Good Morning Vietnam…..

2 May

So, how did YOU spend the Royal Wedding Day? me, I went to a really cool little cinema in Phnom Penh, with relaxing mattresses to lie on, and beer and stuff, all sorted by the effervescent Ramon. Mind you, at ten minutes to opening time there was nothing around – and the showing times were yesterdays… but a little patience and I am in.

And then a trip to the Irish bar, Paddy Rice, where I know they are showing the day’s big gig. Aww……it almost makes me go all romantic. Odd to see pictures of the UK though.. it’s been 6 months to the day since I left.


And, finally, the day has arrived. I’m up before breakfast, and there’s no sign of my lift.. so eventually I make my own arrangements. Down to the harbour, onto the boat. Turns out it’s the WRONG boat, but who cares. Then the boat we’re on is too small. So we get on a new boat. The hotel have booked me on the slow boat, but if I change now I will miss the boat. Literally. So, I buy a new ticket and all is well.

And then we’re off. Down the Bassac river (go South on the Mekong and turn right) towards the border.  The river is wide, and lazy, but there’s still lots going on – fishermen dropping their nets, kids playing, ferries, dredgers… keeping the lifeblood of the country flowing.


After around three hours we stop to change boats (they don’t tell us this is what’s happening, which causes some confusion when we get back) but we have a chance to walk through the local village, chat to some of the local kids (well, mostly say ‘Hello’) and take photographs of interesting things – drying corn in the sun, drying palm leaves, water buffalo, cows, kids, boys fishing in the river.


And then on to what has to be one of the nicest immigration locations I have seen – a shady grove by the side of the river. I’m not alone in the ‘lost passport’ stakes – a couple of Norwegian girls have the same problem. It causes a certain amount of confusion, but what are they going to do… keep us in Cambodia? Too much paperwork!


And then to the riverside immigration for Vietnam. And magically I am in another country. Hoorah! It takes another hour to navigate down to Chau Doc.. I could have travelled on, but I think that’s enough excitement for one day.

It’s strange to see signs written in Roman letters again – although it doesn’t help much – Vietnamese pronunciation is fiercely different from English, and it’s a tonal language too – to take an example, the word ‘ma’ can mean ‘phantom’, ‘but’, ‘mother’, rice seedling’, ‘tomb’ or ‘horse’ depending on the rise and fall of pitch on the word (signified by an accent over the ‘a’). Lots of room for error then…And it’s another hyper currency… 17,000 dong (you couldn’t make that one up) to the dollar.

And I have, of course, arrived right in the middle of the Vietnamese Independence day celebrations. I’m staying at a floating hotel, which means that every now and again my room bounces up and down.. the hotel is surrounded by water hyacinth which floats on the river (hiding disused watercraft) – but watching what looks like a solid surface ripple up and down is very disconcerting….

So, a new adventure beckons…


The streets are full of flags – Vietnam is, of course, a communist country. The tuk tuks have disappeared, but the cyclos are out in force – a regular bicycle with a most uncomfortable trailer behind, made for squatting Asian style rather than sitting.


I spend a happy hour or so drinking iced coffee and watching the world go by while regaled by Vietnamese music videos with enough complicated boy meets girl ghost story plots, histrionic whammy bar guitar solos, echoey drum fills and power chord piano to shame Meatloaf. I’ve got to think that some of it is actually quite danceable, if you’re in a bluesy frame of mind (think ‘Freebird’ or ‘Poison’ and you’re half way there).

And, I thought, that’s it for the day… tomorrow, Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, formally, but everyone calls it Saigon). (Apparently, Ho Chi Minh didn’t want a city named after him, and definitely didn’t want to be embalmed…. but that didn’t stop the Vietnamese. He gets sent to Russia once a year for a refurb, they tell me.)

Sorry, where was I? I think I’ve lost the plot again. Oh yes… the dull afternoon. Didn’t happen. But that’s another post entirely.


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