Waterworld

3 May

There’s lots of activity on the river – every few minutes a boat load of motorcycles crosses the river – there are two ferries, it’s so busy – while longtails and cargo vessels vie with the occasional tourist boat. It’s quite disconcerting when half the restaurant wheels away into the river – but I guess I should expect that from a floating restaurant.

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So, rather than turn left into town, I turn right… and suddenly a whole new world opens up. A lot of people arrive in Chau Doc and go straight off on a tour of the Mekong delta. And I am sure they have a great time. And I am equally sure that they miss out on everything that Chau Doc has to offer.

To start off with, no one is hassling me to buy anything. There’s a few cheerful moto and cyclo drivers who would like to whisk you off somewhere (where, I am not sure, there’s not that much to Chau Doc. I took a stroll through the park, which has some interesting sculptures and a man asleep in his cyclo.

DSCF3743DSCF3747DSCF3749DSCF3752I wandered through the market – a a market, I might add, that certain of my friends would cheerfully spend an entire weekend in…. even I wanted to buy a dress – without  anyone wanting to sell me anything. In fact, the presence of a ngoåi nhân like me seemed to be a complete surprise – and I only saw around half a dozen caucasian faces all day.

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But the river.. oh, the river. It’s like a Richard Scarry book (see box if you’re clueless). Everything is happening. There are big boats zooming around, while ferrymen try not to get mown down. The ferrymen are, in fact, mostly women, and the upright rowing position seems to be working wonders for their figure.

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imageNote for the clueless: Richard Scarry is an American author of children’s picture books. EVERY child has a Richard Scarry book somewhere. One of his most successful styles is to draw huge scenes with lots of detail, so that the poor unfortunate parent/grandparent/babysitter/innocent passerby has to name them all. And woebetide you if you miss one out. Sound familiar, David Hodgson? If you’ve never read one… you will.

People live on the river in tiny little boats with precious little protection against the elements.. there’s a fisherman mending his nets, while children swim in the river (littlest one has a very sensible life jacket on – and seems to be tied to a rope as well). There are big boats, little boats, long tails, cargo vessels that look as if they’re going to sink. Half the town seems to be built on the river. Patches of water hyacinth go floating down river  to clog propellers and get stuck on anchors.

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I can sit and watch this for hours… but sadly the sun sets over the harbour… and the town lights up with street stalls, at which I discover that it IS possible to make sweetcorn taste even better than just cooked with butter, and that the Cambodian blandness is left behind, a mere memory in a sizzle of Vietnamese spiciness..

I think I’m going to like it here….

In fact, I was up at sunrise to get some cracking sunrise shots.. and some more pictures of the market in a better light… and more stuff happening here, there and everywhere…

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