Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mekong Delta to Nha Trang via the Reunification Express

Todd and I took a trip out to the Mekong Delta. We began our trip with a 3 hour boat ride along the Saigon river. We glimpsed bits of everyday life of people who rely on the river to sell produce and transport resources. People living on house boats bartered at floating markets, took breaks in hammocks, and hung their laundry to dry on decks.

We took a short boat ride through the tributaries leading to the Saigon River. Our boat glided over the water powered by a shy woman sitting behind us. Banana trees and huge palms stretched out above us, casting shadows over the water.

Our guide was a confident and attractive guy who was more an aspiring stand-up comic than guide. He went by the English name of Stiffler, after American Pie fame. I swore though he said Stapler when he first said it. After my year teaching English in Shanghai it wouldn't have been too much of a surprise considering the English names some of my students chose. Stiffler loved making jokes about ex-girlfriends and trying to couple everyone up. We sampled this snake whiskey which Stiffler claims will improve anyone's libido. It may be effective if you could stomach the wretched taste. Later we learned from some friends we made that they read a review (after booking) that talked about a guide named Stiffler. Apparently he insulted these Americans on his tour by saying they were too fat to fit into the Chu Chi Tunnels (the Viet Cong's intricate underground system). Stiffler added much comic relief to our
otherwise mediocre day on the Mekong.

Nha Trang, a southern coastal city, was our next stop after Saigon. We rode the Reunification Express overnight into Nha Trang. This train line links the south and north. Our car was empty compared to the rest of the train which we walked to in order to get to the dining car. We felt we were walking through the circles of Dante's Inferno as each car became more crowded, hot and a depressing metal grey.

Once in Nha Trang, we spent some time on the beach where we ran into some Australians that we met on the Mekong excursion. We went out for local bbq done at your table.
Despite the weather, we spent some time on the beach and taking in some of the islands. Unfortunately, the weather was very rainy the day of our infamous Ma Ma Linh's boat trip and we spent much of the day trapped on the boat with the tarps down. At one point Ma Ma Linh's crew
pulled down a beat-up drum kit from the top deck and proceeded to entertain us with songs sung in strong Vietnamese accents.

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