Oct 29, 2019
Enjoying the last days of summer, I received a message from my best friend about a trip to Cao Lanh. I was a little hesitant, because Cao Lanh is a city in the Mekong Delta, and I have been here a lot, there is nothing different or strange for me. But, my curiosity is easily stirred. I will go there and have nothing new to do, so I'll just eat, lie down to sleep and not be worried about anything.
I was still asleep after a 3.5 hour bus trip from Saigon to Cao Lanh. My friend grabbed my hand and announced to me that we were going to go to Tan Thuan Tay Town.
We started the trip from Cao Lanh’s city center where tall houses are close together. But the further we drove, the sparser the houses were. Replacing the urban scene of the city, was a small cement road with shady trees on each side. After about 20 minutes of riding on the motorcycle, we arrive. Alongside the mango orchards and alongside the immense river, stands a distinctive homestay house. The homestay is a combination of 2 houses. The modern one is designed for small groups of 2 to 4 persons. And the ancient stilt house is for big groups from 10 to 15 people to stay together.
It was not easy to spend the day just eating and sleeping as I had imagined it would be, there were too many activities for the whole group to experience and to help us understand more about the western life. Our host suggested that we take a short break, then head down to the river to "dỡ chà" for our dinner. None of us had any idea what “dỡ chà” was, it sounded really interesting though.
A tiny boat took us to the edge of the river where there was a large net, about two thirds of it covered by the water. It was stretched out into a rectangle shape with one pole at each of the 4 corners. About a month ago, people had placed some branches inside the net, this is called "Chà". The fish would come and choose it as a shelter. And now after 4 weeks, we just pulled the tree branches out, grabbed the net which was already full of the ‘sheltering’ fish and shrimp! It turns out "dỡ chà" is doing just that.
Depending on the season, there will be different types of fish. Fortunately, there were a lot of white fish and shrimp today.
While waiting for our dinner of cooked fish collected from “chà” that afternoon, we went to a riverside cafe called Cafe Sóng Gió for fishing and watching the sunset on the Tien River. It is fortunate that I do not know the sentence, because tonight I do not know how to eat all of this fish.
After a big meal, our host told us to remember to set an alarm to wake up early to remove some minnows from the net. Local people go fishing quite early in the morning and when they come back, the net with a lot of minnows in it will be hung up high and stretched tight. With skillful hands, people use a small bamboo stick to slap the body of the fish quickly, so the fish will drop down onto the mat below. It looks easy, but when I tried to do it, it was much more difficult than I had thought it would be. We all swept the net continuously but did not see any fish falling down.
The net was now full of fishes...
Then, it was stretched out for harvesting...
Struggling with the fishes was also the time when the stomach was intense, just in time the porridge was cooked. Snakehead fish porridge in Mekong Delta is served with endives and rice noodles, it was strange, but very good to eat.
Cháo cá lóc rau đắng - how we call this dish in Vietnamese
Walking around, we visited more orchards, having just enough time before we left. We were sad to leave; the pace of life, people and nature here are very gentle and they have a western nature. If you also want to experience such a day, why not invite your friends to come here, just once.
HCMC - Cao Lanh: refer to the bus routes at https://askvietnamese.vn/blog/post/explore-cao-lanh-you-go
Cao Lanh - Tân Thuận Tây: use Google Maps to search for locations: "Ben Do Kinh Ngang" and navigate according to the instructions.
Next to Ben Do Kinh Ngang, there will be a right turn to "Thuan Tan Hoi Quan" - where we were.