Day 5 Christmas Day Tan Chau, Border Crossing

This morning, being Christmas Day, after having breakfast together, we went to Eenie’s cabin to exchange our Christmas presents. We are very spoilt because we had already had our family Christmas at home!  It is a lovely clear day, warm but with a gentle breeze blowing off the river.

The Mekong River is a very wide river, which is a light brown colour and appears to flow quite quickly.  At times there are clumps of water hyacinth floating past and there is always a number of boats of varying sizes, all appearing to be fairly old. Mekong means “Mother of Water” and more than 60 million people in Vietnam and Cambodia rely on the River for their livelihood.

The AMA Lotus had travelled overnight and anchored midstream opposite Tan Chau, which is a district of An Giang Province and is the regional capital.  It is famous for Tan Chau silk and is an agricultural centre, producing significant quantities of rice.

This morning, we disembarked our ship via a small local boat for a journey across the river to the town.  Our group was then helped onto individual rickshaws that were quite different to the ones we rode on in Saigon.  These had a full bicycle at the front and the driver sat on the bicycle seat to pedal, with the passenger carrier mounted on two wheels at the back and fairly primitive.  They took us through the streets of Tan Chau town, where the people seemed to be not quite so poor.  We travelled through the markets and the narrow streets that appear to make up their commercial area.  It is hard for us to differentiate between commercial and residential as most of the Vietnamese have their own small business at the front or under their houses.

We were taken to one of the Silk Factories, where we had an interesting tour.  The family business had 19 electrical looms, which produced white silk material and then these were dyed to the desired colour.  Each worker works 8 looms for 8 hours per day. It takes 2 days for 2 workers to thread the looms with over 1000 threads each for the patterned silk material and they use paper/card for the patterns.

From there, rickshaws took us to a mat factory where we were shown how they make mats from rattan after dying them before weaving them.  One worker, using the older method, makes one mat per day.  However, the machine allows them to make 5-7 mats each per day.

We saw how incredibly hard they work, in extremely poor conditions, for a very small amount of money per month.

We walked through part of the town to the river and were met by our local boat and were taken past a Floating House Fish Farm, where the cages were fed into the river through a hole in the floor inside the small houses.  The boat dropped us off at Tan San, a small village where the people either had small rice paddies or were fishermen.   We walked through the little village and had lots of smiling children running out to see us, calling out “Hello”.  The houses were built on stilts because in the wet season the whole village is covered in water.

We had an interesting morning seeing lots of new things and the people we saw, despite how poor they are, were very friendly and eager to smile and wave at the visitors to their town.

We came back to the ship for lunch and the boat continued up the river.  At 2.10pm we arrived at the Cambodian border and our passports were taken over to the government offices for processing.  While this was happening, we were treated to a cooking demonstration and a fruit carving demonstration, which Sandy attended.  She was very impressed with the chef who did the fruit carving – he showed us how to make a tomato flower and he carved a watermelon as well as making a rabbit out of a melon – very clever

After that, it was time for our ice-cream party, which Eenie and Sandy attended while Richard “read his book” – there were 5 different flavours of ice-cream and about 10 things you could put on it as well as a few different sauces. Delicious!

After our briefing about Phnom Penh, we had a lovely dinner and enjoyed the company of three ladies who we have chatted with many times previously.  Interestingly, two of them are mother and daughter and it turns out that the daughter, Yolanda, is someone who Sandy has spoken to many times when she rang the Regional Office of Education Queensland, but had never actually met her before – it sure is a small world!!

The three of us have thoroughly enjoyed our day today and have agreed that it has been the most unusual Christmas Day we have ever experienced!


2 Responses to “Day 5 Christmas Day Tan Chau, Border Crossing”

  1. Katharine says:

    YUM, ice cream!

  2. Janet says:

    I reckon – Ice cream party? Yes please! 🙂

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