Floating down south

Trip Start Oct 05, 2010
Trip End Nov 24, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  , Cần Thơ,
Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Mekong Delta

After a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, I went south to the city of Can Tho. This is the largest city in the Mekong Delta, where everything goes a little slower. There were almost all Vietnamese people here; in most places I was the only whitey in sight. I was the only person on my bus that spoke English, and many places that I went to involved a lot of pointing.

Wasted days

Two of the days I spent here I think were wasted. The first day, I hired a driver to drive me to the nearby town of Soc Trang, that I had heard had some really cool Khmer temples. Turns out, I was misinformed. After an ass-numbing 90-minute moto ride I got there and thought "Is this it?" Turns out it was. There were a few more temples to go to, but they really didn't add that much. I was really just ready to go back to Can Tho, but I was also putting off another hour and a half on the back of that motorbike, so I took my time.

The second day I was sick again, and I spent 99% of the time laying in bed, throwing up, and generally feeling sorry for myself. Hopefully, the third time's a charm and I don't get sick anymore here in Vietnam. I don't know for sure why I've gotten sick so much, but I think I've just picked up some bug/s that I'm not used to.

Kick that dirt off your shoulder

It certainly doesn't help that it is so dirty here in Southeast Asia. It is extremely different from what you see in America. Restaurants that fail health inspections in the US would pass here with flying colors. Refrigeration is rare at least a street food stalls. Raw meat vendors let meat just sit out, and they routinely use a single knife, for raw meat, fresh veggies, and fruits. I don't think the concept of cross-contamination made it across the Pacific.

I've eaten at numerous places and watched rats scamper across the floor while my face is halfway into a bowl of noodles. And over half the time I get food on the street, it is lukewarm. Food is made, and if no has come to buy it yet, it gets cold. There are no fridges, and no reheating. You get it how you get it. Welcome to the land of warm mayonnaise and cold meats.

And the ground is dirty. Trash is littered on the ground, and many people don't look for a trash can, because there's a huge one right at their feet. I've put my backpack on the ground when I sit down somewhere (out of habit), and someone will come by and put it on a chair for me. I think that's why there is such a big deal about feet here. Foot = ground = dirty.

Not a total waste of time

The last day I was here, I took a boat trip through the Delta (I wasn't feeling 100%, but I wanted to at least see something in the four days I was here). We floated down many of the numerous canals scattered throughout the region, and we also saw two floating markets. The floating markets were cool to see. There were many boats all crowded together, stuffed to the brim with one, or sometimes many different fruits and vegetables.

But the one thing that I wondered was, why bother with the boat? Most of this was stuff that comes from the ground anyways, so why take it all, put it on a boat, then sell it on the river so that someone else can put it on their boat, take it off the boat, and eat it on shore? Didn't make sense to me. Then again, I guess a lot of things here don't make sense to me.

Another day spent on the road

After my time here, I took another bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. It took much longer than it should have, because there was flooding in HCMC. In much of the street, the water was about 18 inches deep, but people were still peddling their half-submerged bikes right through it. The motos couldn't get through it though, so there were hoards of people walking their motorbikes along, until they got to a point where the water wasn't so deep.

After wading through the bus station and getting a taxi, I got to the train station, where I would take a night train to the beach city of Nha Trang, 10 hours north.
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