Friday, July 6, 2012

Floating market

Can Tho is a much larger town in the Mekong delta. There are tourists here, but most come just for the floating market. Those who stay get to see it when it starts, at 6:00, before the day trippers arrive.

All the farmers and fishermen load their wares on large boats, and park it on a wide section of the river, out of the way of the Mekong traffic. Smaller boats flit back and forth buying fruit, vegetables, or fish, and others are tiny floating lunch restaurants. I got myself a private boat, but there was a big tourist barge or two visiting as well. The market people pay no attention. There are floating markets just for tourists where little else but souvenirs are sold, but this is the real thing.

Afterwards my boat took me for several hours on a tour through the small side canals, and we visited one of the fruit gardens. Tropical fruit tastes very different if taken directly from the tree.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mekong delta

South of Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, the Mekong river reaches the sea and forms a huge delta. There are some well-worn tourist trails here, but Tra Vinh is too remote for that. I haven't seen another westerner all day, and there are a lot of stares and hellos when I pass. There is the usual market in the center of town with the usual hustle and the usual smells, all for the locals with no souvenirs at all. Food is all karaoke bars and dodgy streetside food stalls. Vietnamese food is great, but if the average price of a meal is one euro there are limits.

They do have a couple of wonderful Buddhist shrines - rare in this communist country - and endless trails along the riverside. The river is central to everyone's life here, and it's full of boats of all kinds that have only one thing in common - they look as if a good kick would reduce them to a pile of floating rubble.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Just returned from another motorcycle tour of Vietnam's mountainous interior, along the Ho Chi Minh trail at the Cambodian border, for three days. People get rich here with coffee, and replacement their traditional but drafty wooden houses with gaudily ornamented concrete ones, sometimes right in the middle of the village next to a bamboo barn.

The scars from the American War are still visible; some hills are still bare after being bombed with napalm and agent orange. But the Vietnamese are very effective at illegally destroying their own environment - there are stacks of logged trees and clearcut and burned mountainsides everywhere. Those coffee plantations need space I suppose.

The border to Cambodia is still off-limits to foreigners, but the locals on their Chinese-built open motor tractors farm every available space. There are few big towns, and those few are very unattractive. There is very little luxury. But the locals are friendly as ever and gawk at the big foreigner; they aren't getting many of those up there.