VN-CAMB-KL : Mysterious Trip HCMC (Saigon) to Chau Doc

Do you know what the differences between 300 USD and 125 USD (2,5 million VND)? It is a lot of money, yes! So, how it would be? A transport cost 300 USD compare to 125 USD? I don’t really know about the 300 USD one, cos I didn’t try it, but I know about the other one! Hahaha!

It was a Toyota Innova, good condition, no bad smell, good air co, just perfect! But….. non English speaker-driver! Hahahaha!!  Tien, A friend from CS arranged the driver and car for me.  She gave him clear instructions about the destinations, when and where to pick us,  and the price also. So, I met this driver when he picked us on the hotel, 6 am Saigon time. I never speak nor see him before! After grabbed some delicious b-fast, we loaded our luggage to the car, and leave Saigon.

Something difficult about VN language is, the way they spell it are far enough from how it was written. VN language using tones like Chinese. So, it was almost useless to try to speak with the driver about the destinations, cos we spelled the name wrongfully, it is better write it down, and show it to the driver. Since we have very limited way to communicate with the driver, all we can do was seating, enjoyed the ride, and do the “don’t ask don’t tell policy”. Every turn was a mystery…… I can’t even found the road on the VN map we got from Handspan. The road was almost deserted, it looks like the Vietnamese don’t like to drive town to town. Unlike the north coast line in Java, that lied along Java island, it is always full of traffic, even jamming in many spots! I have tried to find my route from Saigon to Cai Be on google map and google earth, it gave me a shocking route. It looks like I have to take a lo……ng road, turning somewhere really far from my final destination, Chau Doc city. I was desperate, I was thinking that this Saigon-Cai Be-Chau Doc route was un-doable. But, Tien told me that the route was OK, and it would take 6-7 hours Saigon to Chau Doc, no matter what.

Our first destination was Cai Be. It is a city in delta Mekong. There are many cities in delta Mekong, such as My Tho, Vinh Long, Ben Tre, ect. All of them are interesting, people life with different lifestyle here. Actually, I was thinking about 2 cities, Cai Be, or My Tho. Both looks interesting, they both have small tour, cruising the Mekong river a bit, and visiting some touristic places, such as : coconut candy factory, rice paper making, fruit plantation, and bee farm. Finally, I picked Cai be. At the end, I regretted it abit, I wish I picked My Tho instead of Cai Be…….After a long ride, rice fields scene along the way, finally the driver entering rather small populated road, and stop there. It was about 2 hours from Saigon. After enjoying a peaceful-sleepy-ride, here I’m now….back to reality! The driver opened the door, that’s all he could help! I went out the car and wondered around with my eyes, what should I do here?? The road was ended up on the big big river, it was a parking area. Some tourist bus and cars parked there, it is quite touristic, actually. I enter a tour agent office, next to the Cai Be Tourist gate. They didn’t pay much attention to me….. I was really disappointed, after I got the price, I left the office. They asked me 10 USD per person. I moved to another office, they quoted me 12 USD. I moved further, a cute man came approached, invite me to his office. His likes to giggle and the way he giggle was cute, hahaha! I kept on imitating his giggle sometimes now, hee hee hee! He quoted me in VND, unlike the other who use USD. I don’t know why, I always prefer a tour agent who uses VND prices. He quoted me 150.000 VND per person, means 750.000 for the 5 of us. I asked him for 700.000 VDN, for all of us, and he agreed.

So, we jumped to the boat again, ready to do river cruise once more. This is the second river cruise after Hue city. There are lots of island in the Mekong delta, those islands gifted by fertile soil and lots of water. Fruits grew fantastically here. The fruits was tropical fruits, durian, rambutan, longan, mangosteen, mango, ect, just the same with Indonesia. But, it taste different, of course! This time, I didn’t spend lots of times in the boat, cos we spend quite lots of time in the islands.Why would I prefer My Tho compare to Cai Be? The activities during the tour are similar. They both will visiting coconut candy factory, rice paper making, fruit plantation, drink orange-tea, and visiting bee farm. But, something My Tho has, other than Cai Be has is….. we can rowing, I mean, we seat, and the Vietnames farmer will row for us around the natural canal in in My tho. It would be awesome! The canals are narrow, no boat will go through the canal, only small canoe for 2-3 people can go. OK, I will visit My Tho next time!!

After 3 hours in Cai Be tour, we back to our mysterious trip with mysterious driver, to Chau Doc. The next problem appeared, me and the whole party need some lunch…… How could we communicate with the driver? My uncle tried to speak in English, which wasn’t impressed me at all! We all knew this man talk no single word of English! Not even the simple words like eat or stop! So, my sis gave him stop gesture, and eat gesture right after it. It works!! He stopped at…… something like bus shelter. It was in the middle of nowhere, in an un-populated place. No tourist at all! I sniffed another trouble! Hahaha! It was a big warehouse, large parking area, big restaurant, small market-like, and lots of toilet….. definitely a rest area. I tried to read the menu, but I can’t catch a single word, which one is rice, which one is meat or chicken. No waiters seems to speak English there. I was a bit confuse, while my aunt started to do her favorite act : doing the desperate-trance-dance mumbling “We’re die! We’re die! We’re die!” This was not just un-impressing,  it was also not helping at all!!

At the end, we go to the meal preparations area. Almost all food was there, ready to put into the plates. We picked the most average-looks-meat and rice for the lunch. Finally, problem solved by index finger, and positive minds, of course! Trust me, desperate-trance-dance won’t help at all!!

After some good meal, we were jumped back to the car, enjoying the almost silent-sleepy-peaceful driving time. Until…. The next mystery came! Suddenly, the driver led the car into a crowded place. I was thinking that it was traffic jam, the car was crawling really slow. I realized that we were in a queue instead of traffic jam, when we arrived at a booth. The driver paid some money without telling anything. Here we were, asking to each other, what would it be at the end of the queue?? A bridge perhaps? Just like Surabaya-Madura bridge, or ferry, or what?? The car was crawling really slow, sometimes stuck too. At the end…..it was a ferry! Hahaha! Unlike in Indo, we use ferry boat only for straits, Vietnam using ferry for rivers….. Their rivers really big and deep!    

Around 6 PM we arrived at a rather busy city, next to the river. It was Chau Doc….. Finally, after leaving busy-modern Saigon at 6 AM, we arrive at our final destination, Chau Doc. I have no plan in this town, my only intention here was taking a boat to Cambodia on the next morning. So, after some small refreshment at the Hai Chau Hotel, we go for a little walk around the city. Chau Doc have a tourist attraction, it name is Sam mountain, but I have no time to visit it. The hotel was nice, they have restaurant on the ground floor, free wi-fi, and one free computer to use. Perfect!      

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