Motoring through Chau Doc

Cruising down the Mekong River for five hours from Phnom Penh (Cambodia) into Chau Doc (Vietnam) was a peaceful change from the bumpy, frenetic roadways.

Fishing is such an integral part of life for the communities that lined the banks of the river. We saw hundreds of aerosol cans in rows that signalled where their fishing nets were, and low boats pulling in the morning's haul.

As soon as we docked at the bustling port town of Chau Doc, there was a distinct difference between Cambodia and Vietnam. It felt like it was about 5C hotter and way more humid than Phnom Penh. The people seemed different too - it was hard to put a finger on exactly how they seemed different, but it definitely felt like we were in another place with a distinct culture.

I tried beef pho for my first Vietnamese lunch, and despite the heat outside, the soup was pretty tasty.

We pottered around the local markets for a bit - the food was also slightly different from Cambodia - lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, but different varieties of dried and smoked meat hung from string. I always wonder about the hygiene in food markets like this, but I guess the people in these towns have been eating this sort of food from these sorts of markets for years, if not centuries.

Next on the agenda was an optional scooter tour of the town and the surrounding villages. I'm not a huge fan of motorised bikes - scooters, vespas and motorbikes always seem like mobile death traps to me, but they're the primary form of transport in Cambodia and Vietnam. So when in Rome...

My driver was an older guy, which suited me. They dished out helmets and off we went, through the crowded streets and out past farms and rural areas.

We passed a goose farm, where a farmer was herding hundreds of birds into pens. We later learnt that goose eggs with baby geese fetuses are a delicacy here in Vietnam. Er, pass on that thanks.

My Canon 24-70mm lens was the lens of choice for this ride. It has been my choice of lens for most of the trip actually.

We started to climb up the only hill in the area, and my driver motioned for me to hold on to him around his waist. He didn't need to tell me twice...

The road wove up the mountain until we reached the peak. Despite the haze, we could see out over the rice padis and back to the river we'd journeyed down. It was going to be a great place to watch our first sunset in Vietnam.

We grabbed some beers and a plate of local nibblies - lotus seeds and wild cherries, and watched the sun turn gold, then red, as it sunk behind a mountain into the horizon.

Driving down the hill was a bit hairy - the pot holes seemed larger and there were bugs everywhere. It was hard trying not to snort mozzies...

We stopped at another large temple complex on the way back to town. The statues of kings looked great under moonlight. Hello high ISO and f/2.8!

We ended our evening in Chau Doc with dinner on one of the floating restaurants. The mozzies were rampant, and about as noisy as the bunch of drunk Chinese blokes at the table behind us. Still the food was ok, and would get better as we journeyed further into Vietnam.

Next stop...Ho Chi Minh City!

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