After Saigon, The Mayor and I took a six hour drive by private car through the Mekong Delta, all the way to the border of Cambodia, landing in Chau Doc, a completely mesmerizing village devoted totally to river culture.
We had no idea what to expect, and on the drive out, The Mayor was having serious reservations. Our driver was stupifyingly slow and the road to Chau Doc seemed all the more endless. We also had no way of communicating with him -- he knew not one word of English, and he could not understand our feeble attempts at Vietnamese.
When we finally arrived, we were absolutely delighted. The Mayor likened it to a Vietnamese Tom Sawyer adventure -- everything and everyone is focused on the river.
Chau Doc has a floating market. Dozens of boats huddle together in the middle of the river and hang long bamboo poles off the bow with assorted fruit hanging on for dear life. This is how you know what is on the boat -- so, if you see some bananas hanging, you know that boat has bananas for sale today. Love it.
These are floating fish farms -- and it's also the farmer's home. The farmers build their houses and float them on five layers of bamboo to make them float. Underneath the houses are two huge cages holding 80,000 catfish each. And there are about 2,000 of these house up and down the river.
Chau Doc also has an enormous land market -- and again, I saw things that have scarred me for life -- but, then you see things like this, a big 'ol basket full o'crabs and go, "Wow." It's just so beautiful.
We stayed at the luxurious Victoria Chau Doc Hotel and had the pleasure of dining on beautifully presented and just out-of-this-planet tasting food. This was a cold roast pork tenderloin salad. It was full of fresh cilantro and crunchy peanuts.
I'm going to give a Part 2 for Chau Doc, because it is just so worth it.