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Published: March 20th 2012
This is kind of out of order but i'm trying to keep all the Saigon stuff together!
11 – 13th March Mekong Delta Trip
This was a 2 night 3 day trip exploring around the rivers and towns of the Mekong Delta in the southern tip of Vietnam.
The bus we were on contained a mixture of people doing 1, 2 and 3 day trips so I guess we should have realised at that point it was going to get confusing! We started off by travelling down to the town of My Tho and we caught a boat from the pier which took us past Dragon, Phoenix and Turtle Islands to reach Unicorn Island where we stopped – I have no idea why any of the islands were given those names! We ended up chatting to a couple of girls from London who were travelling for 3 months and one of them had the most beautiful parasol which she had bought in India and which I coveted! From there we went to what was basically a restaurant which had one bee hive but was apparently a bee keeping farm – we looked at the
bees and then were given some honey tea and a few samples of edible things made with honey which you could buy. We seemed to have formed an English contingent by accident as we were joined at our table by 2 lads from York. It soon became apparent the lads thought they were in with a chance with the girls and seemed to follow them about and always end up sitting with them, however I overheard the girls saying although they were nice there was no way they were going there!!
So after the honey we walked through the village to get on small boats which took us through the canal waterways – called the Water Coconut Canal as there were lots of Water Coconuts growing along the sides, they looked slightly different to ordinary coconuts and the palms were in the water.
We then got on another boat which took us to Ben Tre where we visited the handmade coconut candy workshop, where we had a look at them making coconut sweets and then bought some. Back onto yet another small boat, along another waterway and we had a stop for lunch. At lunch we sat with
Water Coconut Canal
a really nice Dutch couple and we swapped travelling tales and then rather than have a 10 minute bike ride just sat together having a laugh while he regaled us with his exploits from when he was ‘younger’ and how he ended up during apartheid times spending 1 week living in a South African township where he was ‘the only white face’.
Then I think we got back on a boat and were taken to another part of Unicorn Island where we were given tea and different kinds of tropical fruit to try whilst being entertained by a small group of Vietnamese musicians and singers performing traditional southern Vietnamese music – which the 3 young Vietnamese girls who were on the trip sang along to.
Then back on the boat back to Ben Tre and the luggage farce began, which involved lots of agitated tourists trying to find their bags and then the right bus according to which length of trip they had booked. Organised chaos is the only way to describe this trip! Eventually everyone had their bags and was on the right bus and we set off on another long drive to reach Can Tho –
Fried snake... yummy!
the town on the river where we were staying for the night.
We stopped on the main road and were led down a pitch black alley until we reached our hotel for the night – one of those big, empty, tall concrete blocks. We got into our room and I opened the bathroom door and was greeted by one of the biggest cockroaches I have ever had the misfortune to see wiggling its bits at me and sitting in the shower tray! Howard then spent several minutes chasing it around the bathroom unsuccessfully, while I legged it back down stairs and borrowed a huge can of bug spray from the desk – who seemed to think it was funny!!!
A good few squirts later and the bugger was dead, but the damage was done and paranoia had set in. So we just decided to go out and get some tea. The town was a fair size and seemed to be full of Vietnamese people on their holidays. It had a really nice river front area with gardens and lots of little stalls selling weird and wonderful looking things to eat (if you are Vietnamese that is!) We eventually
found a restaurant and Howard decided to be Vietnamese and ordered the fried snake – which he reckoned tasted like a very tough chicken, but to me looked like fried maggots.
Got back to the hotel and opened the door to be greeted by yet another enormous cockroach, I stayed in the hallway and Howard ventured in for the bug spray and a bit of banging and crashing later and it was safe to enter. I couldn’t believe it in all our time in South East Asia we have had no problems with them in the rooms until now, we also found out in the morning we were the only ones who got them.
The next morning we were back in a boat again and off to visit the local floating market. This consisted of loads of small boats of both buyers and sellers. Each of the sellers had a really tall bamboo pole sticking up from the boat with an example of what they were selling tied to it, so the air was full of sticks with pineapples, coconuts, flowers etc. It was rather nice weaving our way between them and watching people buying up the cargoes.
