Day 4 Tuesday 24 December. Cai Be, Sa Dec

This morning, we were taken by small local boats to the river town of Cai Be, which is one of the Tien Giang Province’s most important centres for distribution of agricultural products, especially tropical fruits for the whole region as well as the entire country.  The little wooden boats had a roof and wooden chairs for us to sit on.  We were taken through the Floating Markets and although the wares on sale were not unusual – vegetables and fruit – the manner of selling was novel in that the transaction was conducted on water.  Stallholders sell from their boats, hanging samples of their wares from a long bamboo pole, while shoppers mill about on the water in smaller boats.  We were told that the only floating markets in Vietnam are in the Mekong Delta.

Our boat dropped us off at the village where we were taken for a walk – we saw the 19th century French Gothic Cathedral, whose spire can be seen from the river, as well as several family businesses along the river.  We saw the major Longan fruit exporters, a fish sauce manufacturer who makes the most popular fish sauce in the whole of Vietnam, as well as a business that makes coconut lollies and snake wine, a medication for various ailments made from snake, gecko and scorpion. The three of us declined the offer to try some! We also saw a local rice paper manufacturer and were given samples of popped rice and dried ginger, among other things.

After a very interesting morning learning about day-to-day life in a Vietnamese river village, our little local boats returned us to the AMA Lotus for lunch.

 

This afternoon, our shore excursion took us to Sa Dec, which is a city in the Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam.  It is a river port and agricultural trading centre. Sa Dec is a peaceful little town and is famous as the setting for The Lover, a film based on the novel by the award-winning French writer, Marguerite Duras, who met her Vietnamese lover, Huynh Thuy Le.

We started our tour with a visit to a brick factory where we saw how bricks are made in the old, traditional way and this process is still being used commercially in Saigon today. It was interesting to see the whole process and watch the workers producing tiles and bricks.

Our local boat picked us up again and took us to the Sa Dec town where we walked through the local markets along the paved riverbanks – the local school had just finished, so there were lots of people on motor-bikes with their children, shopping at the markets for their dinner.  Our guide, Thung, took Richard and me to a watchmaker to repair Richard’s prescription sunglasses – a screw had fallen out and so had one of the lenses, but luckily he still had the screw and the lens didn’t break.  We were extra lucky that our guide told us about the watchmaker this morning and said that he would translate for us and so the lovely Vietnamese watchmaker fixed the glasses for us!!

Our local boat picked us up again and dropped us at another section of Sa Dec so that we could visit the Cao Dai temple, the sacred site for the Vietnamese founded religion, which draws its beliefs from Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, as well as Christianity and Islam. We were then taken back to the AMA Lotus for showers, our briefing about tomorrow and our Christmas Eve Dinner.

We had a buffet dinner with some traditional Christmas food, eg turkey, and one of the kitchen staff came out dressed as Santa and one of the Security staff came out dressed as a girl with high heels etc, to the music of  “We wish you a Merry Christmas” – lots of hilarity!!

Another good day was had by the three of us in Vietnam.


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