Friday, June 13, 2008

Mekong Delta to Cambodia

We said goodbye to Sue and left Phu Quoc Island a few days later for the Mekong Delta. Since we had been flying from city to city, this was our first experience with local transport and we suddenly realized why several people we met in Thailand had warned us that “everyone in Vietnam tries to rip you off”. We were overcharged for a motorbike ride to the so-called bus station, a derelict gas station where we found two rickety old buses and several people colluding to charge us four times the local fare while our motorbike drivers waited to receive a commission. We discussed the price for about an hour when some other tourists showed up. With greater leverage we were able to get the price down to a more reasonable (albeit still inflated price) and at last were on the road to Chao Doc, the last city before reaching the Cambodian border.

The Mekong Delta is a beautiful area, with millions of people living along an intricate network of waterways. Chao Doc is a good example of the colorful local communities that have cropped up here. It has a lively market, lots of street restaurants and of course, a few requisite cafes. It also has a great vegetarian restaurant, where we got to try the veg-friendly version of several local dishes. Yum!

As you walk down the narrow alley ways toward the river, you come across small wooden shacks on stilts and then finally huts that are actually floating on the water. From the outside these places look very modest (in fact, many look like they might collapse any minute…), but you looks can be deceiving – one held an internet cafĂ©, another a set of pool tables and more than one featured big screen TVs. Clearly the locals have gotten creative in order to expand this prime waterfront real estate.

We took the Mekong River up to the Cambodian border and crossed the border posts by boat. The Cambodian side of the border provided similar scenes of life in the Delta – shacks on stilts, rice paddies, and fishermen – but things looked a bit more neglected and noticeably less colorful, giving the you the sense that we were entering a country that hasn’t benefited as much as its neighbors from the recent economic growth in the region. We continued on to Phnom Penh, catching glimpses of the city’s former Khmer glory from the river as we arrived.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jen & Gil,
Thank you for your stories and photos. Every scene is captivating. Can't wait to give you a live hug. Hope you can make it to Keuka Lake 4th of July weekend.
Here's a haiku to you in the world of adventure from me in the world of work--

budget meeting
the office spider
runs for cover

Aunt Deb