Things have changed.

    Or it least it seems that way. Not surprising when you consider how long its been since we last clapped eyes on this country. Don't know what the population was in the mid to late sixties but they say it's 77 million now and the country shows it. On our trip Monday down Highway One from Saigon to the Mekong Delta it seemed there were only a few of the simple hootches we remembered from our tours of duty here. And there seemed to be more motorcyles, cars and people, above all people. True, none of us had ever seen this area before and we haven't yet been to the real countryside we knew but this two and sometimes four lane road is dotted for something over 70 miles nonstop with buildings of some sort. Things just seem crowded. Perhaps its the same syndrome we've all experience when we go back to visit our old grade school. Everything seems more crowded, or at least smaller.

     But that's not to say it's bad. We've had a great, if at times hairy, day. The hairy part comes from the driving. The roads are good, paved well. But it seems there is an unwritten rule than no one can pass unless there are at least two vehicles abreast coming in the other direction. No accidents but there was one breathless moment when our van found itself squeezed toward the ditch. Just as disaster seemed certain, a feeling reinforced when a young girl on the side of the road jumped into the ditch with her hand over her eyes, one of the two trucks bearing down on us ducked back into line and everything was fine. Be still our beating hearts.

     Speaking of breathtaking -- that's the Mekong Delta. We left by boat out of Vinh Long and spent the day viewing life on the river and visiting two prominent islands, neither of which have names we have remembered, but both of which have a lot to recommend them. The first we visited, we referred to as Mr. Sau's island. The island is crisscrossed with canals which are lined with ramshackle dwellings of one sort or another. Yet in the middle is Mr. Sau's contribution to the beautification of this part of Vietnam - a lovely Bonsai garden. You enter through an arch of topiary and stroll through a carefully tended assortment of Bonsai, Bougainvillea and tropical flowers whose names none of us knows. We arrived by a small boat at low tide and that made it impossible to go all they way to Mr. Sau's dock. We had a long hot and sweaty walk. (sound familiar?)

     When we finally straggled into the garden we were ready for a break. After we cooled off with a beer on the veranda we began to explore the garden. We took our time, photographing the flowers and enjoying a wonderful lunch of Elephant fish (a local Mekong fish), chicken and rice soup topped off with fresh Jack Fruit, Leechy Nuts and Papaya. And to settle it all, a short snort of Cobra Whiskey (made from distilled rice and, they say, Cobra blood) and Fruit Cognac - a strange spirit reminiscent of old sweatsocks and cherries. Thus fortified we embraced one of the two pythons that are kept in cages there. We still had a half hour to wait for the tide to return to refloat our boat so we lolled in hammocks thoughtfully strung in the open air veranda next to Mr. Sau's restaurant.

Addtional pictures of the Mekong Delta:
Image Cold drink delivery
Image Vinh Long Harbor
image Life along the river
image Mr Sau's Orchids
image Larry James and Larry Ward
image Terry checking out the sights

    Next it was on to Thoi son island resort which means we have to catch another boat... The adventure continues

     p.s. We couldn't post on Monday due to the remote location. We'll make it up with Willy's Duelling Pigs Story.

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