Vietnam 1: Mekong Delta, Saigon
Robin and I entered Vietnam on a boat from Phnom Penh to the Mekong Delta and spent a few days there. The delta is one of the regions that feeds Vietnam (and probably other parts of the world too..) I didn’t see much rice growing, but the evidence was all along the river: random floes of rice on the surface, huge piles of rice on the shore, awaiting shipment, and boats loaded down with bags of it. We did see lots fish farms though. These are simple floating decks with nets underneath (and usually houses for the owners on top.) Feeding is via a hole in the deck – we got to see that on a tour. The water was boiling with fish!
We also saw the Can Tho floating market. This is where boats anchor themselves to sell mostly farm produce. You can tell what each boat is selling because they put up bamboo poles with samples on top: melons, cabbages, beets, potatoes, pineapples… our tour boat stopped alongside a boat that was selling pineapples to tourists. The vendor skillfully skinned each pineapple then sliced it into spirals – easy to eat and delicious!
Other random things: I climbed Sam Mountain (a small hill, really) in Chau Doc, and we toured a small vermicelli factory. My Mekong Delta photos are here.
Then onwards to Saigon (nobody calls it Ho Chi Minh City).. what a lot of motorcycles, motorcycles, everywhere! We took a bus out to a waterpark and spent about 15 minutes on one particular roundabout which was choked with motorcyclists ignoring traffic laws (as I’ve mentioned, these are not respected at all in Vietnam.)
As a day trip from Saigon, we took a tour of the Cao Dai "holy see" (main church) and the Cu Chi tunnels. Cao Daism is a weird made-in-Vietnam religion. Most Vietnamese are Buddhists and this religion is seen as a strange upstart – our tour guide described it as "Catholicism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism in a blender." As far as I can tell, they worship 3 saints, an all seeing eye, and bright, saturated colours.
The Cu Chi tunnels date from the Vietnam war, when a small anti-American resistance force used them to hide out. Most of the tunnels have been widened for tourists but they’re still a very tight squeeze. I managed to fit into one of the unwidened tunnels as well. Apart from the tunnels, there were a few neat things onsite: a translated propaganda film from right after the war, models of booby traps, a captured tank, and a firing range where Robin and I fired 5 bullets each from an AK47. That was neat but I’d like to repeat the experience under different conditions (maybe in America).. the problems were that the barrel of the gun was locked down (I guess they didn’t trust us) which made it hard to aim, and 5 bullets isn’t nearly enough :)
Photos from the Saigon area are here.. sadly I didn’t take any of the motorcycle traffic, which was mind blowing.
(I was in the Mekong Delta on April 9 and 10 and in Saigon on April 11-13.)
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