A Travellerspoint blog

Mekong - Day 2

sunny 30 °C

It’s the start of day 2 in the Mekong and we find ourselves on a boat heading up the energetic river to the floating markets.

The markets themselves are made up of 50+ boats anchored near each other, with each boat sporting a large pole poking straight into the air with an example of whatever they are selling tied to the top of the pole.

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We were driving along heading into the main market area when out of nowhere a large hook was grappled around the side of our boat. My first thought was that I was about to meet Johnny Depp and his horde of pirates but when I turned to see where the hell this hook had come from I was confronted with a man in a small boat selling coffee. A couple more expertly placed hooks and our two boats had effectively become one, and his spruiking began :) I must admit the coffee was awesome and after everyone had indulged themselves the hooks came off and he was back out hunting for the next boat full of tourists.

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After checking out the markets and admiring the locals conducting all their business on the water we headed down one of the small rivers that branched off the main one into a little village that makes noodles, and raises pigs for their livelihood. The strangest thing we saw was one of the women making the noodles snacking on a cup of 2 minute noodles, didn’t give us much faith in the noodles they were making but she seemed happy.

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^^ Floating petrol station
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^^ This is someones house!
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^^ River toilet - a never ending circle of feeding the fish and eating the fish...
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Off to another little village further down the river where we strolled through orchards with every fruit you can imagine.
Too much food-observing today and not enough food-consuming, it was time for a feast… a delicious feast of eels :) Not too bad actually, although the mushroom sauce it was with was like soft jelly, which was a bit of a freaky texture.

After lunch it was back on the bus and up the delta to Chau Doc – a town nestled on the Cambodian border. We were lucky enough to visit a beautiful mountain temple that was still full of monks! Pretty cool!

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Now we are spending the night in Chau Doc, and still one more day left to explore the amazing Mekong Delta.

Cheers, Kyle

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^^ Chau Doc Square

Posted by KyleMac 01:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mekong - Day 1

sunny 33 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip on KyleMac's travel map.

It is only fitting that while in South East Asia you visit the Mekong, and no place better than from Vietnam.

The delta region covers around 39,000 square kilometres of Vietnam and Cambodia and for only $30 each we have organised a 3 day, 2 night trip inclusive of accommodation, breakfast, and lunch. A special thanks to Kim from Kim’s Place in Ho Chi Minh for organising this trip for us at such a good price – especially after hearing what some of the other people on our tour paid.


^^ First Day of the Trip

The tour began with a bus and boat ride from Ho Chi Minh to Ben Tre where we were treated with a pony-carriage ride with the locals as well as a delicious visit to the coconut candy “factory”. I call it a “factory” but in reality it is just several women sitting around a thatched hut, husking coconuts, cooking them, and hand moulding/packing the candy.
After buying some delightfully delicious coconut candy and sampling some suspect snake wine we were on our way to Unicorn Island!

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^^ Looking at the Mekong from Ben Tre jetty

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^^ Ready for the boat trip

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^^ Excited for Ben Tre

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^^ Buffalo just hanging out

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^^ Coconut Candy

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^^ Yum

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^^ Delicious Snake Wine

We entered Unicorn Island via local canoes - driven with extreme accuracy through the winding canals deep into the Island’s centre. No one spoke English and we were shuffled into a big bamboo pagoda and sat down at a few large tables. All of a sudden large fruit platters starting arriving and a traditional Vietnamese band played while we feasted.

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^^ Loving it

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^^ Winding through the tight canals

The island makes its money from honey and fruit and everyone seemed surprisingly calm while they were passing around a bee infested honey tray straight from the hive – no smoke or protective clothing was required.

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^^ Bees!

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^^ Some random guy just arrived with a snake, so we held it :)

After a quick boat ride back to the mainland and a bus ride further into the delta we found ourselves in Can Tho – where we would spend the night.

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^^ Walking through Can Tho street markets

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^^ Street vendors have everything

After such a long day we were ready to feast, and in true Vietnamese style we were not going to be disappointed. We sat ourselves down in a restaurant opposite a huge golden statue of Ho Chi Minh and were treated with a banquet! We had spring rolls, yellow noodle soup, Vietnamese pancakes, steamed wontons, garlic beans, and my favourite – chopped snake :). After gorging ourselves we sat outside and drank 40 cent beers – 750ml. We got slightly worried when a woman walked past the front of the restaurant and started projectile vomiting in the gutter, but I’m proud to report that we were 100% healthy the next day :). If you are ever in the area I must recommend that restaurant, it is called Quam Com Mekong – 38 Hai Ba Trung.

