The Mekong Delta
Trip Start Oct 23, 2011
22Trip End Nov 12, 2011
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Where I stayed
Tin (phonetic spelling), our driver gave us some quick facts about his country and himself. He went to univeristy in Melbourne, Australia, is married with 3 children and his wife is/was a teacher. Government policy is 2 children and since they chose to have 3 she will not be allowed to move up in her career as the government runs the schools.
We were astonished by the number of motorbikes, according to Tin they are all called Hondas by the locals although a real Honda costs about $1,500 while the faux Hondas are only about $300. Traffic is a nightmarish and we cannot quite make sense of the flow with motorbikes swerving here and there, paying no attention to lanes or which side of the road they drive on. Constant horn honking by everyone is not music to my ears. Bikes can carry a family of four and in a few instances we saw five on a bike - two adults, a child in between, a child in front of the driver and one under the mother's arm. At least two on a bike is the norm. I am not looking forward to my first street crossing as a pedestrian!
The traffic does keeping moving, we did not see gridlock anywhere but it moves slowly, 30-35 mph. The roads are good in spots and for no apparent reason deteriorate suddenly and the transitions between road to bridge is rougher than crossing a speed bump at high speed. It takes a bit of driving to get out of the city proper but we eventually enter the countryside passing through many small villages and hamlets. Rice paddies are everywhere and some sugar cane fields. We pass one area that looks to be under development. Tin tells us it was to be a theme park similar to Disneyland to be called Happyland. Investors ran out of money and now the few structures that were built are called "Neverland".
We notice what look like tombs out in the rice paddies and learn that the Vietnamese bury their ancestors in the fields to help protect the crops and it is a way for them to maintain a closeness with their ancestors as they work their fields everyday.
About halfway in our journey we stop at what Tin called a highway rest stop but it was unlike any rest stop I have ever seen, more of an oasis. A number of open air restaurant pavilions were built around a central garden area. It was beautiful. We had coffee and admired the grounds. Some of the structures even had hammocks for your napping pleasure.
This is definitely the Mekong Delta, there is water everywhere, can't tell you how many bridges we crossed but the series of rivers and canals make me wonder how they found enough dry land on which to farm; this is also the breadbasket of Vietnam. The rivers are used as roadways, lots of small boat traffic.
Another thing we noticed on our drive were truck stop cafes or as Tin called them "coffee shops", again open air thatched structures with hammocks strung throughout, a chair and a few tables. The deal is you buy a beverage and are then welcome to stay and take a nap.
We arrive in Can Tho to flooded streets but are able to reach our hotel without much trouble. However, after getting settled we are unable to get to the restaurants because of the flooding, none of us wants to cross through the murky brown water that is probably shin deep so opt for dinner in the hotel. The receptionist assures us that if we come back around 8:30 p.m. the street will be dry. Apparently some flooding is from extreme high tides but rather than wait for the water to recede we go up to the roof and find a lovely restaurant with view of the river. it was dark but there was enough light from the street and park across the street that we could see silhouettes on the river and lightening in the distance made for an entertaining evening.