We made a quick stop in the modern, bustling city of Saigon and/or Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). We visited the stark War Remnants Museum and made travel plans to move on to Chau Doc, further up the Mekong Delta on the border with Cambodia. The museum included an extensive tribute to photographers from the war, for those who took photos from the perspective of both sides and some of their personal stories. We learned that many of the iconic photos from the Vietnam War that are ingrained in our American consciousness are from photographers who died during the war.
In addition to the larger tragedy of the war, the museum contains some truly shocking evidence on the lingering results of the use of the defoliant “Agent Orange”. This was very disturbing, as many veterans (and civilians) from both sides of the war have had children with serious birth defects. The tragedy is that since Agent Orange was mostly used in areas around American bases (in the South), the most horribly affected tended to be those who fought on our side. Many South Vietnamese veterans have deformed children, along with American vets who were exposed to the defoliant chemicals.
After Saigon/HCMC, we took a bus up through the Mekong River delta to the border town of Chau Doc. Here we spent a day to take a nice little tour around the Mekong Delta, which is a massive delta fed by the mighty Mekong River (the Mekong starts in Tibet and runs through many countries in SE Asia). We were advised that the ‘floating markets’ within range of a one-day tour from Saigon were fake tourist traps, like the one we saw near Bangkok. So we traveled to Chau Doc and then found ourselves a worthwhile tour of a floating market.
This proved to be a real floating market, with larger boats unloading fruit into smaller boats. The boats are dirty and worn (aka: really used for shipping goods) and moored together in the river. Each boat had a pole sticking into the air with examples of the types of fruit it had on board. There were no fake little displays for tourists. We also stopped in a Muslim Cham village in the inner reaches of the delta.
The huge, fertile delta area is constantly growing from all the sediment coming down in the dark waters of the Mekong, and is a major rice producing area for Vietnam. They also farm fish and fruit in the delta region. From Chau Doc we took a boat up the broad, flat, murky Mekong River to the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh. The border crossing was easy and we got a visa arraigned on arrival for about $23.
***click to enlarge photos***