Firstly an update on our late arrivals last night. David and Lorraine had a problem with the car and Tessa and David stopped with them to help. Paul set off the find them but missed them for a combination of reasons, though whilst travelling alongside Neil’s Land Cruiser (the two of them known now as “Stereo Support”) two local chaps recognised the stickers on the front of the two cars as being identical to those on the stricken car they has past some time ago.
They tried to use their best sign language to explain to Paul and Neil how to get back to them.
Tessa and David were advised to leave the scene and got in to the hotel at 10:30pm. David and Lorraine got going without Paul’s help and arrived at 12:30.
Paul and Jo by this time were hopelessly snarled in ‘New Year’ traffic, travelling at night to avoid the heat of the day, and did not get in until 03:30am.
A perfect storm of problems from which which we have learned lessons for the rest of the Rally.
The day started early with an 06:30 embarkation onto a Mekong River boat for breakfast. We are to visit the famous Mekong floating river market in Can Tho and it’s quite special.
Farmers bring their produce, mostly vegetables and fruits, to the market by boat and wholesalers, who live on their boats, act as middlemen to the trade, mostly restaurants and retailers who want to buy fresh produce cheaply. Vessels advertise what they sell by hanging their products from the top of a long bamboo pole at the bow. The wholesalers have no overheads and pay lower sales tax, so the market thrives.
So we had a late start from the hotel and it was the usual bustle to get out of town but then we got onto country roads and had mile after mile of blissfully quiet roads: quiet because there was no noise from constant honking, apart from ourselves warning motorcycles ahead that we were coming by. It could not have been more different from yesterday.
We were traversing the Mekong Delta, flat obviously, and incredibly fertile. The whole countryside was bursting with colour; all shades of green with flowering trees and plants.
Massive rice fields dominated the landscape. One example of the fertility is that the Mekong Delta enjoys 3-4 rice harvests per year, whereas in the north, they get between one and two. This makes the south relatively wealthy and trade was everywhere. No town or village was complete without row upon row of shops with every imaginable produce.
We were looking for a coffee stop and spied a large group of locals eating and drinking, so we stopped and were welcomed to sit and have tea and coffee. Unbeknown to us, it was a private family gathering, (celebrating the Vietnam New Year) but they did not seem to mind us joining them, and they cheered us on our way when we left. We could not help noticing that it was all the men at the table with a liberal quantity of empty beer cans under the table and the women were sitting at the back with the kids keeping their men supplied. PC has not yet reached rural Vietnam!
Our route took us on some pretty small roads and at one point we were on a tow path alongside the canal, only just wide enough for our cars.
We eventually arrived at one of the visits of the day, a museum to commemorate the 1978 Khmer Rouge massacre of the village of Ba Chuc; a deeply moving reminder of the upheavals in this area in our own lifetime.
From there we followed the canal that demarks the border with Cambodia all the way to Ha Tien.
We have learnt the secret of the fires beside the road; it is the Vietnam equivalent of Spring Cleaning. Because this week is “New Year”, everybody cleans the house and the result ends up outside and needs to be burnt to tidy up. Burning the grass and scrub is similarly to tidy up the area round the house with a bonus of ash that will be used to fertilise the fields. Clever!
Tomorrow is a border crossing into Cambodia, where the Destination Rally team are already hard at work making sure the roads are passable for us all.
So an early night was enjoyed by all.