January 29th to Feb 1st
04.02.2016 - 04.02.2016 29 °C
After a brief night stay in HCMC (Saigon) I made my way to Can Tho, which I thought was a smaller town, only to find that in 2012 it had 1½ million people. Again and again I get fooled by these little dots on the map and then discover they are very busy places. I guess I am seeing where the 80 million people are living in Vietnam.
I arrived at Can Tho bus station and had to get a taxi to the “homestay” I was staying at as it was out on the canals where the bus shuttle didn’t go. It ended up being a real hassle as the taxi driver wanted to charge me twice as much as was normal. I knew something was up when he wanted to drop me on the road about a km from the homestay. I had also noticed that the meter was really going up quickly which should have clued me in. One of the staff helped me navigate it, but I must say I was angry as he was telling the staff that I had come from a long way away rather than the bus station. In this country where really there are so many fake brands, there are even fake taxi drivers pose as the trusted Mylin Taxis. You live and learn. After that hassle, I was so welcomed by the Nguyen Shack which happens to be owned by a Canadian man from Montreal and his Vietnamese wife. It was such a beautiful place to land. So peaceful and the staff could not be more helpful and welcoming. They even did my laundry for free. That is a first!
Nguyen Shack main area with restaurant
My cabin was lovely and delightfully there were very few mosquitoes. I loved having a balcony right over the canal. The food was really amazing too. There was a suspension bridge that we had to cross to get to the rooms and it was a challenge to say the least. They actually would not allow us to cross it with our backpacks, instead the staff carried them. By the end of my stay I had really improved my skills which delighted me no end.
My bungalow that I spent the second night in. It was huge for one person!
My balcony overlooking the canal - very peaceful....
The first evening I went out on what is known as the “sunset boat ride” with some of the other guests and lucky me ended up at the front of the boat. It was really lovely to see the river life and people seem to be very friendly here.
Some very friendly kids we passed
Fishing Mekong delta style!
Typical housing in the Mekong Delta along the canals
I arranged a private boat, driven by Mun to take me to Cai Rang floating market who promptly picked me up at 5:30am and off to through the canals we went. It was heaven having my own boat and having a driver who was willing to go around and around the market. As you can see from the photos there is so much happening from moment to moment. It was really exciting to say the least. It was my first floating market. They really are mostly a thing of the past in Asia, mostly having become tourist markets which doesn’t interest me at all. It was wonderful to see all the produce that was being bought and sold never mind the boats selling coffee, tea and drinks and also pho soup. I wasn’t brave enough to have some at that time, so instead had yet another baguette.
Mun, my boat driver to the Cai Rang Market
Chrysanthemums especially for TET (Vietnamese New Year). The are Vietnams most beloved flower
Have you ever seen so many watermelons??
I had a chance to visit the main land market in Can Tho on the way back and found a monk collecting alms there. He was on his own and had this stillness which was so amazing in the midst of all the chaos of the market. Needless to say I had to take some photos. Compared to other Buddhist countries, I really have not seen many monks or nuns, as they don’t seem to be outside of temples very much.
His stillness was palpable
The other trip I did was a 3 hour bicycle trip around some of the local schools and workplaces. My favourite part was visiting a Women’s Pagoda where there were a number of nuns who look after 5 orphans who have been dropped off at their doorstep. On Sundays, which it was, there was a temple service which was attended by many locals and after they share a vegetarian meal which we were treated to as well. I have never tasted pumpkin soup like I had there. It was amazing.
Now of the orphans, being held by Lyly who is the tour guide at Nguyen Shack
Sharing a meal after the service
Nuyen Shack was such a great place to land in the south. The staff were amazing and Lyly, who guides the local tours is still giving me help when I call or text her. She really is such a dear.
The great staff at Nguyen Shack
I stayed one night in Can Tho which was enough to see the market and the lights for TET which is New Years. It is quite a sight and I happened to be there on the first night of 2 weeks of celebration so the city was buzzing. The traffic, mostly motorcycles was incredible. I have been learning the art of crossing streets here. There is never a time when there is no traffic. Even red lights don’t really mean anything. People just weave in and out and it kind of works mostly. To cross you simple hold your breath stride out and always looking at the oncoming traffic and simply walk across as they weave around you (mostly!). Best not to stop as they don’t plan for that so that is when accidents happen. I can hardly believe I am so brave, but what to do. I have to cross streets. I was really touched by a young man watching me try to cross one of the busiest intersections and he came to walk across with me. I have been struck so many times with the kindness I have been shown. It more than makes up for the times that have been challenging.
The lights for TET ( New Years)..... I have to say they do go all out!
Street food at the Night Market. I tried the octopus and okra and it was amazing.
My next destination is Nga Nam, a very off the beaten track location with a traditional floating market. I hope to get this next entry up in the next day or so. Bye for now, Dana