Saturday, November 27, 2004

Can Tho

I've made it into Cantho, or as they say, Can Tho. The heart of the Mekong. I'll be taking a rest day here and going on a boat around the canals and visiting a couple of the floating markets. There is a lot of water around here, and it should be an interesting trip.

The riding is nice, as the roads are flat (except for the oft bridge over a canal) and in much better shape then in Cambodia. After facing a stiff head wind for several days I got a little help from the breeze today and made some of my fastest time down here. Just over 3 hours for 62 km, including a 20 minute break for sugar cane. Still get the occasional "hello" from schoolchildren, but not as much as in Cambodia. Not as many stares either - I actually took my break today without attracting a crowd.

One good thing about VN is that they use the Latin alphabet for writing everything, and even though I can't pronounce it (it's still a tonal language like Chinese) at least I can recognize words and have a chance to figure out what things mean in writing. Unlike Chinese and Japanese writing, which runs eveything together, they seperate things by syllable. Thus Vietnam is Viet Nam. Honda is Hon Da.

The difference between Cambodia and Viet Nam is quite stark. Where even Phnom Phen is shrouded in a cloud of darkness at night, the towns here are comparitively lit up like Times Square. There's even neon lights. A lot more bricks and mortar versus bamboo and thatch. A lot more motos, but fewer cars and overloaded pickup trucks (at least for now - once I get towards HCMC it might be different). Better roads (yeah). Women wearing pajamas. Many people wearing the traditional conical hat. A rash of small plastic chairs, fit for a child. VN also has a wider variety of consumer goods available - furniture stores, hardware stores, rows of cell phone stores, all sorts of things you don't see much of in Cambodia.

So tomorrow is my boat tour of the Mekong, then upto Mytho, which is about 100 km. Then 60 arduous kms into HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City). Traffic is suppose to be phenomenal, but they say there are bike lanes on the side. Not that lanes mean much around here, but it'd be better then Bangkok which makes you fight your way between the lanes of cars.

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