28 October 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop [Mekong Delta, Vietnam]

The Mekong Delta. The giver of life... or so the tourists agents like to tell you. It is an interesting part of the world, full of all kinds of people, different cultures, and massive boats fully laden with goods. The locals here have a unique lifestyle, and experiencing it is a nice way to spend couple of days while in Vietnam. Especially if you have a nice boat to relax on.

As I mentioned in my last post, Julia and I decided to do an organised two day tour of the Mekong. The first day was an almost complete disappointment, and reminded me why I avoid these tours at all cost. I felt totally rushed, always on a schedule, and that I was always pushed in to buying or tipping or spending money that I didn't really want to. In saying that, it was quite interesting, and there is no way I could have seen as much as we did in the time we did by ourselves.

Our first stop was My Tho, where we visited a couple of islands. On the first they kept bees, so we got to taste the honey, had some really nice honey tea, drunk some honey wine, (randomly) had a python draped around oue necks, then were all unsurprisingly ushered through the gift shop.

We were then given a selection of tropical fruit which was quite nice, and played some traditional music. After about three minutes playing the performers all put bowls out into the crowd wanting money, then stood watching, giving those (me) that didn't tip the evil eye. Next up we jumped on small row boats and the locals rowed us through a small stream, totally surrounded by bamboo trees. It was actually really cool, well, apart from the fact that the locals were rowing as fast as humanly possible so they could drop us off and pick up the next batch of tourists. And all locals in the empty boats coming back the other way kept yelling out "TIP", "TIP MONEY!" at us.

We jumped back on the boat and moved on to another island, they make coconut candy. They demonstrated the whole process from start to finish, and let us try sample the finished product. Delicious!

On the final island of the day we had a fairly unsatisfying lunch. But never fear, you can purchase more food at exorbitant prices. Here they had a pool full of crocodiles, as for a small fee you can 'feed' them. (Or buy some meat on a stick and tease them with it until you get bored). From there we traveled to Can Tho where we spent the night an in average hotel with an extremely rude manager. Dinner: the cheapest thing possible! We had about US$10 between us and both did not want to draw out any money before heading to Cambodia. So Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) for US$1 each was the choice.

Thankfully, the following day was much better. Basically we just jumped on a boat and cruised around the Mekong. We visited the floating markets which were really interesting. All the farmers from the small towns and provinces load up their boat with whatever they are growing, then come here to trade it. Sometimes staying for up to a month (depending on how perishable their goods are).

We also visited a rice noodle mill and a tropical fruit garden, both of which were a bit boring to be honest. The best parts were seeing the families toilet purched above the fish pond (apparently that is why their fish are so big!), and some of the pets the locals have; including an awesome baby squirrel.

That afternoon we returned back to Saigon, then basically just hung out waiting for our bus to Cambodia that evening. All in all, it was worth the trip. I would have preferred to do it solo, but that would have taken more time and probably more money. So I'm happy with the compromise.

Early tomorrow morning Julia and I cross the border into Cambodia, and that afternoon we meet up with Simon and Yona for the Rugby World Cup final! Plans for the rest of Cambodia are a little vague at the moment, but I am sure we will work it out.

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