So last we left you in the Mekong Delta in the border town Chau Doc. After the rain, we returned to the hotel for a quick nap (it is extremely hot here and exhausting!). When we woke up, we had plans to go to Sam Mountain, a hill around 7 km away which is lined with pagodas the whole way up and has beautiful views of the country and Cambodia. Well, we didn't realize, but the only way to get there is by Motorbike. Yes, you heard me right, Motorbike. First they suggested we rent one for the 2 of us and go on our own. NOT HAPPENING! Next idea, get 2 bikes and each of us ride on the back of one. Now, I won't lie, the drive through the country was pretty, but by the time we got to the top of the windy hill, our knuckles were white and we were barely breathing!
Here is a riddle for you. How does one do the famous Dave Rubin Dashboard handbrake... when there is no dashboard and those hands are white-knuckle grabbing the backend of a motorbike. ANSWER: Avoid the instinct to flail your arms in panic (thus causing the horrific accident you are worried about). Instead, use a more personal touch- the previously undiscovered Dave Rubin Innerthigh Brake. This involves squeezing, with some amount of force, the buttocks of the unsuspecting 40-ish Vietnamese driver in an effort to make him slow down. Past experience has shown that this often makes him speed up, but it is better than flailing your arms.
Quick interjection: There are NO driving laws in Vietnam. Seriously, people pass each other everywhere, they'll drive on the shoulders, pass into oncoming traffic (and honk their horns at the people coming towards him). This fact made this experience even more terrifying!
Ok, back to story. The visit was definitely worth it. The view was amazing. We couldn't see the sunset becuase of the rain, but we were able to see miles and miles of rice paddies. Absolutely gorgeous. We both decided that we didn't want to do the ride down the mountain, so we asked the driver if we could meet him at the bottom. Of course, he said no. Giving up and hopeless, we sat down with a couple of New Zealanders and some beers to take off the edge. Well, it really worked. The ride down was GREAT!!! WE ahd a lot of fun and our guides made several stops to some of the local temples/shrines and walked us around (the pig was an offering). Plus, we were beginning to discover that we were famous there. Everywhere we went, kids would come up to us saying "Hello, Hello". We even had some run down the street to say hi. It was alot of fun. We rode back into town and when it was done, there was some feelings of let-down that it was over. No worries, we heard Ho Chi Minh will be filled with these rides (sorry Nancy).
We took a quick walk to the main riverside to go to a pharmacy and saw some kids doing Martial Arts on the street and some of the night vendors. It definitely was an active town, but much safer feeling than where we've been previously. We decided to go to our hotels brand new floating seafood restaurant for dinner (literally opened the night before). We had a great meal of spring rolls, fried rice and snapper hot pot. They were all good, but the latter was delicious! Our great waitress Yu had to help us serve it though. (author change) The only problem with the whole meal was the bugs! Bugs are crazy in Chau Doc (worse than the other two cities we have visited since), and we are pretty sure she was picking them out while she served us. We figure its just how it is and we can't really worry about it. We try to get the bugs out of what we are eating, but who knows what got in there before they cooked it?
At this point, we decided to head for bed, as we had to get up at 5:30 am to get started the next day. In order to explain this to you, we must start by recanting our 'decent' rating of the hotel. We certainly survived the night, but I don't believe we would ever stay there again, no matter the price. The first problem was the fact that the resturant was making a ton of noise, and it was difficult to sleep at the time we were going to bed. Then our fellow guests were heard very easily thru the walls, and one even scared the @#$@ out of us when he mistook our room for his. The AC stopped working around 12 am (no refund given for the $7 extra we paid for AC), and then when we came out- there was a worker sleeping on the floor of the 'lobby' covered in mosquito netting. Final rating: if you have to stay there, you will live, but don't stay there unless you have to.
So at 6am we were ferried across to Delta Adventures other hotel and resturant for breakfast. It consisted of bread, jam and butter, and fried egg (Dave only). And the awesome Vietnamese coffee. Then we got on our Delta Adventure Tour for the Chau Doc part, which consisted of a short visit to a fish farm (there is not much to see- there are 10,000 fish, and food for them), and then the Cham village. The Cham are an ethnic minority in Vietnam, and practice Islam. So we went to their mosque, and saw them weaving scarves, etc. They also have cute children that sell little waffle things. And apparently they watch your shoes at the mosque and expect a fee for it. I was feeling kind-hearted, so they got $1 for waffles, and $1 for shoes. Daddy Warbucks.
