Friday, August 26, 2005

Totally in the Shit

Hanoi, Vietnam

After dealing with a little relapse of my chronic sinusitus, I am back, and in full effect. And in Hanoi.

We spent the our last few days in Southern Vietnam being driven and boated around the Mekong Delta by our man Le. Le was a private tour operator who I met in the park in front of the Reunification Palace in Saigon. He biked up to me and started a conversation as I was reading my Rough Guide to Vietnam, trying to find a good park to get some excersize (the park in front of the palace was useless to me). We spoke for almost an hour about the US and Vietnam and everything in between, then exchanged business cards. Later that day, I gave him a call, and we organized a two-day excursion among the canals of the Delta for a reasonable price.
It was a good two days. It was just the four of us: Le, Mike, Jason, and Han (the driver, and Le's cousin). We drove for a few hours to get away from the urban bustle of Saigon, through the small towns and constant construction of Highway 1. It was our first glance of what "real" Vietnamese life was like. Small towns with dirt roads, fading buildings, and barefooted children.
Our first stop was Vinh Long, where we hopped on a tour boat and powered across the Mekong River and into the complex web of canals beyond. There were stops at a few places of note, including a floating market, a candy manufacturer, and a resort-island where we relaxed in hammocks and snacked on fresh fruits. But, the real activity of interest was just floating through the canals themselves, past small waterside villages, watching the junks and fishing boats pass by. That night, we ended up in Can Toh for a nice meal and an early evening.
We woke early the next morning, had a light breakfast, and jumped into smaller junk for yet another journey through the delta, this time around the canals of Can Toh. We motored to a livelier floating market, even managing a boat-to-boat purchase, and explored some of the more remote locations near the town. Parts of the trip had us slicing through low, overhanging foliage and scraping the junk's roof along the bottom of a wooden foot-bridge. This second half of the trip was very close to what imagined skirting through a Vietnamese delta would be like. We got a lot of good footage and some cool pics.
The smothering heat of midday was spent relaxing in a wild garden. We floated back to Can Toh around two, and then drove a quick four hours back to HCMC.

I would heartily recommend Le to anyone who wants a guided tour of southern Vietnam. So, here's his info:

Le Tu Do

If you find yourself in Saigon with nothing to do, you should give our boy a call. Well worth it.


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