Today, we begin a two-day tour into the Mekong Delta with Kim’s Café. Our guide informs us that Saigon has about 1.3 million scooters—presumably there has been a major cull overnight. The path in front of our bus seems no less perilous though.
The suburbs of Saigon extend for some way along Highway One. We are sharing the bus with a group of three Germans, a university professor from Sweden, Linda from San Fransisco, and three young men from England.
Mid morning—we arrive in the delta and take a walk down a narrow track between houses and coconut trees to a place where they are making clay tiles. Neat rows of grey tiles are laid out to dry in the sun. The bee-hive shaped kilns are fired with rice husks, and the ash is then returned to the rice fields as fertiliser.
We board a narrow canopied boat that takes us along canals and river channels, past children waving to us, making us feel like we are on a royal visit. We continue to Tan Phong Island where we eat an excellent stir-fry lunch at a riverside café for less than 50p per head.
After lunch the boat takes us through narrow canals and wide channels as we drift through the Tan Phong Island region. We encounter some difficulty at one point—a boy collecting clay from the river bed warns our driver that the water may be too low for our boat to pass further along. There is much to-ing and fro-ing and we are not sure whether the driver is trying to turn the boat around, but eventually we continue, only to stop five minutes later when the engine cuts out. Off comes the cover and frowns appear, but after a while and a little coaxing, it reluctantly comes back to life and we continue. Apparently, we are not the only ones suffering in the heat.
Round a bend and into a vast expanse of water—one of the main tributories. Dark clouds break over us and a strong wind picks up so that we are forced to pull into the shore. The family whose house we have stopped in front of come out to see what is happening, and the father sends his daughter into the rain to take the rope and tie us up. No sooner are we secured though than the rain and wind ease and we cast off to cross over the water to Vinh Long where our boat trip ends.
There is time to wander into the market at Vinh Long and I share a section of deliciously ripe pineapple with Linda, before the minibus takes us to our hotel for the night at Can Tho. We are treated to a beautiful sunset as we take the ferry across the Hau Giang estuary. Jay reassuringly points out that this is exactly the sort of ferry you hear of on the news from time to time, when one of them goes down.
First experience of mosquito nets and geckos at the hotel. There is no air-conditioning, but the ceiling fan seems to do a passable immitation of a helicopter taking off. The cold shower is the best shower since the Royal Plaza Hotel.