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October 08, 2004

Mekong Delta

Well I just survived my first organised tour!! Two nights, three days through the Mekong Delta area in the very south of Vietnam. I was really looking forward to the tour, meeting a whole bunch of backpackers again, all carefree and friendly and with a sense of adventure. I had lost touch with the backpacker scene during the week with my Dad and was eager to get back into the swing of things. Then I got on the bus. I had landed smack bang in the middle of couple-dom. The whole bus was full of couples, all thirty plus with arms interlinked so tightly, that I think they believed that if they chanced letting go, they would risk losing each other on the bus or spontaneously combust or something else rather horrid. Now it is not that I have anything against couples or people over thirty ( i will be there shortly myself!) but, well, you just wasn't the crowd I was expecting. And lets face it, you get the general vibe of a bunch of people with in two minutes, and these faces were telling me that they liked to be in bed by 8pm with a good cup of tea. Oh well, I thought, I am sure I am just over reacting, a few quiet days would be fine, I don't mind a cup of tea once in a while. Hmmm

Our first stop was a coffee and toilet stop. This is only of interest because a mini bus came screaching up behind us as we were about to head off, and out jumped another single backpacker! He apologised profusely for being late as he clambered onto our bus. Things were looking up! I scanned the bus a bit more thoroughly and noticed two young guys sitting next to each other at the back. I had missed them on the first scan, they were both rather short. Alrighty, this was a bit more like it. I even noticed that one of the couples had let go of each other. Brave souls!

The Mekong Delta is an extremely interesting and eye opening place, and I would thoroughly recommend doing a tour if you have the time (and happen to be in Vietnam). The Mekong Delta is a triangular set of rivers and canals, all flowing with nappy poo brown water, each bank is lined with rows of shacks where the locals live. The river is everything to these people, they use it for drinking, bathing, washing, transport, cooking and they also use it as their bathroom! I have decided that the immune system of these people must be super duper industrial strength with activ-bio-enzymes. When I say shack, I mean shack, there is no one choice of building material, most residences are constructed with a mixture of plywood, metal sheets, palm fronds and old tyres. The one element that was common to all shacks was a tv aerial and I think I am correct in assuming, indicates that all shacks have a tv. I find it strange that of all the modern conveniences that are lacking in this society, underground sewerage, running clean water, toilets, that television be the first move towards modernisation. The majority of shacks are actually built over the river on stilts, with wooden walkways connecting them to their neighbours and to the dry land. It is one long floating suburb with a water highway down the middle. The above described world may not sound like the most desirable of lives to alot of us Westerners, but I tell you what, these people appear to be extremely happy. They are always smiling and laughing amongst themselves and eager to chat to you in their broken English. While cruising down the Mekong in our so called luxury boat, your arm becomes extremely tired from the continuous waving to every child who shouts out "Hello, Hello".

The Floating Market, was by far my favourite part of the tour. Every morning, very, very early, a hundred or so boats congregate on the river selling their wares. (Getting up early, I think is part of the culture in Vietnam which is in direct contrast to my own personal culture). The shoppers, in smaller boats weave around the "Boat Shops" haggling and carefully selecting their fruit and vegies, meat and poultry. It is one big floating supermarket. Now, you make think as I did, that it would be chaos, because all the "Boat Shops" looked extremely similar and were floating around. How would you know where to get your pumpkin? or where the butcher had got to today? Well, just as in a supermarket you looked at the signs. On each "Boat Shop" a long bendy pole stuck up about five foot high and on the end hung the boats merchandise. Can you imagine scanning the skyline and seeing bananas, pineapples and dead ducks waving in the breeze like flags. I have some great photos of these. (Which I will post on this site, as soon as I figure it out!)

Well, there was no doubt about it, the couples continued to be couple-ly. Which is of course what I expected but the single travellers were kinda couple-ly as well! At meal times, and on the boat and on the bus, everyone sat around having very polite conversations and drinking tea. (Ok, I am exaggerating with the "drinking tea" bit, but they would have, if it had been served). And I would also like to point out, (so that I don't offend many travellers and many of my friends in relationships) that not all couples act "couple-ly" by my definition. By couple-ly I mean, not being able to move more than a metre away from each other, having 90% of all your conversation with your partner and having an expression on your face that says all my exciting adventurous days are already over, which is only broken by a meek smile when your partner leans over and remarks on how good the tea is.

It wasn't all bad, in fact in all honestly, I had a really great of the couples, an English couple who lived on a boat in a canal, when at home, were actually really friendly and alot of fun. They also preferred beer to tea. I am hopefully going to catch up with them in India in a couple of months.

Next stop is Nha Trang, which is apparently great for diving and supposedly attracts alot of the backpacker crowd. Fingers crossed!

Posted by Jenni on October 8, 2004 02:41 PM
Category: Vietnam

I've handed my notice in.....

Posted by: Debbie on October 11, 2004 12:39 PM

Up near Na Trang, head to this resort called 'jungle beach' - guarentee you will meet some sweet backpackers. It is in the Planet Lonely. Great beach and place to chill out.

Posted by: Neil on October 13, 2004 04:50 PM

Loved your description of the stilted homes over the river. Experienced these on my honeymoon all those years ago on Komodo Island (Indonesia). You sure have to watch out for the "floaties" whilst wading in the water to hop onto your boat.

Posted by: Aunty Melbourne Pam on October 17, 2004 09:17 AM
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