we awoke a bit doughy this morning after a bottle of vietnamese red and too many beers playing poker last night! we did have a very comfortable sleep on board the good ship Le Conchinchine 3, and the crepes, fresh fruit and strong black coffee got us going pretty quickly. It was a lovely calm misty morning on the mekong river and we headed off in a smaller boat to explore the floating markets of Cai Be as well as visiting villagers using traditional methods to make rice paper for spring rolls and puffed rice for cereals and munchy treats. I have added a couple of short videos to show these traditional skills and you can watch them below.
we also visited a beautiful traditional wooden vietnamese house that is nearly 200 years old and operates as a home stay now. we enjoyed a fruit platter and pot of tea in the gardens after wandering through the house and admiring not just the construction but the beautiful antique furniture,
both the rice paper and puffed rice are made using a fire made from the rice husks, we saw the same fuel used in the brick kilns, and the ash after the husks are burnt is used as fertiliser so there is very little wasted in the production chain of rice!
the rice paper sheets are made with a form of rice milk that you can see in the tub beside the woman, the puffed rice is mixed with river sand in a large wok – the sand has become black from the burning husks and is continuously reused.
so it was goodbye to Le Conchinchine 3 and her wonderful crew, and our guide Kiet, and off in our car to Ho Chi Minh City, we arrived early in the afternoon and have settled into our apartment in down town Saigon, on first appearances its a beautiful city, wide boulevards, unusally wide and flat footpaths for this part of the world and lots of trees and old buildings.
we ducked out for our first meal – a bowl of Pho, luckily we found a little street food stall that was open – as much of Saigon is closed for the Tet holiday, and for the princley sum of about $4 we had a bowl of Pho each and Kai had a plate of chicken and rice. I think we are going to enjoy our few days here!