Day 47 - Part one of our 2 day Meekong Delta trip into Cambodia

Chau Doc Travel Blog

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Our boat for day 1 of hte Meekong Delta crossing

Today we were starting our 2 day trip across the Meekong Delta going from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It was possible to take a straight bus to Phnom Penh but we decided we'd rather take our time and see some of this famed Meekong Delta ourselves. The trip overall was to be a mixture of buses and boats with a one night stop in a hotel in the middle.

The first leg of the trip was a bus journey leaving at 8:20. We arrived at our first changeover at 10:45, a transfer to a slow boat for the trip to the floating market.

The rice husks that are used as fuel for the fire
The floating market was a wholesale market where boats from all over the Meekong Delta would travel full of home grown fruit, vegetables and some animals and fish. The boats would stay for about a week where the family would live on the boats while they sell their boat load of produce before returning home. There were 5 of these floating markets in the Meekong Delta in total and these supplied large numbers of markets in the area with things like pumpkin and watermelon.

Once we passed though the floating market we went to the river bank to see how the locals made rice paper for spring rolls as well as pop rice and coconut candy that they used as treats. Watching the rice paper was interesting, it’s basically a rice liquid/paste that is spread over a piece of silk over a steaming pot of water. The silk holds the fluid while it is briefly steam cooked into a thin sheet. The wet sheets of rice paper are then placed on large bamboo trays, about 7 feet by 2 feet, where they are placed in the sunlight to dry.

Making rice paper with a silk cloth over a steaming pot of water
... and voila.... rice paper!

After the rice paper we went to the next room to see how coconut candy was made. Firstly they take dried coconuts and scrape out the white coconut from inside the shells. At the same time as they are doing this they are taking sugar cane and heating it to turn it into caramel. Once the caramel is hot enough, they add the coconut powder/scrapings to the caramel before spreading it out into a 1/4 inch thick sheet. They let the caramel dry before cutting it into small sweet size pieces. As the candy is sticky they wrap it first in plastic and then in paper before packaging.

From the coconut candy making we then went to a neighboring house where they were making pop rice. Pop rice is like Rice Krispies or Coco pops for anyone living in Ireland/England and probably other countries around the world.

A coconut press used to squeeze the juice out of the coconut
It is also the same as what's in dry rice cakes. They take the rice, still in the husks and add it to a giant wok of hot sand (The sand turns black after repeated heating if your looking at the pictures). The hot sand heats the rice to the point that it starts popping out of the husks, similar to pop corn. The then sifts the sand and the husks out of the popped rice before adding it to hot caramel. Some of the popped rice is sent to a rice cake making building but the building that we were in they made pop rice candy squares out of it instead.

We left the rice making areas and got back on the boat to head to an island in the Meekong Delta to have lunch. We spent about another hour traveling across the Delta and into a small tributary beside the island and this is where we got another, unexpected mode of transport. The boat's propeller kept getting stuck in the mud of the river as it was low tide, so we had to get off our boat and on to bicycles to cycle the remainder of the distance to the restaurant where we could have lunch and wait for the tide to come in!

We grabbed lunch at the restaurant after a 5 minute cycle up the banks of the river, another rice based dish.

Melted Caramel .. the base for the coconut candy!
We got back on our bicycles and headed back to the boat. Its amazing what difference an hour can make with the tide because when we got back on the boat we were able to travel much quicker up the river. We eventually got to our port where we got off the boat and back onto a bus.

The only real different part of this bus journey was that we actually had to get on a ferry to cross the main Meekong River again. This appeared to be free and there were 4 or 5 boats crossing the short stretch of the Meekong continuously. There was a large suspension bridge being built in the distance so presumably this will do away with the ferries eventually.

After an uneventful bus journey we arrived at our hotel just inside the border between Vietnam and Cambodia at about 6:30, where we were to spend the night before taking the second part of our journey into Cambodia.

The coconut candy being cut into pieces and individually wrapped
We had dinner in the hotel that was included as part of the $26 ticket that we bought for the 2 days. It was a limited choice menu based on rice or noodles as usual but it still sufficed. Caroline, Julia (American) and Song (Korea), 2 girls who were on the 2 day trip with us headed into Chau Doc town for a walk and to look at the night market but I kindly declined and had an early night.

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Our boat for day 1 of hte Meekong …
Our boat for day 1 of hte Meekong…
The rice husks that are used as fu…
The rice husks that are used as f…
Making rice paper with a silk clot…
Making rice paper with a silk clo…
A coconut press used to squeeze th…
A coconut press used to squeeze t…
Melted Caramel .. the base for the…
Melted Caramel .. the base for th…
The coconut candy being cut into p…
The coconut candy being cut into …
The whole family workling in the s…
The whole family workling in the …
Some of the goods for sale to the …
Some of the goods for sale to the…
A really nice boat in the Meekong …
A really nice boat in the Meekong…
The hot sand used for making pop r…
The hot sand used for making pop …
The rice pieces starting to pop op…
The rice pieces starting to pop o…
Caroline getting organised on the …
Caroline getting organised on the…
Our boat driver ... check out what…
Our boat driver ... check out wha…
Some of the boats along the banks …
Some of the boats along the banks…
A local in their small fishing boat
A local in their small fishing boat
A boat loaded with cargo ... being…
A boat loaded with cargo ... bein…
A pole advertising what the boat i…
A pole advertising what the boat …
A church along the banks of the Me…
A church along the banks of the M…
Some of the secondary chool childr…
Some of the secondary chool child…
Rice paper drying in th sun
Rice paper drying in th sun
The rice almost all popped
The rice almost all popped
filtering the sand out of the Meek…
filtering the sand out of the Mee…
Julia (America, now living in Chin…
Julia (America, now living in Chi…
The suspension bridge being built …
The suspension bridge being built…
The ferry being used to carry vehi…
The ferry being used to carry veh…
sifting the husks and sand from th…
sifting the husks and sand from t…
Mixing the popped rice with carame…
Mixing the popped rice with caram…
Locals moving between the houses i…
Locals moving between the houses …
A local gathering water hysinth
A local gathering water hysinth
A sand barge in the Meekong delta
A sand barge in the Meekong delta
a posh house along the banks of th…
a posh house along the banks of t…
A local river crossing ferry
A local river crossing ferry
The standard of normal houses alon…
The standard of normal houses alo…
Caroline cycling along the road on…
Caroline cycling along the road o…
Chau Doc
photo by: worldcitizen