Ben Tre, Vietnam

After a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, it was time to escape the hustle and bustle and head to our next stop: Ben Tre.

Ben Tre (both a province and a city) is about 2 hours south-west of HCMC in the Mekong Delta. There was no way we were coming to Vietnam without seeing the Mekong River.

We were keeping the bungalow streak alive and staying at Quoc Phuong Riverside Homestay which was chosen for much of the same reasons as Battambang – it just looked so pretty! And when we arrived, we were not disappointed.

How did we get there? Funny you should ask.

I was having a hard time finding information online about how to get to our homestay. There were some public buses to Ben Tre city, but the homestay itself was on the river about 15km (~9mi) away from the city center. Finally, a few days before we were due to arrive I messaged the property (thank you!) and received some instructions on how to get there.

  1. Go to your hotel reception and ask them to call this phone number and ask for 4 people on the bus.
  2. Go to this address.
  3. Get on the bus, show the driver the name of my homestay. He will know where to drop you off.

ahh… ok.

Luckily, our Airbnb was in a serviced apartment building so there was actually a reception area and a person who could help us. He called, reserved our spot over the phone, and the next day (with nothing but a verbal confirmation) we were in a cab to the bus stop.

‘Bus stop’ is a very loose term. It was a restaurant.

Waiting for the bus.

We hesitantly walked up, looking thoroughly confused I’m sure, showed one of the people working the message and the address, and were immediately given small stools and told to sit & wait. So, we were in the right place!

Correct bus stops make for happy sissys!

We waited 15-20 minutes and low and behold a bus shows up, there’s a lot of exchanging of goods (rice, vegetables, drinks, etc.) and then we’re motioned to get on with all our luggage and we head for the last remaining open seats on an already packed bus. Somehow, Sis ended up with the good end of this deal. The rest of us were a little squishy.

We knew we had about 2 hours on the bus and we weren’t really sure where we were going so we kept double checking Google maps to make sure we were at least heading in the right direction. To our surprise, we stopped about 30 min before our final destination at a roadside shop for what we determined was a snack break; evidenced by the random woman who came on the bus selling snacks…

There was also another lady who kept coming on the bus and talking to people. Then, she would make a phone call and like magic, a minute would go by and food would appear! We weren’t really sure what was happening so we didn’t try an get any snacks.

After the break, we were on our way again and quickly approaching where it seemed we needed to be. Shane went to the front of the bus to remind the driver – “Hey, we need to get off here.” with our homestay’s name.

“No, no, not there yet!”

So, we anxiously watch Google maps, watch the driver, the bus stops, we try to get off… “No! Stay!” So we stay.

We stop again and this time “You (points to us). Here!” Off we go at an intersection in what feels like the middle of nowhere. As we get off the bus, we noticed 4 men on scooters but didn’t really think much of it until one of them (nicely) grabs Sis’ bag, puts it on his scooter and then pats the seat for her to get on. So, we all followed suit and off we went, each of us on the back of a strangers scooter for the last 2km to the homestay!


Technically, this is our way back out. But you get the idea.

And, when editing the video I found this screenshot worthy gem…

Hey there mirror Terry!

The directions may have seemed a little sketchy, but in reality, they were accurate and we had a smooth trip. Once we arrived, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the river.

There was a fun bridge to cross the creek that ran through the property.

We arranged a tour with the property owner on our night of arrival, so the next day we were up early to leave for our essentially private boat tour of the area. Surprisingly, we were on the tour with another American family! We hadn’t run into many other Americans on the trip so far, so it was a nice surprise and we had a great day on the boat as the 8 of us.

The start of our Mekong River boat tour.

First stop, the fish farms. The aquaculture industry in this part of the country is huge, which makes sense given the proximity to the rivers and sea. We saw two types of fish farms: floating farms and pond-style farms. The floating farms are for tilapia, which require/prefer flowing water; the pond-style farms are for catfish. We also learned that a lot of thought goes into how the fish are raised and what they eat to ensure they meet the requirements for export to the US and EU, as well as acknowledging what the consumers in those markets want.

Next up, a honeybee farm!

Here, we tasted the honey (so delicious), had some tea (with honey) and some homemade honey snacks. To taste the honey, you had to stick your finger in the middle of the bees to poke through the honeycomb. Only slightly nerve-racking and, outside of jumping in the black water in Koh Rong, probably Shane’s worst nightmare.

