Snakes on the Boat (Vietnam #8)

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It was time to face the fury and grandness of nature in this daring adventure on the Mekong River!

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I had succumbed to accept one of those touristy trips down the Mekong River for half a day – it seemed the easiest way to actually see part of it. Waking up at 6:30 and getting on the bus with a rather chatty tour guide (I so dont like tour guides – but this one seemed to learn fast that I wasn’t really interested in boring facts and left me be) wasn’t very pleasant. And, in the early hours of the morning, I was hoping the bus would never arrive to pick me up.

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It took about two hours from Saigon to Cai Be where we we going to board a boat, stopping along the way to have some coffee and breakfast – and to give me plenty of time to judge my fellow travellers. The Aussie couple (who are from Melbourne) were quite fascinated by Vietnamese coffee and made some sort of remark that it’s not quite like what they have back home. To which my response was that they obviously never went to Springvale or Footscray. I mean really, Melbourne has a huge population of vietnamese. There’s that sort of coffee everywhere.

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The bus looked quite sturdy from the outside – but looks can be deceiving. I’m not sure whether we were driving over holes or through areas where the magnetic pull of the Earth stopped existing, because at times the car would just throw me in the air, violently hitting the chair on my way back.

But I survived, and once at the port we quickly boarded the boat to see the (rather small, unimpressive) “floating market”.

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People were casually diving and washing into the murky waters of the Mekong, then going on their business of selling potatoes and having the intimacy of their daily lives violated by dozen of inappreciative tourists.

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Wind blew in my hair, and I inhaled the sweet smell of isolation from the rest of the group as I was sitting at the back of the boat – tho my guide kept trying to tempt me to move closer to them. NAY!

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Technology (or rather the lack of it) forced life on the river to have a slower pace than the hustle n bustle of Ho Chi Minh. As much as our boat tried to rush and speed up, it didn’t seem to do a very impressive job in the wide, immense river surface.

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See how all the boats converge to witness my awe inspiring presence.

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Our first pit stop was at a little place which herded bees, offering us tea with lots of milk and fresh, juicy lime in it. I attempted a discussion with my tour that what he was holding were Apis cerana, the Asian bees, and that hence his entire speech of “as long as you dont shake them you can hold this bee hive piece” was in vain. As opposite to Apis Mellifera, the European bees, the Asian variety generally run away and would rather use thermal defence, unlike their savage Western cousins who go for the sting. Nevermind me.

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Together with the free tea we were provided with the opportunity to buy various bee products, amongst which “royal jelly”. The australians were wondering whether there was anything scientific behind it’s so called potency, raising one of the containers with high disbelief. Queue explanation of how royal jelly is the food they feed to larvae and queen bees (as opposite to the tour guide’s idea that royal jelly is honey produced by the queen – the biologist in me was exploding in such rage of this clear misunderstanding of the bee hive structure) and that this means that it is quite nutritional.

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Meet Lili (that is her real name), barely 5 years of age but already known what she wants (luckily it wasn’t to snap my neck, but just to molest my leg. If you look closer in the pic you can see she’s doing smth there).

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Certainly, once asked if they have snakes in Vietnam the answer was no, not really, as they tend to kill them and eat their meet. So my encounter with Lili wasn’t very authentic. We continued our pilgrimage thru the rather artificial village of rice paper makers and coconut candy stirrers.

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We were also asked if we wanted to try some snake whisky, to which my reply was “well if the boa didn’t kill me maybe this snake will”. Bottoms up.

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Then I saw mudskippers! Queue biology lesson of how these creatures are fish. Yes fish. Yes they are on land.

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We got back on the boat and sailed somewhere close by to have some fresh fruit and listen to some rather dreary folk music.

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Onwards to smaller boats to enjoy some of the canals of Vinh Long, mudskippers doing their little 80’s dance and fireflies not staying still long enough for me to focus and take a god damn picture.

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We then went to another island for a half hour bike around the clickety clakety roads and small bridges, which was rather nice and quaint and no other tourists except for us. As I am still recovering from a long night of drinking and not all that much sleep, I will probably end this blog post soon. We returned to Saigon at about 5:30, later on going out and bar hopping for far too long.

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