Unfortunately, they were priceless to us too and there was no way, we could forgo them. Doreen is nearly blind without them and her spare pair was accidentally left behind when we left six weeks prior from Munich. No, we had to get them back at any price. I tried using my camera strap to get his attention from his prize but with so many handy limbs, he merely switched the glasses to one of his feet as he held onto the strap with his free hands. No matter what we did, he kept the glasses as far from us as possible. It looked like a monkey bite was our only means of salvation as I imagined putting my arm in the cage and grabbing the little bugger but luckily the owner of the restaurant came out to lend a hand. He managed to get a hold of the monkey’s arm and simultaneously snatch the glasses from its feet as the animal shrieked bloody murder. Once the deed was done, you never heard such a wail from a human baby in your life. You might have thought we had killed the smaller monkey from the sound the bigger one was making.
We made our way back to the boat partially laughing but ultimately just relieved from our narrow escape. Doreen noticed some major chew marks on the plastic part of the frame that wraps around her ear. It would be a good reminder to not get so close to monkeys in the future. Who said souvenirs are expensive in Vietnam? Well, at least ones you never bargained for.
Fondest memory: She was nearly blind but I could tell from the look in her eyes that she had not merely taken her glasses off as a respite from the clammy sweat that can hang on them in such humid tropical climates. Afraid to tell me what had happened, I glanced down and saw her worry was well warranted. The cute monkey I had pointed out to her had mischievously snagged them as she bent over to feed it some fruit. The funny part was she had tried to fool the larger of the two caged animals by putting a banana on each side of the enclosure to ensure the smaller one of getting his just share. And that was all the preoccupation he would need to get something far more valuable to a monkey then a banana. Fruit he had plenty of, but something shiny to play with, that was priceless. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: We were tired from our altercation with the hotel staff and another busy day touring the Mekong Delta. We would have another boat trip to Cambodia in the morning so there was good reason to sleep even more quickly than the previous night. But with our clean sheets now protecting us from the dubious bed and the full-length mirror by our side, we switched off the florescent bulb, basked in the red hues, and enjoyed our “special” room.
The city was not as nice as Can Tho and we found only meager offerings of food in the local markets. It was quite a let down after the previous night’s feast. But it wasted some time and when we returned to the hotel, it was explained that they now did have the elusive double room with AC. And surprise, surprise, it was at their very hotel.
Our elation did not last long as we triumphantly walked into our new digs to find what appeared a room used by prostitutes on an hourly basis. Shrouded by the same florescent lighting as the lobby, there was a convenient option to turn off this glare and utilize a dim red bulb that was fixed to the headboard of the spacious and rare double bed. Oh and there was a very large wall size mirror running the length of the bed as well. Let’s not talk about the sheets; we quickly pulled out our own. The funniest part was our friend from the bus stopped by to borrow some shampoo and said our room was so much nicer than his simple one. After he left, we laughed after realizing they did not want to give us this “special” room with the double bed and mirror as we were paying a reduced group rate. And most likely, they were losing out on the hourly rate too. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: This hotel made our previous night’s accommodation look like the Taj Mahal. It was glowing in fluorescent light as we pulled into the gated driveway. The cheap lighting did little to hide the dingy lobby, and from experience, we knew the lobby was generally the nicest part of Southeast Asian hotels. There seemed a mix-up over how many rooms the company had reserved and there was a mad dash for what was available. It seemed all that was left when they got to us was a room without air-conditioning. Though well into the evening already, it was dripping wet with humidity. I flatly refused the room and demanded what was in the brochure. A dive I could handle, no AC was out of the question. They vehemently argued there was nothing else available and I said if they gave me $10 (a typical price for a double with AC in Vietnam), I would just find my own room. This irked them to no end but they did not seem to budge. They wanted us to eat something at their hotel as they tried to sort it out, but I told them we would go eat in town and expected a room with AC on our return.(concluded below: Fondest Memory)
Our room the first night was a bit run down but clean. It was to be expected at the price we were paying and after a full day’s travel and a big meal, we slept deeply and saw little of it. A friend we met on the bus went for a massage and found there was a lot more on offer than a rub down. In fact, his masseuse was quite indignant when he did not go for the extras! But this could just as easily happen to anyone traveling solo.
