Today is Tuesday April 20, 2010, our 13th and final full day in Vietnam. Our day begins with another great breakfast, this time at the Golf Can Tho Hotel in Can Tho, Vietnam. We are deep in the Mekong Delta, Can Tho being a thriving metropolis of over 2 million, with the mighty Mekong River flowing through the middle of the city. After breakfast we load our luggage onto our busses, but we are note quite ready to leave yet. First, an adventure!
The busy Mekong River flows past our hotel. And so before we leave the delta, we are in for one last sight-seeing tour. We board two floating taxis and head up river, deep into the city. What a view! River traffic is always heavy, and now we are just part of the "water ballet". For almost an hour we travel in our boat, soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the river.
Eventually we arrive in an area known as the "floating marketplace". Imagine shopping in the produce section of your favorite grocery store - except that each bin is a boat, and each boat is different. Here we found (by our estimation) close to a thousand boats of all shapes, sizes, and each with different produce.
Boats full of bananas, coconuts, and melons - barges loaded with potatoes, fruits and vegetables. Small, personal boats - large, barge-like boats. Men, women, children on board these watercraft - some with entire families, who make these boats their floating homes.
Hundreds of boats and who knows how many people! All buying, selling, trading, bartering their goods. Some loading, others unloading - all done by physical labor - no machinery here. Melons are man-handled from boat to boat, person to person. Flowers are examined and carefully stowed on decks.
Here in Can Tho, as I imagine is true anywhere in the delta, the river is life. Everything and everybody touches it. In the span of less than a half mile, we see a woman washing her breakfast dishes in the river. A little further on we see a man taking a bath in the river. Farther down is a woman brushing her teeth with river water. A little farther and we see a man and woman fishing in the river. Further yet we spy a man using the river as his bathroom!
Imagine the filthiest, smelliest river you could ever imagine. No, worse than that. Dirtier. Matter of fact, we were advised to not touch the water. Cannot imagine the germs and bacteria floating beside our boat. Mile after mile the scene is the same - boats and people, all using the river for their personal reasons.
We slowly trolled alongside this floating market place for almost two hours. It was over a mile long, and then we floated back through again. We watched as families ate breakfast, hung laundry out on the deck railings, or plied their goods. Many families and lots of small children. One mother in a small boat used her young daughter to sell water and cola to passing tourists, like us. Children were everywhere.
Eventually our tour came to an end. The hour long ride back to the hotel was mostly quiet as we contemplated what we had just witnessed. For us air-conditioned, spoiled American tourists, this was a world we simply could never live in. Still trying to figure out how the people survive here.
It is a quiet group that slowly boards the busses. We begin our final journey, this time traveling north, back to Ho Chi Minh City. Ahhhhh, air-conditioned busses! We cross the mighty Mekong River by ferry boat one last time. We stop for lunch, really enjoying the meal, especially the "sticky rice" or "Dragon's Egg" as it is called here.
Several hours later, we enter the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. We weave our way through the streets and arrive back at the Roal Kimdo Hotel for our last night. The evening is ours as we venture out onto the streets for the last time. I have my picture taken with a couple shop girls at a small store near our hotel. A liitle last minute shopping and off to bed. We are told that we leave for the airport around 3:30 am! Gonna be a short night!
School has Begun!
3 years ago