Waking up at the Homestay, we began with a wander through the local village to catch a glimpse of life for people in the Mekong Delta. As we had learnt last night, people in this region (and most of Vietnam) are early risers so by the time we went out at 0700 most people had been up since 0500 – children included! We saw a completely different side to Vietnam here with many small basic and quite empty houses, a lot of farming and way too many roaming dogs for Claire’s liking. However, it gave you a chance to see what it was really like for some of the people trying to survive on the banks of Mekong.
Our 45 min stroll ended with breakfast on the terrace where we had eaten dinner the previous night, with a serving of omelette followed by a fresh baguette with jam and some fruit. We then proceeded to check out and return the short distance to our waiting boat to take us to our waiting coach to convey us to the border town of Chau Doc.
En route to the bus, we stopped off at a local brick and pottery factory where we learnt about how clay from the fields was used in very traditional methods to produce goods for local and international customers. For example, we saw the brick process which when fired in the kiln can take up to three months to bake them fully whilst at the other end a veritable army of pottery chickens were being manufactured in a typically batch process to meet a Western European order. We walked amongst the kilns that were active and cooling, with rice husk – the waste product of Vietnam’s biggest export – used as the fuel to fire the kiln. As the rice bowl of Vietnam, the use within the Mekong Delta of this seemed a logical and efficient manufacturing process.
Back on the boat, we continued along the river to the nearby town, disembarked and were reunited with our waiting coach. We were then on our way towards the overnight stop, chosen due to its proximity to the Vietnam-Cambodia border we would cross tomorrow. We made swift progress along the quieter than normal roads, with even the 20 min ferry crossing across the river not reducing our rate. We were so ahead of time that the planned lunch stop became a toilet and ice cream stop and we arrived at the terminus of today’s journey some two hours earlier than expected.
Following a quick check-in, we joined Dat and other members of our group in lunch at a nearby cafe, with Claire and I sharing a plate of spring rolls and some fried potatoes before embarking on an independent wander around the town. We quickly established that this was very much a frontier town, ill-equipped to support tourism (as this is way off the tourist trail) – Claire couldn’t even find a packet of M&M’s to buy!!
Our loop completed, we returned to the hotel to get some washing done, catch up on some blog writing and generally relax before going downstairs to eat in the hotel restaurant. With a smaller menu to choose from, we opted for spring roll starter, chicken with cashew nuts in a rich fruity sauce (served with rice) and a BBQ pork chop served with chips.
Suitably fed and watered, it was time to pack again, reflect on our time in Vietnam and prepare for the differences that Cambodia will bring.