Cai Be is well known for the floating market of yesteryear. It was a very busy market when we were here in 2011 and had a quaint feel about the idea of doing all your market food purchases from boat to boat. Their boat was their stall. But people have moved off boats and onto motor scooters and brought about a major change in the way traders came to sell their wares. City or village folk are happy because they don’t have to own a boat to do their market purchases anymore. But if you’re on foot, be prepared to be shunted around with the sound of motor bikes and their horns. The wares haven’t changed – just the mode of purchase has. Our opportunity to visit local shopping and a busy market was to come in the afternoon at Sa Dec.
At Cai Be, we visited a coconut lolly factory, that also did puffed rice using the old style of a large wok with black sand in it. The rice is thrown into the sand, which is very hot, and stirred while it ‘popped’ ready for including in some coconut sweet. Fermented rice juice is often mixed with snakes and drank, very quickly as the taste is said to be rather ‘interesting’. We were served a morning tea of jasmine tea and some samples of the different coconut sweets that are made in the factory.
Our return to the Scenic Spirit by 11:00am was to allow us to go through the Safety Drill. To save a life if a ship sinks is of utmost importance, but
to have a different style and method of putting on a life vest on every vessel you travel in is absurd. Why not have the same design on every ship? But then, when in real life, putting on a safety vest is going to be a ‘never done this before’ moment regardless.
At smorgasbords, you don’t need to feel pressured into over eating but one tends to do just that on a Scenic trip. The food has been ‘top shelf’. Nothing extra is charged to your account apart from the use of the spa facilities or the ‘very top shelf’ wines. So food and drinks ‘flow’ profusely. And lunch is no difference apart from a probably lesser extent in the drinks area.
After a couple of hours cruising up the Mekong River, we anchor at the town of Sa Dec. Years ago, the French were very prominent in Vietnam, Architecture and even French bread rolls are quite noticeable. And of course romantic love stories are told when we visit the Chinese family home of the main character in the novelist’s work “The Lovers”, by Marguerite Duras. The book won the Goncourt prize in 1984.
For many in our group, they hadn’t visited a ‘village market’ and it became a new experience to see live animals such as crabs, wound up in thread ready for cooking when the purchaser got them home and on the table for the evening meal. The fruit and vegetables looked very fresh too. Most of the ‘trade’ is done from the seat of one’s motor bike and so us ‘walkers’ had to get out of the way for transactions to be completed. We travelled in a Sam Pan which is a local type of water vessel used to carry ‘up market tourists’ on chairs, really just camping chairs, set in rows.
The usually refreshing towel on arrival back at the ship was the normal Scenic service one enjoys on these great cruises. After the evening meal, where I haven’t laughed so much for years, we were in bed asleep by 9:30pm.