I was ready to smash Jamie’s phone to pieces when the alarm clock rang at 7am. Seeing as we had to check out that morning, I hopped out of bed quickly and jumped under the cold shower in an attempt to wake up. It worked to a degree then next came the process of packing the bags. Nailed it, next came breakfast. It was a light snack once again, an egg with a baguette, 3 slices of tomato, 3 slices of cucumber and a couple thin slices of sausage. It kept us going until we reached the bus anyway. We left our bags beside the reception desk(where they’d remain for the duration of our trip). I then left my bag of valuables with the receptionist. When I asked if they had a security box, he told me it would be safe enough behind the counter, as someone would be there all day (yeah, it would be safe, as safe as a bag can be behind a receptionists desk).
It was getting on for 8:10am by the time we finished paying for our accommodation, we should have been at the tourist information building by 8. It didn’t matter that we were late because so was the bus. It got to us around 8:40. Our guide was quite entertaining, reeling off joke after joke. He was quite clever too, at one point to ensure everyone was listening he said we were on the bus to the Chu Chi Tunnels. It was clever because we were heading to The Mekong Delta for a half day tour, so for those who weren’t listening, they’d turn around in unison and cry “wait, what? No, we’re going to the Mekong.” It took us a good few hours to get to there so during that time I began digging into my newly purchased book.
When we arrived at the river we followed our guide to the harbour. It transpired our group was a lot larger than previously thought, at final head count there were 74 people. There were so many people in fact that we had to be divided over the space of two boats, and additional seating had to be brought aboard one boat. Our first stop would see us visiting a small coconut candy factory. The people employed there made chewy sweets using coconut extracts. The days boat ride took us along the Mekong river and saw us passing through the four islands. Each one was named after the four animals found in Buddhism, they were a unicorn, phoenix, turtle and a dragon. To be honest, I didn’t think the day was going to be that great. The small village factory was a rather tedious stop (and seeing as I am being honest, I didn’t think the day trip sounded that great when the tour guide booked it for us the previous day). With that said, it was interesting to see the tools and machinery they used, but it began and ended there. Luckily the trip began to pick up when we stopped for lunch on the following island, the Phoenix Island.
It was only a 5 minute ride across the width of the river. We then had a sit down meal comprised of pork, rice, vegetables and soup. It was a rather tasty meal as far as inclusive tour meals go (by far it was the best one yet). We were then given an hour to explore the grounds of the island. We didn’t need to go far before we found some fun, with an ice cream in tow we made our way across a very thin bamboo bridge. On the other side of that bridge were some crocodiles in a large pond beneath a bridge. Not being one to sit still, Liam took it upon himself to climb a brick wall and attempt to get as close to a sleeping croc as possible. Using only a small stick to maintain some distance. While he was committing this act of stupidity/bravery he was crying over to me (in his broad Dublin accent) “Ben, take da picture.” Before he knew it, it wasn’t only me taking the picture, but every other tourist as well (probably even one of the crocs if it had the mental capacity and opposable thumbs). He was soon told off by one of the staff but became something of a revolutionist when another tourist attempted the same act. They too were struck down.
We then noticed for 10,000 dong you could rent a bamboo fishing pole. Attached to it was some string with a piece of meat tied to it. The purpose of this, to feed or fish crocodiles. There was no way in hell you could pull any of the fully grown beasts out of the water. When they took a hold they simply pulled down below the surface. I was hoping for one to perform their infamous death roll, however instead, one croc managed to let go off the meat when there was just the right amount of tension of the string. The end result, the meat flew into the air freeing itself from its ties, and slapped a child on the face. Although the child let out (and excuse the pun) crocodile tears, it did make everyone around her laugh hysterically. We became so distracted by the crocs that we lost all track of time, after a quick bathroom visit, we were the last ones to climb back aboard the boat.
Due to our late arrival it meant Sarah and I could no longer sit next to each other. This didn’t matter as it meant I got a chance to meet a new person, while Sarah solemnly read her kindle. My new friend went by the name Jun, and as she put it, was flash packing with her husband Nick. The couple were from Australia and were currently enjoying travelling Vietnam together. It was very easy to make conversation with her (possibly because she was quite laid back). During our 10 minute boat ride I was occasionally prodded by Liam, who for some reason was trying to get my attention. When we arrived at our third stop of the day, the bee-farm, we were asked to sit in groups of 6. I invited Nick and Jun to join us, thereby making our table full. It was here that I discovered why Liam was hitting me on the boat.
