Mekong Delta on L’Amant

Fishing boats, Mekong Delta

Fishing boats, Mekong Delta

Our journey to the Mekong Delta began with a 2 hour mini-bus ride along a very new stretch of highway from Saigon to My Tho – the gateway to the Mekong Delta. This road only opened in 2010 and it has made the journey from the city much faster (and dryer – considering that at certain times of the year, the rains flooded the old roads). It took 10 years and 80,000 people to build it. However, it does not have the appearance of a new highway – there are potholes and cracks appearing already!

Our guide, Lam

Our guide, Lam

Our guide, Lam, was very knowledgeable about his country and was more than happy to answer the groups questions…oh, who am I kidding? It was me who couldn’t be quiet, they were my questions! But it wasn’t quite like the cringe of ‘those people’ at staff meetings who make the meetings go longer due to their inane questions…REALLY, it wasn’t!! We were trapped on a bus for 2 hours – no one was going anywhere…I was helping to pass the time!!! It seems that my nerdy question-asking personality didn’t put the rest of the group off. In fact, it was a bit of an ice-breaker, and we all got chatting and the time passed most pleasantly. By the time we got to our loo-stop, we were cozy enough to be comparing our Vietnam toilet stories, and there were some doozies!

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We arrived in Cai Be late morning and boarded our cruiser, L’Amant – inspired by Marguerite Duras’ novel, The Lover. She spent her early childhood in Sa Dec City, and the furnishings and design of this vessel are heavily influenced by the Vietnam of the 1930s. It is a relatively small river cruiser, with 12 cabins and the capacity for 24 passengers. There are 8 of us aboard, which gives us a very nice crew to passenger ratio! The cabins are compact, but with a narrow balcony and sliding door, they have an airiness and brightness that the Paukan (in Myanmar) really lacked (and L’Amant doesn’t have the mouldy, musty smell either).

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I was very surprised when our guide mentioned that there is a commitment from the company to honour ALL reservations – they don’t cancel due to low passenger numbers; they sail even if there is only one couple aboard. I don’t know how they could manage to cover costs with this philosophy, but maybe if they have this ethos, then they ensure that the high season covers any loses of the low. When passenger numbers are low, they make sensible decisions like not to offer buffets for meals – we make our selections ‘one meal ahead’ so there is no waste. Good idea.

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Over lunch we began our journey to Vinh Long. We weighed anchor at An Binh Island, a patchwork of small pieces of land divided by narrow channels and joined by tiny bridges. We wandered along its narrow cement ‘roads’ (only pedal power and motor bikes on this island), borrowed some old bicycles with dodgy (and dangerous!) steering from a homestay and toured around. We rode to the ancient pagoda, Tien Chau, past some orchid ‘farms’ and some tropical fruit orchards. It was very peaceful peddling along in silence, just the noise of the clapped out bikes, the occasional scooter tooting as they gave warning as they passed, and a sweet voiced mother singing to her baby as they rocked together in the hammock in their front garden, were our only accompaniment. Our excursion finished when we returned the bikes to the homestay and enjoyed tropical fruits and tea while lounging in a hammock and making friends with the host’s dog.

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Back on board L’Amant, we sailed on to our anchorage for the night, near Sa Dec. After dinner, guests (sans children!) were invited to view the film of Marguerite Duras’ novel, The Lover, in the dining area. Unfortunately, I was struck down by a lurgy and spent the evening feeling sorry for myself in my cabin (caused by a suspect breakfast from a dubious café that morning). Sleep was a blessed relief!

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We cruised aboard L’Amant.

Our travel agent on this cruise was Kelvin Do at Indochina Treks. We were very impressed with his efficiency, helpfulness, excellent advice, friendliness and price! His email is: sales@indochinatreks.com

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About bontaks

Nic is the the ‘Bon’ part of ‘Bontaks.’ Together we are Nic and John – two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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