Friday, March 12, 2010

Slow Boat to Vietnam

For me, entering Vietnam was like a breath of fresh air. In travelling, as in life, there are always ups and downs. The end of our time in Cambodia marked a down for us. Nick wasn’t feeling in top shape due to his parasite medication, we were exhausted from the heat and our extensive touring of Angkor, and we were just ready for something new.

We decided enter Vietnam via the southern route and begin exploring the country with a tour of the Mekong Delta, so we bought tickets for the slow boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc for $10 each. Although our day of travel started off a bit rough – our bus was 3 hours late picking us up – it ended with an amazing introduction to Vietnam.
house on stilts on the shores of the Mekong River

As soon as we crossed into Vietnam, we started an almost magical journey through the Mekong backwater. I could not have imagined a more quintessential scene of Vietnamese life on the Mekong River.
As we floated down the river we were warmly welcomed into Vietnam by children running out of their houses to greet us, and families taking a moment to wave as we passed by.
The area was bustling with early evening activity and you could feel that in these parts, the river is their lifeblood. From our point of view, it seemed that all life revolved around the Mekong. Along its muddy shores men prepared their boats for an evening fishing expedition while families bathed and washed their clothes in the river. With them were water buffalo escaping the afternoon heat and dogs playfully running about.
The life of the Mekong River was all around us and I was completely enchanted by it.

All along the river are small, shaky wooden bridges full of bicycle, motorbike, and foot traffic. At my first sight of one of these bridges, I saw an old woman in a rice hat slowly riding her bicycle across the river – and I think at that moment, I fell in love with Vietnam.
We even saw some people using a home-made zip-line carriage contraption to cross the river. 

the empty carriage returning to pick up its next passenger

If our first couple of hours in Vietnam are any indication of what lies ahead for us here, then this is bound to be one of our favorite countries yet. One thing is for sure though; the Mekong Delta is certainly something special.
 walking home…

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