We set sail from Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the stunningly swollen river. So much so, the telegraph poles stand isolated in the river along with small wooden tin-roofed houses surrounded by a patchwork of trees and bamboo.
Cruising all afternoon we learn how to make cold spring rolls filled with shrimp, carrot, noodles, mint and lettuce – a delicious afternoon snack!
We arrive at the Cambodian/Vietnam border. There are no fences, cables, bridges or rows of boats to demark the territory between the two countries, rather a set of stone steps on the bank with a flag pole either side and the respective flags hoisted high. After border formalities, all taken care of by the crew, we enter Vietnam and sail to Tan Chau where we anchor offshore for the night. It begins to rain, heavy rain, with bolts of jagged lightening dramatically illuminating the night sky.
The next morning we travel up the canal by speedboat to the town of Chau Doc. Lining the banks are houses on stilts with wooden boats tied up, their bows decorated with the ever seeing Mekong eyes to keep them safe. We later stopped to look at a fish farm. Not a conventional farm, however. Fish are kept under the houses in pens, fed and fattened before being transported in boats, usually live, to the fish processing factories. Taking a small channel our boat docked at a rickety wooden walkway that led to a Cham village where the people are amongst the Muslim minority in Vietnam. We crossed the road to see their mosque and the previous water levels that flooded the village are pointed out to us. Nearby, vendors sell vegetables on wheeled stalls that they gradually move along the street through the neighbourhood. Returning to the ship we weighed anchor and set sail once again.
There really is no better way to explore the rural charms of Cambodia and Vietnam than by cruising the Mekong and the Pandaw boat offers a welcoming and interesting way to travel.