29 Jun 2009
My next move was to head to Cambodia, and I thought it would be nice to take in some of the Mekong Delta on the way. It could have been great, buit it turned oout to be one of the worst run tours I have ever been on.
Basically, various tour companies had booked people for tours they couldn’t fill, so they combined us all into a single tour, “run” daftly by TNK.
We did the typical vehicle shuffle and headed to My Tho. From there it we took a boat trip from here to see Tortoise island, and another one with coconut candy making. It tasted alright but you can literally feel your teeth disolving! Sugar to the max. We then got into tiny boats and were road by tiny old women back to the main boat. This was probably the best part of the trip, just going down the rivers lined with palm trees and fields behind them. It just looked like what you imagine the Mekong to be, and reminded me of war movies with soldiers moving through the rivers!
We checked into a crappy hotel and everyone pretty much went their own way for dinner and off to bed. I wandered around and found another Com Chay place for cheap vegan grub! I got talking to a local at the restaurant and he showed me another veg shop where I bought some steamed buns for breaky.
Next day we got up at 6am to see the floating market (which is actually a bunch of boats coming together, not a large barge or floating village). Most boats were selling fruit and veg, with a plant on top of the boat to let you know what they had. Off to other islands, this time a small fruit plantation and rice noodle making. I tried a mochi-like rice-doughnut thing, but almost took a bite of one which had duck eggs in it! Yuuuk! Thanks for that quality explanation.
We then went for lunch and were all like… “is that it”?? It was also becoming clear to me that I was the only one continuing on to Cambodia. We got back on the boat only to go back to the hotel and there was nothing else to do. Falling short on the activities listed in the tours we had actually booked!!
Then, sure enough, I was split here from the rest of the group, and told to get a public bus to the next town?!! They dropped me at the bus station, said something to the guy, gave me a ticket and walked off.. OK and I’m supposed to go where?? Luckily a lady waiting for a bus herself told me what was going on.
My ticket was seat No 12. I knew before I even saw the
bus van. I was jammed at the back left corner. Yeah, let’s put the tallest guy with the longest legs, carrying the most stuff, into the smallest space. Perfect Vietnamese logic. Oh good the air-con is stuffed too.
I then had to check into a dingy ass hotel, and get a motor bike to Sam Mountain. The whole way there, the guy was trying to convince me to pay him more to drive me to the top. What?! A) I’m not giving you any money and B) What is the point of going to the hill if I don’t walk up myself? He wasn’t very happy.
The view was pretty good actually, and there was a temple near the bottom. There were people even living half way up, and a house at the very top. Some old ladies and kids were smiling and laughing, probably at me rather than with me lol. There were numerous fires on the horizon, either burning rubbish or clearing areas for crops.
And that was about all I got to see for this “tour”. And being a small border town, Chau Doc didn’t really offer anything else. With my trusty net book I watched a movie and went to sleep. However, in the middle of the night, I was woken by a knock at the door. I thought, surely its not morning already?? They knocked again, and as the door was nothing more than frosted glass, I could see 2 people standing there. WTF?
In hindsight I shouldn’t have even opened the door, I’ve heard too many bad stories about late night visitors, but I did, and the hotel guy is standing there with a cop. WTF? “We check hotel”…What?? He poked his head around the door, “OK”, and walked off. I checked the time, 2am. WTF are they doing?? can you spell D-O-D-G-Y!!? I asked the staff the next morning and they wouldn’t give me an answer.
Then began the nightmare of getting to Phnom Penh. On my own again, with a guide however, a slow boat took us to the border on the Vietnamese side. This took 3 hours. After spending the last two days on the river this was just boring and there was nothing particularly scenic about the route. Althought I did see a Sea Snake! Yay!
Once at the border, I talked to a few others who had been waiting 2hrs already..great.. I ended up waiting 3 hours here because they made me wait to join a different group’s boat to the border on the Cambodian side!! Arrg.. Then cause one of the people in that group was an idiot, we waited an hour extra at that border, before the NEXT 3hr boat ride to hit Cambodian soil.
So, so far, its taken almost 10hrs, when it should have been 6 total, and I’m now told its another 2hr bus ride. At least on the boat I got to meet a few people and on land we all got on to a really nice, modern, air con bus. Ahh, Cambodia is looking better already. But no. “We have one too many”. What? They had a list of names, and I was the only one who was NOT allowed on this bus. WTF??? They made me wait 3hrs so I could join this F’ing group, now they want to take me off it again? I had to get into a dodgy mini van with no air con and stuffed windows, and he loaded the back with boxes for delivery. I was pretty pissed off at this point and tried to get my way back to the nice bus. Why not? There’s room and they are going into town.. F’ing idiots. No logic.
The guy driving my van spoke NO English, but he could tell I wasn’t happy. We finally begin heading into town, 20min after the ncie bus left, and it’s getting dark (very late sun set). Oh good, your head lights don’t work. I was screaming at him to pull over because it was F’ing dangerous. Cars were swerving because they couldn’t see us. Now he’s on his mobile, while driving, with no lights, and its pitch black. Brilliant. I’m going to die after 10hrs of this shit.
He eventually works out if he kicks a certain point under the dash they come back on temporarily, great, just do that the next 2hrs.. Then he pulls over to wait and drop the freaking boxes off to someone!? Was mt transfer to town being used to pay for his delivery service? I kinda feel sorry for him with the blasting I was giving him, but the whole day was just ridiculous.
Finally we got into town, and he wouldn’t even take me to the hostel I wanted. OR the one the good bus went to. He took me to his crappy hotel, and I got out and the staff said “you stay here”. I said “NO WAY!” and stormed off.
I had to pay a tuk tuk to take me the last leg, and finally, 12 hrs after I left Chau Doc, which is on the freaking border, I made it to the hostel. The bus from SAIGON takes less time than that.
So, be warned, don’t do anything involving TNK Travel. Utterly useless and will do whatever suits them, regardless what position it puts you in. It would have been easier, cheaper, and more fun if I had just organised the trip myself.
Oh, you might notice a sever lack of quality in these photos. With both cameras dead and being on my own, all I had was my Video Camera to take stills. I do have some video too which I will eventually edit..
Anyways, Good Bye Vietnam. I really can’t say I’m going to miss you.