After our second day on Phu Quoc, we got ourselves organized and the resort arranged a shuttle to the boat dock for us at 8 am for the 9:10 ferry to the mainland. At this point, Hollie and I didn’t have a fixed travel itinerary, but after the whopping $200 resort bill (for two people, two days, all meals, the scooters and the ferry included…not really that horrible), we wanted to find the less-expensive version of Vietnam that I am familiar with.
We made the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare, so I got us a couple of ‘banh mi’, which are these delicious Vietnamese sandwiches that are filled with meat trimmings, pickled lettuce, sauces and cilantro. I live on these when I travel in Vietnam, but they were unavailable at the resort. These didn’t even last until the ropes were off the ferry.
The ride across to Rach Gia was uneventful. The ferry was very comfortable and smooth, but has the humorous name of “Superdong”, which Hollie could not stop laughing at. To be fair, I saw a lot of adolescent humor in a sign on the mainland that appeared to say “Tan that Superdong”. I don’t know who picks these names, but I guess there’s no protecting yourself from childish humor.
We checked into a hotel advertised on Agoda as the best place to stay in Rach Gia, for the unbelievable price of $12 a room, then headed out to explore town. Rach Gia is a noisy fishing town, not much for tourists, but some interesting things to look at.
There was a bridge that looked like something the military built during the War, and later I saw a photo from the 1970s in someone’s blog that showed it new and said it had been erected ‘temporarily’ as the VC had blown up the original. 40 years later, and it’s still going strong as a major connector in the town!
I also had the hotel’s free cab take me on a tour of town. At a big field, I saw about 10,000 kites flying! About half the town was out enjoying the cool breeze and soaring colorful kites…it was spectacular. Then later, we found our way to the party street (it WAS Friday night) and had some drinks and a nice meal, barbecued at our table, before heading back to the hotel for the night. Total damage for the meals and drinks…$6 each. The next day, we decided to head deeper into the MeKong on the roads less travelled and catch a speedboat ferry to the town of Ca Mau. The guidebooks all mention how it’s a town rarely visited by tourists, so it’s a genuine MeKong experience, with local prices and great seafood. Also, the 3-hour speedboat trip is supposed to be a fantastic way to see the local pulse. The boat trip was, indeed, fantastic.
Other than the fact that I was once again far, far too big to fit inside the boat (they had to rearrange stuff on the ceiling so I had a place where my head was not bumping), the people on board were wonderfully upbeat, laughing and smiling for our photos, sharing snacks and generally enjoying the novelty of having some westerners in their neck of the woods. And the scenes of river life were indeed amazing…overloaded barges with products or gravel, fishermen hauling nets, tiny styrofoam boats ferrying people across the river…all sorts of traffic making life on the MeKong happen.
And the speedboat kept picking up people along the way, until there were about 40 people crammed in to a space with 32 seats. Since only those of us who boarded in Rach Gia had purchased tickets, I’m pretty sure all the fares from the extra people went into the hands of the driver and his two deckhands. The one guy who handled the money had several gold rings, a nice watch, some gold necklaces and gold bracelets, so I’m pretty sure that they were skimming pretty deeply.
After arriving in Ca Mau, we trundled our way through the hot midday sun to another guesthouse…about twice as expensive as the previous one, and started researching things to do in this town. Unfortunately, since it’s off the main route, the only online resources we could find were posts from other travelers wondering the same thing! Turns out, there really isn’t anything to do in Ca Mau…so tomorrow, we’re going to catch the 9am bus to Can Tho, a major tourist Mecca on all the itineraries and do some more traditional touristing for a couple of days. For the record, the last review on this page really spells it out nicely….thanks to the folks that posted it.
Unfortunately, I feel a cold or flu coming on (aargh), so I might need to lay low in Can Tho for a few days while Hollie explores…we’ll see what happens. But meantime, the boat ride here was absolutely worth the detour.