Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can Tho, Vietnam (with Lai family)

Trip to Can Tho, Vietnam with Lai family.

Up before sparrow fart to get to “Sentral” station to hop on Skybus to the airport for 0745 flight to Ho Chi Minh. Met up with our hosts Lai Chin Fook, lovely wife Kim Loan and lively young son David.

This time I got e-visa's organised on line (US$24 each) and once we got to Ho Chi Minh it was painless to part with the actual visa price of US$25 each, pick up visa's and got on through.

At the airport enough members of family and friends met us that a mini bus was needed to take us on the 6 hour trip to Can Tho, with a stop for famous beef bone noodles on the way. There was a huge amount of roadwork going on making a proper highway and building the masses of bridges needed including a monster built and another being built. It became pretty obvious that life revolves around waterways, which is a whole new experience.
Can Tho is a big provincial city, but still has that country feel. Very much a working town, but with fledgling tourist industry. A couple of grand Hotels, a few middle of the road and heaps of cheap local hotels. The up market ones always full, expensive and even the food shops around them expensive and touristy. We stayed in a small hotel in a back ally but was comfortable at US$7 a day, balcony and constant cool breeze.

There is a fun market open morning and evening and a very good tourist market with reasonable prices. Pearls are very well priced. All types of food, always with a mass of vegetables, mints and general rabbit food. Even found one place with a whole calf on the spit each evening...pity KC doesn't eat beef.

Kim Loan's family home was about 8 km from town in a small village atmosphere which was great. The home was very modern with good front compound which was always full of kids playing and mothers trying to feed them as they played. Altogether an idyllic life. A small road ran past and the river. Always there is a river no matter where you are. There is a constant stream of boats usually with long tails zipping past carrying everything you can think of. Many larger transporters were also homes with a cargo of maybe bricks and washing hung out the back. Loan and her Mum took us by boat to see a part of the farming land they have. Off in a sampan with longtail and the farm had a nice house with duck, dogs, pigs, you name it. Being delta country, drainage is a major part of farming and the area is laced with very large drainage ditches. In reality drainage takes 50% of the land area, which could be drastically reduced with modern, but costly drainage systems. Lots of fruit tree, from limes, guava, jack-fruit, coconut etc. We had a sumptuous lunch with duck, banana comb leaf salad and duck soup.

One trip by water was to see the wholesale market...floating naturally. Each boat would tie a sample of the produce they sell to a short mast and the shopkeepers would go from boat to boat and haggle, later to head back with sampans laden. This is real, unlike the Thai floating market which is fun but a bit contrived. We also stopped off for lunch at a farm that had been converted into a theme park...and very well done. They have chalets there to stay at reasonable prices, good and wide variety of food, croc's (freshwater so not so snappy), pig races, model farm styles etc. very enterprising and well done.

The only real way to get about on land it by motorbike. I had never ridden pillion before in my life and my first taste was at night, half drunk, the 8 km back to Can Tho behind a guy I didn't know, on roads I could see, with no noticeable traffic rules on the wrong side of the road (for me..and it didn't make much difference as any side of the road is good) they did stop for traffic lights...usually. One trip I slipped getting off and burnt my leg on the exhaust pipe..ouch! Actually having my first trip at night was probably a blessing. In daylight I could see what was going on and night is preferable.

Loan's Mum never went in for simple meals and was always enough to feed an army and always great. I think she enjoyed having people to feed and we certainly enjoyed feasting.
We headed back to Saigon (Most seem to still use the old name) by very nice coach for 70,000 dong (US$3.50) each for 6 hour trip and a further 150,000 dong (US$ 8) from the bus terminal to airport by taxi. Trusty old Air Asia home to KL
Great trip thanks to the Lai family.

For pictures (try slide show)

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