Living on the river
We moored up further down the river and went to visit a rice-husking mill which was full of very dodgy looking electrical machinery with no safe guards in sight and men hulking around enormous sacks of rice. Then it was onto the ‘rice noodles making shop’, which was a small family operation where everything was done laboriously by hand, but by they were quick and the field out the back was full of circular wafer thin sheets of rice paper drying on woven bamboo racks. These were later fed one by one into a kind of shredding machine and out popped the noodles which were bagged up by hand.
We then returned to Can Tho for lunch and sorting out – those of us going on for day 3 then had to wait 3 ½ hours for another bus containing people doing a different trip but going on to the same next town to catch up with us – grrrrrrr! We then had another 3 hours driving whilst packed in like sardines and didn’t reach Chau Doc until about 7.30pm and by then it was pitch black.
We did have yet another stop before we got there,
Get your veggies here!
this time at Long Xyuen for the crocodile farm. Here were lots of huge ponds chock a block with crocs – from small to huge. They are all from local rivers and taken as they were such a menace to the locals, but they are apparently all well looked after and happy – strange then that the same place also had a shop selling crocodile shoes, hand bags and belts etc!
At Chou Doc we were all put in the ‘Floating Hotel’ – which you were supposed to have paid more for and we hadn’t so we just kept our mouths shut! Luckily the room appeared cockroach free. As it was late we went to the restaurant attached to the hotel for tea, but after waiting for a good 10 minutes and being totally ignored by the staff we got up and left. We decided to head down the road in the hopes we might find somewhere else to eat and by pure chance we did.
Everywhere all the signs were just in Vietnamese but we kind of guessed we had found a restaurant and could make out people sitting down at the end of a
long corridor so we ventured in. Again luck was on our side as one of the lads working there spoke a little English and found us a table in what turned out to be a fairly large room built out over the river that was packed out with local people all out for the night. We were given menus which had some English translations and ordered prawns and some drinks. Well it was fantastic and we both got the best meals we had eaten in the whole of our time in Vietnam, there were so many prawns it was almost obscene but in a very good way! and the sauce was gorgeous. We were each given a pint glass full of ice and girls kept coming round topping the drinks up, refilling your glass with ice and bringing out another bottle when yours was empty. We soon realised that any bits of shell or things you didn’t want to eat was just dumped on the table and fag ends were put out on the floor!
So after we were full to bursting and had each had about 4 drinks we got the bill and it was about £7.50 for
Making rice noodles
the whole lot! Great food, great service and a real ‘local’ night out!
We staggered back to our floating hotel and went to sleep with the room gently swaying and the waves lapping.
The final day and we were off in a boat, this time to visit the raft village and supposedly to find out about the history of the development of the fishery, well I guess we did find out the fish farmers get paid a fraction of what the fish gets sold for but mainly it was peering in a pool on the raft where stacks of fish were kept and then the guide threw fish food in, they all started going nuts and thrashing around and we all got wet – jolly good fun.
Then along the Vinh An canal to the village of An Giang, which is a Cham community but with mosques, where we had a walk about saying hello to the villagers and causing much squealing laughter at the local primary school.
We then boated back to the bus and had another round of jiggling passengers and then carried on to the Sam Mountain where we climbed a gazillion steps
up the mountain in the baking heat Despite the heat, what a place we reached! It was the Nguyen Huu Canh Temple and set in lovely grounds, lots of water lilies, Buddhas and views all the way over to Cambodia in the distance and so tranquil. Inside the temple was the entrance to the Cave Pagoda, which was a series of passageways winding into the mountain and ending with small caves with Buddha statues, or rock pools with other Buddhist deities and then one which ended in a mirrored room with lots of Buddha statues.
After this lovely stop we were back on the bus and the start of the 71/2 hours it took us to get back to Ho Chi Minh City! I should point out we had no idea of the extreme amounts of driving involved in this trip before we booked! We made a few stops, one to pick up other passengers (the theme of the jaunt), it was at this stop that I encountered the guy so severely affected by Agent Orange with the big round flat face, then a brief lunch stop and our final drink and loo stop was at a very swanky
Cham Village School
service station complete with gardens, but the heat and humidity made going to the loo a nightmare as your knickers end up in a sweaty tangled roll that is virtually impossible to sort out from your trousers, I’m sure you know what I mean if you are female!.
However we eventually pulled back into HCMC with knickers sorted!
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