From the Mekong Waterways to the Beaches of Nha Trang
31.07.2011 - 04.08.2011 33 °C
The road from Phonm Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is flat with rice paddy fields on either side, as far as the eye can see, that are dotted with small clusters of huts and houses that are partially hidden by the trees, that house the communities that work them.
On the bus seated next to me was a Cambodian woman, in her late thirties, who was handsome rather than beautiful. She said she was off to Vietnam to get a visa so she could work in Canada. As we neared the border at Bravit she seem preoccupied, I flew through border control, she took a little longer but when she eventually got back on the bus she looked relieved. Her bare arms and fingers were now adorned with bangles and rings and as she flicked through her passport I couldn't help noticing the numerous stamps of her previous crossings.. I said I was staying at a particular hotel in HCMC the first night and did she know it. She said that, by coincidence, she was staying there to, and sure enough, when we disembarcked the bus, she led me there.
Coincidences don't usually happen in Asia, a case in point was the other day when I was riding a motorcycle down the highway, a young lady rides up beside me and asks the usual questions, where are you from?, how long have you been here? and then compliments me on my riding style. She then suggests that there is a local attraction nearby that I may overlooked and that I should see it. As she is travelling there herself, I should follow her there. It always turns out that they have business connections with the attraction. They wait on the side of the road waiting for a tourist to pass by, and then they catch you up and woo you to their attraction. That time I was glad I went with her.
So with this in mind, booking into the hotel with Cambodian bus mate seemed like a scam, added to the fact that she knew reception rather well, only made me more leary of the situation. In the end I ended up changing hotels just in case I was her mark.
With this backdrop in my mind and the constant buzz of motorcycles in the street, I decided to get out of town for the day by booking a trip that was going down to the Mekong Delta. The tour headed for Bei Tre, the stepping stone to other islands that make up the delta. In all they cover an area of over 39,000 sq kms, and grow more rice than Korea and Japan combined.
The outing was led by a Vietnamese guy named Duk, who's laconic sense of humour mixed with questions like “Can we do this?” led to a great time, where we hopped on and off different boats and canoes all day, so that we could try medicinal tonics, the local honey, sweets and food and a bit of local music as well. I finished the day by spending an extra $15 to take a 2 hr speed boat up the Mekong to HCMC rather than bus. We sped past all the barges and boats that make their living off the waterand like your average “Mutt” I hung outside the boat so I could enjoy the refreshing wind rip past me.
From here I caught a night bus to Nha Trang, for two days of beach life. The second day I went out snorkling , the coral wasn't fantastic but just lolling around in the ocean was, and at the end of all the swimming and duck diving, the seats on the boat were folded down to make a large table on which a luscious late lunch was served. I met a nice German lady called Nicole on the boat.
The hotel in Nha Trang were set in a little cul de sac near the beach with a cluster of other hotels. The staff were great, as was the determination of a local lady who kept on popping up wanting to give me a “massage”.
This part of the trip has been very enjoyable.