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Having had our fill of the big Vietnamese tourist excursions, Mika and I decided that there was no amount of money that would induce us to take a 30-person trip into the Mekong Delta. So we decided to go to the bus station, hop on a minibus and see what happened and for good measure, and so someone could laugh at his quotes from ‘The Rock,’ we took Rob with us for the ride. It was a good decision, although to be fair we may have missed the floating markets, the popcorn making factory and the traditional Vietnamese dancing, I almost felt like I was scratching the surface of the country for the first time and actually getting a feel for the life here which is surprisingly difficult in Vietnam. We took a tiny minibus down to the town of Vinh Long on the banks of one of the widest sections of river and managed to get a wooden boat with a propeller out the back to take us up the river, at sunset, to a little guest house on the edge of one of the canals owned by ex-VC soliders. We had two tiny wooden bungalows set in a garden of green trees, flowers, giant butterflies and hammocks. Despite a lack on English on their part and a total absence of Vietnamese on our part we got some dinner and some beers and then set up the speakers by the hammocks near the edge of the water and drank in the hammocks listening to the sounds of the night boats motor past. Every so often the owner would come up to see how we were, sit down for a while chuckling to himself before patting Rob on the shoulder and wandering off again!
The next morning after breakfast we walked down the path running alongside the canal past wooden houses and boats hemmed in by floating weeds. The local dogs growled at us on the way past and lots of locals laughed at us, presumably because we were walking about in the near midday heat when every other sensible person was napping in a hammock. An hour later we were back in the hammocks waiting for the boat to take us into town. From Vinh Long it was a 10km motorbike ride to a random bus stop, a two hour extended afternoon snack and chat with the local friendly security guys before we got a minibus up what may loosely be described as a road to Chau Doc. Sadly the driver had cranked up some local pop music through the loud speakers at ipod defying volume. I think I may have dis-associated for part of the trip in an attempt to keep myself sane. Amazingly it was 10pm by the time we arrived, very hot, very sweaty and dying for some food. The hotel we found had an enormous room, three huge double beds and after some excellent rice and beef washed down with Saigon beer from the street vendors, and luke-cold showers we slept like princes. Chau Doc is a really relaxed riverside town with a kind of French meets Asian communism feel to it. There are endless numbers of girls cycling around in their immaculate white traditional dresses with perfect posture and the usual ridiculous thousand and one things being ferried around on the back of motorbikes. The main street runs along the side of the river where the Mekong fans out into sections of floating houses on huge barrels, tug boats, clumps of weed and rowing boats. We are currently seeking refuge from the heat which has landed us in the only luxurious hotel in the town where we are drinking overpriced beers by the pool and eating all their free peanuts. Tomorrow we are off to Cambodia!