Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Up early yet again (I think we've woken up early more times than we've slept in) to catch the boat to Vietnam. There were only eight of us on a boat made for at least 30, so we could spread out as much as we liked. Three hours down the Mekong River took us to the border of Vietnam, which we passed through with ease. We were on the "fast" boat but we were wondering how slow the slow boat was, because it didn't feel like we were going all that fast. There wasn't much to see along the way other than crumbling houses and a few fishermen.
From the border we spent another two hours on the boat until we arrived at Chau Doc. Here we checked into our floating hotel for the night, right next to the floating restaurant and floating bar. After dropping off our bags we were told we would receive complimentary noodles as part of our tour. Turned out that this meant a packet of two minute noodles with hot water.
We wandered around Chau Doc for a bit, which is supposed to be a small country town but it didn't seem all that small. Not one car was spotted but there were plenty of bicycles. We were stared at a lot but no one was in our faces trying to sell us stuff, which was a welcome change. Our favourite part of the town was a long park beside the river, with gardens and mini-waterfalls throughout. There were several people running up and down the park but I don't know how they did it when the humidity was ridiculously high.
No one speaks English here. We practised our charades skills with several stallholders, which was successful in our attempts to buy incredible waffles (two for 25 cents) and not-so-incredible popcorn (the plain-looking-but-actually-sweet variety). We did find one "tourist" cafe where the menu was in English and I ordered a strawberry milkshake that surprisingly tasted like strawberry milkshake.
I needed to exchange some money as I didn't have any Vietnamese dong, so I found a bank and managed to explain to the teller that I wanted to convert about US$250 into dong. It turned out that Vietnam works with mostly low value bills, so I received my $250 in notes worth about $2.50 each. I looked like a millionaire. I couldn't fit it in my purse.
We ordered a drink in the floating bar but I don't think they were experienced with cocktails. I requested a tequila sunrise, a simple enough drink, but it came without orange juice and basically tasted like pure tequila. We only needed one cocktail each. Then it was on to dinner in the floating restaurant, where the meals were $2-$3 (or one note) each. Each serve was big enough to feed three or four people, which we wish we had known beforehand. My Mekong fried rice would have contained about a kilo of rice, as well as a stack of vegetables and seafood - I also wish I knew this before ordering. The rice and vegetables were nice. Danny ate the seafood.
With the lack of nightlife in Chau Doc it was an early night back at the floating hotel. Thankfully we couldn't feel the boat rocking at all, so we had a pretty good night's sleep.