About five hours southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, is the quaint riverside city of Can Tho.
After a such a long bus ride, there is nothing better than exploring a new town. A man at our hotel quoted us $40 U.S for an eight-hour boat up the Mekong to see the floating markets. There were two markets to see.
While we thought about it, Beth and I made our way to the river's esplanade and took a long stroll along the long walk. I thought that maybe like many countries, dealing with the boat owners direct was a sure-fire way to get a cheaper price. Also, I think we read somewhere that it should be around $3 an hour, however it prices do go up.
So we walked. Took a few pictures of the ferry that carried motorbikes and cyclists across the river. Reminisced at how Can Tho felt similar to Shantou in northern Guangdong, China. Instinctively, I turned around and saw a man in a gray “ Boss” brand t-shirt. I didn't think anything of it.
We walked some more, and came up to what looked to be the boats that would carry passengers to the floating markets. We stopped, took some pictures and showed interest in the boats and the area. No one approached us. No one tried to sell us a tour. We walked on.
“ I was sure that that would be the place to find a ride,” I said to Beth a little perplexed.
“ We'll keep looking.” I noticed she was puzzled too.
We walked along the foreshore for another five hundred metres. We passed some more boats, but no one was offering a ride. At one point, two old men laughed. I looked behind me, and there was a man wearing a “ Boss” brand t-shirt. Had I seen it before?
The sun was setting. It hung heavy in the sky and cast the golden light of photography's magic hour. We took some pictures, and made our way back the way we came. The man in the “ Boss” t-shirt was near us again.
“ Hey Beth, I think that man has been following us.”
“ Let's give it a test.”
We walked about ten metres, and suddenly stopped and turned around sharply. The man was coming in the same direction as us. We stopped to take pictures, he waited nearby. We zigzagged through the park, he followed in and out of the esplanade. He was terrible at following.
We finally gave him the slip by hiding behind a short wall. He walked passed us a took a seat by on a park bench and made a call. We took a picture of him just in case there were any problems.
We finally walked past, thinking he hadn't seen us. Finally an old lady in her seventies came out to the street, near where we had stopped to look at boats earlier.
“ Psst! Do you want a boat ride tomorrow?”
Broad smiles on our faces. Finally!
She lead us to the dock where three or four women sat. We were still at the introduction stage when the women stopped and turned away from us. It was like a switch had been turned off. I turned around and coming down the path was the man in the “ Boss” t-shirt.
I stood up and walked over to him directly.
“ Hey Amigo!” I asked, “ Why are you following us?”
“ No, no.” he answered, avoiding eye contact.
“ Yes you are. Why are you following us?”
“ No, I, no...” he turned and hurried away.
The ladies sighed their relief and smiled again.
“He is bad man.” One of they ladies said. We couldn't understand why they thought this.
Had we stumbled on to a turf war? Was it the local Triads? Did the hotel send someone to follow us and try to ensure we went with their boat guy and no one else? Was it the local tourist police hoping to keep us safe?
We would never know.
I chatted with the ladies and agreed on $3 per hour and a time to meet one of them in the morning. Beth would wait this one out, her tail-bone was starting to bother her and a morning on the hard wooden seats of a river boat didn't seem like it would help any.
The actual ride was great. The sunrise on the Mekong was just gorgeous. We passed a floating gas station. The houses seemed to be on stilts rather than floating. I can't compare this to the floating markets in Thailand, however to me this floating market was larger house boats disseminating their cargo to smaller boats to be transported along the river. The larger boats had a long pole with a fruit or vegetable as the 'flag' to show all what cargo it carried.
We were at the market for a good forty minutes and continued our way back through small canals. A real slice of rural life. Fishing and boats hauling dirt. There were palm fronds that grew up straight out of the water. It was fun.
On the hard wooden plank that I sat on, three and a half hours was more than enough. I was glad I didn't sign up for longer. Time to check in on Beth.
Click here to see Dan's photos from Can Tho!