Hello all! It’s Cassie again. My health/stomach has improved greatly since the last post and I’m back to traveling around with Cédric and eating all the food that the streets provide. It took a bit of time before I could walk around the fermenting meat and vegetables stalls at high noon (in 40°C/100°F heat), but I’m back to exploring what the country offers.
We left Phnom Penh in a nondescript bus from the outskirts of the city early Tuesday morning and made our way to the Vietnamese border (which was a nondescript check point where it seemed that if you stood outside the bus in the heat long enough, you were allowed to cross the border). As we drove closer to the border, the dry Cambodian landscape turned into flooded rice fields, spotted with small mountains- very different from what we had seen for the last week.
Around noon, we arrived in Chau Doc and dropped our bags off quickly at the hotel so we could spend the rest of our day motorbiking around. Our first stop was Tra Su, a small wetland reserve 30 km away that also served as a type of bird sanctuary. We rented a boat with a young Vietnamese couple and spent a few hours floating among the mangrove forests, watching the numerous bird species. Afterwards, we scootered back to the city, with a small detour at Sam Mountain (a small, sacred (but also developed) mountain that is spotted with Buddhist temples and shrines).
Our next day followed a similar rhythm: bus to Can Tho, renting a moto to take to Vinh Long, taking a boat ride there, then motorbiking back. Yesterday was also the first day that we experienced driving on the chaotic, yet self-organizing, madness that is the Vietnamese ‘highway.’ Vietnam is significantly more developed than Cambodia and thus comes with more people who own their own vehicles (albeit mostly motorbikes) and road lanes. Here, it seems as though everyone has a right to use the highway, from fruit sellers to school children riding bikes to old men in wheelchairs moving against traffic to buses on a tight time schedule. As long as you drive slow enough and keep a vigilant eye, there will be no major issues. That being said, I made it clear that our motorbiking will be kept to smaller, more rural roads next time.
This morning, Cédric and I left our hotel before dawn to catch a glimpse of the floating markets near Can Tho. We spent about six hours on the river and saw the fruit and vegetable vendors selling their wares at Cai Rang and Phong Dien market, along with other parts of river life, like the fishermen and small freighters moving up and down the Mekong. The rest of our day was spent drinking iced coffee and wandering around the city. For lunch, we tried Banh Xeo, a local dish comprised of am meat and mung bean filled omelet, which is eaten with herbs, lettuce, and rice paper.
Tonight, Cédric and I are taking a night bus to Da Lat, the so-called City of Eternal Spring due to its cooler temperatures, and hope to spend a few days hiking and biking around the mountains there.