Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chau Doc to Pnomh Penh by Speed Boat up the Mekong

After a quick walk through an aromatic and colorful local market in Chau Doc, Vietnam, we turned down a narrow alley towards the river. Above, ingredients for Pho soup, a breakfast favorite.

Decorations for New Years

Rambutan fruit (May be same as lychee)

Here is Carol just turning down the small alley to the river..

Our first glimpse of life on the river bank was spectacular. I felt that I wanted to stand in this one spot for hours. Here families were starting their day, many in houseboats or small thin river boats. Shoreside homes are built on stilts and the river side is mostly open air. Boats full of school age children were arriving from the hundreds of houseboats, dogs cheerfully living on boats, everyone cooking, eating, washing up, bathing in the river. Everything wildly photogenic. Too bad we had to move onto our own boat. Here's a spot I'd love to see more.

We set out to begin our day on the river, this huge body of water that is the source of so much life in SE Asia. It is surely one of the great rivers of the works. First we stopped at a family owned fish farm. It looked like an ordinary house boat, but underneath in a giant cage swirled 90 tons of catfish, carp and tilapia. We watched them being fed, and heard all about how they harvest them (best ones go to US, less good stay here for domestic market). The family lives above the fish farm.

Then we got onto our speedboat for a fast race up the river. Along the way we went by numerous riverside dwellings, most on stilts for the inevitable floods. We saw duck farms, mango and banana groves, farmers with teams of oxen and wooden carts. There were boats of every imaginable size and shape, including many local ferries loaded with scooter riders trying to cross the river, and innumerable house boats. We saw only one bridge, a huge suspension cable one now under construction with only the approaches in place on either side of this vast river.

We made one stop at the Cambodian border to get visas, an amazingly tropical garden spot with hibiscus, orchids, mangoes, tropical birds, and pagoda-like buildings.

We were wind-blown and sunburned almost beyond repair.

Later we arrived in Pnomn Penh for a great lunch and then walk to the Royal Palace. This is a rapidly growing riverside city, with now a casino and amusement park, along with the hundreds of saffron robed monks and lovely formal gardens. Our guide made a succinct comment about the new development here. She said, "like with food. Sometimes presentation is very beautiful, but taste is terrible." Clearly she believe that Pnomh Penh is going in the wrong direction in a hurry.

Last night, after a spectacular dinner at our very lovely hotel, we went out in tuk-tuks (called Sambo here) for a ride around the city at night. Finally feel into bed around 10 pm.

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Location:Sothea Ros Blvd,Phnom Penh,Cambodia

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