Boats, bikes and a disappointment!
From the chaos of Ho Chi Min City, we travel south to the Mekong Delta. Known as the "rice bowl" of Vietnam, it provides more than half of the rice for the country, in addition to the vast assortment of fruit and vegetables produced. It is a maze of waterways, Islands and swamps, surrounded by paddy fields, and the main form of transport is by Vietnamese long boat. It all sounds so romantic, exotic and yet calming we can't wait to get there, we are still reeling from Saigon!
We are especially excited about visiting the renowned floating markets, where you can watch the daily life of the Delta folk trading their wares on the river. We have booked an Air B&B in Cai Be, which proudly boasts it is a 5-minute walk from the floating market, great we only have two days so this will be perfect - won't it?!
The Air B&B provides transfers from HCMC , so a pleasant couple of hours are spent watching the world go by in an air conditioned car - (a bit of a novelty for us) We get dropped off at the water’s edge and are greeted by our hostess who ushers us onto the small rickety ferry along with several mandatory mopeds, ducks and chickens, and across to the waiting mopeds who will take us and our bags (one big bag each) down the narrow dirt tracks that wind between the waterways and ditches to our accommodation
Our first ferry across the Mekong
We are free for the afternoon and there are bicycles available, so we borrow a small photocopy map of the immediate area and cycle out around the waterways and the palm-shaded houses exploring the neighbourhood. It's a really enjoyable ride, you don't go more that 50mtrs without someone waving and shouting out "hello, where you from Meester"
Our Air B&B was called Durian Lodge - fortunately, it didn't require the eating of them- although I think this might be a Jackfruit?
It’s a lot further than it looked on the map so we are out for a couple of hours and ready for a delicious freshly pressed ‘sugar cane over ice’ drink before we get home. - Well, John is, it is teeth-jarringly sweet - which I suppose it would be as it is basically just a cup of sugar, can't see how anyone would find this refreshing - I'll opt for a glass of Prosecco back at the ranch!
Note the interesting child seat on the motorbike!
Driving and steering the ferry is a pretty relaxed affair!
During our cycle ride, we also happened upon some maintenance work on the overhead power lines. We think this video clip could be used in a health and safety video in Europe see what you think!
Click to see !
It’s very peaceful here. No cars, only mopeds and bicycles and the drone of the cargo boats chugging along in the background. That is until. Stone the crows!!! Sounds like there is a festival kicking off somewhere nearby. Our host's husband, who is an interesting character from Austria, informs us that this noise is a local tradition of “who has the biggest and badest home karaoke system” and can last quite a while. Neighbours have even come to blows over this with serious outcomes apparently. We just have to weather the storm. Another local custom we learn about is fishing with electricity. One car battery, one boat, one set of electrodes and one dumb ass fisherman…zap. Dead fish rise up around the boat. One heavily intoxicated local, goaded by his wife to provide food, sets down his bottle, yanks a power line down from the pole at the end of his garden on the banks of the river and, with his feet in the water, plunged the cable into the shallows and joins the “choir invisible!”
I am very keen to find out what time the floating market starts, by all accounts you need to be an early bird, but this is the highlight of the trip so it will be worth it, so what time does it all kick off I eagerly ask? Hostess looks confused and tells us that the floating market in this area has ceased to be for about 15yrs!!!!! I am so disappointed, not to mention angry! I really want to know why the **** does it say on your listing that you are a 5 min walk away???? We never really get a satisfactory answer to this but she promises to arrange a river trip for us the following day -- GRRRR
We hire a local lady and her working boat to take us out and show us the sights . The boat lady didn't speak a word of English and our tour took in her delivering a boat full of watermelons to a motorcyclist. She was super lovely and didn't stop smiling the whole trip as well as providing John with one of his favourite portrait photos.
Our lovely boat lady
The bags are full of watermelons, after a balancing act, the one on the floor was put In the front between his legs!
She took us in and around the few cargo boats that are the only thing left of the river trade on this part of the delta. We stopped at a floating fruit and veg store and sat a while drinking coconut and mango drinks and trying not to gag on the pong of the freshly cut durian that the Vietnamese (and all Asians by the sound of it) love. Phew! It’s a tall order but just have to hold it down until we pay for our drinks and high-tail it out of there!
Ensuite facilities onboard all boats
Riverside properties are also available
Although we didn't get to see "The floating market" with its colourful boats selling everything and anything (sigh) we did get to see some real local river life and it which wasn't full of tourists, we were the only westerners wandering around the land market, and our river trip was pretty unique, so in hindsight maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Still wanted to see the floating markets though! Grumble,mumble, moan!
Leaving the delta by private transfer we go back to HCMC to catch a bus to M?i Né. It's unbelievably cheap at about £5.00 per person for a 4-hour journey. Lay down on the seat/bed and wrap up in the blanket provided and drink the free bottle of water. Stop off half way at a street food service station sort of place for rice and chilli and a piece of unknown meat. It's ok when you are hungry, really. The bus journey ends about 10Km from our destination but there is a taxi laid on for the final leg so, which took us directly to the hotel.
Taking the bus - and yes there are two levels!
Had a seat next to this dodgy character
Pretty good service for 5 quid! This is our first beach since Turkey which seems a long time ago now, so we treat ourselves to a beachfront hotel. White Sands, is quiet as it is at the end of the Mui Ne beach, and is almost deserted as it is on the outskirts of the town,
Excellent. The sea is clean and warm and just what we needed for a few days. There is little exciting to do here so it’s just a sunny beach (and pool) stop and a chance to chill. A little bit of running on the quiet roads and on the empty beach will do nicely thank you!
Pretty much as busy as it got!
Next stop Hoi- An, where we go back to school :)