Days 101 -103, Sat/Sun/Mon 14-16 April 2012, Mekong Delta tour
A new first – a three day post. I have managed to post pretty consistently for the past hundred days, odd glitch here and there, but the record has been pretty good I reckon. My enthusiasm for it is waning some what, I am not sick of doing it, I still enjoy the photography and the review and selection of images and I still enjoy the writing, once I get going. It is the getting going that is the hard part !
I decided to do a tour of the Mekong rather than try and get around on my own, the guide book said it was easier and cheaper, and on reflection it was probably correct, all up the tour for three days and two nights, including one dinner, was $60NZD. I would be pushing to do that on my own.
I was disappointed, with the tour, not really the tour’s fault, maybe I was more disappointed with the Mekong Delta, as the most fertile area in SE Asia I was expecting to see vast rice paddies and the ‘typical’ rural community that I have seen elsewhere, of thatched huts and water buffalo. However for most of the eighteen hours I spent on mini-buses and vans over the three days we passed through town after town and after town, with virtually no breaks between. So I got to see a whole lot of houses and shops. I found out on the tour that twenty two million people live in the delta, with a large number living on the main road and water ways. The tour also took us to a few small businesses (as expected, though not all had shops !) including a honey farm, fruit farm, rice noodle making and coconut candy. The highlights were a home stay that I did one night plus the time on river systems that make up the delta.
As this is a three day post there are a few photos here, so I will let them do most of the talking…
Day 1. There a three tour options for the Delta, 1, 2 or 3 day and we all started out on the same mini-bus and over the few days we changed vehicle five times and people joined and left at various locations on the way. There was only four of us who made it to the end ! The mini-bus was pretty cramped – built for Vietnamese legs not Western ones and the ride was fairly long to Ben Tre (I think) where got on board the first boat of the tour and visited Dragon Island, where we got to hear some traditional Sth Vietnamese music.
I discovered that they have the eyes on the front of the boats to scare away the crocodiles – and old tradition.
Then on to some small canoes for a short but very crowded ride up a small river, that seemed a wee bit pointless – my paddler – seemed women did most of the work.
The Vietnamese paddle canoes like they ride motorcycles !
We hopped back on the boat and off to a coconut candy making place.
And then to Phoenix Island for lunch and we finally were allowed to roam. A few of us grabbed bicycles and went for a ride. The bike guy was the surliest person I have come across in Asia so far, man he was miserable – even worse than the grumpy guy at Inle Lake when I didn’t pay to take photos. Of the five boys bikes all were un-rideable for various reasons so I took a chicks bike and he was not happy, I asked (via hand signals and pointing) for him to pump up the tyres that were flat on two of the boys bikes, and he just sat down with his back to me, so that I thought “f**k you Jimmy” and rode off. We only had thirty minutes but had a nice (though hot) ride up the side of the river.
We then drove to Can Tho where the five us of doing a home stay were picked up by the homestay man (HM) and i have really stupidly forgotten his name. It was dark by now so the fifteen minute ride in the taxi followed by another fifteen in a canoe up the river were interesting. HM lived with his wife, two children and her (I think) parents on a small tributary off a larger tributary of the Mekong. We had no idea of what to expect, though he did tell us that five of us will sleep in the room with the five of them and it would be cosy (his English was great) though he also had a wicked sense of humour and when we arrived we found we all had basic bungalows along the river side with bed, fan and mozzie net.
As it was late his family had already eaten so we had dinner together and were shown how to roll spring rolls filled with fresh elephant fish, rice noodles and vegetables. The food was great.
This was followed by a few (quite a few) rounds of rice wine shots to the call of Mot, Hai Ba, Yo!, (1 2 3 – drink – guess Yo is drink !). I was the only one brave (or stupid) enough to try some of the snake wine, this is a stronger (40%) rice win that has a small cobra and scorpion in the bottle – I have yet to get a good photo of this. It was fine – no stronger than a shot of scotch and tasted like a normal rice wine. Rice wine is the local home brew and tasted like sake, just stronger. It was a fun night, but fortunately over by 9.30.
Day 2. Up at 6.00 for breakfast at 6.30.
As is the norm in SE Asia, the river is the source of everything, washing of our dinner dishes.
Mrs HM checking the nets – do you love that single trunk bamboo bridge to the neighbours ?
We were on the boat by 7.00 for the ride up a confusing collection of channels and tributaries back to Can Tho where we met up with the rest of the group who had elected to stay in a hotel, I think we had the most fun, the ride up river was a highlight of the tour.
Once back on the main boat we visited one of the floating markets at Can Tho.
Some of the boats have poles sticking up with what ever they are selling attached, though the pineapple seller forgo the pole thing.
A trip to a rice noodle making place – the most interesting of the making things places we visited.
A fruit orchard – with a bamboo bridge specially for photographic purposes.
And some more time on the river
A gas station.
It was then back on the bus for a couple of hours (thank god for MP3 players) of driving through never ending towns to Long Xuyen, where we visited a crocodile farm – fortunately they only farmed and sold live animals from here, though the conditions were not ideal. This religious scene was in the entrance, I liked the armless child and was wondering if they had fallen in…
Moving the one year old crocs to a new pen.
Back into the van and another thirty minutes up to Chau Doc where we visited a hillside temple built in 1747 on Sam Mountain (278 metres, so a small mountian). Sadly it was fully renovated in 1980 !!
There was a cave with buddha and monk statues though my shots are all blurry. There was a great wall with shutters though ! I love simple lines and colours.
From there it was a quick ride to the hotel, where three of us had to go and sleep in a separate hotel to the other 8 people as there was no room. At the second hotel they tried to put the three of us, a couple and me into one room, we told them NO WAY, which they accepted, though my twin room had a mouse pooh on one of the beds ! Oh well. We caught up with the others for a good meal in a local cafe and then another early night. Hotel reception and parking lot.
Lonely Planet describes Chau Doc as “charming”, perhaps they were drunk when they visited.
Day 3. Up early again as off to walk a couple of hundred metres to the river at 7.00 where boarded a boat and went to visit a floating village. I loved the motors on the back of the houses.
I tried to get the contrast between the floating houses, the river side shanties and the comparatively wealthy city folk.
And then to a Cham minority still village, where we were shown some silk weaving. The Cham people record the flood levels each year – hence the houses on stilts….
The Cham are muslims and we visited the local mosque.
From there it was back on the van, then a bus and finally a horribly cramped mini-bus for the six or so hours back to Saigon.
This was one of the few glimpses of paddy fields through the endless towns.
One of the few towns that was interesting as it had a small river between the road and the houses.
One of the many many bridges we crossed.
I arrived back in Saigon about 5.00 and Dan’s sister Leonie had already arrived from Hanoi, after a shower we went out for dinner at the place I went to with Hayley, Mark and Malcolm we then went and had a couple of drinks on the side of Bui Vien, the road we are staying on, it is a bit of a small scale Ko Sahn Rd, with small liquor stalls filled with young westerners getting shickered on $2 drinks. We didn’t stay out late!
Hmm, didn’t let the photos do too much talking did I!