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^^ Can Tho feast!

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^^ The snake was the highlight

All over Vietnam there are people who work street stalls and little vendors that sell everything you can imagine. While we were sitting outside the restaurant having beers, all of the street sellers that line the street started screaming and running off with their little ‘stores on wheels’ down the street and into the alley ways. When we looked up the road we saw a Humvee full of military clad police driving along slowly. The thought crossed our minds that maybe we should run away like all the locals as well, but our beer induced confidence let us stay and watch as the street emptied of all local traders. The street was silent and we asked our host in the restaurant what was happening. He informed us that it is illegal in Vietnam to street-sell or do anything considered “dodgy” in front of Ho Chi Minh and only 15 meters away from us was a 10 meter tall golden Ho Chi Minh statue! After a sigh of relief we thought it was pretty funny, and the outlook of being executed in the street by some militant gang we didn’t know about dissipated! It wasn’t even 10 minutes after the cops had left that the street was bustling and full of vendors again :).

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^^ Hanging out with Ho Chi Minh

This was the end of day 1 and I hope the next 2 days are just as good!!!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged statue vietnam feasting ho_chi_minh can_tho ben_tre coconut_candy Comments (3)

Cu Chi Tunnels

sunny 32 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Today we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Our guide called himself Lionel Ritchie and whenever he wasn’t telling us about the tunnels, he was singing.

The tunnels themselves are pretty amazing and after only 100m’s my legs were burning from trying to walk/shuffle in a space no taller than waist height. I can’t even imagine attempting this with a full pack and a gun. No wonder they just preferred to bomb them.

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The next stop was the shooting range where I attempted to shoot some targets with a machine gun, I wasn’t very successful but I looked cool so that’s okay.

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On our way back from the tunnels to Ho Chi Minh we stopped at a place called Handicapped handicrafts, where people with all kinds of disabilities make things from vases to paintings and mosaics. Heaps of cool stuff there, but nothing within our budget.

When we were back on the bus Lionel told everyone to get their passports out for the Cambodian border crossing. It was obvious he was joking but a few older couples at the front of the bus fully freaked out thinking they were going to be dumped in Cambodia with all their stuff still in Ho Chi Minh. After a laugh at their expense and a few more songs from Lionel we were back at our hotel ready to plan tomorrow :)

Posted by KyleMac 23:44 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam tunnel cu_chi machine_gun Comments (0)

Saigon Adventure

sunny 32 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Wow... The last few days have been hectic to say the least. I’ll begin the story on the 29th, our first full day in Ho Chi Minh.

After waking up from a night’s sleep that was endlessly serenaded by the horns of a thousand motorbikes we headed off to Ben Thanh Markets. Surprisingly however they were shut early in the morning. The instant we realised that it was shut something must have changed on our faces that displayed uncertainty and like lambs to the slaughter we were approached by a pair of cyclo drivers that offered to take us on a day tour to see the sights of the city for only $3 each.

Our tour commenced with a quick stop at a little restaurant where we were treated to the delights of the famous Vietnamese dish Pho Bo. It is a beef and noodle soup and can be purchased at 10 meter intervals all along nearly every street in Ho Chi Minh. It was super delicious and I am certain it will not be the last time we have it.

The next stop was the war museum and with an entry fee around 80 cents it was well worth it. The museum itself contains 4 floors each with a different theme. Nothing in the museum is censored and when you enter expect to get bitch slapped with endless images of maimed soldiers and mutilated corpses. It is a real eye-opener and makes you realise that every American movie of the Vietnam war that you see back in Australia is a 100% toned down version of what really went on over here. The stories of grotesque massacres and pictures on the wall of American soldiers having a big laugh with the severed heads of Vietnamese farmers all around them is fairly disturbing and it is no wonder they came back from the war so fucked up.
One of the things you notice when you come to Vietnam is the high number of people with physical deformities and the Agent Orange floor of the museum explains exactly why. Even in present day Vietnam babies are still being born with congenital defects due to the defoliation missions launched by the Americans over most of the jungle areas. A huge tank containing the deformed foetuses of many babies is fairly unsettling and you don’t need to spend much time in the room to feel like you need a shower.
I would recommend the War Museum to everyone who has the pleasure of visiting Ho Chi Minh.