Apparently the Chinese couple in front of him were taking sneaky pictures of Sarah without her permission. He seemed to think they got somewhere between 10-20 snaps. Some of which he said looked quite good, like natural photos. The purpose for our visit was to try some honey tea, produced by the little furry blighters themselves. Not the tea but the honey, you know what I meant. We were also given the opportunity to hold a tray full of bees, Which Liam, Jamie and I did. We took it in turns to take pics, then returned to our table. After consuming a whole mugs worth we set off in small boats up the rivers natural canals.
The boats sat four people plus two rowers. We had a sweet lady on the front, who halfway through turned to us and wiped her brow as if to show exhaustion. With that, Jamie and I picked up an oar each and turned or small ship into a speed boat. As we powered through the water, we passed lots of villagers on their boats shouting the word tip, at us. To begin with we thought they were being cheeky and asking for money, it turned out they were encouraging us to give our rowers a tip. They steered us to our final village of the day where we’d get a chance to appreciate the villagers music and taste some fruits. We were ushered towards some seats, where once again they sat six people. The 3 female villagers came out in traditional costume and sang along to songs which were played by their male counterparts (they however did not dress up). Before it even ended they came around with baskets for us to, presumably, put money in. I was tempted to put my dragon fruit skins in initially, but saner heads prevailed. Unfortunately Sarah and I only had 50 or 200,000 notes left, not feeling as though the music was that good we decided to keep ahold of them. Our new friend Jun handed me a 2,000 note (6 pence) to put in instead, to which I thanked her and jokingly said I’d pay her back when we eventually got to Australia. After the music our group returned to the boat in a long straight line. However, somehow Nick managed to get himself lost and held up the boats departure. When he finally showed up, some 10 minutes later, he was welcomed back in the form of a loud cheer from all of us. We then raised anchor and set sail for the bus to Ho Chi Minh.
During the boat ride the Chinese people were at it again. The female of the couple slyly put her hat on her lap to block our vision, while her husband took photos of another westernised girl to their right. Sarah seeing this raged and told them to stop it. She tried informing the European girl what they were doing, but the Chinese couple just laughed about it. This made things worse for Sarah. The reason it annoyed her so much was because of the hypocrisy. In the Asian culture it is deemed really rude and offensive to take pictures of someone without their permission, yet there this Chinese couple were taking them willy nilly. Having not been to china myself I don’t feel it right to comment, but by hearing what friends had to say about the place, it doesn’t sound nice. They claim nobody wants to help you there, the people are very pushy shovey when it comes to queueing and as for general hygiene, apparently they just phlegm in the streets. Sarah took some form of revenge against them vicariously through Liam. When the lady was about to take a beautiful picture of a passing bridge, Liam jumped in the shot. So the end result was the lovely bridge with a crazy Irishman in the corner. He then proceeded to take lots of pictures of the woman using her own camera, which she laughed off, luckily. 10 minutes later we were free of the awkward situation, when we touched our feet back on land.
After getting back on our bus we travelled for another few hours. I kept fighting the tiredness as long as I could, but in the end I had to give in and sleep. When I woke up we had arrived. Jamie, Sarah and I then had to move our bags from our old hotel to our new one. We didn’t hang about, and ended up losing Liam when he stopped in a travel shop to book up another day trip. The lady at reception gave us our new key. Then the three of us got comfy in our spacious accommodation. This room had a new feature to us, a balcony. This tiny 3 x 2 foot ledge looked out onto the noisy street below. After having some refreshing showers and Skype calls, the three of us set out to find some food. We introduced Jamie to the place we visited the previous night. He seemed to like it. On the way back to the hotel we were confronted by some children who began asking us for some money, they repeated the word over and over, “Money? Money?” We told them no and continued walking (at least the kids were honest with their intentions, instead of pretending to want money for food like the older generations). When we got back to our room we began watching movies on the telly, as for myself I was committed to bringing you guys the latest travel news from the world of Ben and Sarah. It was another late night before I was done, but it didn’t matter because the next day we’d get a lye in, before having to catch a bus to our 4th country – Cambodia.