|Nearing the end of our adventure with Isabelle and Maggie - we've opted not to plane, train, jeep, bus or train it. This time we're travelling by boat - down the Mekong River back into Vietnam. Of course - they put you in a bus first for an hour. An hour that seemed like an eternity on these crazy roads of SE Asia. We boarded a boat for two hours - a fairly sea worthy one where Isabelle even went outside to sit at the bow. When we got to the border - we off loaded - got our passports stamped out of Cambodia. Then we were in no man's land between two countries - not in Cambodia anymore - not yet in Vietnam. Had lunch. Yes - had lunch - then boarded a different boat - with a different driver - different guide. One that spoke pretty basic English too - so we were able to learn a few things. We always like that. All in all - the boat trip took 6 and half hours including the border crossing. Travelling by boat appears to be a really great option for travel in this country.
During the rainy season, from June to October, the Mekong rises dramatically, forcing the Tonlé Sap River to flow northwest into the lake of the same name. During this period, the large lake swells from around 3,000 sq.km to almost 13,000 sq. km. From the air - Cambodia looked like one great puddle and in actuality - it is. There are but strips of homes - where the locals had obviously learned where the high land is. Now our boat is amongst them. Our trip was fascinating and even took short cuts through what are rice fields during the dry season. In addition to the beauty of the river - it also provided an insight into how many Cambodians and Vietnamese live - in poverty.
Our booking put us in over night at the border town of Chau Doc (pop. 100,000) . Chau 'nothing special from what we could tell'. Dirty, loud, bad restaurants and even worse accommodation - all based on a tourism market that only spends one night on route back to Vietnam. Thier main commerce is fish farming. Fish farming constitutes 15% of Vietnam's total seafood output and is concentrated here. It 's a type of catfish - and 15,000 tonnes are exported annually - primarily to Europe and the States, in the form of while fish fillets (aka Captain Highliner). The houses here float right over their farm cages and you can see the big pots that steam away to make fish food. How easy to get dinner? Just lift a panel in your floor for the catch of the day!
$8 pp Phnom Penh to Chau Doc via bus and boat
$15 - Hotel room in Chau Doc (no star rating)
$100 for our minivan to Rach Gia (so we could catch the ferry to the island) - we got ripped off here
$15 pp for Ferry to Phou Quoc Island