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Friday, November 2, 2012

Garden of Eden: Day 1

This looks like Bali... but it isn't. It's way better. My experience of Bali has been 5-star international chain resorts put together with impeccable taste and offering every Western dish or convenience so that Westerners can taste exoticism without really tasting it. This resort is unmistakably Vietnamese. Vietnamese music fills the air in its al fresco restaurant. None of the waiters can speak English. 5 white dogs have the run of the property. They are quite stand offish but seem to adore a poorly dressed man in slippers, who strides along the paths, seeming to command the loving respect of every person he passes. The white dogs, especially the pups, scurry after him as fast as their legs can manage and look up at him like he is their everything. I had been trying to charm the pups with food but they remain resolutely in love with this man in the picture below.

The Boss

You see... he's the Boss... and he is the worst dressed of all those working in Mekong Lodge. Trust the pups to know who is the boss eh? It just goes to show that when you're a man of substance, you dun need nice clothes nor Rolexes to command respect. And love. 

The staff who work here are serious and responsible. I suspect that in this farming community, he has his pick of the talent in the farming communities around here. Personal recommendations and connections will ensure that those who work for him come with stellar character references from the gardeners who work the soil to the ladies who clean the rooms. Here, I am guessing that the gardeners command higher pay than the waiters. The gardeners are chosen for skill and experience. What they know how to do, the waiters may not know. This shows. The gardens here are stunning that I want to walk in them forever.

 External View of a Room

Beds With Mosquito Nets

Big White Dog (this one is decorated with disused keys on its collar). It looks like a very happy one.

The Pigeon House

Staying in The Mekong Lodge is a whole new experience of resort living. Guests have their program planned for them. It feels a bit like visiting a friend who went to great lengths to search out the local sights and sounds that would please you... and then made every effort to organize, get tickets, pay up, arrange transport. You need not worry about a single thing. Not even money. The costs are very reasonable indeed and you only need to sort out the money at the end of the stay. I think the Vietnamese are too genteel and polite to be crass about money. Of course, one has to pay for all this but as far as possible, discussion of money is kept to a minimum. 

There are no swimming pools in the resort. Nothing else but a stunning garden, an al fresco area, pigeon coops and lovely rooms. But there is not a minute of boredom because we have a full program and feel spoilt silly... really spoilt silly. This morning, we went on a boat ride through one of the many small waterways that cut through the Mekong delta. We had a local guide called Khoa who was warm and very knowledgeable. He recognised all the plants and explained in depth the farming practices. I do so respect people who know their stuff. Later, we visited a family who owned a small farm and reared fighting cockerels. Yet later, we went on a bike ride along the small paths of the village.

Later in the afternoon, we will visit a brick factory... a sugar factory... and we will end the night with a cooking class. Ohhhh... readers of Petunia's blog, you all must come here one day. It is really unlike any other resort I have ever been to, no matter how expensive.

A cluster of snail eggs... these eggs hatch into the snails below that cause major damage to crops.

These snails can grow larger than my fist and eat everything... even plants that are considered too tough to eat.

At 10.30am, children end school and go home to work on farm chores. I love the girls' high school uniforms.

Fishermen on the Mekong River

A fighting cockerel.

Sediment dredged up from the flood waters to fertlise plants

A hen with her chicks

A duck with her ducklings

Khao, our guide

Banana flower salad for lunch - yummy!

Elephant ear fish - yummy!

3 meals are provided. You don't get to choose what you eat. There is only Vietnamese food. But I am not complaining. Everything is good. Breakfast breads are baked on site every morning and the produce is locally sources. If you want to experience a bit of real Vietnam rather than an artificial resort where everything is French and Italian food, this is the place to be.

The staff are incredible. This is the only resort in this patch of rural backwaters. They know they each have a responsibility to make things work because everyone else's jobs depend on them. They take pride in what they do... and when Little Boy did not eat the banana flower salad nor the fish, they asked if it was because they had not cooked well enough.

They took it personally... like we were guests in the home of friends. There is a sense that everyone owns this place because the prosperity of this resort will bless all their families. How rare such an attitude... and I REALLY don't think the staff have KPIs to meet.


Blur Ting said...

I am sold. I'm heading there.

Petunia Lee said...

Ting - Do come! Come before this area is spoilt by over tourism. We've taken long walks on rural paths. It's also very good value for the amount we paid.