After leaving the museum we felt like we needed to cleanse ourselves and clear our minds, and what better place to do it than a local mosque. It was a calm, tranquil escape from the bustling streets and a perfect place to regather your thoughts after an intense morning – plus it only cost a small donation ~50 cents to the man who looked after our shoes while we were inside :)

It was now time to end our cyclo trip, however this was going to prove harder than we first anticipated. The drivers of the cyclo’s took us to a bus shelter and when we hopped out they pushed their bikes in behind us, effectively trapping us inside the bus shelter with no way to get out. We thought it was time to pay our $3 (50,000 dong) but instead they pulled out some random price list that said 500,000 dong per hour per person!! We were pissed off and argued with them that they quoted us 50,000 for the day but they told us that was the cost of the museum etc. They got really aggressive towards us and starting yelling that we owed them 2 million dong each. We didn’t even have that much cash. We thought we were about to get shanked and left for dead in some bus stop so we gave them around 1.5 million dong before we quickly escaped.

After getting burned like that we have learnt to be very firm and not budge, it was just the fact that it was our first day in Vietnam and they could sense the fresh blood and our insecurities. Oh well…gotta learn somehow!

After such an intense day we just chilled out and drank 50c tallys of beer and got an hour massage each for $6 :)

^^ I took this video while we crossed the road on the cyclo's. The road rules in Vietnam are give way to things bigger than you and cross the road slowly so things have time to go around you haha.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged mosque vietnam museum saigon war cyclo ho_chi_minh ripoff agent_orange Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh

sunny 34 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Before we knew it our time in Darwin had passed and we were at the airport. A few security checks and some teary farewells between Kirby and her mum and we were sitting on the plane ready to leave Australia behind.

We were on an international Jetstar flight and to my disgust there was neither a movie playing nor any entertainment available due to the entertainment system requiring “maintenance”. Thankfully my trusty laptop full of movies kept us going for a few hours :)

It was 9:15pm when we arrived at Ho Chi Minh airport and we were greeted with a long line from the visa collection desk. While we were waiting for our visa’s to be processed two old ladies sitting in front of us were approached by an airport official. I must add that everyone working in the airport looked like they were in the military (maybe they were), decked out in their green outfit covered with stars and medals and a face equally cold they were quite intimidating. The ladies were promptly told that the paperwork that they had provided the officials was actually not an official visa approval letter and that on the system there was no record of an approved visa for either of them. The ladies tried to argue that they had booked this trip through a travel agent and they were told by the agent that everything was arranged, but they were met with a pitiless stare and told that they had to leave the country before even entering it. Luckily though another option arose and they were able to stay at the airport hotel overnight and pay for a visa application to be processed the next morning (not sure how much that would cost but I’m guessing it’s not cheap). After witnessing this whole ordeal a slight feeling of impending doom encroached on my happy demeanour as I hoped that all of our paperwork was correct. Thankfully our names were called and we headed outside to breathe our first breath of fresh Vietnamese air – although with 5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City, it wasn’t that ‘fresh’.

Before we headed overseas we read plenty of books that talked about transport in Asia and one in particular suggested to use the metered taxi as they are regulated and far less likely to rip you off. We knew that the ride to our hotel should cost around 300,000 dong and the moment we exited the building we were confronted with a man who offered to take us to our hotel for 500,000 dong in his private car, we said no and headed over to the taxi rank. The taxi we took had a meter but it was obviously faulty because by the time we arrived at our hotel it was sitting at 1.3 million dong. It only took us 30 minutes within Vietnam to get ripped off – WooHoo :)

When we walked inside the hotel we were greeted by a smiling woman who promptly told us there was no vacancy. Luckily we had booked and payed a deposit already. After a quick search through her book she kindly informed us she had no such booking written down and there was not a bed for us. We showed her our receipt from the transaction and she called her boss, Mr. Kim. When he arrived he apologised profusely and took us to one of his other hotels and is letting us stay in an air-conditioned room with a private bathroom for the same price.

It is now midnight and fingers crossed our first day in Ho Chi Minh will be cheaper than our first 3 hours :)

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 04:20 Archived in Vietnam Tagged me taxi hotel vietnam ho-chi-minh ripoff Comments (1)

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