While many travelers pass through Chau Doc we decided we liked the mellow ambience and decided to stay a couple of days. The first day we didn’t do a lot: walked around town, checked into how to travel on and relaxed. We started by visiting the market in the morning. The huge covered market contained numerous small stalls crammed with goods. Outside many food stalls lined the street, covered by umbrellas and tarps.
Around sundown I went for a walk along the waterfront. As usual in Chau Doc people greeted me as I walked but the group of men pictured below waved me over to join them. I sat in one of the typical short plastic chairs and they passed me a glass of something. I took a sniff and decided it was rice wine. I gave my best rendition of the Vietnamese word for rice wine (ruou gao) and they nodded. I had a shot and they passed me a jug of tea to wash it down with. I was also given a cob of corn to gnaw on as we continued with the ritual of rice wine and tea. We communicated mainly via gestures as they spoke little English and my Vietnamese is still minimal.
More and more people joined us and the gathering grew quite jolly. Eventually I indicated I should return to the hotel and the young man in the helmet (below) gave me a ride back on his motorbike, which I had been admiring. I hadn’t been there very long but it had been a very amiable meeting and one that left me impressed by the open and friendly people of Chau Doc.
The next day was brilliant as we headed off for a boat tour. Here’s a photo of our hotel; our room was on the top floor, on the right side.
We’d booked our tour through The English Bookstore. Our tour guide was the bookstore’s owner, Mr. Long. And we were his only tour people that day. So we had the benefit of his undivided attention and his wealth of local knowledge. We headed out past the older waterfront homes to our first stop…
A fish drying business. On a huge floor over the river hundreds of fish dried in the sunlight.
From there we continued on to the floating market. Large boats bring fruit, produce and goods to a meeting point where smaller local boats come to make their purchases. Our tour started early in the morning so that we could witness the hustle and bustle of the floating market. The larger boats show what they have for sale by hanging samples on their masts.
We boarded one boat and stepped inside to check out the boat and its cargo while Mr. Long negotiated for some jackfruit.
From the floating market we went to a float home where fish were being raised in large cages hanging down into the river. They made their own fish food right on board and we tossed some to the crazed mass of fish below us.
We then docked at Chau Giang, a small hamlet across the river, where a community of Muslim Cham people live. We looked at local goods and then walked to the local mosque. Chau Doc is known for its mix of cultures: Vietnamese, Cham, Khmer and Chinese, all living together beside (or on) the rivers.
Later that afternoon Sue and I took two xe oms to Sam Mountain, a high hill on the otherwise flat plains. On the way we traveled through the countryside, witnessing rice harvesting, inland fish farming and numerous small farms and hamlets. We stopped at a pagoda where the Tet festivities continued. We saw money drifting down from one of the towers as people leapt and climbed trees to grab it. Later we saw a procession coming down the road so stopped to watch it go by.
Our drivers then took us to the top of Sam Mountain where we had a panoramic view over the countryside. The Vietnam/Cambodia border skirts one side of the mountain and we could look out and see over into Cambodia. Cross border smuggling is popular in this area with second-hand clothing being amongst the most smuggled goods.
While strolling around many people greeted us. Our drivers seemed in no hurry to leave so we sat down for a beer. A group of people sat at an adjoining table and soon asked if we’d like some of their crab. We joined them at their table and had a bit more crab and some small clams, all dipped in a pepper sauce. They were on their way home to Saigon from a day trip to Ha Tien, on the ocean. We had numerous beer toasts with them but, once again, most of our communication was by gestures.
The sun neared the horizon, producing many atmospheric effects.
As the moon rose on the other side of the mountain.
The end of another wonderful day meeting new friends and enjoying beautiful surroundings.