Friday, March 20, 2009

Floating Away

Day 373
We were up at 5 am. Yuck. We got downstairs just before our guide came to meet us. She found us locked in the hotel trying to figure a way to get out without waking anyone up. She just woke the guy up by banging on the door.

We then followed her down to the docks and into her small boat. The two of us ate in silence while we watched the sun come up over the Mekong. Our first stop was a floating market. This was so much better than the one I had been to in Thailand. Besides a few other boats like ours it was all locals. I wonder how long that will last. Each boat had a rod sticking off of it with various fruits or veggies hanging off of it, advertising what they had on offer. There were big boats with huge selections or just a huge amount of the same thing. Other boats were no bigger than ours and had only a few things to sell. It was so vibrant and bright and wonderful. We spent quite some time just floating through it and taking it all in.

For our next stop we carefully climbed out of the boat onto a slippery dock. We then spent a few minutes checking out a family ran rice noodle making place. Our guide tied a noodle around each of our wrists. They didn't last long though as the noodles quickly hardened and broke off. On the way back to the boat the guide picked some flowers and then arranged them on the boat in an old water bottle. Also on the way back a massively huge bug the size of New Jersey attacked me and I panicked a bit. Our guide thought that this was very funny.

The sun was beginning to get strong and our guide offered me her extra hat. Later on she put up a roof on a boat, I don't know why she didn't just do that in the first place, but I appreciated the hat. We then moved onto the second floating market. This was made up mostly of smaller boats. I think it may have been bigger because of this. It was just as much fun, I just don't want to repeat myself by describing it again.

Next we headed to some of the smaller streams of the Mekong Delta. It was fascinating seeing how people used the river. Lots of kids waved to us. The ramshackle homes were hard to look at though. Then I felt something hit me and jumped. Our guide had made a bug out of a piece of grass and had thrown it at me. She did this periodically throughout the rest of they day. Each time I jumped she laughed harder. I didn't mind, as long as she didn't start throwing real bugs!

It was low tide and soon we had to climb up a scary dock and walk for about an hour to lighten the boats load. The walk was nice and shady.
We also got good shots of our crazy guide. As we walked we got a closer look at some home and small villages. The people here have very little but seem to be very happy. Much happier than Westerners who have so much, but always want more. My shopping problem in Hoi An weighed heavily on my mind.

We had been seeing the same few groups throughout the day and thought we might invite the lone American to join us for lunch. Then we realized that he was wearing socks and sandals so we nixed that idea. Before we continued out our guide climbed through some woods to get some pictures for us of pineapples growing. She took some good pictures too! I think that we both fell asleep at some point towards the end of the trip. We just went by house after house along the Mekong.

When we got back we had just enough time to hop in the shower and finish packing before our bus. When we had bought the tickets we had been told that a mini van would take us to the bus station. Instead there were two motorbikes there. I can hardly stand with all the extra things I have now, there is no way I am taking them on a motorbike that already scares me. They didn't argue with me and got us a cab. When we got to the bus we realized that we had been really ripped off on the price of the ticket. It was also packed to the gills. There were even a few people standing in the trunk area. The guy sitting next to me reeked horribly and a man in the row in front of us didn't even try to pretend he wasn't trying to look down our shirts!

Needless to say I was happy to get to Chow Doc. This was the jumping off place to Cambodia. At the bus station we had a ton of motorbike drivers try to take us to town. I wasn't about to get on one so I said I would walk the 2 km's or take a cyclo. They didn't seem to believe me and kept trying to get me on a bike. Eventually I ended up in a cyclo though. On the way I met a guy on a motorbike who had a hotel and offered to sell us tickets to Cambodia. We'll call him Nice Ticket Man (NTM).

He followed us to the hotel. When I went to pay the motorbike and cyclo drivers I asked if they had change and he said yes. I then handed him a 100,000 note, the cost was 30,000. He handed me back change for 50,000 and then tried to get me to pay him the 30,000 out of that. NTM was still there and pointed out his error to him. He gave me a dirty look and handed me the rest of my money. As it turned out we didn't like the hotel we had chosen and ended up moving to the one that NTM had recommended. We also bought slow tickets to Phnom Phen from him, the fast boat was full.

For dinner that night we found a hotel with a restaurant and then stopped for shakes on the way back and did some people watching. I was exhausted though and we had another early day to look forward to so we soon headed back to our hotel and called it a night.

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