Thursday, August 24, 2006

 

Mekong River

Well, Im a long way behind on my blogs, so Ill just summarize the shit ur missing....

Spent my last 3 days in Korea doing nothing in Seoul. Eating alot of western and Japanese food, drinking etc.
Oh, and I went to the pool near the river with Stephan the Irishman from camp. Its in a very rich district of Seoul, so it was quite amusing (especially how u only get 20 mins of swimming b4 u have to get out for 20 minutes). Lots of posers, and gangsters showing off their tattoos in funny lookn budgy smugglers too. The odd bikini too (not so common in Korea).

Anyway, I soon left for Vietnam. The flight was v uneventful, so ill just FF to Ho Chi Minh City! (aka Saigon)


Ho Chi Minh City

I spent 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh city, mainly hanging around & trying not to get run over. The traffic here is absolutely wild, full of shitty scooters, and no apparent road rules (actually, in hindsight its alot better than Cambodia). Heres a cool photo my mate Gunner took of some Saigon traffic



So what else did I do in Saigon? Well, in addition to chilling in my room and reading (I was feeling quite physically and mentally worn out from the camp and all the walking in Korea etc) I mainly spent my 2 nights hangin out with 2 Japanese guys, Wabu and Keigo (and hitting the bars). Unfortunately, they were doing the typical "see 7 countries in 14 days" thing, so I didnt do the Mekong tour with them and had to say goodbye. Anyways, heres a picture of them (and me), mainly for the sake of my own memory.....(from Left to Right: Me, Wabu & Keigo).


BTW, I got an email from em a month later - they had their (video) camera and wallet stolen in Malaysia, which obviously sucks balls. Thats half the reason why I had such a shit camera with me in the first place (I woulda been quite glad if it was stolen - what r u meant to do with shitty 1 megapixel cameras these days?).




The Mighty Mekong

Then my adventure began. I did a 3 day tour of the mekong river, eventually goin up the river and landing in Cambodia (some ''buses'' were involved though). It was r cool for about 2 days, but the 3rd day was really just ''same same, but different" as they say round these parts. We saw locals making coconut sweets, processing rice, and making rice paper and rice noodles amongst other things. The main part though was just cruising the mekong river on boats seeing everyone living on the side of the river. Alot of ppl have houses on stilts over the river, and I imagine alot of places flood regularly. Its all very simple wood and bamboo housing though, and everyone lives very basically. They wash their clothes, dishes and themselves off their houses in the river, which looks fairly dirty...although i think its mainly the silt/muddy bits from the bottom, not neccessarily rubbish and feces (but who knows). They even have markets on the river, where hundres of boats congregate and sell stuff to each other...so we floated along and bought pineapples, drinks, and even noodle soup from other boats. Pretty cool.
Heres another really cool photo taken by Gunner (its taken at a floating market)





Anyway, the last day started with a bit of drama. The night before, we stopped of at a small town, and all 20 people on the Mekong Tour took 3 little "taxis" from the port to our hotel room. This was all on the back of carts on 3 crappy little 100cc motorbikes. 10 people per cart, with the 3rd carrying ppls luggage. As much as I love my 1000cc V-Twin, I can help but think how crazy we are in oz....ppl will say "well, I got my licence now, so I can upgrade my underpowered 250cc" - and meanwhile, u have ppl in other countries happily pulling 10 people on an engine 1/10 the size!!
Heres a cool photo little photo of me and some other travellers on the back of one....


Anyway, onto the drama....After a quick brekky of Banana pancakes and what-have-u (I ran out and got some pushcart noodles instead, as well as some Vietnamese breadrolls with unidentified meat on it for the road, or in this case...the river), we all got back on the little buggies to go back to the boat. Unfortunately, the lead taxi with Gunner and Justin (I was on the rear one so i missed all the action) got pulled over by the local cops and had his bike confiscated!!



Anyway, we then went on these little "rowing" boats, luckily we didnt have to do a thing and we just sat and let these poor old women stand on the bow of the boats and do the rowing for us. They seemed to love it though, and were smiling more than any of us (its amazing how much happier Vietnamese people come across than westerners). Thats one of my favourite things about Vietnam, esp the country side. Ppl from the countryside in particular - despite the fact that they have practically nothing and make do on about a dollar a day (if that - they grow almost everything they need), they just seem to be way more positive and happy than ppl from back home. Infact, the entire Mekong journey was full of kids and families waving at us as we cruised up the river (and there must be quite a few boats doing this every day!).

Although I have no idea who the westerners are in this photo, heres a cool one of the rowing boats to proove it! (this photo waz taken by Justin - u may have to click on the photo to see what I mean)


While Im at it, heres one of me (on my Camera, woohoo!) Good to see I was smiling too!



Anyway, they rowed us to a small Cham Village - ie a village where a small group of Cham Muslims live (Cham's consider themselves a separate race to the Vietnamese, and are considered an "ethnic minority". Luckily, they dont seem to get bullied or fcked over by the Vietnamese too much, unlike some of the minorities living in places like Myanmar). After visiting the local Mosque, "we" rowed back to the big boat, and cruised up the river onwards to Cambodia.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, and was mainly spent sitting on boats, going thru customs, and finally sitting in a 'bus'' (a van thats very cramped) slightly wet, coz it rained for the last 4 hours or so on the boat...(its the rainy season in Cambodia).

We finally arrived in HoChiMinh at around 8pm, and took the first backpackers we came to (ie where the bus dropped us off - no doubt they get some sort of a commision!). I was meant to hook up with Keigo and Wabu that night, but it never happened as I waz way too tired and hungry....(the boat was meant to pull in around 5!!)

That, in a nutshell was the 3 day mekong adventure (Ive left a whole heap out). At US$31 for 3 days (food not included) it was pretty damned good value all up!!
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