“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

CategoryVietnam

Big Boats, Boats, Small Boats.

Mekong River Delta sights.The Mekong Delta down stream from Cambodia.

Starting out from Phonm Pen, the bus ride to the first big boat was full of excitment as we left the centre of Phonm Pen. Traffic only as you can find in Asia surging in all directions taking on a life pulse all of its own, bikes loaded with everything inmagineable [up to 5 people, livestock, building materials or the latest purchase’s from the market, boxes and boxes on one bike] weaving in and out on both sides of the road with constant blasting horns to let everyone know that they are there and are coming thru regardless, all this on bikes 50cc to 200cc in size.

Interspaced with this was the local taxis [utilities or small minivans] with loads of up to 20 persons plus all thier gear, we saw two mini buses with approx. 15 people on the roof this was not unusual what made us look again this time was the motorbike sitting upright on the roof of the minibus surrounded by people.

Arriving at the Mekong river we walked thru a small village then down a muddy bank to walk a narrow plank to board our first big boat. Arriving at the border we wondered what awaited us as we passed thru the Cambodian border to Veitnam, officials we discovered are the same the world over, they like to be official, the border crossing went without a hitch except one of our group who was given a hard time for a few moments.

The Mekong river has fishing villages scattered along its bank and a lot of houses built on it, they were ranging from very basic, built in the old style and looked to be quite impovised to houses built out of modern building materials and reflected a higher standard of living. One interesting thing we noticed was that all the huts and houses along the bank of the river had tall T.V. antenas , how did they supply power to thier tellys? with car batteries, when the battery needs recharging they take it to the nearest settlement and swap it for fully charged one.

The river at this point is up to one kilometre wide growing to three kilometres wide two hours down stream. Canels naturaul and man made branch off both sides of the Mekong it was up one of these canels that we left the river to go to Chau Doc where we were to spend the first night the canels kept getting smaller and smaller with the banks closing in on the boat, this gave us a very close look at the communties that resided on the banks and the houses that were built on the water, these houses have fish farms underneath them, we were to visit one the next day. All along the trip people were waving to us from the edges of the waterway with big smiles on thier faces, particularly the children.

When we disembarked from our first big boat, we were met by a small motor bike with a covered in tralior, this bike was 50cc. At the front of the trailor was placed our luggage and into the back hopped 8 yes 8 people all europeans [big people] and we set off to our nights accommodation attracting a lot of attention along the way, locals pointing and having a good laugh. There is one hill in the delta and you guessed it, that was where our nights accomadation was, so as we started to go up we came to a stop, poor little bike couldn’t cope, from there we hoofed it. After we surrendered our passports which was requested of us now that we were in Vietnam, and settled in to our rooms, we with others climbed Sam Hill to look out over the delta, rice paddies and canels as far as we could see, the rice is been harvested at the moment so we saw a lot of activity with it been transported along the waterways. This was typical of the next four days as we navigated our way thru the delta, which is called the nine dragons delta by the locals.

*yawn* – will finish this post tommorow!

“…it’s just like Springvale/St Albans!”

Vietnam is just like I remember it,… back at home! The smells, the food, the smiles and the crazy driving. I’m not trying to be funny, but I feel very much at home here in Ho Chi Minh City!

I should probably back-track a little bit. We last left you in Siem Reap, ready to board our plane back to Phnom Phen. The flight was rather uneventful, just your regular short trip (a 30 min flight sure beats the 6 hours drive on bad roads in a crowded bus) in a small Boeing. We did however get a free upgrade to business class – but so did the other 9 people on our flight! We arrived safely back in Phnom Phen and caught a taxi back to our hotel.

A hundfull of the thousands of skulls found following the Khemer Rouge in the killing fields.The following day we casually decided to take in a couple of tours – The Killing Fields and the S21 Prison (“the place where people go in but never come out”). It was very confronting seeing these sites and knowing that these atrocities had occurred in our life time. The S21 prison was mostly left in tact and of the 17,000 people that were imprisoned and tortured at S21, only 7 survived – the artists making busts of Pol Pot. We were dumb founded at Pol Pot’s cruelty and the measures that he took to ensure his power. Our guide informed us that 10 to 15 year old boys were used to perform the killing – this was viewed as an impressionable age where the superiors could mold the boys minds. We saw the mass graves and the bones that show up after every wet season as the topsoil is washed away (we accidentally stood on some loose teeth and exposed clothing). Shovels and axes were used to slaughter the people because bullets were too expensive. Any ideology that Pol Pot had worked to was lost by the time he reached power and his rein seemed to be purely about self preservation – even killing his own men when he suspected that they knew too much. Our taxi driver gave the best description of this man – “Pol Pot was a psychopath”. The killing field that we visited is one of 400 that have been discovered so far. Over Pol Pot’s rein, 3 million Khmer people died (with a total population of only 8 million) – from butchery, starvation and as a result of the American’s secret carpet bombing campaign. During this time rice and food production increased, however the Khmer people where only provided two bowls of watery rice soup – as the food was sold to China by the officials.

Being a little emotional, I decided that I had had enough of “roughing it”, and decided to fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and camp out in a nice hotel after Philippa and Rob made up there mind to “float” to Vietnam. Their trip took four days (mine took one hour), and from what I hear was a lot of fun (Phil/Rob will post a separate blog about their trip later).

While waiting for them to arrive, I did the usual… Watched a lot of TV, sussed out the local KFC (several times) and did a bit of a walking tour which resulted in me getting very lost. A friendly “Cyclo” driver offered to show me around,… I promptly instructed him to “head for the nearest McDonalds”. 10 minutes later, we arrived at KFC (again) – apparently KFC is the closest thing that HCMC has to a McDonalds. I thanked the Cyclo driver for the ride and asked him how much I owed him; the ride *should* have cost 5,000 Dong and I was not surprised when he said 50,000 Dong (all I heard was the “5”) – I promptly paid the man, and realised that I had been ripped off while chowing down another Zinger burger! Groan – all these different currencies are giving me the irrits.

Cambodia was again a real culture shock at first, however the beautiful people with their warm hearts have given me a real passion for the country and I suspect that we will be back sometime soon. Vietnam so far has been a lot of fun, and I am finally leaving the hotel now that Philippa has returned (God, I missed her). I think the next three weeks here will be great if the past few days are anything to judge the country by!

Now onto some serious news! Why the hell is Philippa getting 2-3 emails a day and none to me… Starting to think you buggers don’t love me! 😛 Miss you all sooo much and looking forward to getting home, sometime in the next couple of years!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

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