Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 15 - Can Tho Floating Markets to Rach Gia

Woke up to around 50 bug bites all over my feet! I'm not sure if it was due to bed bugs or mosquitoes. I foolishly didn't wear insect repellent the night before during dinnertime, so that might have been the cause.

My homestay group took a small tour around the village, where we stopped at the small local outside market that starts at around 4AM! These local vendors sell at this market instead of the floating market because they don't have enough goods to justify selling down the river.

Afterwards, we took a boat tour to the Can Tho floating markets, which was exciting to see because it was one of the largest markets in the area due to its centralized location. Boats would arrive from over 100km away to sell in this area, sometimes staying for days in the water until their inventory was completely sold. This was a legitimate market, where locals from all around southern Vietnam came to purchase and sell mostly agriculture. Small boats selling coffee, drinks, and noodles also floated along the river, targeting most of the touring boats.

The rest of the morning was spent at a rice factory, another market, and lunch in the city's park. I tried snake for the first time, which was pretty good as a satay. The meat was rough and chewy, so it reminded me of eating grilled squid.

In the afternoon, I split from the tour and headed towards Rach Gia so that I could take a boat to the Phu Quoc islands. After overpaying the tourguide for a bus ticket to the coastal town, I was left alone on the sidewalk, unsure of which bus to wait for. Probably one of the most nerve-wrecking moments, I wondered what I would do if no one came... I didn't have the tour guide's phone number, and most of the people in the surrounding area didn't speak much English. Luckily, a bus came and took me to the bus station, where I was asked to pay for the bus ticket again! I don't know if I was scammed by the tour guide, or if the bus station was trying to get more money out of me, but I refused to pay saying that I already paid the tour guide (even though I didn't have a receipt or any proof...) After a while of bickering, I took my cell phone out and began to call the tour company, and at that moment, the bus station just gave me a ticket and led me to the bus. I heard that having a cell phone and making calls usually gets people to quit scamming.

The bus ride was probably the worst so far because the roads were a little less developed on the way to Phu Quoc. Bumpy and hot, all I wanted to do was sleep the whole 3 hours down... but it was tough because all I could hear were the obnoxious stories being told by 2 American dudes, living in Beijing as an English teacher and a computer engineer and travelling for vacation in Vietnam, telling two Londoners about their sexual escapades throughout SE Asia in an offensive way towards both women and Asians. They sort of spoke of Chinese students as if they were lower beings, or non-human. I wanted to punch them in their faces.

When we reached Rach Gia, I tagged along with the two Londoners since they were also headed to the Phu Quoc Islands. We looked for the ticketbooth to sell boatrides to Phu Quoc on the "Superdong III" and afterwards, walked around looking for the cheapest guesthouse we could stay at. With their brilliant bargaining skills, we were each able to get rooms for $5 a night! I never would have thought I'd ever stay somewhere that cheap, since I expected even the cheapest places to be around $10-$15, but apparently, it's pretty easy to find places this cheap since it's low season right now. You just have to deal with no A/C and cold water...

The city of Rach Gia was pretty quiet, and there weren't too many tourists in the area. My two new friends and I went to look for food and there were only maybe 2 restaurants open in the area. We settled on a restaurant/home that served only one dish - porkchops with rice and a fried egg. Probably one of the better meals of the trip. Sometimes it's better not having a choice of what to eat. It forces you to try whatever is available.

Learned a new card game as well, called "Shithead" that is loads of fun. I suppose it's a game that is learned by backpackers and passed along to new friends throughout travels because it's pretty unpredictible, and hard to form really good strategies because the momentum of the game can change at any time. I can't wait to teach my friends at home so we can play it as a drinking game.

The night in the guest house was probably the worst night so far in the trip. I kept waking up because my feet kept itching and I tried my best not to scratch. I wrapped my whole body in my duvet cover in hopes that I would not get bitten again, but i think that made it worse, since it didn't allow my skin to breathe... You don't think a bug bite would make you miserable, but 50+ all over your feet really do...

Getting across the river in the morning at the local village in Can Tho

Enjoying coffee at the Can Tho local village market

Boys learning their father's trade at the Can Tho Floating Market

The kids in Vietnam are so eager to wave and say "hello" to every foreigner they see.

Sellers in the Can Tho Floating Market have bamboo poles that indicate the types of goods they offer.

Buyers purchasing pumpkins at the Can Tho Floating Market

Selling produce at another market in Can Tho

Snake Satay

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