We woke up at 5:00 am which was way too early for me, and took an air conditioned bus out of Nga Ba An Trach to Can Tho. From Can Tho we took another bus to Chau Doc bus station. During the ride to Chau Doc I met a Chinese-Vietnamese couple from Saigon. They were on their way to Chau Doc temples. I chatted with the woman and she explained how to make shrimp chips. I enjoyed the discussion of food and cooking ideas, it made the ride feel shorter. At the bus station we were transferred into town by a mini-van. We did not have any travel arrangements, our plan was to find a hotel in town, find the best travel option for the next leg of the trip, and then check the area out later. Luckily we got the van to stop in a location where there was a hotel right in the town center and close to the market. From past travel experience I always make it a point to view the rooms in person prior to booking if possible. This way there will be fewer surprises. The hotel rooms were decent and clean enough for a night stay.
By 2:00 pm we had already checked in, took a quick cold shower, and booked a motorbike tour up to Sam Mountain for sunset. After many visits to the delta where the land is completely flat, this mountain really stood out and deserved a visit. The mountain and the temples at its base are one of the main tourist attractions in the region. We ventured to the nearby market towards the aroma of mắm, a term for pickled or preserved fish/shrimp/crab which is a well-known specialty in Chau Doc. We met a French couple in the market who commented that the whole town smells like mắm! I was excited to see this amazing market with an array of beautiful and colorful mắm neatly stacked up from their containers. I was in mắm heaven!! What was interesting was that I did not see a single fly! Mắm is something you either like or don't. Some Vietnamese even find the scent to be offensive! I came from a village where many people I know love a good mắm. One of the vendors let me tried her ba kia (preserved small crabs) and it was delicious! It pained me that I could not buy any to take back. My husband reminded me that we were at the beginning of our trip to Cambodia and we need to keep our bags light. Secretly I think he just did not want me to drag this stinky food all over Cambodia!
My driver is named Diep and he has lived in Chau Doc all his life. During the day he has another job and in the evening to make extra money he works for the hotel. As we rode up the steep bumpy mountain, avoiding huge pot holes I had to really hang on to my seat. There were a few people living on the mountain. As we drove by a small home Diep yelled out something and kept driving. I did not hear him clearly and thought he was sending some greetings to the people he knew.
We arrived at the top and my driver told me the best view for the sunset was at this cafe and pointed to one. There were basically two and the one he pointed toward obviously was up higher and has less obstruction. We walked around to get our bearing and to scope out views for photos. We decided that my driver's recommendation was the best choice. We went in the cafe and sat by the back. There was a van full of Western tourists who came up for the sunset and they took most of the good seats. However, once the sun barely set they all evacuated. Our drivers did not seem to be in a hurry to get us back to down so we stayed. Perhaps after working hard all day they were happy to take a break! We enjoyed the cool breeze and stayed until well past sunset.
When Diep drove me back down he stopped at that same place where he called out earlier and paid for 2 bags of hot soy milk. He explained that this is the best place in Chau Doc for soy milk. It was getting quite dark and there was not much of light so I could not see well. I saw a large pot with what looked like milk so I decided to buy 2 bags of the same. The soy milk was creamy and delicious with a hint of pandan leaves.
|sugar palm on ice (sugary sweet hence its name)|
|sugar palm fruits (purple green fruits seen on left of photo)|
|local road in Chau Doc|
|typical fish farm|
|feeding the fish|
|depending on the time of the year this part of Chau Doc |
can be packed full of people coming here to worship and pray
|3 friends enjoying the view of Chau Doc|
(from Sam Mountain)
|Chau Doc in the distance|
|fertile land for farming|
|more farm land|
|sunset looking into Cambodia|
|a cool place to hang out|
|enjoying sunset with a cool drink|
|dinner at Bay Bong|
(lau canh chua ca--fish soup hot pot)
|here I tried to capture what it felt like being on a cyclo|
|we decided to get off the cyclo so Diep can walk it up|
the bridge since we could tell he was struggling a bit
(I think at this point I took the opportunity
and told him to quit smoking!)