Mekong Delta, Vietnam
First up this morning was a visit to a floating market. I think our boat arrived a little late, as it looked as though it was shutting down. It contained mostly veggies, fruit and drinks, sold on old, wooden boats. The goods for sale were displayed on huge poles at the front of the boat so people knew where to go to buy what they needed. Overall the market wasn't as big as I thought it would be, but it was interesting to see a different way of life.
Next we toured a rice paper factory, which was dirtier than we expected. The sight of people smoking while handling food was a new one for us. We were impressed when they announced that they can produce thousands of rice paper sheets a day, especially with the basic, manual equipment they were using. I guess not having to stop work to take smoke breaks results in higher productivity. After this we visited a a rice polishing factory, which wasn't operational today but the live cockroaches didn't seem to mind. The dead ones must have been hungry. We eat rice everyday in Asia and this is where it comes from.
Back in town we grabbed a Western-style lunch (pizza and apple pie) before jumping on a bus to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). It lasted four hours and was the bumpiest ride we had ever experienced. There are dozens of bridges in the Mekong Delta and every one of them is poorly made. We usually take the opportunity on these long journeys to have a nap but no such luck this time.
Once we finally made it to HCMC (with bruised bums) and wandered around the bustling backpacker area trying to find somewhere to stay. After a couple of rejections and relocations we scored a great deal: for $20 a night we got air con, fridge, hot water, TV, free breakfast, free dinner and free internet. It was perfect, except that we couldn't check in until 10 p.m. To fill in the time we meandered around the tourist district, which was roughly 2-3 main streets plus some alleyways, and must have contained every travel agency in HCMC. There were plenty of bars and restaurants too, plus communist propaganda plastered up everywhere. We found cheap cocktails and free pool at one bar, so we stuck it out there for a while before finally going back to our hotel. Which was when we discovered we had been relocated again. For the price we paid, we didn't really care.