On the way out of the city we could better see the damage had been wrought by the typhoon we almost failed to notice. There were branches down everywhere, and on the odd occasion we sighted whole trees that had tumbled which made us feel like we’d endured some sort of ritual. Some sort of typhoon veterans (well I speak for Sarah here, but surely she felt the same, right?)
Visiting the delta is to take in the maze of waterways. It is a region packed with people, rice paddies, floating markets and bustling towns. We’d also opted for a tour that allowed a 1 night homestay which we hoped would provide a great insight into home life for the Vietnamese families.
Much of time was very much package tourist stuff, but it was also very insightful getting to see many staples of their life made before our eyes (we got to see rice paper sheets being made, dried and some even cut into noodles).
Floating markets in Cae Be & Can Tho brought fresh produce right to our boat with a particular favourite being the freshly cut pineapple. The boats themselves have a clever method of advertising their wares. Each has a long pole (almost like a mast) on which their available fruits or vegetables are then hung. Most boats would specialise in one product, but the odd vessel would have 3 or 4.
Those few of our tour group who’d opted for the homestay were a motley crew of ourselves, an Austrian, an American & 2 Germans who both answered to the name Michael. The lodgings themselves were a bit of a disappointment.
Where I’d thought we’d all be camped communally in the family home, we were actually given little bungalows, almost as though we were staying in a resort. The food was lovely, which we also had a hand in making, however again I’d expected we’d be eating with the family but alas it was just us interlopers.
The morning did afford us the chance to take a relaxing walk which allowed us a glimpse into their village life that certainly felt much more authentic. See the small children wander to school was wonderful, but all too quickly it was time to move on.
Our travels now took us by boat (after a slight delay when our propeller got tangled in some garbage) and bus west across the delta towards Chau Doc and the Cambodian border. A hillside temple on Sam Mountain gave us panoramic views before we left for the town itself.
Our accommodation was to be a floating hotel, however despite this the night was incredibly hot, and there really didn’t seem to be much relief off the water.
In the approach to town, the skies had become very hazy, but it wasn’t another turn in the weather, but smoke, as all around us, rice paddies burned, all part of the crop cycle apparently. Necessary I’m sure, but unfortunately the acrid smell wasn’t all that pleasant.
Part of Chau Doc’s fame and the reason our tour took us out west, was for the fish farming that takes place in the area. There are actually whole villages that actually float upon the water where they will raise fish, fattening them up for sale. The fish are actually kept beneath the villages houses, prevented from simply swimming off by large net structures erected beneath.
Our final aside before the long trip back to Saigon was to visit a small Muslim village in Cham. Followers of Islam are certainly in the minority in Vietnam, so it was certainly interesting to see how they lived here.