Page 5 of saritrace Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Vietnam » Mekong River Delta May 19th 2011

Ba Dong Beach. Not quite where the Mekong reaches the sea - a patch of ocean in between the two major river channels, but it was as close as we were going to get. And it felt like the end of our journey - for over two thousand kilometers and through four countries we'd followed the river as closely as we could - and now we could go no further. For five months we'd breathed and dreamed the Mekong, feeling happy when we glimpsed it, and strangely sad when we were forced to detour. And we still have Mekong dreams - to see the river in full flood in the heart of the wet season, to celebrate Lao New Year in Luang Prabang when the river is a sea of colour and a chaos of boat ... read more
The Catch.
Folding Away The Net.
Work Almost Finished.

Asia » Vietnam » Mekong River Delta May 15th 2011

The Mekong Delta is a water world of dizzying, dazzling, 'spit-in-your-eye' greens, long-stemmed vivid fuschia water lilies, and purple water hyacinth. It's a world of boats, floating houses, markets and fish farms. A world where rivers, canals and streams outnumber the patches of land. It's a world where everything bobs gently up and down, and sways slowly. A world of plenty. The people of the Delta produce one of the most bountiful rice harvests on earth and the range of fruit, coconut and sugar cane available is staggering. The area is rural, but intensely populated - hectic, but also charmingly chilled. This was the Mekong as we'd never seen it before. The wooden houses of Laos and Cambodia gave way to corrugated iron - leaning tipsily over littered waterways, little homes practically stood on each other's ... read more
A Sea Of Water Hyacinth.
Woman With Paddle.

Asia » Vietnam » Mekong River Delta » Ben Tre May 12th 2011

"Where are you from"? My heart kind of sinks when I hear this question. So often it's just an opening gambit from someone who wants something from us. This time we were confronted by a man in a striped T-shirt, rummaging about in a small carrier bag. He fished out a little notebook and before I knew it, I was engaged in conversation. about homestays, boattrips, and bicycling tours. But I had a good feeling about Mr Lanh. His notebook contained several glowing reviews - all in squiggly, somewhat hard to read handwriting - but it just felt right. Jim and I looked at each other - knew we were both thinking the same thing - and agreed to give it a go. He was waiting for us the next morning at 09.00. We hefted our ... read more
The Household Gods.
The Family Altar.
Portrait On Wall.

Asia » Vietnam May 12th 2011

In Vietnam the mighty Mekong finally reaches the sea. In a final fling before losing it's identity forever the river splits into two main branches. The Hau Giang (Lower River or the Bassac River) which flows via Chau Doc, Long Xuyen and Can Tho to the sea; and the Tien Giang which splits into several branches at Vinh Long and empties into the sea at five points. Each of these channels splits into countless smaller rivers, waterways, and canals to make up the waterworld of the Mekong Delta - one of the largest river deltas in the world. The Vietnamese call the river the Song Cuu Long (River of Nine Dragons). We took our time to explore the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam and ended our journey at Ba Dong beach - the nearest we could get ... read more

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap May 5th 2011

He's not really called Fat Sock. That's just how I remember his name. The second memorable thing about Phat (pronounced Pat) is his laugh; it makes me think of a mischievous schoolboy - bubbling up out of him, someplace deep, it threatens to engulf him and totally rearranges the features of his face. He laughs often. Two years ago Phat showed us around the temples of Angkor for six glorious days - more than a guide, he became our friend, so when our Mekong trip took us back to Cambodia we couldn't miss the chance of seeing him again. Angkor is not a place to be rushed, it needs to be savoured like a fine wine - each temple has it's own character, and even after a week, far from being 'templed out' we felt we ... read more
South Gate Angkor Thom.
Ta Phrom.
Ta Phrom.

Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh April 14th 2011

Located on the banks of the mighty Mekong, Phomn Penh is fast paced, modern, charming. Motorbikes whizz through the streets without a thought for pedestrians, street vendors push hand carts and glass-walled boxes stuffed with fruit, snails, bugs and beetles and large four-wheel-drive vehicles over-ride all, blasting on the horn and storming ahead. The cyclos - a Phnom Penh institution since it's introduction in 1936 - do not seem to belong to this frantic, frenetic world; and indeed this iconic form of transport is under threat; numbers have dwindled from 9,000 in 1999 to around 1,300 on the streets of the city today. Our cyclo driver tilted the bucket seat forwards and, climbing up onto the high bicycle saddle, pushed me out into the on-coming bedlam. We skirted traffic, and keeping up a steady rhythm, slow ... read more
Lotus Root Seller.
Street Vendor.

Asia » Cambodia » East » Stung Treng April 14th 2011

At first glance Stung Treng doesn't have much going for it but it's the northern-most settlement in Cambodia on the Mekong, so we're stopping for a while. We are now nearly 2,610 miles from the source and just 117 feet above sea level - but almost three miles lower from where the river splutters to life on the plains of Tibet. We are the only people who get off the bus. The sun beats down, the market smells - fish paste and rotting fruit - embrace us, and grown women in pyjamas emblazoned with teddy-bears, polka-dots, and flowers, skirt around us on scooters. I think: 'I don't like it here much'. But I figure: 'give a place a chance'. Cycling along the broad expanse of the Sekong (a tributary of the Mekong) that afternoon we pass ... read more
Buying Frogs At Market.
Sticky Rice Production.
Dried Fish.

Asia » Cambodia April 11th 2011

Cambodia's two dominant geographical features are the Mekong River and the vast lake, Tonle Sap - the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and an incredible natural phenomenon. At Phnom Penh the Mekong splits into three channels: Tonle Sap River which connects with Tonle Sap Lake; the Upper River (called the Mekong or in Vietnamese, Tien Giang) and the Lower River (Tonle Bassac, or Hau Giang in Vietnamese). The rich sediment deposited during the Mekong's annual wet-season flooding has made central Cambodia incredibly fertile. This low lying plain is where the vast majority of Cambodians live, fishing and farming with the rhythms of the monsoon. From mid May to early October (the wet season)the level of the Mekong rises rapidly, backing up Tonle Sap river, causing it to flow into the Tonle Sap Lake. During this ... read more

Asia » Laos » South » Khong Island April 6th 2011

Forget Greece. Si Phan Don has it all. Here, the Mekong is at it's most beautiful. This fifty kilometer, turquoise stretch of the river is scattered with islands - four thousand islands, to be exact. Here the river is enormous, swelling to it's broadest point - an amazing fourteen kilometer span from shore to shore during the wet season. Hardly a river - it resembles the sea, still, sedate, mammoth. Don Khong is the largest and quietest island. We are lulled into lethargy and spend hours watching long-tail boats and pirogues bobbing gently, men fishing with weighted circle nets, boys wading with nets on poles and water buffalo wallowing in the shallows. Ferries make the occasional trip to the mainland, carrying women with shopping baskets and men with motorbikes. A steady ebb and flow. The island ... read more
Fishing Boys.
Boy With Net.
Fishing At Dusk.

Asia » Laos » West » Vientiane April 1st 2011

The United States was never officially at war with Laos. Yet between 1964 and 1973 the USA dropped two million tons of bombs on this beautiful, largely rural country. Around 30% of these bombs failed to detonate leaving Laos liberally littered with unexploded ordinance (UXO). Imagine: You wake in the morning, and rubbing sleep from your eyes, you stumble to make your morning cuppa. Except in Laos there is no running water and no electric kettle; you heat water on a wood fire, squatting on your haunches, literally watching the pot boil, smoke and steam wafting over your face. On the 10th of May last year, Ms. Thang was doing just this, as she must have done for the greater part of her thirty-eight years. Except Ms. Thang had no way of knowing there was a ... read more

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