GOOD MORNING VIETNAM....
...and hello blog followers!
Sorry it's been a while since we last blogged, we've been busy sight seeing, relaxing and generally doing lots of travelling around!
So, after spending a couple of days in rainy Sihanoukville we got up bright and early to travel to our next destination - Chau Doc in Vietnam. We found a tourist bus company that "claimed" that it went to Chau Doc and although it worked out a lot more expensive than getting a bus to the Cambodia/Vietnam border then taking a motopud onto Chau Doc we thought it would be a lot more convenient and comfortable trip...hmmm!
There we were waiting in the rain for our 'tourist bus' to arrive when a rickety old minibus turned up. The driver ushered us into the bus. We said "Chau Doc?" to him to which he nodded, although he didn't ask to see our tickets and the bus didn't look like a typical tourist bus. Despite been slightly concerned that it wasn't the right bus we went with the flow!
Seeing as we were the only people on the bus, the driver took it upon himself to stop at every bus stop en route to try to fill the bus to get more money. Luckily for the driver (but not so lucky for us) he managed to pick up a few stragglers!
Shortly after setting off we hit a torrential downpour. The bus was missing a front window and we were getting drenched so the driver had to make a makeshift window with a towel! It did the job though!
After a few hours we arrived in a town called Kampot where the bus stopped and we had to transfer to an even more rickety old car!
As with the bus, the car was picking up and dropping off people at various places. Luckily James and I had the backseats to ourselves (along with our backpacks!) although at one point there were 4 people sitting in the front!
The journey from thereon was slightly daunting. The car kept stopping and groups of guys would all gather round and stick their heads through the window! We're not sure what they wanted but we're guessing they were just curious!
Four hours later (of which 2 hours we had spent traveling down a seriously bumpy and dusty dirt track) we arrived at the Cambodia/Vietnam border. The taxi stopped and the driver implied that we were going to have to make our own way onto Chau Doc which was a further 40 km away! That was a bit cheeky of them seeing as we'd bought a bus ticket to Chau Doc but hey ho, there was nothing we could do about it!
Luckily there was a STA tour crossing the border at the same time as us so we tagged on with them as they seemed to know what they were doing. We even got away with having to pay a small fee once we got to Vietnam as the immigration officers thought we were with the tour!
Once we'd crossed the border, all that lay ahead of us was a long road with nothing either side and no taxi's or buses in sight. We kept walking thinking we would come to some sort of civilization shortly but before we had a chance to make any progress we were being hounded by motopud drivers who were offering to take us on the 90 minute trip to Chau Doc. We declined but they weren't taking no for an answer and more and more men on bikes seemed to be appearing by the second! Eventually they told us that they would be able to sort us a taxi and sure enough, 10 minutes later, and $40 poorer a pretty swish people carrier arrived to take us to our hotel!
After we'd checked into our hotel we went out to explore Chau Doc and to get something to eat seeing as it had been almost 24 hours since we'd last eaten!
Chau Doc is a bustling, friendly port town next to the Cambodian border which sits in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. Although it's close to Cambodia, we immediately noticed a contrast between the two countries. The main difference was that the buildings and roads were a lot more established. It was also refreshing not to have people begging on every street or asking if we wanted a tuk tuk every 5 seconds!
We headed to a restaurant that we had been recommended by the receptionist at our hotel. The restaurant was on a boat with a lovely view of the river. After sitting down and getting a (warm) drink, we decided that we didn't like the menu so we got our bill and left! The bill came to under a dollar, and considering how much running about the staff had done for us, they were most probably cursing us! Oh well! As James put it, it wasn't like we were going to see us again.
As we were walking along the river front trying to find somewhere else to eat, a group of school children stopped us and asked us if we had some spare time. It turns out they wanted to practice their English! We agreed and whilst I sat chatting to a really polite 12 year old girl (who spoke really good English), James played football/volleyball with her boy mate. Their English teacher happened to walk by. We got chatting to her and she asked us if we would be able to meet her in a cafe later on with some of here year 9 class. We agreed! After we'd been to a restaurant which she recommended for dinner, we went to meet our English class!
Five 14 year old boys turned up and we spent almost 2 hours chatting to them about our families/music/the education system in England and Vietnam etc! They were really nice kids. They reckoned that I looked like Taylor Swift and said that I should be a singer! They obviously hadn't heard me sing!!
When we went to pay for our drinks at the end of the "lesson" they wouldn't let us and said it was on them! Although we tried to insist we pay they weren't having any of it and they volunteered one of the boys to pay which we found a bit strange. Maybe he was the rich one of the group?!
The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to go on a boat trip round the Mekong Delta. A cyclo (basically a 3 wheeled bicycle rickshaw) picked us up from our hotel to take us the short distance to the pier where we'd be setting off from.
We spent about 2 hours on our own private narrow boat. Firstly we visited the floating market which sells everything your average villager could need, but mainly fruit and vegetables. We got to see the sunrise over the market which was really pretty. We also visited a fish farm and stopped off in a nearby village where the captain of the boat took us to the village mosque!
After our boat trip we quickly explored the town's market which offers the usual fruit and vegetables along side baskets piled high with a pungent selection of glassy eyed dried fish, clothes, toiletries, toys, silk etc.
That afternoon we took a coach to the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh City where we'd be staying for the next night.
We will blog shortly to update you on our antics in Ho Ch Minh city, as well as the other places we've visited so far in Vietnam.
Until then, ciao for now!
La & Ja