Chau Doc, Vietnam
Trip Start Dec 04, 2007
56Trip End Feb 26, 2008
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It is hard to overestimate the importance this river has on the countries along its banks. It begins in the Tibetan Himalayas and then flows through China, into Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finally Vietnam
Our distination, was Chau Doc, just across the border. It is known for its fish aguaculture as well. When we arrived in town, the boat pulled up a side river lined with houses built upon stilts, the beaches lined with all types of boats, fish nets, and floating homes.We disembarked and as we enter the streets were suprised to find no taxis, no Tuk Tuks; just motorbikes. I was reluctant to jump on a motorbike carring the driver, me, my ruck sak, camera and fanny pak. Brab would need to do the same. We had seen it done along the way, but it made for a very crowded motorcycle ride.
There were soon appeared two bicycle powered Sei Loi, pedal powered tuk tuks. They are basically a rickshaw powered by a pedal bike
The next day we visited the market, which was well organized and cleaner than we had seen in Cambodia. Lots of exotic fruits and nuts and spices. The smells and sounds of the vendors calling out their wares were great. We had lunch near the market. The food here is terrific. French and Chinese influences in their cuisine has enhanced the great Vietmanese cuisine.
Morning involves coffee dripped onto evaporated "sweet milk", banana rice flour pancakes, eggs and fresh baggettes. Lunches and dinners have a multitude of meats flavored with curry, ginger, lime, lemon grass, chili, and of course rice or noodles
The first order of business was to book passage onward. While we had wanted to visit the regional hub of Chan Tho, with its floating markets and fish aguaculture, we decided to head further south to Rach Gia by bus, then take a 3 hour fast boat across the sea to the island of Phu Qouc. We bought the bus ticket and boat ticket combined in one purchase from another hotel.
Our last night in Chau Doc, we hired a boat in order to view the life on the river. It rental was arranged by our elderly sei loi driver. This river serves as the freeway here. There are few large trucks on the road in the delta as the river does most of the heavy lifting. The Vietnamese have created a labyrinth of canals joining the nine branches of the Mekong. This system requires routine dredging, but does allow the river to function as a freeway network across a very large area of southern Vietnam. We also got a chance to see the fish farming operations up close. As we came from Cambodia, we had seen hundreds of square houseboat like structures covered in metal or wood. Each of these has a large basket type net hung below the structure. Small fish are raised up to 2 kilos in the net before they open one end and allow the fish to enter a capturing net system that removes the fish for processing and shipment throughout Vietnam as well as around the world
As we motored along, our sei loi driver, now in his 70s, was talking and I remarked on his good english. He explained that his name was "Mr. B" , and that in the late 60s and early 70s he had worked in the area around DaNang as a helicopter mechanic for the Americans. He worked on "HU-1Bs " he explained. He said had a good job then, and things were good. After the 1975 collapse of the American effort, Mr. B was arrested and spent one year in prison, which was "very hard". He now lives the life of a pedal bike cyclo rider in his seventies and seemed quite sad. I imagined that there was a period of discrimination against him that may contiune to this date.It was interesting talking to him, in that he used expressions I had not heard in 30 or more years. He would say things like, "When I was working then, I had BUKU money". Following our tour of the river we tipped the boatman and Mr.B quite well and thanked him for his assistance. I can only hope that his good english will enable him to find better employment as he cannot push the bike much longer.
Ihave now been in Vietman for over a week (I am behind on my postings) I would like to say that they are amoung the friendliest people I have ever met. They are respectful and happy people. A yoiu can see by the photos they enjoy the attention and are genuinely happy to see traveler visiting thier counrty. Another obsevation is that these people know how to work. They start each morning befoe daylight and work late into the evening. I have respect for these folks.
Next post from the largest island in Vietnam, Phu Quoc