Sunday, November 26, 2006

Heavy duty tourism

Mekong Delta - making incense, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Our last day on the Mekong was very intense but made extremely enjoyable by Hom, our very enthusiastic, very camp, singing guide who constatly did his best to entertain yus, while getting us to board one boat, disembark, re-embark, visit a bee farm, have a snake dangling from our necks, be treated to fruit from the local orchards, be rowed down a small canal on flat wooden canoes by islanders earning 5,000 dong a day (25 euro cents), visit a ricve-paper making village and a coconut sweet making family before stopping off for lunch and a last boat trip. There were hundreds of other tourists making similar tours with a large number of groups, on what was, in fact two quite small islands. The narrow canal was impossibly busy, with canoes passing backwarsd and forwards, but in a way, it all worked out fine and it didn't seems as tacky as it might have seemed from a distance.

We were also treated to the story of the coconut monk, a man from the island who was sent to be eductade in France. When he came back, he did not feel like entering the family business so he decided to start a new religion - the coconut cult. It caught on among the islanders mainly due to the promise of nine virgins awaiting for adherents in heaven! He became a little bit rich on the offerings made by the islanders. Sounds quiite familiar.... and another perfect example of the origins of religion.

Much like the fact that when we landed for lunch, I spotted some fish walking along the mud, just like our ancestors did when they left the sea and became land dwellers. Evolution in motion!

I would just like to mention thatw e had an excellent group, including an ex-vet from St Malo who was continually making videos and forgetting his camera case, along with his charming wife, also a couple of Swedish women, ex-radicals in their time, one a Lutheran, the other a Muslim. What interesting conversations we had together!

Finally, as our bus pulled into the bonsai garden for transfers to other buses, just at the minute we had a big downpour, our guide treated us to his rendition of Yellow River Yellow River, she's on my mind, she's on my mind (from the 1960's), substituting the word Yellow for Mekong. Excellent!



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