Sunset on the Delta
This was taken on a local ferry!
Phew, can you believe it - we have had four days and three nights in the Mekong Delta and now we are back in Saigon.
Because of the logistics of travelling within the Delta we did this portion of our trip with a car, driver and guide. Our days have been jam packed from dawn till dusk - no time for R n R when you have a trusty guide such as "Nick" leading you around. Needless to say there are also no 'adventure' stories to tell as we were in his capable hands. We told him we were quite able to walk around by ourselves but he would not hear of it, saying we were his responsibility. The biggest struggle for me was getting on and off the boats and up and down the steep steps leading to temples, wharves etc. but I do think I am getting better at it.
At 69 years old, Nick has lived through a lot. He was associated with the Green Berets during the War in Vietnam, trained in the USA and made several parachute jumps. He has some truly harrowing tales to tell and has the war wounds to prove it.
The Delta is unique from other areas of Vietnam in that it truly is the bread basket for the country with the capability to produce three rice crops a year. Personally I had visions of looking over great tracts of rice paddies and waterways complete with romantic panoramic views. Well it wasn't like that at all. Firstly the area is very flat and secondly it is heavily populated with many people having their homes (naturally) along the road side - so you didn't get many sweeping vistas. Now once you were out on the boats travellling up and down the waterways, then the whole area takes on a completely different look and feel. I think it would be lovely to go over the area in a low flying plane.
The people, both the ones living on land and the ones living on their boats, work back breakingly hard to live a meagre existence. Coming from our world, it is hard to watch at times but to them - this is life.
We visited several Pagodas in the area including one called The Black Buddha Pagoda which was just outside Chau Doc on the Campodia border. What an
experience. They were getting ready for a special festival/ceremony day on the 15th day after the lunar New Year. During this time many pilgrims visit the Pagodas. First we had to push our way through the village full of pilgrims, who were totally consumed with staring at us as not many tourists visit on ceremony days. The women like to come and stand really, really close to me and then just stare - it is an odd feeling. You also have to remember that it is hot, humid and steamy the whole time here. We reach the Pagoda after climbing the usual high stairs and find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of people all milling around, burning incense and praying. It was a very claustrophobic atmosphere and it was almost impossible to breath because of the incense. I thought I was going to pass out. All the time this is happening 'Nick' is trying to give us an in depth history lesson on buddhism and other religions. I don't think we absorbed much.
It is crazy really because these people hardly have any money but here they are, buying incense, putting donations in the box and buying offerings. They light
their many incense sticks, place them in the containers, say their prayers and then move on. A moment later along comes a cleaner and removes the incense they have just purchased, to make room for the next wave of offerings. I wonder if they realize their offerings never really get used properly?
Our hotel here in Saigon is in a fantastic location. We are within walking distance of everything and right next to the luxury hotels - but without paying the high prices.
When I look back I see I have written quite a few entries and I expect you are wondering how I find the time when we have been so busy. Well, as we are not exactly party animals anymore I write them in the evenings. Don usually reads and I come down and do this. Fortunately all the hotels have had computers - even if access has been limited - so I don't have to go out of the hotel. It takes quite a lot of time downloading the pics and writing the stories so I usually work on them over a couple of evenings before sending off.
It is hard to believe that
we have been here 5 weeks. The time has just flown by. We are both feeling very sad at the moment as tomorrow we leave Vietnam. We know we are off to new adventures in Cambodia but we really do not want to leave this country. It has been great. Each area has something different to offer and we would be hard pushed put to pick one favourite spot over another. And the food has been fantastic.
Our biggest problem now is making sure we do not go over our luggage weight limit, as we understand Vietnam Airlines is quite strict. Never mind, where there is a will there is a way.....
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