Just like riding a bicycle
Trip Start Nov 24, 2008
98Trip End Oct 21, 2009
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We arrived at the town of Cai Be at about 11am and boarded a little wooden boat that took us along with a few other people cruising along the Mekong river. We saw floating houses, floating shops and many other boats. We stopped at a small island shortly afterwards and were given demonstrations of how to make rice paper, coconut candy and rice popcorn. We also got to sample these treats and were then encouraged to buy some. There were also many other trinkets for sale along with these local specialties. One of the local guys was thrilled to see me pass his stall as he had a lovely traditional dress for a big lady like me! Well wasn't I lucky!
Once we were back on our little wooden boat (me without the "lovely" traditional dress) we were on our way to the next stop. We arrived at An Binh island shortly. This was after all of the fatties, Alan, myself and the Canadian couple had been moved to the front of the boat to balance out the heavy engine at the back as the tide was very low along the Delta. You really wouldn't want to be too sensitive about your weight in South East Asia. Once we had walked through a small shopping street we were shown the bicycles we would use to get to the restaurant for lunch. I was a bit nervous about this bike ride as I hadn't cycled a bike in quite a few years but I overcame it and once I was up and moving I gained a bit of confidence. We only had to cycle for five or ten minutes before we reached the restaurant. We were given a limited choice but the food was delicious and the cool drinks went down well as the sun was out and beaming down on us. After lunch we were given half an hour to do what we liked, be it cycle around the island a bit or chill out. You guessed it....we chilled out!
We boarded the boat again at about 3pm and headed towards the mainland where a bus met us to take us the rest of the way (another 3 hours) to our hotel for the night. It was about 7pm when we finally arrived at the hotel. The accommodation was pretty basic but we weren't too fussed as we were literally only going to sleep there and leave again at 7am the next morning. After another delicious meal and a beer we hit the hay and were both out cold by 10pm....party animals!
Just after our alarm went off at 6am this morning and I had hit the snooze button we were jolted awake by a loud banging on our door. It seems the people who work at the hotel know everyone has an early start and make it there business to get everyone up on time. It was like being called by my Dad in the morning when I was in school, persistent! After a quick breakfast the bus arrived to take us to the pier where we again boarded another boat. We were on the cheap tour tickets which meant staying at the mini hotel instead of the floating hotel and also getting the slow boat to Cambodia and not the fast boat. The slow boat was again a little wooden boat with room for about 10 people. Once we'd all boarded the boat rucksacks and all we headed for the fish farm. There are many fish farms along the delta and the one we visited raises red snapper. We got to feed them and watch how they frantically fought for the food. A kilo of red snapper sells for about a euro....I'm guessing that it costs a bit more at home?
Next we visited a community of Vietnamese Muslims. They weave silk and cotton to make bed spreads, table cloths, towels, scarves etc. We were again encouraged to buy some of the fine quality merchandise but we didn't. Soon we got back on the boat and made way for the boarder of Vietnam and Cambodia where we would apply for our visas and have some lunch. The boat took us along the river (about 20 metres wide) where one side is Cambodia and the other is Vietnam. We waved at the people living along the riverbanks and they waved at us. We watched children playing in the water and men working along the river. The homes are built on stilts presumably to avoid flooding if the river bursts its banks. It was pretty interesting to see how simply these people live.
We've been waiting in the visa office for nearly three hours now but have been assured we'll be leaving in the next ten or fifteen minutes. We just have a three hour boat ride along the Mekong before we arrive on Cambodian land and then an hour and a half bus ride into the city of Phnom Penh. Long day but I'm sure it'll be well worth it.