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Drifting Around the Mekong Delta
Rating: ( 4.4 )

Chau Doc, Can Tho and more, Vietnam
Aug 22, 2004 09:32

Pros: stunning sceneries, friendly locals, modern infrastructure
Cons: none

Well, group tours are usually not my favourite way to travel, and I've sworn several times that I won't go on one again. Well, Vietnam will be curing me of that oath fairly quickly. As the LP says time and time again, the only way to go places and see things here cheaper than a tour is by walking.

So I opted for a 3-day boat+bus tour of the Mekong delta region as a way to get from Phnom Penh to Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City, aka HCMC). All-in-all it was fine and I got to meet some very nice people and see quite a bit in the 3 days, so mission accomplished. I did get reminded (again) of how much it really irks me to be part of a group trudging en masse from sight to sight, eating and sitting and looking and peeing when they tell you to, but at least it was only 3 days. :)

The delta area is stunning, with canals everywhere you turn and of course boats up the wazoo. People were very friendly, mostly because it's not such a touristed area yet. We saw the requisite temples, floating markets and Cham (ethnic minority related to Khmers) villages, locals weaving stuff, kids playing strange games with flip-flops (a SE Asian specialty?), markets, rice mills and fish farms, so it was quite a good basic intro to the area for a short amount of time--and there's the beauty of a tour.

One of the most striking things about Vietnam for me so far (besides how beautiful it is) is the HUGE difference between here and Lao and Cambodia. Having just come thru the last two, it's so obvious that they are the poor, unpopulated and wild (as in the land, not the people--as far as I could tell, anyway!) cousins in the region--along with Vietnam/Burma of course. Thailand and Vietnam are the golden geese powerhouses as far as development, infrastructure, economics, standard of living, population and tourism go. There are so many people here (something like 80 million, compared to less than 10 each for Cambo and Lao), and they're all beeping at each other. :) The roads here are good and big and they have lanes. People don't always stay in the lanes, but at least the lines are there for reference! And everything from the houses to the cars and motorbikes and clothes are much more maintained and in working order. It's a strange transition, and I wonder what my impressions would have been like to go the other way, from Thailand and here to Cambo and Lao?

Next, I explore the mad rush in Saigon/HCMC...