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
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 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.
The rice husks that are used as fuel for the fire
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.
... and voila.... rice paper!
Making rice paper with a silk cloth over a steaming pot of water
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.
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.
A coconut press used to squeeze the juice out of the coconut
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.
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.
Melted Caramel .. the base for the coconut candy!
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
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
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.
The coconut candy being cut into pieces and individually wrapped