Day 248 – 250 (9th to 11th May) – Can Tho, Mekong Delta

23 05 2011

Taylor..!

From Ho Chi Minh City we headed straight to Can Tho a small city in the heart of the Mekong Delta. An area synonymous with the Vietnam War, is also regarded as the rice bowl of Vietnam and where the Mekong River meets the South China Sea. As the name suggests this is a rich lush green delta offering far more than rice – the variety of fruits grown and sold here are huge, big, small, fury, spiky, smelly… More importantly Can Tho is where we were meeting up with Mike and Becky for a few days R&R, sightseeing, eating, drinking and such shenanigans.

Like the American GI’s running battle with the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War I really thought that our time in Vietnam would be a two week running battle with ‘the runs’. I can thankfully say the food in Vietnam is excellent and everything from restaurant to street food seems to be going down well and staying down. The French influence in Vietnamese cooking is greatly appreciated. This would be how it’s possible to get an excellent Chateaubriand Steak in the middle of the Mekong Delta. However, Mike’s influences on our menu selection were not so appreciated. Two weeks in China and we managed to avoid too many culinary nasties. However, two hours with Mike and we had ordered snake, Python to be precise. Tasted like chicken if you must know…

Our second day was spent walking around Can Tho, taking in the general sights and a couple of temples. This took us till lunchtime – there really isn’t much to do in the town itself. You could see dozens of tourists walking the streets in the baking heat thinking ‘Is that it… what else is there to see?!?’. So we spent the afternoon in the relative comfort of a hotel rooftop bar eating, drinking and playing monopoly on Mike’s shiny new iPad.

The following day we had booked an extremely cheap 7 hour private floating market and Mekong Delta boat tour. Where most other people’s tour would begin with a minivan hotel pickup, ours had us walking with our guide down to the Mekong River. It was on that walk down to the river we began to think this might be a very bad idea. I’ll make no bones about it, our boat was rubbish – almost the worst one on the river, but it had a motor and a very nice skipper. So we set off up the very brown Mekong River. It was immediately obvious this was a very important river for transport and trade, with hundreds of varying sized boats navigating the river with as much order and decorum as those scooters on the roads. It was also clear that the five of us; Mike, Becky, Jennie, Myself and our guide were in just about the smallest thing out there.

We eventually reached the first of two floating markets and got to witness the general chaos of a third world market unfold in front of us, but this time everything would play out on rickety old boats floating atop filthily brown river water. The highlight of the trip was when we left the main river and navigated our way down some of the hundreds of much smaller tributaries that go to make up the Mekong Delta. Here we could see rural Vietnamese river living and make an impromptu stop to get out of the heavy rain at some waterside shack restaurant for lunch and cigars, thank you Mike.

All the way from its source on the Tibetan plateau in Quighai the Mekong River brings life to countless numbers of people and has hundreds of uses as it snakes it’s way through China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Unfortunately it became clear a lot of those uses are inappropriate and at best should be done exclusive of each other. Like the widespread dumping of rubbish in the river alongside the use of river water for washing and cooking or the numerous children that play in the river when human waste is flushed directly into the river via toilets that hover over the river bank.

I can report we all made it back in one piece and enjoyed our low budget, slightly risqué, unseaworthy trip very much – I really think you can so easily overspend on a trip like this..!


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