Vietnam - Mekong River Journey
were sad at leaving
Cambodia as it was such a fascinating place but at
the same time we were both tremendously excited at the prospect of
spending the next month in
Vietnam. We decided to cross the border this
time by boat via the
Mekong River - it seemed somewhat adventurous, well
for us anyway.
We departed Phnom Penh by bus and after a 3 hour bus journey through
remote rural areas (and after a taxi and mini bus ride before the bus)
we reached the place where our boat was waiting. We were expecting a
port or at the very least a small harbour with wooden jetties. There was
neither; at the rear of someone’s wooden shack home, we had to slither
down a steep muddy river bank and leap onto a wooden boat- no more than
ice lolly sticks with a motor. While trying to achieve this manoeuvre in
non grip flip flops we had our big backpacks to contend with and about 3
men grabbing our arms and flinging us into the boat- not exactly the
Once aboard we set off along the wide brown watery expanse of the
journey took around 4 hours on this first boat (or sticks with a motor),
during which a big storm brew and cascading upon us halfway through our
journey. Cagoules at the ready - we were prepared even if the local
ladies on board gave us strange glances as we (or I) donned our bright
plastic. I also got told off for moving at one point an action which was
to be repeated through our
journey into Vietnam.
There was no actual border crossing as such, simply a scramble up
another mud bank, a stamp of the passport and then a change of boat. We
thought our journey was almost over - we were wrong as we spent another
3 hours on a tributary of the Mekong on a narrow boat lined with 2 rows
of plastic patio chairs. This was the most fascinating part of the
journey; floating along observing real life of the Mekong people.
river is used for every living purpose - ladies were washing pots and
pans, young girls washing their hair, kids playing, water buffalo
bathing, people fishing, local industry, and transportation; the river
is even used for the foundations of the river communities floating
villages. All along the way, people were completely intrigued at seeing
white western people (well 5 on the boat) and kept waving, smiling and
calling - we were quite the celebrity.
Finally we arrived at
Chau Doc in Vietnam - a real shock to the system -
we were faced with disembarking onto a mud hill again clambering up,
this time with a flimsy wooden plank ready to snap at any moment.
Located between two shacks, it was barely wide enough for us to fit
through with our luggage. We then had to walk through a local market
where the stench was remarkable - the ground thick with mud and dirty
stagnant water and stalls crammed with hanging dead chickens covered
with bluebottles, fish laying, decaying in the sweltering heat, piles of
spices, fruit and steaming stalls of Pho dispersing putrid smelling
fermented fish sauce - yes we had arrived in Vietnam.
spent the night in a cheap guesthouse like two cocoons in our silk
sleeping bag liners as the sheets were so gross and the smell of damp
clung to the air. Our experience didn’t improve during our short
exploration of the town - we left
Kids were playing all along the river - splashing around. These 3 showed
off as we went by doing flips or more like belly flops!
in the morning bound for Ho Chi Minh City previously known as