Boat adventure to Chau Doc

There is a tinglish expression in southeast asia, made out of the little words most people know and very common in selling things: “same same, but different”.

Tom, correct it

There is a tinglish expression in southeast asia, made out of the little words most people know and very common in selling things: “same same, but different”. The bus company across the street may tell you that the tickets they offer are “same same, but different”. Same same because you will also be in a four-wheeled vehicle. Different because… who knows. It might turn out to be a better and faster bus, or that the bus is well overbooked. Or it may be a fake ticket. In this case, the but different just means “screw you”. It’s easy to find its funny edge. Lady boys or fake rolex can be very “same same, but different”. Before leaving phnom penh I buy myself a touristy t-shirt with the expression.

In order to keep track (river in my case) of my itinerary, let’s recapitulate. After leaving luang nam tha, in the north of laos, I have been in the (mekong) riverside cities of huay xai, luang prabang, vientiane, and the island don det. About two hundred km after crossing the southern laos border by bus I left the mekong again to visit the temples and siem reap in the west of cambodia. After so many temples and rivers I felt like going to the beach in the south, where I basically played pool and had three dollar barbecues by the sea. Then I headed to phnom penh, back in the mekong. At this point the mekong turns south east to vietnam, where it broadens and separates into nine main rivers (the nine dragons) and forms a big delta, the so called rice bowl of asia (and of the world).

I leave phnom penh in a slow boat (though they call it fast boat) to the vietnamese town of chau doc, by the mekong and by the cambodian border. There aren’t almost any tourists in the town, nor their symbiotic friends the tuk tuks. The same night I take a motorbike (together with its driver, since I have never riden a motorbike myself) and visit some temples and ride up Sam moutain, from where you can see a vast plane 360 degrees around, including the cambodian border and the mekong. If I recall well, this is the fourth sunset I try to see and can’t because of the heavy clouds. The next morning the manager of the hostel takes me in a boat to see the floating villages around. Some consist in a bunch of rusted metal boats gathered together. Clothes hang by the side and people cook and eat in the front of the boat. Most of the fishing villages, though, are groups of huts made of metal and wood plates, supported on four wood legs. Some have fish farms in the bottom of their houses, consisting in one squared meter holes in the floor and nets. An eight year old boy comes to us by boat saying “hello, money. Hello, pen”. I am the kind of person who always has a pen in the pocket. Sadly, today is the exception and the extended hand of the kid goes back empty. The poverty and authenticity of these villages have made this boat trip very interesting to me. Coming back I think I have never seen before any village actually settled in the water. I then recall the romantic gondolas and high end cafes of venice. Here it’s same same, but different.

I ride a local van to the big city of can tho, in the middle of the delta. As I point in the map my guesthouse to the woman of my left, I recieve a mysterious notebook from the girls in my right. I read “where do you want to go in phan dinh phung street?”. After a conversation three pages long I break the ice and really speak, only to come back seconds later to the more efficient pen and notebook. Phuong (~Fu) gives me a ride in her motorbike (me wearing the sexy pink helmet of her friend) to my guesthouse. The next day I take a tourist boat to a local market, to a noodle factory and to the biggest floating market in the rice bowl, cai rang. Long boats filled with their particular mercenary, mainly fruits and vegetables, float around; people wearing vietnamese hats trade and pass fruits to one another. At night Phuong takes me to dinner with the locals. One of my best meals, but I can’t really describe it (and you probably have better things to do).

Source: downthemekong.wordpress.com

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