Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 10-11, Saigon-Mekong-Saigon, or "That's not a Delta. THIS is a Delta!"

Up bright and early sunday morning and the 3 of us (Sue, Long, Me - boys staying w their cousins) catch a 7 am taxi and go and pick up Terri and Donald. Terri is co-worker and friend of sue's, and donald her grumpy hubby. The plan is to take 3-4 hour taxi ride to the Mekong Delta, spend the night there at a hotel, then return mid-day monday.

We have a nice big van and head out. Stop after few hours at My Tho (Mee-Taw) sort of on outskirts of delta. We stop at a very touristy rest-stop, which is OK, and take some pics and have some lunch. Back on the road. Couple more hours we arrive in Can Tho deeper in the delta.

Entire drive is very very GREEN everywhere. I see my FIRST rice-paddies and water buffalos. very beautiful countryside but temp is hot hot hot. We literally cross a river every few minutes - I think it's usually the Mekong and/or tributaries that wind like crazy snakelike throughout the delta. The ride reminds me a bit of driving back east and seeing very green lush countryside everywhere in the very hot humid summer. It's very nice.

Arrive in Can-Tho, check in to very nice (3-star) hotel. Very western and modern. We head straight for the (very touristy) boat tours of the delta. We have our own boat (10 seater w loud outboard gas engine, typical of others. We putter around the delta for a few hours, making stops at Dragon Island, Tortoise Island, Hotter-than-hell Island, Ready-to-die Island, etc. These islands are SUPER touristy with tons of locals selling tons of "stuff". Islands and the delta are very beautiful but a bit too touristy. We also take a small canoe-ish like boat tour thru the very dense jungle in very narrow waterways. Fronds line the waterway and soar 20-30 feet in the air and also overhang the river. To fully appreciate this experience you should imaging Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. Literally. I mean the boats are practically lined up (not quite, but you can almost always see the tour-boat/canoe infront and behind. The boats are piloted by locals who pole us along. It is nearly too hot and humid for me to even SIT in my seat, and I cannot imagine the back-breaking work these people live w every day of their lives.

So the trip is similar to jungle cruise ride at disneyland, except we see no hippo or crocs!! Something else that begins bothering me just a bit...I notice that ALL of the canoe-boats returning past us HAVE NO TOURISTS ON THEM! YIKES!! What happened to the big fat white tourists? Whew! Turns out we just de-boat at the end and explore a little of the island, before getting on yet another boat and going to next island. I love the boat rides in general and the delta is amazing.

We return after a couple hours of touring the delta by boat and all are TIRED and HOT. Back to hotel for quick rest then we all meet up to wander around the very pretty/quaint town right on the Mekong river in the heart (?) of the delta. Everyone in pretty good mood and more or less getting along fine. It's already dark and we are all still tired, but feel a bit like partying so we find a nice restaurant and order a bunch of great munchies (onions-fried==onion rings and some eggrolls and other stuff) and we order a bottle of vodka which we foolishly tho gleefully finish. Girls only drink a little just to keep the boys from drinking too much. Back to room and we need to meet in the lobby at 5 O-Frickin-O'Clock am so we can see the famous 'floating market in Can-Tho'. This is the main reason we have come and it's something Sue really wants to see.

Donald sort of crusty grumbly old guy (mid-late-50s) who is sort of always complaining, which is a bit annoying, but he is also sort of half-kidding (usually). Anyway he is obsessed w being bit by mosquitos and contracting Dengue Fever (very nasty no cure). I tell him that one of the first symptoms of The Fever is unreasonable paranoia about being bitten by mosquitos. I think pretty funny, donald maybe not so much.

We all manage to make it to lobby at 5 am and we have another little boat waiting for us. (Hotel is right on river). We putter out to the Floating Market which about 30 min ride. Market is well-worth the trip and getting up early. Local vendors big and small all floating around and/or anchored and all selling different foods. I think many locals shop here sort of like for wholesale prices, and then they can go sell their stuff in town for a little markup. Wonderfully, there is a small canoe-boat selling COFFEE, so we wave her over to our boat and she pulls up alongside and we all buy some yummy ice-coffee. Still right around dawn, and already warm and humid. (Sunrise over the Mekong is amazing.) Terri has heard that the bread down here is really good, and sure enough, floating by is the bread-lady, so we all get a nice VN sandwich for breakfast. Very nice and quite impressive what these people do in their boats. I guess many of them in the larger boats that are anchored live in their boats and work in their boats, and live their entire lives on the river. Generally people here are friendly also, especially the children, who always seem to give us big smiles and waves which we happily return. Sometimes they just sort of stare at us until we wave and smile first, then they usu reciprocate.

We make several passes around the market which takes 1-2 hours. Then back to hotel for very nice breakfast buffet. Shower and nap, checkout at 11:00 and then take very long 3.5 hour taxi-van ride back to saigon. We are all exhausted and sleep on and off during the trip, and it also starts raining which is very nice for us, but maybe not so nice for all the locals, esp on motor-bikes, many of whom just throw on a rain-poncho and continue motoring along.

Nice to be back home in Saigon. nap and dinner. more later