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December 2016 - Vietnam

For some time I am still busy with the fact that my girlfriend Caroline ended the trip. I had been so happy to share this experience with her. The first day after her departure I start feeling better. The villages along the coast look relaxed and cosy. This was what Caroline had longed for. Now it is real. It seems that our tour together just wasn't meant to be. She will try again somewhere else. Along the coast there is a small road leading to the north. Here I can find what I need in the moment: absolute peacefulness. The coast and the ocean are extraordinary beautiful.

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In the small fishing villages I watch the fishermen fixing their nets and preparing for fishing. At this part of the coast there are a few resorts. Some are closed or have no guests. An insider tip for peace seekers.
I take a swim during my longer breaks at noon in the beautiful turquoise sea. Sometimes I stay until the evening and spend the night on the beach.

The owner of a resort told me that they are preparing for the season beginning with Christmas, and that then all bungalows are fully booked. The main season goes until the end of April. Which is fine for me; I have all the wonderful beaches for myself.

In the outback behind the coast they cultivate the dragon fruit.

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Just now they are harvested and collected in big fruit centres run by the Chinese. There they are packed and sent to places all over the world. The dragon fruit is harvested throughout the whole year. There are fields with ripe fruits and some that are blossoming.
Phan Thiet is a tourist place. I look for a stay near the ocean for a few days and discover the area.

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In the dunes of Mui Ne I meet Patrick and Natali from Germany being on their backpacking tour for some months.

Food here is excellent and the selection is large. Most of the time I eat in the street kitchens for a low price. On small streets I move inland where hardly any tourists can be found. Many rubber forests, palm trees, a huge lake, the Tri An Reservoir. It would make 700 kilometers to surround it.

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In Vinh An I have a nice contact with locals. They give me useful hints about what is interesting for me in the area.
Before I go back to Cambodia I visit the religious centre of the Cao Dai religion, something like the Vatican which is in Tay Ninh.

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Many tourists visit this place around noon to attend the divine service from the gallery of the temple. I visit the temple at 6 pm for the evening prayer, a time when the tourists are gone. I am introduced to the rituals of the service and am allowed into the temple area. These are the most shrill and gaily coloured church buildings in the world. This religion is widely spread in Vietnam. It is too complex to talk about it here; good information is available on the internet.
The temple area has a beautifully designed park in which women dressed in white do their work. After my meditation on a bench a woman serves an ice-cold drink. Soon some more women come and serve something to eat.

To get to Cambodia again I can choose between two border crossings. I choose the less known Tan Binh-Xa Mat which gives me the opportunity to ride on side-roads.

November / December 2016 - Vietnam

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Ha Tien is the next place after the border. We stay on the coast until we reach Rach Gia. Here is where the holiday resorts of the future are built. A lot is still under construction.

Many arms of the Mekong flow into the ocean here at the delta. We assume that we are able get to Saigon by boat.

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Unfortunately these boat connections don't exist any longer.

Many villages are built into the river, with canals between the houses. In the past this is where daily life happened. But this becomes more and more rare. Highways were built and they have replaced the boats. Today many have a scooter or a moped. The Vietnamese are friendly, warm-hearted people. They want to make contact, which often is impossible because of language difficulties. With their language it is not so easy. A different pronunciation can then mean something else.

We reach Can Tho where we rent a long tail boat for three hours. At 5.30 in the morning we sail to the Floating Market to watch the colourful hustle and bustle on the Mekong. We hear that the number of traders is diminishing and that probably this market is dying too.

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The pictures I had of Vietnam is slowly lost. It is a pity but also here people want to develop their lives and don't want to be stuck. Life is hard here in any case.

We go into the canals by boat to see how life is here. Not much is happening on the river any longer.

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The only choice we have is to cycle through the delta. We cross many arms of the Mekong, some by ferry. At VinhLong we take a ferry to An Binh, one of the islands in the Mekong. We spend the night at one of the many homestays in a bamboo hut.

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Many tourists come here and rent a bicycle to discover the islands. There are tricky paths but no map. Sometimes you will find a sign. Not so easy to find out again. We make it and ask for directions from time to time. We pass My Tho and arrive at Saigon, today called Ho Chi Minh.

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From here Caroline flies back to Europe. This decision was not easy for us but it seems to be the best. She will visit me on my tour from time to time but without bicycle.

After I apply for my Thailand visa in Saigon I take a boat to Vung Tau on the coast. So I am not forced to get myself out of Saigon on crowded roads which is no pleasure at all.

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A boat trip to the ocean through mangrove woods was a lot more relaxed. Bruce, living in Vien Tau for 12 years tells me that this boat connection will also end in December.




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