Today we bid goodbye to Saigon before we travelled off to the Mekong delta and to a place called Vinh Long. This turned out to be quite a fair old trek and we would be using public transport all the way. It was a tiring journey and involved a couple of bus changes along the way but we still enjoyed it as the busses we used were full of real Vietnamese folk (some were even carrying authentic chickens and the like). Usually on our trips we had been accompanied by travellers so this was great. On the way everyone was really helpful even though they could not actually speak any English at all they wanted to help us reach our destination.
We reached Vinh Long but here the journey was not over yet as we found out from contacting our hotel that we now needed to cross the river via the ferry. Therefore, we were shoved aboard a most unwholesome vessel that looked as if it had been rejected by the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ in a previous life. The vessel’s passengers were mainly moped riders and were crammed in such a way that the H&S people back home would have had a fit. On the far side of the river we were met by a young lass and lad from the hotel both riding mopeds who informed us that they were going to take us and our backpacks back to the hotel! The moped Liz was to ride had a bit of spare room to accommodate her pack but my moped did not so I ended up wearing it the entire journey! The ‘journey’ turned out to be about 12km and this in itself was a bit of a tour of the Mekong’s many waterways. The roads turned into mere rutted tracks in places and it was all quite a bit bumpy particularly going over the humpy bridges and especially the point where the roads abutted the bridges. That said, it all appeared to be going quite well until the moped Liz was on managed to hit a young lad who had come around a corner just a little bit too quick. He was quite shook up by the whole thing but even though he was a bit teary eyed he soon shrugged it off, so all was well – we hoped!
We reached the hotel just as my arse was finally beginning to give out and to be fair the place looked great. We first visited reception and completed all their paperwork and then went for a wander about the place. It was excellent as it had a swimming pool, a large pool table, great staff, Buddha statues and finally hammocks by the Mekong, what was there not to like? So we threw our backpacks onto the bed in our very nice looking room and then the guide at the hotel Thong, said he would take us out for a walk. It sounded like a good idea and would help our bums to recover from the hammering they had suffered on the mopeds. The area was full of small ditches, streams and rivers but Thong first showed us around the hotel’s garden which contained fruit and vegetables then we continued on taking the wee paths that ran alongside the sides of the many waterways.
During the walk we came across a small shrine where some of the village elders were enjoying a snifter of rice wine, whilst drinking they would say a toast in Vietnamese. They invited us to partake in a couple of drinks with them and try their raw Mekong whelks. Liz declined the offer but I had a go thinking that no matter how poisonous they may be the alcoholic content of the rice wine would kill anything off – rubbery sums them up! Once we partook we received a good bit of clapping and then had our hands shook by the assembled. However, the elders then started speaking to our guide who began to look quite uncomfortable with whatever they were saying. All we could do was look at each other wondering what the hell was going on. I was a bit perturbed about this, if the guys had wanted money from us for the drinks I would have felt happier if they had been man enough simply to ask us direct that I would have at least understood. This “when elders turn bad routine” all seemed a tad sinister but it did not dampen our mood, I am not so sure the same could be said about Thong though.
We left the men to grumble over not having taken any money from us and continued on our walk. It was really nice, the houses though simply built still looked very homely, some decorated with exotic flowers. On the route back to the hotel we received a good many ‘hellos’ from the children we saw, most of whom appeared to be related to our guide.
Once back at our hotel we relaxed in the restaurant’s hammocks right on the bank of the mighty Mekong. I even felt that I had got the hang of ‘hammocking’ as I was not simply clinging on for dear life nor did I feel that I was to be tumbled out groundwards at any second – have I really got the hang of it I wonder? We both lay in our respective hammocks and looked out over the river and watched the Sun set which was all so very beautiful and so very relaxing really. My wife waved at passing river folk who at first looked quite confused before they would eventually wave back and they even seemed to enjoy the experience. What a great way to end a quite long and tiring day.