After I made it through the floods in central Vietnam on train TN1, I arrived at the capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon). This time I only stayed there for one day, which I spent at the hostel. The next day I already continued by bus to Vinh Long, a town (population around 100.000) in the Mekong delta. There I was going to meet Florian, a friend from Austria, and his uncle who works in Vinh Long as an English teacher. For the next six weeks, Florian was going to join me for the most part of my travels through Vietnam.
In Vinh Long we stayed for six days at the Van Tram guesthouse. Compared to the big and crowded cities Hanoi and Saigon, Vinh Long is a quiet little town. There is hardly any tourism, especially hardly individual tourism. Only once in while I saw a tour group walking along the river front. The Mekong Delta tours sold in Saigon sometimes make a stop in Vinh Long.
Thanks to the little tourism, I was much less approached by Vietnamese street vendors trying to sell me something. Only sometimes, a Vietnamese on a motorbike greeted me with the the all to familiar words: “Hello, motorbike!”. In the tourist districts in Hanoi or Saigon I was greeted this way all the time. It means that the guy on the motorbike wants to offer his service as a taxi.
There is one interesting detail, which I first realized in Vinh Long. There are little shops in Vietnam, which remind me of tanning shops in Austria. However these shops have the opposite purpose and make people whiter. For many Vietnamese women, having a white skin is very desirable.
Six days in Vinh Long as a tourist is actually much more time than what is really needed, because there are not many tourist activities in town. The only highlight is a boat tour on the Mekong river, which we did. For 10 Euro we rented a boat plus driver for the whole day.
Although the boat tour was the only tourist activity, we did not have time to get bored during the rest of our stay here. Florian’s uncle introduced us to some of his Vietnamese students and they where always very happy to hang out with us. For them it was a good opportunity to practice their English.
Together we went out for dinner a couple of times. At a Vietnamese dinner, everyone orders a meal and then all the food is shared, so it was a good opportunity to try all kinds of Vietnamese food. So far I liked all the food in Vietnam, except the fish with eggs inside them (I don’t remember what they are called). A dinner plus drinks for seven people in a restaurant was around 10 to 15 Euro.
The students also took us along on one of their favorite leisure activities, namely karaoke. Back in Austria I only knew karaoke as singing at a bar at night, with sometimes quite drunk performers. Therefore I was surprised when the Vietnamese students invited us to karaoke at two in the afternoon. However the karaoke we went to was a bit different. At the karaoke bar, if you can call it a bar, we got a separate room for our group of six people. In that room there was a couch, a table and a karaoke machine. Then, for the next two hours or so, we sang songs, one after another, without taking a break. The machine was so loud that you couldn’t really have a conversation besides. They had Vietnamese songs and also many English songs. I could see that our Vietnamese friends had a lot of practice. They were all really good singers and quite enthusiastic performers.
On November 8th we had to say Good-by to our Vietnamese friends and took the bus back to Saigon.
Have a look at the galleries to see more pictures from Vinh Long (part1) and pictures from Vinh Long (part2).