The next day was perhaps even more interesting, with lots of boat trips to floating markets, and we got up close to the locals that make a living on the water. Photo opportunities were plentiful. The children were especially friendly and we were surprised that none asked for compensation for their utter cuteness. The trip seemed to be going all too well and we were sad it would end the next day until we arrived at our final stop. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
We were pleasantly surprised on our first day out, when even things that sounded very touristy like visiting candy factories turned out to not only be interesting, but fun as well. Oh, and the candy was cheap and tasty! Interspersed with the lush tropical scenery and local water bound life was a smattering of such small business enterprises running the gamut from rice paper production to fruit orchards. It turned out to be a nice mix of activities that kept us from getting bored, and the group got a chance to intermingle at these little stops too.
Of course, meals were taken in restaurants linked in some way to the travel company but the food was decent and not over-priced. And there were times you could escape even this. We found a fantastic local place in Can Tho, while our tour group went and splurged on rat and snake. They sound odd to Western tastes but are an expensive delicacy there and generally served in such places that are full of tourists who can afford such things. We wound up in a small place that specialized in Bun Thit Nuong, a barbecued pork dish, which had become our favorite on our travels around Vietnam. It was our last chance to have it and we were glad we did. The place was full to bursting with locals and after garnering our fair share of stares, we settled into one of the best meals of the trip. And the prices made us wish we could have spent a few more days there. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
The Mekong Delta is all about water. If you go to this region and do not get out on the water, you will be missing the whole thing. You pretty much have to at some point to get anywhere, as roads are broken up by the natural landscape of inescapable water, water, water. The floating markets are perhaps the regions biggest attractions so you're bound to run across a few of them, tour or no tour.
Fondest memory: Though I normally do not go for all-inclusive deals, especially those involving group travel, sometimes they are too good to pass up. Such was the case when exploring the options for visiting the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Many do mere day trips from Saigon but the area is vast and most of your time is spent in transit, especially through the sprawling suburbs that emanate from what has become known as Ho Chi Minh City. Those with lots of time, patience, and gusto, venture down into the area on local buses. I spoke to a few that had done it and they said it was very rewarding. They found the people friendly and prices good. But the downside was the buses were more expensive than going on the group trips and not as convenient or easy to use as they had hoped for.
So, what has become the norm now for most shoestring travelers and even many more upscale ones, is to do all-inclusive trips into the area for one to three days. We opted for a three day one that took us not only to the famed Delta area but also to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, which was to be our next port of call anyway. The price was great, including transportation, some meals, all entrances and even our accommodation. I would have been very hard pressed to find such deals even though it is my forte in travel. It looked too good to be true so we set our expectations low. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
You can't start to imagine the life at the Delta of the Mekong if you don't take float gently down its slow, shimmering waterways. It alows you to visit markets, local factories, orchards and watch life happening on the water.
Fondest memory: Watching life happening on the water
Life On The Mekong - Mekong Delta
Fondest memory: The Mekong Delta was an ancient Khmer territory. The area was mostly marshland and forest. When the Nguyen Lords took control of this region, a series of canals were built and a system of transportation was implemented in the maze of water ways in the area.
The Mekong Delta is divided into 9 provinces: Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Dong Thap, An Giang, Cuu Long, Kien Giang, Hau Giang and Minh Hai. The people in this region are made up of those of Khmer origin, Chinese, Cham, and Vietnamese.
Life On The Mekong River - Mekong Delta
Fondest memory: The people living in the Mekong Delta make their living as farmers and fishermen. Often, they live right on the edge of the rivers or canals on various structures built from whatever materials found.
Often, many homes have fisheries right under them. Enterprising individuals build a cage like structure of bamboo beneath their homes on these waterways to house fishes. As the fishes grew, they sell the whole batch to processors from the city and start with new ones.