And our trip down the Mekong begins!

Trip Start Jul 31, 2007
Trip End Dec 15, 2007

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, October 26, 2007

Our Mekong river cruise was absolutely among the highlights of our Vietnam trip. We made many stops, but because we did it in one trip and for the simplicity of uploading, all descriptions and pictures will be here while the map pins can show you exactly where we went along the way.
Originally, our plan was to travel on the Mekong independently, finding boats an buses along the way, but with a little convincing from David I finally agreed to take an organized trip (which turned out to be a bit cheaper than doing it on our own anyways).
We met our tour group early in the morning in Ho Chi Mihn City and took a bus to our first stop, My Tho. We hopped on a small boat and were taken on a trip for the view of the islands and docking on Coconut or Phoenix Island. There we sampled honey tea, banana wine (not my favorite!), and dried fruit at the honey bee farm, walked over to a handmade coconut candy shack and watched them make candy and got to sample some, and stopped by a fruit orchard to have plates of fresh fruit. The whole thing was pretty touristy, but in between the stops on the island we were treated to beautiful scenery and signs of true island life, such as the small shacks and children riding old bicyles down the dirt paths. To leave coconut island we took a small row boat through the river canals on the island. The ride was so peaceful and beautiful, everything was very lush and green. As we rowed down the canal I realized how much it reminded me of the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland and how amazing it was that this was actually real! (Although luckily there weren't any crocodiles or other frightening animals on this ride!) For lunch we were taken to another island in the area where we watched water buffalos graze and were caught in a rainstorm, but luckily were hanging out on some hammocks under a roof so we managed to stay dry. When it was finally time to get on the boat, we found the dock completely flooded! We were shocked that only 30 minutes of rain could change the water levels so drastically.
Little did we know that was just the beginning of the flooding! After our island hopping in My Tho we caught a bus, taking us to a boat to Can Tho. When the bus arrived at the spot we were supposed to meet our boat at, our guide did not look so happy. The entire area around us was flooded, in houses people walked with water up past their ankles and in the front yards children were splashing and swimming in what were normally very shallow canals. After phone calls and talks with locals our guide appologized and told us we were simply going to have to roll up our pants and wade to the boat, which was 2 rows of flooded houses away from us. Luckily David and I have backpacks, many others had to carry their suitcases, all of us walking with muddy water up to our knees. It certainly felt like an adventure, and this was on a tour! I was certainly glad we weren't traveling independently then!
We arrived in Can Tho to find it was also flooded. We walked through large boulevards, motorbikes and cars cautiously driving through the water and us trying to find the shallowest parts in the road. It was definitely an experience to be right in so much flooding first hand, especially considering how many serious floods Vietnam has had to deal with in the past few weeks. We were lucky, we ended up in a decently clean hotel room that was dry and had hot water for us to take a long shower in after, while many people who lived there just had to wade in their houses and wait for the water to dry up.
The next day was mostly spent on boat rides around Can Tho. We saw the famous huge floating produce market. All business in conducted on boats, with long bamboo poles coming from each boat hanging an example of whatever produce is sold on the boat (for example the pineapple boats hung one pineapple from their pole). I couldn't imagine buying all my produce like that, but it's how people who live along the river do almost all of their shopping! We also visited a rice noodle factory in a sleepy little town and had time to wander around the village. We met lots of friendly children, eager to greet us along our way, and saw locations that really felt untouched by tourism.
(More on the Mekong trip later)
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