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Published: January 26th 2014
This was to be our last full day in Vietnam and whilst we had enjoyed most of the three weeks or so, we were ready to move on. The return to the traffic, smog and noise of Ho Chi Minh City convinced me it was time to go.
Breakfast at the hotel was a basic buffet although the beef pho was pretty good. Jo and I had woken up early so I used the time to get our photos backed up off the camera and on to a couple of usb sticks that we keep seperate in case we lose any of our bags.
Our bus arrived a bit late – around 0745 and we were hustled onto it, our bags were loaded in the main part of the bus with us although everyone elses was evidently in the underside luggage compartment.
Around twenty minutes later we arrived outside a tourist agency where we were hustled off the bus and put on to another one. We barely spent any time waiting and headed through Ho Chi Minh City once again- straight back to our hotel 45 minutes after we had left it. Someone on the bus should not have been with us and a petrol station next to where we’d stayed was the meeting point to sort the lady out and meet her correct bus.
It took around 2 1/2 hours to get to Cai Be where we boarded a wooden deisel powered boat to have a look at the local floating markets. It was explained to us that this was the centre of trade for the Mekong region and the gathered boats were all wholesaling their stock – they weren’t interested in tourist boats buying a few pieces of fruit. The product for sale was indicated by a bamboo pole hoisted from the bow of the boats with the item hanging off it.
We puled up a kilometre further up the river and were shown through the process to make coconut lollies… coconut being one of the products this part of the Mekong was known for. A variety of coconut products were also available for sale and by the looks of most of the people on the tour, they were in hot demand. Also in the same area was a lady making coconut rice paper and a few workers making popped rice biscuits. All set up for the tour groups but still being made the traditional way. We managed to get out without lightening our wallets.
Just around the corner was a honey farm. A cynical person may sugget that one hive does not a farm make, however the shop was open for business and they were pushing honey products ranging from teas, beauty products to miracle cures. We returned to the boat and spent a while snaking through part of the Mekong on the way to lunch. The trip was a real highlight as we were able to get the odd sneak peak at life on the Mekong Delta that was not put on for tourists. Kids smiled and waved as we went by and before I knew it I’d snapped a few hundred photos.
Lunch was at a touristy cafe somewhere in the middle of nowhere and we were greeted at the door by the owners pet snake that was a good couple of metres long and weighed 40 kilograms. Jo and I shared an Elephant Fish that was deep fried and quite crispy. It was nice and fresh and tasted pretty good although it was not the culinary delight that our guide had led us to believe it would be. While at lunch we sat with a couple of Australians – Rhonda and Kathy who had both spent time in Cambodia so we milked them for as many travel tips as we could.
We took the boat around parts of the Delta for another hour before getting on our bus and heading on the long and noisy drive to Chau Doc – near the Cambodian border. The only stop was to a pathetic excuse for a crocodie farm where the poor buggers were kept in wildly overpopulated pits before being turned into handbags – available at the gift shop on the way out.
The trip to Chau Doc was tiresome and accentuated by rough bridges, overcrowded streets and a bus driver that couldn’t stay off the horn. It was such a relief to pull up at our Floating Hotel that we barely noticed what a horrible place it was.
Jo and I went exploring a few hundred metres down the street, in which time I bought a scooter helmet for D100,000 (NZ$7) and a cup of fresh squeezed sugar cane that I put some of our rice wine into.
We caught up with Rhonda & Kathy back at the hotel where they were chatting with a young Australian girl, Sara and we were later joined by an American bloke called Adam. Rhonda and Kathy stayed at the hotel once we were done but Adam, Sara and us headed out to try and find the markets and a feed.
It was only 2030 but the markets had shut up shop for the night so we ended up at a floating restaurant where the food was moderately priced but a bit average. Sara ordered chips and got pineapple fritters – Adam and I ended up eating them anyway as Sara reordered. My fish soup was the highlight of an otherwise dismal evening.
We went back to the hotel and got to sleep around 2200. It wasn’t the ideal way to end our Vietnam adventure but the hour or so cruising the Mekong Delta had justified the rest of the days travel.
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