It was an early morning on the 21st; onward to Vietnam! We had about a four-hour drive from Sihanoukville to the Vietnam border. Once we got there, we had to get off the bus with all our gear and walk to the border. First we processed out of Cambodia, across a bridge, and then be processed through the Vietnamese customs and catch a new bus with a new bus driver. Our buses haven’t continued from country to country. Especially when we were crossing from Thailand into Cambodia: Thailand traffic follows the English way of driving – the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car. But Cambodia doesn’t follow that; right side of the road and correct side of the car.
The buses we have been riding in Vietnam are quite a bit nicer and newer than Cambodia’s which are old and loud and shaky and make you wonder if you’re going to have bus trouble or not. We noticed immediately that the amount of plastic trash along the roadways was much more in control, the streets were cleaner… it was immediately apparent.
We had our first Vietnamese lunch at a restaurant in An Giang called Khach San Hai Chau (it’s missing all the Vietnamese letter accents), a roof-top restaurant where we were able to exchange US currency to the Vietnam “dong”. Approximate exchange rate: $1USD = ˜22,000 VD (Vietnam dong). So in Vietnam, we were momentary millionaires!
Our tour leader told us that food in Vietnam tends to be quite sweet (the country has a sweet tooth apparently). Lunch finished, back on the bus for about three more hours of driving to our accommodation in Can Tho, Vietnam. We did a “home stay”; it’s where people have their homes set up to accommodate individuals or groups in their homes for a cheaper rate than hotel (usually, I think – this was my first homestay so I’m not an expert in them for sure). The place was set up quite nice; I ended up having my own room with two beds and their mosquito nets. We had an hour or two before dinner was going to be served so we went up to a lookout tower-type structure, had a beer, and played cards until it started pouring rain. This was such a blast.
For dinner, our hosts did a demonstration on how to make a type of Vietnamese pancake with rice flour, water, turmeric (for yellow color), and chopped fresh herb (I don’t remember which). They poured a ladle of the batter into a searing hot wok-type pan (although the bottom is continually rounded, no flat bottom) over a wood fire and spun it around until the batter dried enough to then scrape and fold kind of like an omelette. They put bean sprouts and something else inside right before folding it up and putting into a dish for us to eat. It was really yummy!
After that little demonstration, we sat down at our tables and they brought out sticky rice, sautéed green beans, sauteed tofu in tomato sauce (yummm), veggie spring rolls with chili sauce, pumpkin soup (broth with chunks of pumpkin), and some pork (for the meatitarians). After that whole meal, they brought out fresh chopped pineapple. I was so full by the time I was finished; it was all so delicious!
Walking out of the homestay the next morning:
This area is influenced by tides and it has been raining a lot so there is some occasional spots of flooding. 😀
This morning it was planned to go to a floating market and then a regular market in town. We hopped the bus for a short ride to an intersection from which we walked 5 minutes and caught a boat. The boat ride took about 10 minutes maybe. While on the boat, a sales boat came up alongside and offered hot (or cold) coffee and tea. We reached the floating market which is basically a bunch of large wooden cargo-type boats that people basically live on; carrying their goods (fruits and vegetables mostly, I believe) to the market via the waterways. There were so many boats! We stopped along side a boat that was selling fresh pineapple. We boarded that boat and bought a couple small and fresh-cut right there and then. Wow – the fresh pineapple here is just amazing!
One really funny thing I got a big kick out of (and I think my brother will to) was this big rooster on what of the boats standing on one of the highest points, looking straight out in towards the front of the boat; if ever a chicken looked like the captain of a vessel, that was it!!! HAHAHAHAHA.
Once that was paid for, we continued through the market to land were we disembarked. This next market we went to on land…well, if you’re a vegetarian or care about living animals, the following contents may be disturbing.
We saw fresh/live (some at least) fish (many different kinds), frogs (with a string tied tightly around their lower mid-section to prohibit them from leaping out of their bowl), eels, shrimp, squid, crabs, and (for me the most…let’s say surprising…) were the skinned duck heads and feet. I’m sure anyone that looked at me while walking through that market was thinking “Why is she making such funny faces; why is her nose curled?” I couldn’t help it. I’m so happy I’m vegetarian!
After the market, we hopped back on the bus and continued our trek to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam.