Cambodia to Vietnam - Mekong River Journey


We were sad at leaving Cambodia as it was such a fascinating place but at the same time we were both tremendously excited at the prospect of spending the next month in Vietnam. We decided to cross the border this time by boat via the Mekong River - it seemed somewhat adventurous, well for us anyway.

We departed Phnom Penh by bus and after a 3 hour bus journey through remote rural areas (and after a taxi and mini bus ride before the bus) we reached the place where our boat was waiting. We were expecting a port or at the very least a small harbour with wooden jetties. There was neither; at the rear of someone’s wooden shack home, we had to slither down a steep muddy river bank and leap onto a wooden boat- no more than ice lolly sticks with a motor. While trying to achieve this manoeuvre in non grip flip flops we had our big backpacks to contend with and about 3 men grabbing our arms and flinging us into the boat- not exactly the QE2.

Once aboard we set off along the wide brown watery expanse of the Mekong River. The journey took around 4 hours on this first boat (or sticks with a motor), during which a big storm brew and cascading upon us halfway through our journey. Cagoules at the ready - we were prepared even if the local ladies on board gave us strange glances as we (or I) donned our bright plastic. I also got told off for moving at one point an action which was to be repeated through our journey into Vietnam.

There was no actual border crossing as such, simply a scramble up another mud bank, a stamp of the passport and then a change of boat. We thought our journey was almost over - we were wrong as we spent another 3 hours on a tributary of the Mekong on a narrow boat lined with 2 rows of plastic patio chairs. This was the most fascinating part of the journey; floating along observing real life of the Mekong people.

The river is used for every living purpose - ladies were washing pots and pans, young girls washing their hair, kids playing, water buffalo bathing, people fishing, local industry, and transportation; the river is even used for the foundations of the river communities floating villages. All along the way, people were completely intrigued at seeing white western people (well 5 on the boat) and kept waving, smiling and calling - we were quite the celebrity.

Finally we arrived at Chau Doc in Vietnam - a real shock to the system - we were faced with disembarking onto a mud hill again clambering up, this time with a flimsy wooden plank ready to snap at any moment. Located between two shacks, it was barely wide enough for us to fit through with our luggage. We then had to walk through a local market where the stench was remarkable - the ground thick with mud and dirty stagnant water and stalls crammed with hanging dead chickens covered with bluebottles, fish laying, decaying in the sweltering heat, piles of spices, fruit and steaming stalls of Pho dispersing putrid smelling fermented fish sauce - yes we had arrived in Vietnam.

We spent the night in a cheap guesthouse like two cocoons in our silk sleeping bag liners as the sheets were so gross and the smell of damp clung to the air. Our experience didn’t improve during our short exploration of the town - we left

Kids were playing all along the river - splashing around. These 3 showed off as we went by doing flips or more like belly flops!
in the morning bound for Ho Chi Minh City previously known as Saigon.

Source: Travelblog



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