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Published: March 10th 2007
From Ho Chi Minh city we decided on a 4 day tour on and around the famous Mekong River. The first thing we noticed on the river was the horrible smell of sewage, garbage and rotting fish. I swear if any of us had fallen overboard we probably would have disintegrated right there and then. Right away I made a vow to avoid eating any more fish on this side of the world. Everyone literally treats the waterways as a garbage dump, throwing anything and everything overboard. It's so sad to watch the environment being destroyed simply due to a lack of education. Later that day we had a lunch where the recommended specialty was butterfly fish. The restaurant had built special trenches to keep the fish "fresh"...the only problem was all the fish were floating to the top making a final attempt to get oxygen that wasn't available underwater. Ahhhhh yeah...we had the beef stir fry.
One highlight of the tour was the floating markets. People gather on their boats, which are often also their houses and look as if they may capsize at any moment. They pile them high with whatever fruits or vegetables they are selling and
Row row row your boat...
...not that I was doing any of the rowing
have a long pole on which they attach a sample of their produce. There are so many boats crammed in one little area that is the only way you can find what you're looking for. It's such an amazing hustle and bussle atmosphere.
On the second day April, Celia and I went off the beaten track as we had opted to do a 24 hour home stay with a Vietnamese family on Tiger Island. The tour company gave us bikes and a guide who brought us to the family for introductions. They spoke almost no English but were the nicest people. Unfortunately because of the language barrier we had to learn about their lives through observation. We spent the first night mostly playing with the children and corresponding with the adults using a lot of hand signals. The next day our guide came back and took us for a 20km bike tour around the island. Automatically the first thing we noticed were the children. They all know how to say "hello" and LOVE to say it. Every time they spotted us they would get really excited, jumping and screaming "hello, hello!" If we didn't respond right away they would
get desperate and really go nuts..."HELLOO!!!" It was so adorable. For 4 hours I had one hand on the bike and one waving. The other thing was as soon as one child screamed hello, the others from the down the street would hear it and they would all gather on the street in succession to see us pass and make sure they got their chance to say hello. We stopped a number of times to watch rice farmers or women making incense but each time we spent more time with the children, taking pictures of them on the digital camera and showing them what they looked like. All children in Asia love this and always respond in fits of giggles. We have all been really touched by the children over here. They live in such simple conditions, if they have any toys it is only a ball, but they are the sweetest, kindest and happiest children I have ever seen.
The rest of the tour was spent being shuffled from one spot to the next seeing rice fields, rice noodle factories, more floating markets, floating fish houses, and a little village of Vietnamese practicing the Islamic faith. Most days
Some of the "Hello" children
The pink in the back ground is incense
we had about 3 hours to kill in the afternoon because regardless of whether or not you are on a tour, everyone has a siesta. Despite the lax attitude by the end of the 4 days we were extremely sick of being on tour and ready to get back to our own schedule.
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