It is roughly 1,726km by rail from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (it is still called Saigon by most), significantly less than the distance traversed by the trans Siberian link. Our train journey was split into four train rides and when we disembarked in Saigon Ruth proclaimed that she was extremely happy that we decided not to undertake that latter trip (as we had been thinking of doing).

Each train that we caught had originated in Hanoi and as our boarding points moved further south the condition of the trains reflected the distance traveled. It did not bother me too much but Ruth tends to be a bit fussier and did struggle, particularly on the last leg from Nha Trang to Saigon where the two days of prior occupation did tend to show in the condition of the berths and especially the bathrooms.

Our stop at Nha Trang was to do not much more than lie on the beach. The heat made that unappealing and then torrential rain
Our stop at Nha Trang was to do not much more than lie on the beach. The heat made that unappealing and then torrential rain ” washed out” any beach activity.
Ruth gets her
Ruth gets her “wedding” nails done in a park in Saigon.
We have seen many
We have seen many “dragon trees” in the south. All through Vietnam the shrubs are grown and trimmed into an array of amazing shapes.

It was an interesting journey, the landscape was constantly changing and we had some interesting experiences along the way with our fellow travelers. I found that holding a conversation via Google translate is challenging, especially when the other person wants you to use the microphone. Instead of coming out as “how long have you been in petroleum exploration”, it would come out as something extremely inappropriate such as “I would like to marry your sister”. However, we got there in the end, kind of, and by the end of the trip; ages, family details and a lot of other information had been exchanged.

We had a very pleasant doughnut type bun cooked for us by this couple as we biked across one of the Islands in the delta.
We had a very pleasant doughnut type bun cooked for us by this couple as we biked across one of the Islands in the delta. They had nine children.
No I have not gained a few inches in height. The 77 year old had just cooked us rice paper which we enjoyed both in its
No I have not gained a few inches in height. The 77 year old had just cooked us rice paper which we enjoyed both in its “wet” state and also the dried version with condiments, kind of like chips and dip. Ruth is a source of amusement to the locals because of her size.

There is one aspect of Vietnam that started out as a novelty but can to wear you down. The motorcycles, the volumes have increased as we moved south. The otherwise very polite and serene Vietnamese people take on a different persona when astride their motorcycle. We learned today that there are  60 million motorcycles in Vietnam with 6 million in Saigon, I think we have encountered all of them.

Driving in the Mekong Delta was a slow process, we probably averaged 30-40km an hours, the roads were narrow, rough and chocked wiith motorcycle and bicycle traffic
Driving in the Mekong Delta was a slow process, we probably averaged 30-40km an hour, the roads were narrow, rough and choked with motorcycle and bicycle traffic

As a pedestrian you are at the bottom of the “foodchain”. The Vietnamese don’t walk, probably because of the heat, and I suspect they consider people who do walk to be mentally deficient and fair game as road or footpath kill. In Saigon they do have footpaths but as we quickly found out, they are considered an extension of the road by motorcyclists who ride up behind you and beep their horn for you to get out-of-the-way. Others motor past at pace and very close to you, Ruth got swiped by one but survived to tell the tale.

We got to meet the locals, bike along some pretty interesting tracks and enjoys some of the tastes of the Mekong Delta.
We got to meet the locals, biked along some pretty interesting tracks and enjoyed some of the tastes of the Mekong Delta.
Ruth made a pretty reasonable effort at making rice paper.
Ruth made a pretty reasonable effort at making rice paper and together with her Masterchef status for Spring Roll making, it looks as though I will be handing over the cooks apron when we get back to NZ.

We were happy to leave Saigon behind and head out into the Mekong Delta where we again had a combination of boat and bike transport. Both were great and reinforced that getting “up close and personal” in the countryside, has been an aspect of our travels that we seem to get our most enjoyable experiences from.

The Mekong Delta is a labrinth of river channels and man made canals, here we cruise through a smaller canal choked with water hyacynth, they dry it and make flip flops (jandals) and hats out of it.
The Mekong Delta is a labyrinth of river channels and man-made canals, here we cruise through a smaller canal choked with water hyacinth, they dry it and make flip-flops (jandals) and hats out of it.
We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch cooked on the boat while we motored up a small channel on the Mekong
We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch cooked on the boat while we motored up a small channel on the Mekong. We got to construct our own spring rolls.

Travel through the Delta has been slow, the roads are terrible and choked with bicycles and motorcycles but the sights and experiences have been memorable. People are well fed but by western standards very poor. However, compared to most western countries, including our own, they seem far happier.

We casually mentioned the crocs (not the shoe version) to Ruth when she got to the middle.
We casually mentioned the crocs (not the shoe version) to Ruth when she got to the middle.

We are in Chou Doc tonight, 3km from the Cambodian border. The guide we had dropped us at the hotel with the advice that we won’t find anyone that speaks or understands English. “Just point” was his advice. Hopefully we will get to the boat for our trip up the river to Phnom Phen and not end up getting married to someones sister instead.

Unloading the melons is recommended for any oval ball sports code. THe passing skills were very good, two melons per pass between boats.
Unloading the melons is recommended for any coach of an oval ball sports team. The passing skills were very good, two melons per pass between boats. Cai Rang floating market.
The floating market at Cai Rang is a wholsale market where local farmers bring their produce and local retailed come and purchase it.In this picture there are boat loads of melons and dragon fruit.
The floating market at Cai Rang is a wholesale market where farmers bring their produce and local retailers come and purchase it.In this picture there are boat loads of melons, pineapple,vegetables and dragon fruit, to name a few.
A local earthmoving contractor on the Mekong.
A local earth moving contractor on the Mekong.
I suspect we would not have to worry about too many guests if we started offering this food at a BBQ.
I suspect we would not have to worry about too many guests if we started offering this food at a BBQ. There were other mouth watering treats such as frogs. Later we visited a crocodile farm and got to try a bit of croc meat. Well Cliff did but Ruth proclaimed that we are not meant to eat reptiles.

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