Thursday, November 23, 2006

On to Can Tho

Life along the Mekong Delta, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, it seems as if the election results in Holland have turned out to be just as complicated, if not more so, than expected. It was very lazy of the BBC to go round telling the world last week that the centre-right coalition looked like it was going to win the election as that was never on the cards. And so it proved, with all three of the coalition parties losing seats. The parties winning were the Socialist Party (9 to 26), anti-Muslim party (for the want of a better word) )(1 to 9 - a real surprise there as the polls had them down for just 3 or 4) and an Animal Rights party (0 to 2). It looks as if a centre-left coaltion will have to form, with more or less a Christian tint - Roman Red, they are calling it, it seems, so not too bad, and a lot better than the alternative.

Today, we continued with our tour of the Mekong Delta, getting up early to take a boat out onot the river for two brief stops at a Chan Minority village (mainly to buy scarves and se a couple of young girls with a loom) and a fish-farm, which turned out to be a typical wooden house on stilts, built over the water, with a big hole in the middle in which lots of fish were being fattened on polluting fish food.

Then it was three hours in the bus to Can Thoa where we were dropped off already before mid-day, after which we have had tehg day to ourselves. So the tour itself is maybe not such a great success so far, but it is very nice to have all the free time. Last night we stayed in the hottest room in the hotel, at the top, under the roof with windows facing the sun, and no air-conditioning. We did not get a very good night's sleep, so on arriving in Can Tho, we paid the 5 dollars extra for airco, although the room was not so hot this time, and had a snooze.

Can Tho is the largest city on the Delta and the fifth largest in Vietnam, a country which has a staggering 84 million inhabitants. There are large factories upstream, making beer and assembling cars and the waterfront is very neat, with a promenade and neat gardens, and some swish hotels. We ahd a walk around the front before making off to the very quaint backstreets, walking almost into people's front rooms. Again, everyone was very friendly. We ended up in the market, full of greens and strange fruit as well as fish, squid, prawns and crab. I must say that I have never been much of a fan of river fish and seeing them in the market they look very grey and dirty and, well, unappetising, especially when one sees the muddy state of the water (not forgetting all the chemical outflows from the factories all the way up the Mekong). Much ebtter to be eating fish on a tropical beah and clear water, even if the fish on one's plate was never caught there. It just seems better. Prawns, which I find delicious, thrive off eating the mud and the sludge in all the dirtiest parts of the river bed, so I am not being exactly consistent here. Another dubious sight is the grey cockles and snails which one regularly sees for sale.

Anyway, we had an excellent end to the day when a couple of amrket women saw us on the quay outside the market and offered us an hours' ride on the river in their rickety old boat. We had a lovely time going past all the river people, people washing and playing about in the water, many shouting ' Hello' and waving, past fishermen bringing their catch home or cleaning their boats and so on. We finally ended up in a little stream, going past the tropical vegetation, again, going past right outside people's houses. It was good to be paying money directly into people's hands rather than to an organisation or a specific tourist outfit and we paid a good deal more than what we agreed. Now to find a local restaurant serving all the delicious stuff we saw in the market.



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