Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (23 of 40)

boatin through the delta

boatin through the delta

delta blues…
“woke up one morning, do do do sat right up in bed, do do do pour myself some whiskey, do do do i look over and kiss my baby still asleep in bed, and then i cried ive got the delta blues,  the delta blues baby  oooh ive got the delta blues.

we’re traveling to the mekong delta to a home stay on a fruit orchard. locals have been starting an ecotourism on the islands of the delta  where you arrive by boat to rustic bungalows on their property. the average costs are around 7 to 10 dollars a night and the dinners are usually a set menu.

a 400 lb catfish was caught here last year (biggest ever!)

a 400 lb catfish was caught here last year (biggest ever!)

in the delta the local specialty is the elephant ear fish. first they cook the fish on the grill which they fuel with the husk of the rice, giving the fish a flakey crust. then they stand the fish up in between some wooden dowels so you can see the fish (i couldn’t see an elephant ear). next they bring you an assortment of fresh greens and herbs with a plate of rice noodles and rice papers. you place the greens first, next some noodles and top it of with the flakey fish. roll it up and savor the fresh creation.

we chose a home stay on a fruit orchard which proved to be difficult to reach on our own. we tried to do this without a tour company so we could move on our own schedule. we first booked a 1 day tour of the mekong to reach one of the islands (this was recommended to us so we could see a few diffrent things and also advance further along)  we were planning to get off the tour half way through and catch a ferrry to another island. the remainder of the group would return to saigon.

taking a rest

taking a rest

on the tour we first visited a local coconut candy shop where they make a delicious coconut taffy. then we took the boat to a bee farm where the locals capture the queen bee to produce honey. another attraction was the pythons which you can hold and take your picture with. if you wish, you can stay here at their home stay – we thought it might not be such a good idea to sleep at a home stay with with snakes and bees.

so here is where we decided to travel by the seat of our pants.

picture stacy and i with our packs (that weigh around 60 pounds each). our boat guide tells us it’s around ten km to the boat ferry, so we catch a local horse and buggy taxi to the dock (turns out the 10 km was only about 1 km).  we reach the ferry only to find out it was the wrong one. our ride cost us 6 dollars – looks like the driver will be eating steak and lobster tonight.

mekong canals

mekong canals

so then we had to hire motorbikes to take us to the bus stop, which scared the shit out of stacy. with the heavy packs, we were on the scooter with some random guy, zooming along a large bridge that went up and down like a roller coaster – we held on for dear life. were dropped off on the side of the road and greeted by the local vender who offered us a chair and some shade. at this point no one spoke any english so we just smiled and let the trip unfold.

soon after, the shop vender yells out at a mini van passing by to negotiate our bus ticket. seconds later were stuffed into the minivan. one thing about bus travel is that, when we get on, they make the locals get out of their seats so we can have the seat. we feel a little weird, but since we’re paying more than everyone else its ok. the driver gives the local vender a little kick and away we go.

now the stares begin…everyone usually turns to you smiles and laughs and talks in vietemese. our minivan cargo consists of 12 people, 1 motorbike, lots of boxes, and us. eventually one of the girls started a conversation of broken english to get our story. come to find out she wants stacy to find another boyfriend and she wants me (understandable –  i’m pretty damn good looking).

river house

river house

i have to decline but she still continues to share her fruit and coffee with us. 5 hours later were dropped off at the bus station (the wrong one again). here we have to hire another motorbike to the car ferry. we get on the bikes and away we go to the wrong ferry. the guys are gone before we realize and now we need to get to the car ferry to reach our orchard island. lucky for all travellers, help is always one step away (for the right price).  we’re now the most frustrated we have ever been. we must hire a boat to take us directly to the family ranch or take another scooter ride to the right ferry.  once we calmed down, we bit the bullet and hired the boat ride directly to the orchard guest house.  this $7 a night room has just cost us a total of $35 to get there.

looking through out boat

looking through out boat

after spending two relaxing nights, a day of boating around the floating market and canals, we left on our way to the cambodian border.  another motorcycle ride on skinny little pathways and bridges and we made it to our bus – a local bus. once again the seats were cleared for us and we were on our way to chau doc.  we were told the ride should be about 4 hours long.  after the first hour or so we hit traffic.  we were at a dead stop on the road behind a line of working trucks, minivans, and other buses.  the roads beside the bus are filled with scooters and people.  the scooter guys are poaching people from the buses and vans, and at this point we don’t know whats going on.  ladies are walking up to the windows selling everything from cold water and towels to grilled corn, sticky rice, gum, you name it.  we sat in this traffic line, moving slowly – inch by inch – for at least an hour until we reached a ferry dock.  we realized what the scooters were doing now.  in the distance you could see major construction of a massive bridge.  until it gets completed, this ferry line would be a daily activity for most.

coconut candy makers

coconut candy makers

finally we had fresh air blowing in the bus again (local bus means no AC, just hot sticky and sweaty – smells real good).  an hour later we stop for lunch.  we take a seat and realize everyone’s looking at us again.  guess we’re in an area where not too many westerners pass through.  we sit down sipping our pepsi over ice and take in the silent stares.  i (jeff) begin rolling a ciggy and an old man with ho chi minh characteristics, who has been sweeping around us, takes notice.  he stops.  he stares. he smiles.  we come to realize, maybe he hasn’t seen a rolly since the last time he came across americans some 30 years ago.  jeff offers him one and he smiles and sits down in acceptance.  by now, he’s smoking in silence with a smile, others from the bus are circling around us in silence, and we just sit there and take it all in.  very much like when robin williams returns to neverland in hook and all the lost boys surround him in curiosity staring and touching.  finally the old man says two or three words softly and kindly (we have no idea what he said).  but they were probably the softest words we’ve heard in all of the vietnam language.  after this surreal moment, we load back on the bus and in a few more hours we arrive at our destination.

coconut candy...like caramel

coconut candy...like caramel

we hop on the back of a bike – with both our bags and both of us…major weight – and the guy rides us around from hotel to hotel until we find one that fits us.  now we’ve settled in, we have a great balcony to watch the kites fly in the sky, the mellow traffic below and enjoy the 24 pack of beer 333 that jeff bought and the many mangoes stacy bought.  we’re happy campers.

wo here we are, do do do do, ice cold beer in my hand, do do do do, killin them mosquitoes to survive, do do do do, hopin my next ride will be alright, do do do do , cause that’s how the mekong delta blues carries you through the night, do do do do…

xo”

honey bee man

honey bee man

mekong bees - can you find the queen?

mekong bees - can you find the queen?

wildman jeff

wildman jeff

water buffalo - keeping it cool

water buffalo - keeping it cool

starting to charge a bit now...

starting to charge a bit now...

$6 horse and carriage ride - what a rip off!

$6 horse and carriage ride - what a rip off!

boatin it - its been a looong day

boatin it - it's been a looong day

typical mekong scene

typical mekong scene

cute little whiskers!

cute little whiskers!

wood

wood

watermelon

watermelon

stacy

stacy

jeff in front of our homestay

jeff in front of our homestay

mekong cathedral

mekong cathedral

canal scene

canal scene

boy peeling fruit

boy peeling fruit

floating market

floating market

house

house

schools out

school's out

arriving in chau doc

arriving in chau doc

jeff + beer = happy camper

jeff + beer = happy camper

moon rising

moon rising

dusk settling from our balcony view

dusk settling from our balcony view