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The Kirwan Twins Adventures We've finally graduated, so we're setting off for three months to backpack around India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand before entering the "real world."

The Mekong Delta

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 22 May 2007 | Views [831] | Comments [1]

I arrived at Ho Chi Minh City and was greeted by sweltering heat and a mass of silent Vietnamese who seemed mesmerized by the sight of a wild-haired 'mature' backpacker being knocked over by a pair of equally wild-haired identical twins. Huge hugs all round and then into a taxi for what may have been the most terrifying ride of my life as I was introduced to Vietnamese traffic. There's another blog that describes this in great detail, but this ride was mostly memorable because as I was lecturing my daughters on the dangers of motorbikes (I know, it's difficult not to parent......) a young punk trying to overtake us through a narrow gap came off his bike and slid along the road next to us. "See what I mean?" I said. When are mothers ever wrong?!

The Dong Do Hotel seemed lovely, though I thought it odd to see so many motorbikes parked next to the elevator at the back of the lobby. I can't remember much about that first night, or was it the next day -- or the day before? Crossing the international dateline leaves one very confused.


My friend Ilsa was at breakfast the next morning looking as exhausted as I. The strong Vietnamese coffee gave us both a jolt and she and daughter Izzy set off to see the Cu Chi tunnels, used during the American War to hide from the enemy. My girls and I went off to get Emma's injured leg looked after at a wonderfully modern and efficient clinic and then to the War Remnants Museum where the photographs and the prison cells made me feel physically sick. I had to leave. Too upsetting, especially the photos of the deformed children born in the Mekong Delta region after the pesticides were poured onto their homes and fields.

We decided to take a day trip to see the Mekong Delta ourselves. What a beautiful place. The delta is enormous. The Mekong is a mighty river and comes down through Cambodia bringing with it all sorts of fertile soils. The main river is very wide and muddy and thick with boats of all sorts - car ferries, barges, sampans. There's a bridge being built across it near My Tho, but for the moment you need a boat to get across. Our first boat took us across and then we changed to a smaller boat so that we could navigate the narrow canals in the midst of the tropical forest. We were surrounded on all sides by palm trees, unrecognizable flowers, thick vegetation and undergrowth. Our first stop was a cottage industry candy factory. A couple of guys dehusked coconuts with machetes, while another grated the meat and then put it through a press to extract the milk. This was mixed with sugar and condensed milk, that classic staple of all third world countries, and stirred over a hot fire until it was just right. Next it was poured onto a table and pulled a bit, then cut into rectangles and wrapped by an efficient group of ladies, ready for market. It was very chewy. Guaranteed to remove loose fillings. The snake wine display was interesting. I'm not sure what they use to macerate the cobras but I assure you that it didn't look half as good as the Perrier Jouet I had on the plane.

From the coconut candy factory we went on a hike down a trail flanked by more muddy canals and more jungle foliage to a restaurant for a lunch. It's always fun to meet the other travellers on these trips. We sat with a couple of Australian men whose wives had refused to come with them ("Yeah, I left the wife at home. Gave her a sewing machine which is what she really wanted"). They gave us some good tips about where else to go. Tourists here all start at one end of the country and work their way to the other end. Vietnam is long and thin with an endless coastline. We were in the south and heading north, so the Ozzies had all sorts of tips about the north since they'd started up there and come south.

The next stage was on an even smaller boat, a bit tippy but we all managed to get in without falling into the (I'm sure) snake infested waters. Coolie hats were passed down and our rowers, two ladies squatting hunched at both ends of the boat, steered us down an even narrower waterway. The jungle was even more dense and we could hear, but not see, kids playing, cockerels crowing, music playing.


I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be a soldier during the American or Vietnam war depending on whose side you were on. As beautiful as the Mekong Delta was on this bright and sunny day, how alien it must have seemed to an 18 year old draftee from the midwestern cornfields or from an American inner city. I could sense their fear as they trudged waist deep in the muddy water, wondering where the next attack would come from, or whether they might die from a snake or spider bite, totally out of their element. It made me very sad to think of all the suffering that all those involved had to bear. I don't think war is ever the answer.

- Mamma

Tags: Philosophy of travel

Comments

1

Hey Dim! Still slogging thru the Viet jungles?? Spoke to Stephan yesterday-he thought your trip was about over-am anxious to hear all about it!! Call on cell when you can:228-342-2430.C

  Dr.C Jun 1, 2007 4:34 AM

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