Floating villages and markets and a visit to a bamboo village were highlights of our journey from the Mekong Delta north to the Cambodian border following the course of the Bassac River.
After our explorations the previous day on the Mekong Delta the boat had anchored at Co Chien. We were up early to see the dawn and the floating village that the boat was motoring towards. We were the only ones on deck, which we found a bit surprising, it was such a beautiful morning.
Though early, there were already quite a number of small craft on the water.
At the small floating market there was an awful lot of fruit for sale which we didn't find at all surprising after our visit to a local village where we'd seen how many varieties are grown here.
The large boats were full of melons, bananas, sweet potatoes etc. and it looked as if these were selling to smaller boats who were buying quite a reasonable quantity so were probably retailers heading off to towns and villages to sell on their stock.
It was still very early and while the Bassac Boat continued to cruise we ate breakfast.
We were cruising towards Can Tho, the largest city in the region, where a relatively new suspension bridge spans the Bassac River.
Around 8:30 we transferred to a small boat to visit the much bigger floating market at Cai Rang.
The large boats signal what they have for sale with a sample on the end of a long pole raised above the boat.
The market was extremely busy and no-one took any notice of us at all. We didn't see any other tourist boats there.
Virtually all the women we saw were wearing the traditional conical hat.
We disembarked from the little boat to go and see a traditional rice noodle manufacturer.
A viscous rice solution, made in a process of softening, diluting, drying and redissolving in water, is spread on some kind of cloth stretched over a large pan of boiling water. The pans stand above a furnace which is powered by rice husks, a cheap and efficient heating method in the Delta.
When it has cooked sufficiently the rice sheet can be lifted and placed on a bamboo rack. The bamboo racks are put out in the sun to dry. When dry the sheets are fed into a machine which cuts them into the finished noodles.
Before leaving we went for a short walk in the gardens where there was a traditional Vietnamese wooden bridge, very simply made and looking none too safe.
Then it was back to the boat to collect our luggage before we were dropped off to meet our guide and driver in Can Tho.
The rest of the day we were to spend driving north to our final stop in Vietnam, Chau Doc.
On the way we stopped at a very traditional bamboo village of Tra Uoi. The villagers here are experts in what is fast becoming a lost art - bamboo weaving.
We strolled through the village. Our guide was obviously very familiar with the people here. One of the local weavers invited us into his home and workshops. This wasn't planned and we were extremely lucky to have this opportunity. We weren't too comfortable walking through their living rooms but the workshop was fascinating. None of the people spoke any English, of course, but the young boys had names of football clubs, hello and bye bye!
The patriarch of the family and business, who invited us in, was 78 and still working every day. They were immensely proud of their family.
A woman (I think she was the daughter) was weaving simple but beautiful bamboo baskets in the back which would sell for around 30,000 Dong each - little more than one USD.
Like everywhere else in the world, modern materials and mass production are destroying traditional crafts.
As we left the house a young man dashed out from the barber and told our guide that we should take a photograph so I went back and took one - everyone was very friendly.
The village itself was very quiet and peaceful. Sadly there was a lot of rubbish on the canal banks. Our guide explained that, traditionally, the people had used only natural products for all their needs. So, for instance, food would be wrapped in banana leaves. Now plastic is used everywhere and the people haven't really grasped that this will not rot away as the banana leaves do. There is recycling and some people will go around and collect glass, plastic, cans, etc. to earn a bit of money but more needs to be done.
Lunch was at Long Xuyen crocodile farm and it was very good: crocodile spring rolls, chicken with ginger and a couple of beers went down very well!
Afterwards one of the knowledgeable guides took us around the crocodile enclosures - he said they had around 10,000 crocodiles here.
The animals are slaughtered for their meat and skins which are converted into all manner of things. They are kept in a number of large pools surrounded, fortunately, by fences.
They look really evil creatures.
Our final stop in Vietnam was Chau Doc, right on the border with Cambodia. We were staying at the Victoria on the west bank of the Bassac River where we had a big top floor room overlooking the Bassac River.
Dinner was very good - an excellent Australian lamb and I really liked the Bong Thien Ly Xao or stir fried Mekong flowers which are Telos Macordata also known as Tonkin Jasmine.
We were up early the following morning to have breakfast on the riverside terrace then to our speed boat for the 7 a.m. departure for Phnom Penh.
There were only four of us on the boat, the other two were probably also hotel guests as the boat is run by Victoria.
It was an interesting journey, quite comfortable if a little noisy. The pilot took the boat to the sides of the river where he obviously knew there were interesting things to see - fish farms, stilt villages, etc. We travelled first on the Bassac before joining the Mekong River.
About an hour in we got off for Vietnamese customs formalities and then back on the boat to cross the border into Cambodia.