MEKONG BLOG 05
Saturday March 16, 2019
Have you ever been to a stage performance, a sports event, a visual spectacular where so much is happening that you don’t know where to look? Well, that’s what it’s been like for our Mad Kiwi Midlifers over the past few days – since our long-awaited cruise up the mighty Mekong began.
We left Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday morning, and drove to the port on the Saigon River where we were welcomed aboard the lovely Avalon Siem Reap. We met the crew, unpacked in our roomy cabins, and got acquainted with our floating hotel before a mouth-watering lunch was served. Then we motored out into the current.
“There are few tapestries of river life as fascinating and varied as the Mekong Delta,” claimed one website. And as we’ve sailed further and further away from the bustling, chaotic cities we’ve encountered in Vietnam, it’s hard to imagine a more striking cultural contrast. The boat-life on this astonishingly busy waterway must be seen to be believed. And the riverside towns and villages we’ve been visiting are oh-so-photogenic. A fascinating, noisy, colourful kaleidoscope called ‘everyday life’ has been happening all around us, and we’ve often not known where to point our cameras!
Take Friday, for example. After being rocked to sleep on the Avalon Siem Reap, we awoke in time for some early morning tai chi, downed a yummy breakfast, then transferred to a sampan for a scenic cruise to the village of Vinh Long – where local workers showed us how they make rice paper and rice wine – actually rice-whisky, which we sampled – ouch! (This potent spirit is also available with real pickled snakes floating in the bottle, supposedly an aphrodisiac!) We then watched hard-working locals making ‘popping rice’ (a bit like popcorn), which they combine with honey and sugar to make popular sweet-cakes.
In the afternoon, after lunch back on the ship, we hopped into another sampan and chugged along a side-river to Cu Lao Gieng – stopping, first, at a workshop where skilled family members hand-craft sampans for a living … and second, at a humble home where a family weaves classic conical hats (called ‘non la’). Then, en route back to the river, we rode on bouncy motor-carts past ramshackle homes and waving schoolkids to visit one of Vietnam’s oldest Catholic churches.
An amazing day? You’d better believe it! But enough words. You’ll get a better feel for all this from some of the countless photos we’ve been taking …
COMING UP: We go walkabout through a farmers market in Chau Loc … then ride another sampan through a shambolic-looking stilt-village to some famous religious sites … then visit a family in Long Khong A that has developed a home-grown business weaving cotton. On the way (no kidding) we get to talk with a Viet Cong vet. So don’t turn off your set …
ON OUR MINDS: Christchurch and the tragic event that unfolded there on Friday have been uppermost in our thoughts and conversations ever since the dreadful news first broke. We Kiwis feel somewhat helpless and away-from-home at this time – however, we shared a moment of silent prayer and reflection the other evening. Our heartfelt concern goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones and are suffering so much.
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
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