Phnom Penh by boat(s) on the Mekong River

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

On April 10 I started the first leg of a wonderful trip:"Mekong Delta Trip Ending in Phnom Penh (2 days, one night, Cai Be - Vinh Long - Long Zuyen - Chau Doc - Phom Penh (Cambodia)**".  Bus left at  8 :15 a.m with 4 different types of travellers going ib Mekong River direction and we split off at Long Xuyen into smaller groups. The itinerary, according to Sinh Travel brochure and is what actually transpired, was:
Day 1 - Depart at 8 a.m from Sinh Office to Cai Be by aircon bus. Have a motorized boat ride to see round Cai Be Floating Market with local people selling, buuying, exchanging goods from their boats. Walk around tos ee orcahrd, rice paper making, rice crispies producing process (bizarre to watch, like making popcorn!), etc. zStop for a rest and a free Vietnamese lunch (deep fried meat spring rolls, rice, pork chop and vegetables)
Boat through a village to see peaceful tranquil life of villagers, admire marvelous natural setting of Mekong Delta region. Take a boat trip through some islands and cross Mekong river to Vinh Long. Land transfer to Chau Doc (fish). Overnight in Chau Doc (at Than Tra Hotel).  
(Three of us, Vicky from York, Eng, a retired lawyer whose last job was as a Court Inspector for the English Government but who had been volunteer teaching in a hilltribe village in Thailand, and Letitia, a young teacher from Paris and I went for dinner together.  Vicky and I had to use our 'French' as Letitia's English was not so good. Funny how the French I have met have a limited knowledge of  English compared to the Germans, Scandinavians, Swiss, etc. 
Day 2:
(3 Koreans and I left our group from Day 1 to join another group going to Phnom Penh as our group was going back to Saigon via another night at a different town and apparently Sinh Travel was not working on the 12th as it was start of Khmer New Year Holiday in Cambodia and many shops were closed.)
 Do a 2-hour rowing (we had rowers from the village, 2 tourists per boat, my boat mate was a young woman from Korea who will email pics she took as my disk was full), boat trip to visit floating houses with caged fish breeding, a village of Cham ethnic (Muslim) minority, Moselm mosue. towel weaving. Take 2 hour boat trip to the border at Vinh Xuong, VN. Crossing the border, take 1 hour high (well, that is relative) speed boat to Lek Luang. Then land transfer to center of Phnom Penh by bus (rickety mini buses, which took 9 people each). Starting at 4:30 p.m., and after two hours of bumpy bumpy roads due to poor roads and construction and tons of pick ups with people piled up and over them travelling for New Year celebrations, pick up drivers could barely see out window we arrived at King Guesthouse and travel where we could arrange for rooms if we wanted.  Many people who had thought they would try another guesthouse out of Lonely Planet, (including me), determined that after a long day of travelling, a room at King sounded pretty enticing. Roms were adequate at $10 per night for a single.
**All this for $22 US per person and I paid an extra $5 for a single room (included 1 lunch, hotel in Chau Doc and breakfast, all transportation)!
Day 1: Depart at 7:45 AM from Sinh office to Cai Be by air-conditioned bus. Have a motorized boat ride to see round CAI BE FLOATING MARKET with local people being selling, buying, exchanging goods from their boats. Walk around to see orchard, rice paper making, rice crispies producing process, ect...Stop for a rest, a free Vietnamese lunch including tropical fruits.
Boat through a village to see peaceful tranquil life of villagers, admire marvelous natural setting of Mekong Delta region. Take a boat trip through some islands and cross Mekong river  to Vinh Long. See the making of incense sticks on the way to Chau Doc town. Overnight in  Chau Doc. 

Day 2: Do a 2-hour rowing boat trip to visit floating houses with caged fish breeding, a village of Cham ethnic minority, Moslem mosque, towel weaving. Take 3-hour boat trip to the Vinh Xuong border. Crossing the border, take 1-hour high speed boat to lek  luang. Then land transfer to Phnom Penh by bus. Finish tour at Capitol office.

That evening after checking in at King Travel I was arranging a tour for the next day, with a tuk tuk driver employed by the guesthouse .  A couple from the Mekong Tour had checked into King as well and wanted a tour the next day too, so we decided to hire a tuk tuk together. A great couple, George, who works in pollution control for the Norwegian Government and who travels within Europe at least twice a month and Tonje, who had been working in Hanoi for a month with the Norwegian Embassy as part of her role in Innovation Norway, to increase investment in Norway (sound familiar, Terry?), from Oslo Norway.  We went to Choeng Ek, the Killing FIelds, a horrible sight with clothing still strewn about and big holes where bodies were buried but it had to be seen to give respect, and to the wonderful National Museum which included many statues from Angkor near Siem Reap, a city north of Phnom Penh.  We hired a tour guide for the Museum for 40 minutes for $5 for the 3 of us and it was well worth it. Then we went for lunch to the Foreign Correspondents CLub, (Thanks Maria for heads' up on that one) which used to be just for the Press in the days when Cambodia was relatively open but now anybody can go, an airy place with excellent food and service. Nice to have the airy part as we were very hot from walking around.  Then I had to go back to hotel to leave at 4 to catch my 6 p.m. flight to Siem Reap.  I decided to fly rather than take the 8 hour bus trip as I am due in Bangkok for some dental work mid April and I wanted time to see Siem Reap where Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and other Khmer temples were built to house communities of people.  Booked the King guesthouse in Siem Reap, related to King one in Phnom Penh and was picked up at the airport on arrival at 6:45 p.m. (only a 45 min. flight) by La, a young driver the guesthouse hires. I had expected a tuk tuk, which can be scary in its own right but he only has a motorbike! so here we go, my big pack in front of him, my smaller pack on my back and another bag I am carting around in between him and I.  I told him to drive slowly as I am a nervous rider, and he said no problem, he is a good driver He appeared to be conscientious, as he actually wore a helmet and has a relatively new bike (no helmets for passenger however). I was quaking in my sandals but make it to King Hotel ok.  Immediately had a large Angkor Beer and was not extremely pleased with the room, as the Phnom Penh guesthouse has extolled the virtues of this 'new guesthouse' the family built in SR.  Building, painting and decorating skills, and housekeeping are very limited here and I don't know if it is because they have been so downtrodden in the past they give up, or it's too hot, or they are not used to level tourists expect. Anyway this new building already needs painting, holes in the walls still there where were put in the wrong place to begin with and kind of covered up, paint is worn (it is only 3 months old!),  the doors still have tape on them and felt pen with instructions to the builders, bathroom was filthy from previous guest etc. Anyway got a few things sorted out and planned my next day as La wants the job as my driver as that is his only employment. He is a young guy with a one year old child and a wife. More on Siem Reap tomorrow.
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