Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Mekong Delta

Chau Doc: A long, tiring, uncomfortable and above all noisy (so much horn honking!) journey by bus from Ha Tien to Chau Doc, let alone the amount of people and pungent bags of fruit piled infront of me. But, I wouldn't have had it any other way, this is traveling Vietnam style and it's an experience all on its own. Chau Doc is a small place and most Westerners just pass through on their way to Ho Chi Minh or Phnom Penh. The big draw (or atleast the 2 nights I was there) was Sam Mountain, it seems half of Vietnam descended here to gather, climb and pay respect to the pagodas on the mount. Sam was about 5km out of town so I walked it and then it was a further 2km (?) climb - easy for a pro-trekker like myself - to the summit. Truth be told it was more of a steep hill than a mountain and it was paved all the way, but the views out over Chau Doc and the delta were very nice. Again though, I swear Vietnam has never seen a white person before ("...jaws all on the floor" - Eminem) so the now customary & always humorous 'photo with the tall white man' took place - maybe I am just too handsome? *shrugs* :)

Can Tho: A minibus brought me from Chau Doc to Can Tho, not by choice, was less of an experience but also less of a headache. Can Tho is the deltas' biggest city (5th biggest in the country fact fans) and you definitely see it become more commercial, all on route to Ho Chi Minh I suppose. It was a little hive of big activity, but still no tourists, except the million who stopped off on route to Saigon. On my second day I booked a trip on a boat to go to see the floating markets with a tour around Tho River and the delta canals - a 5:30am start is not good for my eyes or brain though. The trip lasted 8 hours and I took some pretty & good pictures - including when we got stuck amongst plantation, but it was one of those 'is that really the time?!' days because by 2:00pm, I was exhausted and craved sleep.

Vinh Long: Im staying at a hotel called Phung Hoang and it seems the more stairs you climb, the cheaper the room. So im paying a reasonable 100,000 dng for the penthouse suite on the roof. I say penthouse but it's just a normal room, but the views from outside are pretty cool in the mornings and evenings (I wished for a thunderstorm but it didn't happen - the irony). The town itself is tiny and everything happens in a single corner by the river - restaurant, bar, guesthouse (note the singular) and if Chau Doc & Can Tho were lacking in tourists, Vinh Long is void of 'em. I am the only, not even in passing coaches, it is just me. The reason I came here was to see An Binh island - a boat trip away with lots of tiny linked islands that you can meander through. The trip was ok, not fun but also not not fun, I thought the boat trip on Can Tho was alot more scenic. Also did an hour or so bicycle exploring but without a map or route, I had to backtrack so not to get lost - was nice to see the villages though. There was a doubly expensive all day tour where you got to visit lots of local workshops and plantations which im sure was a better excursion, but the 4 hour trip was sufficient for me.

Im Mekong'ed out I think, crave more busy surroundings and more travellers. Im really glad I experienced the Mekong Delta properly (a bus tour wouldn't have done it justice) but tomorrow when I arrive in Ho Chi Minh, i'll be all smiles for civilisation and Westerners. I hear it's a crazy chaotic place - im intrigued by the free-for-all traffic system i've read about, with lots to do and see, but all the better for it in my opinion! Saigoing... Saigoing... Saigon. X

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