He did it, but he wasn’t happy about it. Ha!

Our trip to the honeybee farm also included a pet snake. Apparently, this is a common pet in (at least this part of) Vietnam. I passed on holding it…

After the honeybee farm, we headed down and across the river to see how coconut candies are made. We were able to have a taste test here too, along with some cobra whiskey. Ah yes, just like Battambang, whiskey made with snake. I mean, our whole group tried it (minus the kids) but I can safely say none of us liked it.

Cutting and packaging the coconut candy.

And finally, probably my favorite part of the tour that day. We transferred to a small wooden boat and were taken through the small tributaries connected to the main Mekong River.

After that, we had about an hour on the boat back to the homestay!

Lucky for us, we were back just in time because a massive rain storm came shortly after we were back. Unlucky for Shane and I, we needed to go find an ATM in the village since the place was cash only. This wasn’t really a big deal since the homestay provided free bikes and a map. We’re used to biking, and there was a break in the rain so off we went.

In the beginning, we honestly had such a nice ride. It wasn’t raining, it’s so fun to see the local village, and we passed so many friendly smiling waving kids along the way. But, as one might expect, the above map is not to scale. And our in-person directions from the owner of “two lefts then a right” wasn’t as straight forward as one might think. And then it started raining. And then the chain came off of Shane’s bike – three times. Nothing better than fixing a chain on a red dirt road in the rain.

We did eventually find the ATM, but we were soaked through by the time we got home. Sis and Terry made the smart decision to stay home and take a nap. We probably should have followed suit.

You can’t tell in the picture, but it was raining hard.

Unfortunately, we only had 2 nights in this amazing place. If I were to do this trip over, I would definitely have stayed here at least 2 or 3 full days. You could just relax, do the boat tour (like we did) or, with more time, an all-day scooter tour through the countryside. We were very disappointed to be leaving so quickly.

Plus side of leaving? We had to take the bus back and the bus stopped for snacks again! This time we knew what to expect…

The real-deal-not-7-11 version of the most delicious bánh bao! This time I remembered to take a picture before I ate it.

This little bundle of joy is filled with spiced ground meat and an egg.
Now that’s the unattractive face of a girl who loves a good bus snack.

With full tummies, we made it back to HCMC, said goodbye to our American friends who were also on the bus, and prepared to go to the airport and our next destination…

Hoi An, Vietnam!

Varied enthusiasm. It was going to be a long travel day.

Tot ziens,


Eden Eco Village: Kampot, Cambodia

Our stay at Eden Eco Village was one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip.

Like a lot of other highly-anticipated things, this one didn’t live up to my expectations, and to no fault of Eden. Let’s see, where do I begin.

Oh yes, this will do.

If you remember from my last post, on our way to Phnom Penh we ended up with a flat tire. After leaving our friends the night before, we took another VIP van with Mekong Express to the town of Kampot. I would like to reiterate that this was in no way a reflection of the service we received from Mekong Express. When your “highway” looks like this, then there’s bound to be a mishap…

Turns out, “highway” number 4 from Phnom Penh to Kampot is quite possibly the worst road I’ve ever been on in my life. First, driving in Cambodia is nerve-racking, to say the least. The first rule of driving in Cambodia is “there are no rules”. Theoretically, it seems that the driving rules are similar to those in America or Europe, but instead of you know, staying in a line of traffic, it’s “gun-it-until-you-reach-a-slower-object (car, scooter, pedestrian)-slam-on-breaks-swerve-and-keep-going”.

This style driving, combined with a case of the “Irish flu” from the night before, a pot-hole riddled “highway” and 30°C (86°F) temps made for a fun ride. And if you’re Shane, who came down with the actual flu… well. Tie him up and throw him in a river because he was dead. (Sorry Marsha, we didn’t tell you this at the time…)

What was wrong with the van? We hit a pothole so big that it knocked the spare tire loose from underneath and we were dragging it. After about 30 minutes it was successfully reattached and we were on our way again.

Stuck and not quite sure for how long…

A 3-hour trip turned into a 5-hour trip, but regardless we made it to Kampot. I can’t say this enough. The road was so bad at one point I looked at the GPS, it said we were about 30km (18mi) away. Think of a normal highway, you’d be there in 15 min? We still had 1 HOUR of travel time left.

