Down the Mekong
26.12.2007 - 28.12.2007 30 °C
An interesting saying that they have in these parts is "Same, Same but Different". I think it has something to do with attempted translations (i.e. "yes .... same, same") with the "... but different" a touch of Cambodian whimsy. I'm not quite sure exactly what it means but it often seemed to make sense.
We finished with Cambodia and took to the water in a tourist boat that speeds people down the Mekong river to a place in Vietnam called Chau Doc. The trip was very interesting, with all sorts of traffic on this enormous river and people growing many different crops right up to the water's edge. The border checkpoint was quite interesting as we had to disembark on the Cambodian side, go through customs, walk 50 or so metres, repeat the process on the Vietnamese side and then get back on the boat.
After we arrived in Chau Doc, we were greeted by the usual band of enthusiastic transport operators. We made an unintelligible deal with two motor scooter pilots who (we hoped) had agreed to take us to the place in the guidebook that we were pointing to. With siren-like horns blazing and suitcases stacked so that the drivers could barely see, we sped off to the hotel 6 km out of town like visiting heads of state. A highlight of the speedy journey were the graceful Vietnamese student girls in traditional white silk outfits riding along the streets amongst the rice-paddies. The place we stayed was very good and the transport operators convinced us that they needed to pick us up again at 10 o'clock the next morning to take us "up the mountain" and then on to the bus station for the next part of the trip. Although we were a little dubious about all of this, it worked out really well and we took the bus on to Cantho.
Cantho is very much a part of the "Mekong Delta" section of the country and after arriving in the evening we started to gain a better understanding of Vietnamese capabilities for entrepreneurship. As we were checking in at our hotel, a man sold us a 5:30am - 1:30pm "floating markets" boat trip and a bus ticket to Saigon. The boat trip turned out to be an incredibly fascinating experience. We were met by our boatman in the dark at 5:30, given a bunch of tiny bananas and two baguettes and taken out on his small boat into the river. After about half an hour, we drew closer to the floating markets and a boat bobbed along side and sold us coffee. A few minutes later, another sold us the first of several pieces of fruit we ate during the day. The markets were incredible, with hundreds of boats trading with one another along the river. They identify what they are selling by putting a sample of it at the end of a bamboo pole that sticks up in the air from their boat. We stopped at the one with the pineapple at the end of the pole and had some of those. After this, we visited a small family-run noodle factory, looked at the old "monkey bridge" bamboo river crossings and had lunch at a "fruit garden" where we had fish that was caught in front of us and were given massages and a hammock to sleep in.
After the boat trip and having a look around Cantho, we took a min-bus to Saigon.