Up the river on a fast boat for 3 hours brings you to Can Tho. Can Tho is a 'real city' with 1.5 million people and the largest in the Delta. It was a pretty ride with factories and boats and other things you see on a river. The city was nice too, but the children were not as entertained by us- they must be more used to tourists. (As I write this I am drinking Aquafina. That is a damn fine brand of water compared to some of the creek-tasting water we have been drinking. Good work Pepsi.) We had lunch in Can Tho at a place famous for its snake, but alas, we are not that adventurous. It was spring rolls and fried noodles for us (forgot to take a picture before we ate it all). All for less than 6 bucks (water too- La Vie, bottled by Coca Cola). Then our guide took us to our hotel, the Xuan Mia Hotel II. Way nicer than the night before, but nothing you would want to live in. I would stay there again, but can't judge the cost since it was wrapped in with the tour cost. It was certainly full of backpackers (which we did not know until the next day).
Nap, internet, and walk around for 3 hours just seeing the town. This is my favorite way to tour- Carrie loves religious stuff (blech). We also bought some clothes and some cool 'handmade' art. Of course it is handmade, even if the woman in the stall across has the same ones. The Internet cafe was the reason we didn't blog for so long. The computers were the worst (it was called Queen), and Carrie's even announced that she had a virus that wouldn't delete. So, just some email checks there- sorry if you got any messages from us telling you how we ran into a Vietnamese prince that has a business venture, but just needs $100,000 to get started. But, if you did, and you believe it, you can send the checks to us and we will get them to him. Just make it out to CASH.
Night brought us to Nan Bo, and our first break from Asian food (not counting MickeyD's). Hmm. What to order. What's that Carrie. Sure, I could do that. Yes, please, one veggie, one Hawiian. And French Fries, but the fries never came :( We sat on the second floor overlooking the street- a very pretty view discounting the powerlines. Off to bed (and we baricaded our door so we had no incidents this time).
The next day we were greeted at 6:30 by the hotel lady knocking on every door in the places, yelling 'Good Morning.' Headed down for breakfast (same as the day before) and found that our tour for the day would have about 20 on it. A good group, minus 6 guys who didn't say or do much. Started at the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta, and got off our big boat to go around in a row boat. Also had some pineapple that was cut very unusually, but was really good. Carrie got heat exhaustion, and spent the next 2 hours feeling awful. We headed over to a local market, since the rice paper factory was closed (saw rat and snake for sale). We then headed to a rice mill, that was also closed, but we still walked thru and learned a great deal. And a guy was selling pancakes with coconut in them. I bought one, then another, then another. And still spent only $.50.
Back to Can Tho for lunch, specifically back to Nan Bo. Carrie enjoyed her first Pho experience, while I indulged in Spaghetti Carbonara (my favorite!). Headed to the hotel to meet the bus, but the bus wasn't there. So we walked back the boat, and took it to the other side of the river. The ferry traffic was so long that had we not taken our 20 min boat ride, the bus would have not gotten across for 2-3 hours. Fortunately for Can Tho, the Japanese are contributing funds to help build a huge suspension bridge.
That bus took us on a 5 hour journey North to Ho Chi Minh City, which goes by Saigon as well. The driving, as we mentioned, is both safer and scarier in a bus. Safer since we won't get hurt, scarier since we thought we were going to hit everyone we passed. HCMC is big and crowded, but we will learn more about that tomorrow. Bought a hamock on the side of the road that we bargained from $8 to $6 but then got con'ed on the exchange rate and paid $8 anyways. Oh well- it looks comfy. Our hotel is really nice (Hong Han) for only $22.
Dinner was Vietnamese across the street- spring rolls, fried noodles with beef, and a chicken and vegetables that you put on rice paper with peanut sauce and eat like tacos.
That's it for now. Nighty night from us, and have fun at work (hahahahahahahahahaha).