Sunday, March 1, 2009

Boat Ride in the Mekong Delta

Today was my favorite day so far on the trip. But first things first...

Last night I went out to an Irish pub called O'Brien's with Philip, Kate, Sylvia, Emma, and Mikaela. It was a good time and we were planning on watching the Ireland Vs England Rugby match there at 12:30. At 11 or so the owner informed us that he had received a call from a friend in the police department alerting him that they were raiding bars that night and because of the zoning of the district his bar was in he had to close by 12. We moved to a bar in tourist central called GO2 Bar and watched the match, which Ireland won, and had to stay there for Kate to celebrate. We got home at 3 am, and I had to get up at 6:30 to be at the bus stop by 7....

Pics: 1. From left to right, Emma, Mikaela, and Philip at O'Briens 2. Sylvia and I at GO2 Bar

Today I met Emma and Mikaela at the bus stop on Ho Van Hue to go to the tourist area in District 1 to catch the bus to the Mekong Delta, the area surrounding the Mekong River. It was about a 3 hour ride to get there and I slept almost the whole way. We got onto a wooden motor boat and went riding out to the floating market in Cai Be. It was a joke, only about 6 boats were out and we couldn't even see what they were selling. A couple minutes later we were docked in a different part of the town and went inside to a small crafts fair that also had a few booths where locals were showing how they make different products. They made puffed rice, the thin rice paper wraps that they use to wrap spring rolls, coconut taffy, and rice wine. Although it was kinda cool to see how they made those foods, the whole trip so far felt like a terrible, horrible, tourist trap, and I thought it was going to set the tone for the day. I was wrong. 

Pics: 1. Town of Cai Be from the boat 2. Lady making rice paper spring roll wrappers 3. Emma, Mikaela, and myself on the boat 

We got back on the boat and cruised away from the town up the river towards the Mekong. As soon as we got away from the town the scenery turned beautiful. We kept going for about an hour, passing a few run down buildings and boats, but mainly gorgeous stretches of dense greenery and palm trees. 

Picture of the bank of the Mekong from the boat
We pulled up to a pre arranged restaurant perched above an intersection of two branches of the river and had a nice meal on a balcony. We then had about an hour to walk around and see the stretches of lily pad covered ponds with various fruit trees scattered around the edges. They had a fenced off pond with a fence around it and a balcony above. In the pond were a dozen crocodiles, and on the balcony was a guy giving out bamboo poles with strings on them that he tied pieces of meat to and gave us to feed the crocs with. It was a lot of fun to make the crocs chase after the pieces of meat... 

Pics: 1. The Restaurant we ate at 2. Feeding the crocs 3. Pond covered in lilies 

Eventually we got back on the boat and went for about 20 minutes to another town called Vinh Long where we got to go to a really cool outdoor market. It was the best market I have seen yet; there were stalls with fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, makeshift restaurants, electronics and car parts, live animals, etc. I got a crazy drink that tasted of wheatgrass, although it was made from a leaf that looked somewhere between parsley and spinach, and soon after got a stomach ache... but it went away quickly. We held baby chickens and had to seriously restrain ourselves from buying a couple of them. 

Pics. 1. Fruit and vegetable stalls at Vinh Long market 2. Chilies and limes 3. My main chic and me...

This glimpse of rural Vietnam was really great. HCMC is a crazy and interesting city, but it is not what I expected going into the trip. What I saw today was. The contrast between the polluted, dense, and developed city and the green and luscious country side is astounding. I would really like to go back to the delta for a lot longer and interact with the local people. They seem to be living their lives much as they did 30 or 40 years ago; they do not have any of the luxuries of modern life. I would be surprised if many of their houses even have electricity. 

Tonight I am going to take it easy. We got back around 8 and went to dinner, tonight I am going to take it easy. Tomorrow morning the 4 other newcomers and I have our orientation, although I am feeling pretty oriented already...

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