Monday March 17, 2014

When I last signed off, we were (you’ll recall) sitting down to a scrumptious lunchious aboard the pamper-me-rotten Mekong Pandaw. Our much anticipated Mekong Cruise was actually under way … and we dropped anchor sometime that afternoon near the township of Cai Be.

Have you ever been to a sports event, a stage performance, a visual spectacular where so much is happening that you don’t know where to look? Well, that’s what it’s like here in the riverside towns and villages we’ve been visiting on the oh-so-photogenic Mekong. This fascinating, noisy, colourful kaleidoscope called ‘everyday life’ is happening all around you, and you honestly don’t know where to point your camera!

Take the past two days, for example:

On Sunday, having slept like babes in our beautifully appointed cabins, the ever-flowing waters lapping gently at the sides of the boat, we woke/showered/broke-our-fast, then switched from the Mekong Pandaw (which stayed out in the deeper main channel) to a small local boat and put-put-puttered up a tributary to the busy Cai Be floating market – where locals trade fresh fruit and veg from the decks of their houseboats. Each boat seems to be selling something different, with samples tied up on the mast so ‘shoppers’ can see before they buy.

Then we went ashore and checked out a factory making rice-paper and sugar-cane candy … sampled some ‘snake-wine’ (actually rice-whisky with real pickled snakes floating in the bottle – supposedly an aphrodisiac!) … watched hard-working locals make ‘popping rice’ (a bit like popcorn, which they combine with honey and sugar to make popular sweet-cakes) … and witnessed some expert snake-charming by yours truly with a hefty python.

We returned to the ship for up-anchor – followed by a gourmet lunch – followed by another small-boat visit along another small canal to the town of Sa Dec, and a visit to a huge brick-making factory. More fascinating fodder for our cameras!

Robin Williams featured in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ after dinner that night in the ship’s comfortable little movie theatre, while the Mekong Pandaw continued its steady upriver cruise. And we woke this morning in the larger French-style town of Chau Doc.

Another floating market awaited us … plus a floating catfish-farm (there are hundreds of them in this region, ramshackle houseboats with huge bamboo vats suspended under the floorboards, crammed with healthy, hungry, hand-fed catfish) … plus a Cham tribal village (a Muslim minority who’ve made their home on a small island).

We arrived at the Vietnamese-Cambodian border this avo (there was a cooking show and a watermelon-carving demo up on the sundeck while the crew dealt with the customs-formalities). And tonight’s movie (appropriately) was ‘The Killing Fields’

But enough words. You’ll get a better feel for all this from the photos Robyn and I have been taking …

PEOPLE NEWS: We’ve been too busy to nominate folk for our Yellow Quacky Duck Awards … but one does deserve a mention:

  • The ‘Foot-Loose Award’ went to Jackie – but, first, a little background. Each morning or afternoon, when we return to the Mekong Pandaw after sightseeing ashore, the friendly welcoming crew (can you believe this?) take our stinky, dusty shoes/sandals/jandals, clean them for us, and return them to our cabins. Jackie, when handing her shoes in the other day, gave the crew someone else’s cabin number by mistake. Hoping for an upgrade, Jackie?

TOMORROW: We’re in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s riverside capital and former French city – and centre of the Khmer Rouge and their 1970s reign of terror. You won’t want to miss this …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!

2 thoughts on “CAI BE … SA DEC … CHAU DOC

  1. Dear Robyn and john
    Just letting you know Roy is in hospital, has an infection in his knee (the one that had the replacement put in) , had an operation last night and is to have another tomorrow at 2.00pm, very tired today, will be in hospital for 2 weeks. Will go up at the weekend sometime. I will keep you upto date.
    Love your blog, it is so interesting.
    Thinking of you both with envy.
    Lots of love
    (I thought you would be cross Robyn if I didn’t let you know)

  2. Hi Coon’s … have just had a moment to review the above blog .. oh man what a total feast for the senses … can imagine how hard it is to summarise the ‘bombardment’ of sites and experiences for us plebes back here. You do very well I must say 🙂
    Love n hugz xxxx

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