Life on the Water - The Mekong Delta


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Asia » Vietnam » Mekong River Delta » An Giang » Chau Doc
February 24th 2011
Published: March 4th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

After seeing all the sights in Saigon it was time to move on, we found a 3 day 2 night tour of the Mekong Delta that would finish in Phnom Penh, Cambodia so we booked it.

The Mekong River is approx 4,900 km long making it the 10th longest river in the world. It begins in Tibet and travels through Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam making it an important life source for the people of these countries. A river this large must have a huge catchment area, the delta's total catchment area is 39,000 square km so its absolutely massive and the amount of land covered by water depends on the season.

The first day of the tour we took a bus from Saigon to a town in the delta called Ben Tre. We then hopped on a boat and cruised on the river for a bit, we were meant to visit a brick factory in the morning but apparently it was too dusty for us on that day so we carried on cruising up canals until we got to a cocunut factory where they make candy, wine and ornaments out of the shells. This candy was really nice a pity I can't say that about the "wine" tho, over here we have realised what they sometimes consider wine is actually more like a spirit, when you ask the alcohol content and you get an answer of 30% or more you know to brace yourself when you have a taste. After having a taste and a look around I turned around and our guide was standing there with a python around his neck, of course who out of the group asks if they can have a hold? Jono, so jono had a wee hold of the "baby python" it was only a year old but it seemed pretty big to me, this started a trend with the other tourists and everyone then wanted a hold and a photo.
We then carried on cruising making our way to where we would eat lunch. We docked somewehere down the canal then transfered to these moto's that had trailers attached,and had to squeeze seven of us on. The driver drove us on this for about 10 mins where we then changed to little row boats, they made us wear those token china man hats it was funny. We stopped for lunch which was really yum, the best feed we have had on a tour, we ate something called ca koh which is catfish in this really yummy sauce, so so good. After luch we headed back to Ben Tre then we had a 3 hour bus ride to the next town Can Tho where we would spend the night.
Can Tho was a lot bigger then both of us were expecting, when we thought of the delta we thought of small villages but this place was quite substantial. Dinner wasn't included so the two boys and I headed off to find somewhere to eat, little did we know this would turn into the funniest food mission yet. We were instructed to take two left turns from the hotel and we would end up on the river front where there were plenty of restaurants, we were gas bagging and must of went wrong somewhere as soon we found ourseleves in an area where we were the only westerners. We decided to eat at this place that had heaps of local in it, soon after sitting down we quickly realised no one in the near vicinity spoke english! They handed us a menu that was all in Vietnamese, when they realised we couldn't read it they all started laughing, we asked if anyone could speak english and all they could say was "no". By this time we had attracted a lot of attention as they are all interested and intrigued by us. we had about three different people come up and try and find out what we wanted, they even slowed their Vietnamese down for us thinking if they spoke slower we would understand. After a couple of minutes of giggles by all they brought us out some food, it wasn't like anything I have seen before in Vietnam, it looked like a rice sponge, like a desert. They showed us how to eat it, pick one up with a toothpick dip it in the sauce then eat, the boys went to do this but just as they were about to eat it they all start laughing, this unnerved the boys as we were all thinking "what the hell have they got us eating", the boys braved it and ate it and it was quite nice, very sweet and definately more like a pudding. We knew we had to sort something out if we wanted to eat, let the food charades begin. The boys started flapping their arms and making noises trying to imitate a chicken it was hilarious, everyone including the locals were in fits of laughter but sure enough the lady brought out a whole chicken, next we had to try and tell them we want it fried, we started acting out frying actions and noises then the boy ran inside and brought out a bottle of oil, it was so funny. We gave them the thumbs up and pointed at the chicken then at the oil, it seemed we had got the message across. We sat and waited for our meal a bit nervous and having no idea what would turn up on our plates but a few minutes later we were all eating the best fried chicken any of us had eaten, great success!!

The next morning we headed to the largest floating market in the delta, there are hundreds of boats all buying, selling and trading with one another, mainly food stuffs. It was incredible to see. Some of the smaller boats head to the tourist boats to try and sell coffee, fruit and water. After cruising the markets for a bit we then headed to a fruit garden, here we would learn more about the tropical fruits of Vietnam and also taste them, yum! I really enjoyed the jack fruit which tastes like banana mixed with mango and star apple, the star apple tastes like apple and pear mixed together but the juice is not clear its milky, taste so good but I think the good old mango is still our favourite. After having lunch in Can Tho we boarded another bus for a four hour trip to Chau Doc. Chau Doc is much smaller then Can Tho, we got checked into our room then we were to meet our tour group so our guide could take us to a nice restaurant. After my shower I tool a doxycycline tablet (anti malaria) and by the time we made it to the restaurant I was feeling really really bad, felt like vomitting. Aftre having a bite to eat was still feeling bad so we went back to our room, by this stage Jono wasn't feeling quite right either, we think it was because we should of taken the tablets after food not before, silly billy's!
The next morning we had an early start, we ate breakfast at the hotel then we got on the row boats again to go to a fish farm. Jono and I scored the best boat as we were the last to get on a boat and our guide came with us so we were able to talk with him and ask questions it was great. He told us his family's story of the war. Basically the family's that have fish farms live in a floating house on the river and have the fish in a cage under the house. The Khmer people of Cambodia taught the Vietnamese how to do this. A small farm will have 40,000 fish while a large one can get up to 100,000. The main fish they breed are catfish, but they also have different smaller breeds of fish. It really was quite amazing to see and is an ingenious way of farming. Every few years the houses have to be lifted out of the water to get renovations done as the wood they use is not treated. If a family is successfful they will start to build other fish farms next door for their children or other family members.
After the fish farm we went to visit a Cham village, we were amomg a group of eight that were heading to the border so we didn't get to stay at the village long, just enough time to have a look around and buy a drink. The eight of us left to board our boat, we had a two and a half our ride to the border. Once we got on the boat we filled out a form each and gave the lady a million dong for our visas, not long after that we let her off the boat and she took a motorbike ahead to the border with all our paperwork, money and passports. The boat ride was awesome very relaxing and a lot better then travelling by bus. When we got to the border all we had to do was pick up our passports she had done everything for us, easy as! After having lunch at the border we then hopped in a mini bus for an hour ride to Phnom Penh, Cambodia ...........



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The best fried chicken
JJ
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Our first boat


4th March 2011

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The pictures are absolutley fantastic

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