Tuesday, September 20, 2011

about our sampan cruise

Our sampan (and crew) will look like this!
So for a few days (and nights), we'll be puttering through the Mekong Delta on a private sampan. For the two of us, there will be a crew of three people, which kind of freaks us out. We're not people who have servants of any kind.

The inside of the little sampan is pretty luxurious, from the photos we've seen, and people seem to really enjoy taking this cruise. We're a little anxious because it includes visits in people's homes, and we're so shy. We'll see. Here's the itinerary:

Cruise Itinerary
our bedroom on the sampan
Day 1: Cai Be - Phu An - Dong Hoa Hiep - Vinh Long - Sa Dec

We’ll be picked up at our hotel in Saigon at 07:30 and driven to Vinh Long. The trip begins at the Cai Be town pier around 10.30 am.  We will be welcomed by our crew(!).

The cruise begins with a visit of the Cai Be floating market, cruising among local barges full of fruits and vegetables. We will proceed to Phu An hamlet, an untouched beautiful area reflecting some of the Mekong Delta’s best sights. On the way, we’ll stop at some local home factories to observe how rice paste, coconut candies and other regional specialties are made.

We’ll stop for lunch at Le Longanier restaurant, a superb Indochinese house located by the river, in a lush tropical garden surrounded by fruit plantations. After lunch, we proceed to Sa Dec cruising the Tien Giang river, one of the two large arms of the Mekong. These evergreen islands among the Mekong River bring about large networks of meandering rivers, crisscrossed with countless arroyos, and remaining unknown to many people. We will then cruise on a small beautiful canal through water jacinth plantations. Apparently we’ll take a small rowing boat for a cruise along a narrow canal passing by a local tiny village and fruit plantations. Further on the banks, we’ll stop at one of the largest artisanal bricks and tiles factory.

Sa Dec town is something of a little Venice, with numerous narrow canals. We will disembark at the local market. Before sunset, we will visit a splendid ancient house or “Nha Co,” dating from the early 19th century. After being greeted by the owners, we will have a catered candlelight dinner. Then we’ll spend our first night on the Mekong River.

Day 2: Sa Dec - long Xuyen - Ong Ho Island
where we'll sit to watch the river float by
After breakfast on board our little sampan, we’ll take a guided visit of Sa Dec, which is a charming and peaceful town, walking along its narrow streets to see the many beautiful French old houses and Chinese temples dating from the last century.

We’ll also visit the local market and the Trung Vuong primary school where well-known writer Marguerite Duras spent her childhood (see her famous novel The Lover). Afterwards, while we proceed upstream on the Mekong River to Long Xuyen, we’ll have lunch on board our sampan.

Long Xuyen is a typical peaceful provincial town lying on the Mekong’s banks, with an attractive floating market. At the end of the day, we will have dinner at a local ancient house, with family members, and learn about their traditional southern lifestyle (we are anxious and shy about this!). During the night, the cruise will slowly continue during the night to Rach Gia.

Day 3: Long Xuyen - Rach Gia
We arrive at Rach Gia, a port town located at the southern end of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand. Its main industries are fishing and agriculture. Breakfast will be served on board at 7am, and then we'll disembark and head off for our next adventure.

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