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Published: November 30th 2012
And so after one month in Vietnam, I finally arrived at my last stop in the country, before I cross the border into Cambodia. As previously mentioned, Ha Tien was a last minute decision, spurred by the realisation that I could cross into the southern coast of Cambodia from here, rather than having to head first to Phnom Penh.
But border crossings aside, Ha Tien boasts sufficient reason in its own right for a visit. As the Mekong Delta melts away and gives way to the limestone karsts reminiscent of the Hai Phong/ Halong Bay area of the north, Ha Tien boasts of vivid landscape, and marks the mouth of the Mekong where it flows into the Gulf of Thailand. Its location right at the border is also reflected in the make-up of its more mixed community, and the many Khmer and Chinese style temples in town.
Of course I couldn't help but reflect over my past month in Vietnam, which really has flown by, perhaps quicker than languid Laos the previous month. Not surprising perhaps, given the generally more hectic and faster pace of life in this more vibrant economy, and also perhaps the somewhat more aggressive nature
Chau Doc to Ha Tien
Standing-room only in this mini-bus that's been absolutely packed beyond its intended capacity. This shot was taken moments before I got bumped off the bus! Fortunately the bus driver was a scrupulous one this time, and made sure those headed to Ha Tien got on another Ha Tien-bound bus, at no extra charge. Thanks for finally repaying my faith in you Vietnam!
of its people (or at least the touts!). These days seemingly overrun by tourism almost everywhere I went (certainly even more so than my first visit in 2005), Vietnam somehow perhaps leaves the more adventurous souls asking, is there anything left? But I dare say those who venture a little bit deeper, stay a little bit longer, and move a little slower to see a little more, would reply yes, Vietnam is still here.
I believe I saw hints of it my last days here in the Mekong Delta area, away from the main tourist hubs, and perhaps also in the Central Highlands of Dalat, where the bulk of the tourists is still the domestic kind. But otherwise, for better or worse, it's definitely moving in the direction of the Southeast Asian neighbour Thailand, and perhaps also foreshadows the imminent future of its other neighbour Myanmar, which is now undergoing the type of Big Bang transformation Vietnam itself saw in the 1980s.
So farewell to the Vietnamese dong, scams and incessant touts for now, and on to the last stop of this (first?) part of my Southeast Asian adventure - Cambodia. But Vietnam, you surely won't be forgotten,
and hopefully I'll see you again soon. Cam on.
Stayed at Hai Van Hotel.
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