01.02.2012 - 03.02.2012 32 °C
So we jump in a minivan to the Cambodian - Vietnamese border. It takes border control an hour in the mid-day sun to stamp our passport twice (as well as having to pay a highly dubious ‘tourist charge’). Our bus has disappeared with our bags. We’re told “No worries, back soon”.
We jump on a bus on our own and drive through the Mekong. Our arrival into Chau Doc is lined with field upon field of rice paddies filled with workers wearing traditional conical hats. Justin, who visited Vietnam 13 years ago, is already noticing major differences: the roads are tarmacked; boats crossing the hundreds of little (and not so little) Mekong tributaries have been replaced by bridges; and the air is filled with the world’s worst selection of mobile ringtones!
We arrange a homestay with a local family in Can Tho, before going for a walk around Chau Doc, a small but bustling town on the banks of the Bassac River:
I experience my first Vietnamese road crossing. I take it all back about the Cambodian roads. These are so much worse! Justin tries to reassure me before we cross a major eight-lane junction ‘ It’s not in their interest to hit you’, ‘Whatever you do don’t run, just keep walking nice and slow and they’ll just swerve to miss you”… feeling even more nervous I slowly edge across into the middle of the road. Justin continues confidently across like a seasoned pro whilst I freeze in the middle as taxis, buses and motos stacked with everything from ladders to gas canisters swerve around me. An elderly Vietnamese lady hobbles past me laughing, completely oblivious to the bus that nearly flattens her…
The next day we jump in another bus and head to Can Tho, the major transport hub of the Mekong. Thankfully the karaoke fuelled bus journeys of Cambodia have been replaced by Vietnamese movies (think crouching squirrel, hidden chipmunk) and a Vietnamese equivalent of our Royal Variety, showcasing national singers and dancers.
I hate motorbikes. Only an hour before I’d said to Justin that I would never go on a motorbike again in the UK. I especially didn't want to go on a motorbike in Vietnam. Our host, Mr Yu, meets us at the bus station. He’s wearing a motorcycle helmet. We head towards his motorbike complete with our 20kg bags and small rucksacks. He looks all 6 foot 5 of Justin up and down and calls over his friend. This is going to take two bikes.
Our homestay is lovely. A simple room complete with a completely pointless lock for a door you could easily squeeze through or climb over. The best part, our lovely homestay family who make us feel very welcome and try to get us both drunk. We use our phrasebooks to point out questions and practise our Vietnamese.
We head out on a bike ride around the little paths that line the tiny rivers running in and around the houses and businesses, before tucking into a seriously nice meal (just like your Vietnamese mum makes- thanks Mrs Yu). Justin obviously looks peckish – they role out the bbq fish and more beer. We are joined by some of Mr Yu’s family as well as some Vietnamese students visiting the area for Tet (Vietnamese New Year). The girls want to see pictures of our travels around the world and pictures of our wedding (all 3,000 of them in one go - seriously):
I head to bed. Justin is convinced to go frog hunting at midnight – sucker. He comes back disappointed, without any frogs and a very wet pair of trousers! Early start next morning. We head out to see one of the regions biggest floating markets: