This had been a great all-day trip in the Mekong Delta area. My wife and I were picked up from our hotel (Bongsen Saigon, which is adjacent to the Sheraton Saigon) at about 8 AM and didn't get back until around 7 PM.
Queenie was our guide for the day and I truly commend her for the things we learned about daily life in Vietnam through our entire trip. As an expat living in the Philippines, I found the experience to both familiar and unfamiliar. Enjoying the rural ambiance of the rice farms, walking through a wet market, riding a paddle boat in a muddy river, riding pillion on a motorcycle, and visiting a pretty big church is also a part of life in that country, yet that common ground made for many interesting conversations with our guide, comparing and checking the differences between two Southeast Asian countries with two similar yet different cultures.
Our first stop was a walkthrough of the Can Duoc wet market. It was remarkably cleaner than what I am used to, and certainly more lively, especially with the way the stall owners were keeping their meat "fresh". Queenie also bought our ingredients for lunch later there; looking back, I should've contributed a little more, as some of the food we ate later that afternoon was so good it wasn't enough.
The second stop was one of the many Caodai Temples in the area. While Queenie wasn't a Caodaist, she knew a little bit about the religion and its underlying theology. It was amazing how it melded the major religions in the land as well as their figures/symbols into one coherent system. I believe it would've added to the experience if we had been able to observe if not sit in during one of their ceremonies. It would be similar to, say, two Christians attending mass in the Notre Dame or the Vatican. (Speaking of which, my wife and I had attended mass at the Saigon Notre Dame just a couple days earlier, at her insistence, and it was a unique experience; the only thing missing from that would be accessibility features to encourage foreign Christian tourists to come and visit.)
We swapped over to motorcycles for our third stop and rode pillion on two different motorcycles. My wife rode with Queenie, so she had lots of things to talk about with her during the ride. The person I rode with didn't speak a lick of English, but that was OK -- it was an experience in itself since I got to take in the scenery and also immerse myself fully in the ride. I've never ridden pillion for such a long time, and it's something I wouldn't forget for a while.
It was a 30 minute ride to a dragon fruit farm, where we got to talk to the local farmers while having a couple fruits. I work closely with people in the agriculture industry, so their agriculture practices and the way they differed drew my interest. Unfortunately, the language barrier got in the way. (For improvement on this experience, I suggest looking into brewing dragonfruit wine.)
Once we got back from the farm, we took a quick break for lunch at Hien's place, where we had a slew of homecooked meals along with shots of exotic Vietnamese wines. One of them surprisingly tasted identical to Adobo, while the other dishes were delicious in their own right (especially the noodles we'd been served). The exotic wines were strong, and our hosts were excited that I had no problems taking every shot they offered me. We spent quite a long time there, fully relaxed and enjoying the moment.
But no trip to the Mekong Delta is complete without a boat ride along the Mekong River. By this point, the "non-touristic" aspect of the day trip had been felt the entire time, but it truly sunk in when my wife and I rode alone, with our guide, on a boat large enough to fit 20 to 30 passengers. Along the way we got to see the Vinh Trang Pagoda and the Mother Temple (with the tall statues), which we wish we had also been able to visit during the trip.
From there, we swapped to a rowboat and went slowly through the mangrove. It was beautiful and did its job well as a concluding note for the full-day tour.
Overall it was a fantastic experience. However, I believe there's still room for improvement, hence the 4 out of 5. I would certainly take my family here again, the next time I get the chance.