Phomn Penh to Kampot.

Eden Eco Village was located about 5km (3mi) outside the city of Kampot. Our instructions to get there: “Take a tuk-tuk across the new bridge and down the dirt road until you see the signs.”

Hm. Ok then.

To our somewhat delight, this worked!

We showed the tuk-tuk driver and he knew exactly where to go. Over a newer looking bridge and down a dirt road until we saw the signs for Eden. That part was delightful. What was not so delightful was the dirt road itself, which was red mud, puddles, and potholes the entire trip pushing Shane to the edge of vomit.

I was most excited about this place because we were staying in a bungalow on the side of the river where you could literally jump off your bungalow porch and swim!

Remember how I said Shane was on the edge of vomit?

The only thing he did off the edge of our bungalow was puke. Multiple times. Poor guy.

The view from our bungalow. At least he had easy puke access, right?

My idyllic time at Eden was off to a great start. A sick husband was not something I (or he) anticipated.

We only had two nights here, which was and wasn’t enough time. I think if Shane had been healthy then we would have loved to stay longer. But with him sick, and the relenting heat (and – sorry Eden, my only true complaint) weak fans in the bungalow it wasn’t as magical as I had imagined it to be.

But, as we would come to learn by the end of our time in Cambodia, having expectations is your first mistake. Better to just experience things for what they are.

On our only full day, I knew I wanted to swim in the river and I wanted to do something active. We had been mostly touring cities, so now that we were actually out in the countryside I wanted to see it. Eden provided (for free) bicycles and a list of activities in the area so I forced Sis to go on a hike with me. The boys, not up for an athletic adventure, stayed behind while Sis and I went out to tackle White Mountain.

Following what I would refer to as “country boy” directions – “turn left on the road by the school that goes through the two overhanging trees towards a chainlink fence” – we had a lovely ride through the surrounding local village.

And back through the village when we missed the turn.

And for another time when we missed the turn again.

Third time’s a charm though and we found the path towards the chainlink fence all the while getting waved at by the friendliest children on their way to school.

Biking through the village.
On the right path now! White Mountain straight ahead.
“Park the bikes on the side of the ‘nicer’ road and take the path up.”

Our directions described the hike as “short but strenuous with a little bit of scrambling”.

That description was 100% accurate as Sis and I were gasping for air by the time we reached the top. The view was worth it though.

A successful hike required an afternoon dip in the river!

Tubes provided!

Keeping with the theme, this wasn’t as relaxing as expected, cause you know… river currents! HAH! It was refreshingly cool but MAN did you have to work to stay in front of the bungalows! Something about that flowing river…

Dear Eden, I suggest ropes with a carabiner to attach you to your bungalow for worry-free floating..

And that about wrapped our time at Eden and in the Kampot area.

As I said before, I was so excited to come here but because of the road, it did feel very isolated. It’s definitely the type of place you go to enjoy nature and just relax with no agenda. I mean look at this bungalow!

But, being isolated when one of your group is sick made me a little nervous. And, to top it off, we discovered during our time in Eden that Terry picked up a foot parasite (sorry Terr Bear if you didn’t want this on the blog!). No worries, it turns out they are quite common – even in America – and he could have gotten it anywhere. He took it in stride, even named it Riley, and it was cured with a bumpy ride on the back of a random guys scooter to the “good” hospital for medicine.

If you have the chance to visit Eden Eco Village though, I would definitely do it. The bungalows are beautiful, they are (as the name suggests) eco-friendly by using solar power and reusing where possible. And they work very closely with the local community, giving them jobs and teaching English along the way. And I cannot say this loud enough, but THE FOOD! Ah, it was so amazing. I mean look at this salad!

All the food was made to order and literally, nothing was bad. I think we might have tried the entire menu. If you go, don’t skip the coconut milkshakes!

Morning view from our bungalow.
Just for you, Mom!
Sunset at Eden.

So, while it seemed like nothing went quite right in the two days since our group of 6 became a group of 4, all in all, our time in Kampot was too short.

We headed out the next day for our final stop in Cambodia,

the island of Koh Rong!

More to come soon!

Tot ziens,