Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Tho (your pronunciation is wrong - trust me)

On the way out of Ho Chi Minh City, we pass all sorts of stuff including rice fields and industrial estates. A guy outside a statue factory carves a chunck of sandstone with a chainsaw... bad ass. We arrive about 3km out of My Tho (pronounced 'me tur' but with more emphasis on the 't') and the moto-taxi drivers are waiting. We went to grab a coffee first to get the lay of the land. Have I mentioned the coffee yet? Well! It is incredible and then they pour sweetened condensed milk all over it. It tastes like candy and you cannot taste the coffee which is good if you don't like coffee. It's like diabetes in a cup. So, while we are drinking our coffee, a man comes up to us asking if we would like a ride into town, we say that it sounds OK (30,000 vnd for both of us) and hop on two motorbikes with our backpacks etc. The traffic chaos is a little less than Ho Chi Minn but still chaotic. The motorbike ride was so awesome. I thought it would be scarier but it was fine, they didn't go faster than necessary and people are pretty polite so there was no drama (it was really fun).

We got dropped off at the docks and a tour operator wanted to know if we wanted to go for a boat trip. Having just arrived, we explained that we were just after a hotel for now (most people visit for day tours so there was a bit of confusion). He suggested a hotel down the road, on the river front which we found charged 220,000 vnd a night so we checked in happily and have been here ever since. The tour operator kept popping up and after beating us back to the hotel, we finally agreed to hear about his tours. We decided to take a boat tour, mostly because we don't know the Mekong Delta and thought it would give us an intro and an opportunity to practice our Vietnamese. 800,000 vnd later, we shook hands and promised to be in the lobby at 9am the following morning.

The tour guide was lovely and picked us up from the front desk. He spoke English and was very understanding about our bad Vietnamese. We hopped on a boat (there were no other tourists) with our guide and went to Unicorn Island for honey tea and tropical fruits. It is a bit hard to know when we should buy stuff/tip people. We were taken to a market where there were lots of coconut shell goods which were beautiful but we didn't want to carry anything so couldn't buy any. Then onto another smaller boat paddled by two laddies in conical hats. We tipped them for their efforts because the short trip was so lovely.

We stopped on another island to visit the coconut monk whose super power was to bring peace ... although his only way to demonstrate this power was to be elected president which never eventuated so... The temple is a bit hard to describe but I would start by saying it is colourful and intricate. It reminded me of a Buddhist temple if it were an exhibit in a theme park. The next stop was a coconut candy factory where we bought more candy than we can eat in a life time.

After the tour we wandered around town taking in the sights. We saw kiosks on the river front, multi-coloured fishing boats and floating plants on the mud brown water (even some locals swimming in the river!). The goal was to find two bicycles that will take us the rest of our journey. Its a bit hard to explain that we wanted to buy not rent but we had a couple of options. One tour operator had some second hand bikes for 1.5 million vnd each and another store had brand new bikes for 2.3 million vnd each. We decided that we would like the least hassle option so chose the new ones (although only time will tell if they are actually hassle free). We bought bike locks, occy-straps and helmets - mine is hello kitty and says "try to live a colorful life". This is basically my mantra for this trip. Tomorrow we leave for Ben Tre (16Km and a ferry ride) by bike.


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