World Travel with a Twist of Zen - Fields of Indulgence  
 
The Mekong Delta is situated in Southern Vietnam and shares a western border with Cambodia. The land used to belong to Cambodia but by the 1600s, the Cambodians were too weak from fighting Thailand to prevent massive amounts of Vietnamese settlers from taking over the area and eventually annexing the land for Vietnam.

Picture
 For all of us (we were still traveling with Chris and Lauren from the previous post) entering the delta was a bumpy affair. We arrived in Ha Tien, the Vietnamese border town, a bit shell shocked as the road conditions cause a constant hopping out of your seat and the standard way for Cambodian and Vietnamese drivers to let others know they are approaching is to just lay on the horn for minutes at a time. We had our first encounter with corruption at the border when we were asked to fill out an immunization form and pay $1 fee. This did not make any sense since we paid for our visa already, so we firmly refused to pay and just walked off. Obviously, this was a scam since there were no consequences.

Picture
New friends at the street bar
Ha Tien is a beautiful little town surrounded by water and fresh seafood! Like many towns in the delta, it is not touristy at all, which makes it all the more appealing to us. We happened to enter the country on 4/30, the day the Vietnam War (or the American War as it is called in Vietnam) ended. People were out celebrating everywhere, so we sat down at a small street bar (essentially small plastic chairs and aluminum tables) to check it out. We noticed that everyone was sharing dried fish and other sea creatures, so we were brave enough to try a dried sting ray. It wasn’t bad except the gut part – Chris almost had a gag reaction to that! Then, the youngsters next to us began toasting us and sharing their sea snails and roasted corn. We bought them a few beers and the party was on! It was great to feel included by strangers who didn’t speak a word of English, but who appreciated us trying the local cuisine and hanging out at the local spots. For pics from our stop here, click here - http://flic.kr/s/aHsjzaBBKd.

Picture
Bus packed like a sardine can!
  We were approached by a group of tour guides on motos who appeared to be such sweet people. They took us to see the wonderful cave pagoda the day we arrived and also offered to help us take the “local” bus to Can Tho the next morning. We had a pretty late night after we met Hayden, a Vietnamese student (just becoming a tour guide) from Can Tho. We went out on the town with Hayden and had a great time exploring traditional snacks with different Vietnamese beers. The next morning the guys, as promised, took us to the bus, but they had given us the wrong time to be there. As a result, the bus was already departing the bus station as they motored up to it and forced it to stop. We were surrounded by Vietnamese pulling our bags off of us and loading us on the bus. We realized they had intentionally done a rush job on us when the price of the tickets was more than double what we later found out everyone else had paid! But once you’re on the bus in the middle of nowhere you don’t have much choice. That was just the beginning of this horrific and comedic bus trip. Every few kilometers more and more people would load on the bus – we counted 28 seats on the bus and over 50 people! 

Picture
They even put a guy between Jeff's legs!!!
 There were people in the middle of the aisles, 5 kids stuffed behind the back seats, and a hoard of people around the entrance. On top of that, we were dropped off at random locations two times and picked up by different buses. Amidst all of this crazyness, a sweet Vietnamese boy that spoke a few words of English helped us through this and made sure we got to Can Tho without being abandoned (one bus almost drove off with just Jeff and all of our valuables to the wrong destination!).

The name of the post stems from a conversation where Hayden asked us what the term “Good Cop, Bad Cop” means. After explaining it to him, we realized it had some similarities to our experiences in Vietnam. For each lying, scheming, dishonest person we met in Vietnam, we also met some incredibly generous, caring, and thoughtful people. For us the challenge is to look past the bad cops and focus our attention on the good cops. As with so many things in life, our experience is dictated by where we focus our attention. While we can’t ignore the bad cops we have encountered, it would be an injustice to those truly good people we did meet. Many of the travelers we’ve talked to disliked Vietnam, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but so far, the good cop is winning and we are enjoying the country!

Picture
Hanging out with Hayden
Can Tho lies in the heart of the delta and as such is one of the most fertile towns in the world. We saw the freshest food so far sprawling along its market streets. Many of the fruits and vegetables sold here we have never even seen! Hayden is from Can Tho, so we met up with him again and he was a great host. He took us out to see the famous floating markets and some fruit orchards. He also took us to his hometown to meet his grandma and eat at a local restaurant. We were a little surprised by the chicken feet and neck they served, but we made the best of it!
Picture
Biking on An Vinh on a beautiful day
   After Can Tho, we made a quick stop at a small town called Vinh Long where we took a ferry to An Binh island, lying in the middle of the Mekong river. The island is actually just pockets of land connected by small “monkey bridges” that are lots of fun to explore by bicycle. We spent the day biking around, crossing waterways and seeing all kinds of wonderful fruit plantations that the locals call home. For more pictures for this destination, click here - http://flic.kr/s/aHsjzerGeJ.

Next, we continue on to Ho Chi Minh City and looking forward to a bigger city with a bit more of a nightlife!