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Vietnam - Mekong Delta

VIETNAM | Monday, 15 September 2014 | Views [408]

On Friday, 12 September, we set out for Can Tho. Robin was especially excited for a trip to the Mekong Delta. We got on a bus, and were pleasantly surprised to find it was a sleeper bus. We would be in comfort for the 3 hour trip. About 20 minutes into our trip, the bus stopped on the side of the highway and the driver got out... About 15 minutes later we got going again. The bus stopped a little while later again. Same scenario. Finally, on the third stop, we realised that the bus was breaking down. By the 5th or 6th time, something serious went wrong and we were stuck on the side of the road for over an hour. The other passengers (all Vietnamese) started hailing other passing buses, but we couldn't do that, and are on a strict budget so we couldn't risk having to pay again. Finally, almost 7 hours later, we got to Can Tho. We were absolutely exhausted, and feeling fed up. Then we got to our motel. The manager tried to charge us more than the online pprice, then when I questioned it, he brought up how it was only a dollar more, and "we could afford it". His attitude put me off, because he treated us like a bottomless money-pit. We ended up getting the online price, and went to our room for a shower after the sweaty journey. Later, we headed to the lobby and asked the manager how to get to the harbour so that we could go to the floating markets the next day. He said "NOOOOOOO, it's so far away, you can't do it from here, no way!" I couldn't understand because the guide books and all of the reviews told us it was possible and easy to do. We were exhausted though, and he was really pushy. I felt like we were getting scammed, but we ended up agreeing to pay him for a tour, with a hotel pick-up, a cruise through the flaoting market, and a couple of hours ride back to the harbour again. Queue the drama. At the time I was LIVID, but looking back, it's kinda funny. You live and you learn.

 

That afternoon, we went walking around, and roughly followed a map, to walk around almost all of the river-front. It was beautiful and relaxing. We then went out for dinner to a nice restaurant and got seafood noodles, and seafood fried rice. Our table was right next to the river, and it was lovely. All of a sudden, it started to drizzle. In a flash, the staff were outside, and they picked up our entire table and moved it under cover. Within bout 30 seconds, we were seated undercover, while a really heavy monsoon rainfall beat down. By the time we had finished eating, the ground was dry, and we had a relaxed stroll back to our hotel for an early night.

 

The next morning, at 5:15 we were in the lobby, waiting for our special tour pick-up. The fattest Viatnamese man I have ever seen walked in, and grunted at us, and ushered us outside. He then handed us ONE motorbike helmet, and told us BOTH to get on the back of his moped. The driving in Vietnam is crazy and I didn't want to ride on his scooter, let alone with all three of us. Apart from anything, I don't know how he expected us to all fit on his scooter, because he was MASSIVE. We told him no motorbike, we want a car. He grunted some stuff at us and continued trying to physically put us on the bike. Finally he called someone, and then his plan B arrived... His friend with ANOTHER scooter. By this point I was considering getting back into bed. When we refused again he hailed a taxi and put us in it. We taxied over to the harbour, which ended up being about 5 minutes away (STUPID GUY SCAMMED US SOOOOO BAD!), and then we had to pay for the cab. They put us on a boat, and off we went. The cruise was great. It was peaceful, and it helped calm us down. We got to the floating market and saw a bunch of people selling their wares on the water. Mainly, it was just fruit and vegetables, and it was awesome to see, but we were hoping for food stalls and fresh grilled fish. There was none of that. After the market we went down a little canal, and got off. Our boat driver took us around to show us a glass-noodle factory. It was pretty impressive to see, but I felt like it was all a plan. All of the other tourists were brought to the same place, and after watching the noodle-making process, we were told to get a coffee at their coffee shop. Captive audience. After that, we headed out, via the mangroves, and took about 2 hours to get back to the harbour. It was a lovely day, and we thought it had redeemed itself, until we were climbing off the boat. I was still handing Robin some stuff, and teetering on the boat, when the other boat drivers started shouting at us "HEY! TIP! HEY TIP! HEY TIP!". Our driver was great, and we probably would have tipped him, but don't try and force us to... Another money-bag mentality moment.

We headed out, hopeful that in the four hours that we were away, they would have organised a car to pick us up, but instead we found that there was NO ONE waiting to take us back to the hotel. So, all-in-all, we paid for a whole shebang of a tour, but then ended up getting our own transport, and being harrassed for a tip. It definitely left a sour taste in our mouths. We could have rented our own boat at the harbour for half the price, and it would have been exactly the same. If you ever do this, don't take a tour! DO IT YOURSELF!

 

That afternoon we headed to the bus terminal, and got tickets back to Ho Chi Minh. They had tickets direct to Nha Trang, but we weren't going to trust their sleeper bus again, especially for a 15 hour drive, so we were handed tickets for a "mini bus". It turned out to be the same as a mini bus taxi in SA, and Robin calls it a 12 seater transit van. There were 11 seats, excluding the driver, and it was full. It didn't stop us from picking up other people along the way though, and they ended up putting little plastic stools in the walkway for people to sit on. At one point in the journey, there were 20 passengers. It was CRAZY. Also, the guy next to me was holding a rice sack at his feet. The damn thing kept knocking my ankles, and I was cursing him under my breath for letting it swing around... until I heard a cluck and realised that it was a bag full of live chickens. He wasn't swinging the bag, the chickens were running around and trying to escape. I almost felt like we were in Africa instead of Asia. The minibus drove like mad, and with only 1 near-miss accident involving a bicycle, and a LOT of road-rage, we were back in Ho Chi Minh City in 3 hours. We booked our tickes on the night bus to Nha Trang through a tour group with more reliable buses than the public ones, for only a little bit more, and then spent the afternoon having a few drinks, and watching SA vs NZ rugby. 

Tags: cruise, mekong delta, river, scam

 

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