Two Days of Planned Confusion

Trip Start Feb 17, 2013
Trip End Mar 21, 2013

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Chau Pho

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Today was our first day of a two day tour through the Mekong Delta with a final destination of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We had set this tour up as a method of getting from point A to point B with a little sightseeing along the way.  Mission accomplished!  But we had no idea that we would spend two days in complete confusion.  But, let me tell you the result -- we and our bags got to Phnom Penh!!!

Since Dayna is nursing a cold, she has decided to pass the baton to her editor-in-chief, me, her fluffy partner and de facto leader of this pair of wanderers.

We left Saigon at about 9:00 this morning after a couple of van transfers to finally arrive at our bus, or buses, as it was this morning.  Our "dedicated" bus turned out to be two buses with at least 10 different tour companies running three different 2 or 3 day tours.  I was unaware that it was possible to have this much variety on just two buses.  But the ingenuity of the Vietnamese tour operators is pretty far advanced for a country that is just figuring out what to do with a stop light.

Once on the bus, confusion reigned supreme.  We now had a Vietnamese guide that sort of spoke English with a heavy accent, to a bus full of tourists that hardly spoke any English at all.  A few Aussies, a couple of British, Dayna and me, with all the rest coming from countries that aren't even in a recent atlas.  This poor guy is trying to explain how three different tours would travel together for a while then switch buses at a stop, but our bags would stay with another bus that would meet us at our hotel, but Dayna and I would not go to that hotel because our tour agency had upgraded us to another hotel, but then we would meet again the next morning to divide again, depending on what type of transportation we were going to take to Phnom Penh, boat or bus.  If that sentence confused you, try reading it in Latvian or Danish.  You get the idea!  Dayna and I are laughing hysterically, watching the Japanese tourists jabbering amongst themselves because they were clueless.  Coming from their orderly society, I think their computer brains just locked up. I just wanted to reach over and hit Control/Alt/Delete on the back of their heads to put them out of their misery.

So, off we finally went for a two hour drive to the Mekong Delta and our first stop, a floating market via a little boat, while our bags got another tour of the Delta.  After a visit to the market, we floated off to a coconut candy factory and a puffed rice factory.  Now we know how Rice Krispies are made, and who really can get through life without knowing that?  But this is all done on equipment designed and built in the Middle Ages.  Did you know that rice is popped like popcorn but instead of using oil, as they do in making popcorn, they use a fine black sand heated to volcanic temperatures and then the rice is added.  And, suddenly you have popped rice!

After that mind altering experience we, were off to lunch which involved more boat ride followed by a 20 minute BIKE ride through an island village.  The Vietnamese throw away nothing if it still functions.  The bikes are a good example.  I kid you not, these Schwin-like bikes came down the Ho Chi Minh Trail with the Viet Cong!  They had to have been made by the Wright Brothers before they got around to building airplanes.  Mine had a bent front wheel and Dayna's had absolutely no tread, whatsoever, on the tires.  And, we are wheeling around a village with motorbikes honking at us like a bunch of ducks and our guide, so far ahead of the rest of us that she was no longer in sight.  Only the "restaurant" owner taking pity on us did we even see the turn off to the cafe. But, there was a huge boa constrictor in a cage at the entry so who could have possibly missed it, right?  All in all, the lunch was pretty good but, because we were cruising in first class and not steerage, we got, as part of our meal, a deep fried fish served head on in a swimming position.

After lunch, it was off once again, looking like Lance Armstrong smoking weed on our Revolution era bikes.  Oh, did I mention, it was like 95 degrees in the shade and the humidity is about 600%! So, adjust already!  This is Vietnam, where looking like you just walked 500 kilometers dressed like a homeless person is OK!

By now we had totally lost our bags, original bus, and original tour guide.  But we were off on a life threatening 2 1/2 hour bus ride to our next adventure.  The Japanese had hit the Control/Alt/Delete keys by now and were in a sweaty stupor like the rest of us.  They even smiled once in a while so you could tell they weren't completely catatonic.  Once you give up really trying to figure it out here in Vietnam, you are far better off.

Our last stop was a crocodile farm.  While our guide quickly dumped us off for a quick iced coffee, we wandered around this cleverly designed tourist rest stop trying to find the crocodiles. Dayna and I gave up the exercise, opting for our own iced coffee in the shade.  We never did find one but a cute Aussie couple with more energy than us did find some nearly extinct reptiles in the back lot somewhere.

Finally, by 6:00 p.m., the bus was dropping wasted tourists off at their hotels.  Once again it was like a three ring circus as the bus driver and disinterested guide tried to match us up with the correct hotel.  And, you won't believe this -- we didn't -- when we got off the bus, our bags were there!!!!!
A nice hotel in Chau Doc that served great food and had a super air-conditioning system.  Was it a crazy day?  Of course, this is Vietnam, where everything is a little crazy.  Did we have fun?  Of course, this is Vietnam,  90 million smiling people all going about there business just like they have done for thousands of years with a few foreigners there to gum up their poorly oiled system. Even Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman would fit in here.

PS:  The tour company gave us the wrong boat tickets to Phnom Penh but we"ll fix that in the morning!
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