Dec 3, 2014
Motorbike Trip to the Floating Market of Phung Hiep
GPS waypoint: 9°48'31.5"N 105°49'18.9"E
Location: Phung Hiep District, Hau Giang Province, Vietnam
It was still dark in Can Tho when Tuyen and I rode the motorbike to catch the floating market in Phung Hiep, still 30 kms away. Tuyen's riding was aggressive as she gunned down the engine, making every second count. The morning air was chilling specially with the wind factor on a fast motorbike.
Finally, we arrived at Phung Hiep! It was hard to find where the confluence point was, so we asked around where the floating market was. What they said made our hearts sink - the floating market was over...finished for the day! It was only a few minutes past 6am. It was such a let down. We came all the way from Chau Doc to be at the floating market, only to miss it. We had to leave for Saigon the following day, so that was it. We blew it.
We were not about to go home just yet. We were already in Phung Hiep...might as well explore the area. Phung Hiep is a small town but quite charming specially with all the rivers intersecting each other. It looked like the interchange at Los Angeles' freeways. With the rivers' bounty, you see many types of fishes in the market..as fresh as you can get it.
It was unusual to find moon cake in a market place, let alone Phung Hiep being an obscure town except for its floating market. And at US$2/piece, it was expensive, specially by Vietnam standards. But in fairness, it was probably the best moon cake I've ever had. I've had moon cake in Hanoi (this happened in my succeeding travel) reputed to be one of Hanoi's best, but Phung Hiep moon cake takes the cake for being the best. And to think it was sold by a street hawker...no brand, no fancy packing...just plain moon cake!
Market Odds and Ends
A few things caught my eye in the public market. I saw coiled meat with skin left on the tail...it was a reticulated pythonl - a big python as thick as a child's thigh. Another was dog meat, together with the dog's head. A goose end was for sale - only one. It doesn't make sense to sell it as egg since a goose sells for more money - so better to hatch the egg and sell the baby goose. But expectant mothers or lactating mothers pay a good price for it. There were also live frogs and turtles which ultimately find themselves on the dinner table.
If not for missing the floating market, Phung Hiep would not be a disappointment as it has so much to offer, specially at the market place.
So, this is it. Phung Hiep caps our sojourn into the West of Vietnam. After spending time in Sa Dec, Ha Tien, Phu Quoc, Can Tho and Chau Doc, we close the book on the West and all the river charm it offered. There is something about a river town that begs to be unpuzzled. But it takes more time to make all these jigsaw pieces fall into place to paint the big picture.
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- Vietnamese smokers used to smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. But this habit seems to be changing now.
- Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
- internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
- Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
- only Vietnamese Dong is accepted as legal tender (change your dollars into Dong)
- best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
- remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
- ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
- best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
- leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
- when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
- carry only enough cash for your needs that day
- don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
- don't take pictures of military installations
- refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
(Feb 21 , 2015) I have enjoyed your Vietnam blog! I studied abroad there in college, and your writing makes me want to return to that special country:)
Dec 3, 2014
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