This excursion is perhaps one of my favorites while in Vietnam even though it came with a number of disconcerting caveats. Although our other water-borne transports had come equipped with life vests and such, this time we donned the vests before even climbing into our rowboats. Yes, rowboats. These were the antithesis of the luxurious Mekong Princess – wooden longboats for three passengers with a seemingly ancient conical hat bedecked woman at the helm.
We were instructed to SIT VERY STILL so as not to rock the boat. The rowboats are very shallow so they do not sit deep in the water – any agitation could flip the boat. Why would this be such an issue? As it turns out, the reason is beyond just getting wet. The water is not only brackish but also swarming with all kinds of unfriendly bacteria, microbes and whatnot. We were not in danger of being attacked by a gator or watersnake – it was the tiny unseen predators that would make our futures quite miserable.
These instructions so terrified the middle passenger of our boat that she – with my agreement of course, held on tightly to me for our entire trip. While it was not likely that I needed to stand to take photos – yes I took the chance bringing my beloved camera knowing it was unlikely that I would care about its demise if I fell in the water – my friend’s vise-like grip did make maneuvering inside the boat for the best angle a bit more difficult.
It was a gentle float down the Mekong River creek with no sounds other than the hums, whistles and grunts of hidden creatures along the shoreline along with the hushed whispers of the rustling palm trees. Even our helmswoman made little sound as she rocked the rudder. It was perfectly tranquil – hope you can get a sense of the quiet beauty from these videos:
Surrounding us were Nipah palm trees which are native to the creek habitat and the only one of its kind that can thrive. The coconuts are quite different from the ones we are used to:
It is difficult to adequately describe the feeling of being so deep in the jungle on the water. I thought if I peered into the depths I would see Colonel Kurtz and Captain Willard discussing THE HORROR:
No such horror existed for us – just the unbridled, wild yet serene beauty of the creek and jungle – as we went deeper and deeper:
Ah, but it wouldn’t be complete without a WTDGAP moment. I may not have been too far off the mark about the age of our rower for as we got into the heart of the creek, she stopped. Now, as beautiful and serene as the creek was, I definitely started to feel a bit of discomfort as we floated nearer to the shoreline, pulled by the slight but relentless creek current. Now what?
It appears that even in the midst of the Vietnam jungle there is a version of AAA, for although I heard no call for assistance – suddenly a motorized boat came along, hooked us up and trawled us to our final destination.
And, of course to make the experience complete we once again had quite an unstable looking exit point. I almost wished for another plank to walk on:
Loved every minute.