. We took a brief stop at a floating café where our boat captain and the café’s owner entertained us with their musical talents. They also tried to get us to sing but 6:30 in the morning is simply too early for karaoke.
The highlight of the homestay experience was definitely the mid-morning biking tour led by Theu, the proud owner of the homestay. We visited a primary school, a kindergarten, a pagoda/orphanage, a distillery, a rice distribution center, a pottery maker, a knife maker, and other interesting local sights. The kids at the schools were delighted to see us and we brought pens and pencils to pass out to them.