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Published: March 2nd 2015
I'm up early on Sunday morning
and have got myself organised with hours to spare. After breakfast I head out for a walk and found myself in D's Books, where I purchased a 2nd hand novel. I left a book at Horizons in Siem Reap for another traveller to enjoy, and will do the same with this one when I'm finished with it.
My planned departure is at midday on the Hang Chau Tourist Boat, bound for Chau Doc in Vietnam. The boat leaves from the Port on Sisowath Quay, and the ticket cost me $29. Unfortunately there is only one daily departure, an earlier start would have suited me better, but nothing I can do about that. There is another company called Blue Cruiser who ply this route, but they leave even later, at 1.30pm
The boat is only half full, and the drone of the engine and slight roll soon has me dozing. There's not a lot to look at - high sandy banks, banana, pawpaw and avocado plantations, lots of date palms and tropical vegetation. I am pleased to have my new book and a jigsaw app on my iPad. We stop at the Cambodian border for a passport
stamp, then all aboard for three minutes, until we stop at the Vietnamese check point 300 metres further up river. Once the formalities are over, we're under way again. I got my Vietnamese visa sorted before I left Australia. Four other passengers had problems with theirs and our trip was delayed until it was sorted.
Once we'd left the Mekong and turned down the Bassac River the view became more interesting. Floating homes, other river traffic, men with their fishing nets and kids splashing in the water gave me lots of photo opportunities. The sun was a red ball in the sky as we pulled into Chau Doc at 6.00pm
, two hours later than expected.
Chau Doc is situated in the An Giang Province in Vietnam and is close to the river border with Cambodia. The city is situated at the intersection of a tributary linking the Bassac and Mekong Rivers and sees a lot of travellers pass through on their way to or from Cambodia.
In Chau Doc the boat was met by moto drivers, all wanting a fare. There are no tuk tuks here apparently and I was a little concerned to see my moto driver
haul my 20kg suitcase onto the front of his bike, holding it between his knees. He handed me a helmet and informed me he was a good driver as I hopped on behind him. Thankfully we didn't have far to go and I was soon dropped outside home for the next two nights - Trung Nguyen Hotel.
This hotel is very centrally located, opposite a huge market, and within walking distance to everywhere. For $17 a night I have a small, but adequate room, a clean bed and the hottest shower I've had in ages. After settling in, I head out again looking for dinner and ended up at Memory, a pizza restaurant, where I enjoyed chicken pizza and a Coke for 70,000 dong or $4.
Next morning (Monday) I'm up bright and early, not wanting to waste any of the cooler hours of the day. The market is setting up as I walk through it and down to the river, camera in hand. Walking along the river promenade, I'm approached by a man asking if I'd like to do a tour. At one time I would have turned away and discouraged him, but I have come to
My guide & very small boat!
The Cham Village trip on Monday morning.
realise these tours can be quite individual and all he is doing is trying to make a living.
He suggested a boat trip to the floating village and a visit to the Cham Muslim community across the river. I preferred to go early and beat the heat so we decided to go straight away. I followed him to his boat, a tiny unpainted wooden one, moored with a dozen others on the riverbank. He stood at the back and rowed with his crossed oars while I sat on a bench seat, took photos and enjoyed the ride.
First stop was a fish farm, under the floor boards of a floating shed. This farm measured 7x15 metres, was 5 metres deep, and accessible via trapdoors in the floor. The fish were fed pellets which started a feeding frenzy and they're farmed for nine months before being sold.
After leaving here we rowed quietly through the village, taking a route larger boats would not have been able to do. We pulled in next to a narrow walking platform which led over the week choked water to the shore. This took me to the Cham village where I was able
to see Mubarak Mosque. Unfortunately I wasn't able to enter as the entire building was being raised above the flood line and looks like it will be out of action for a while yet. This village is only 2klm from Chau Doc, via a bridge, but I enjoyed my rowboat trip and got some great photos. After being dropped back, I paid my guide 180,000 dong ($11) for our 90 minute trip, and started thinking about breakfast. I headed to the biggest hotel in town, The Victoria Hotel. According to Lonely Planet they had great food, but I wasn't prepared to pay $US23 for breakfast. I bought fruit and a baguette at the markets, then ended up in Cafe Goc Pho for a blueberry smoothie.
I walked Chau Doc from one end to the other during the morning, and visited Chau Phu Temple. But the midday heat got the better of me and I headed back to my air conditioned room where I read and blogged for an hour or two. I went out again later as I had arranged to meet this morning's guide, this time for a moto ride to Sam Mountain.
Sam Mountain, lies 6klm
north of town. The mountain is not really high, it just seems that way because of the plains of the Mekong region. It's considered a local pilgrimage site because it's home to many shrines and temples. The most religiously significant is the Ba Chua Xu Temple, which has white marble statues in the grounds, including one of 'happy buddha'.
I have managed to see a lot in the one full day I had in Chau Doc. Tomorrow I move on to Can Tho, the largest town in the Mekong Delta, where I'll visit a floating market.
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