We started the day early onboard Jahan, with a pre-breakfast oxcart ride along the banks of the Tonle Sap River. We stopped to photograph lotus fields along the way before continuing to the village to visit two schools, the Green School and the Kampong Chhnang school, supported by the Lindblad-National Geographic Conservation Fund.
We returned to Jahan for breakfast, followed by a fashion show by the crew, featuring traditional Cambodian clothing. Our naturalist Erin gave a talk about the ecosystem of the Tonle Sap River. After lunch, we had a talk about iPhone photography with our onboard photo instructor.
We started the afternoon with a long boat ride followed by a short drive in a van to the village of Ondong Rossey, which produces palm sugar and traditional pottery. Afterward, we took local boats to explore floating villages inhabited by Vietnamese immigrants.
As the Jahan dropped anchor near the small town of Sa Dec in the Vietnam Delta, merchants crisscrossed the early waters while fishers pulled up nets and traders loaded rice and bran to make fish food, fuel, and rice for export to the rest of the world. After breakfast, guests boarded sampans to visit the island of Binh Thanh. We disembarked at a dock that is also used by local ferries to transport locals to and from the island to mainland. This island is known for fruit, reed mats, and rice candies. The shoreline is dotted with mango, jackfruit, and papaya, and while the men are out fishing, the women tend to the families and weave reed mats that are sold in local markets. Locals invited guests to visit their houses, and they demonstrated how the mats are woven and finished. Afterward, we stopped at a local temple to meet village elders. They shared remarkable stories of survival and rebirth during and after the Vietnam War. Returning to the Jahan , guests learned from presentations. Linda Burback, photo instructor and naturalist, spoke on the use of Seek, a plant and animal identification app. Then we had the final recap of the voyage and a disembarkation briefing. Lunch was served, and Linda began collecting photographs for the Guest Slideshow. After lunch, guests went on their final excursion to visit Cai Be, a fruit and vegetable hub of the Mekong Delta. The sampans toured the busy channels before docking at a local rice candy shop. Here we saw how rice paper is made, in addition to rice popcorn, rice wine, coconut candy, and rice noodle treats. There was something for everyone in the souvenir shop where guests shopped on their last day in the Delta. The evening finished with a farewell dinner, presentations by the crew, and dancing on the sun deck. This was all followed by the world premiere of the Guest Slideshow. It was a wonderful finale to a memorable voyage down the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers through Cambodia and Vietnam.
We have traveled from Cambodia to Vietnam, using the Jahan as our vessel of exploration, but this morning, we added yet another vehicle. Chau Doc has hybridized the cyclo into their own version of transport, a trishaw. Everyone boarded their own trishaw and bicycled around the downtown area with our destination being a local market. Pans, tanks, trays, and baskets were filled with live fish, prawns, dried fish, pounded seasoned fish, fish paste, and all manner of familiar and not so familiar vegetables. A floating fish farm was next on our docket with a new mode of transport: a sampan. Each day of our journey as we explore the diverse sights, sounds, and flavors of Cambodia and Vietnam comes with a unique and innovative vehicle of exploration as well.
Our day aboard the Jahan started at dawn with a morning photography excursion around the city of Phnom Penh. We visited Wat Ounalom and discovered large fruit bats, or “flying foxes,” near Wat Phnom. Guests returned to the ship for Tai Chi and breakfast before we pulled anchor and crossed the confluence of the “four rivers” of the Tonle Sap and the Mekong. A special guest, Jean Michel Fillippi, gave a spirited lecture on modern Cambodian history before, during, and after the Khmer Rouge, and during the Vietnam War. Guests peppered the professor with questions, extending this most popular talk right up until lunchtime. After lunch, while the Jahan was clearing customs and immigration for Cambodia and Vietnam, David Brotherson, culture specialist, gave a highly informative lecture on the historical and cultural differences between Cambodia and Vietnam. As the Jahan approached the Tan Chau Canal, tea and a cooking class were offered to guests. The Jahan entered the Tan Chau Canal, linking the Mekong and Bassac Rivers. Transiting the Tan Chau Canal offers a fascinating look into the Vietnam Delta. The canal is teeming with fish and rice processing factories. Boats of all sizes carry rice, husks, fish, sediment, and people. It is a drastic change in tempo from the quiet Cambodian countryside to a bustling, complex array of living and highly functional waterways. At sunset, the Jahan reached its destination for the evening. We docked at Chau Doc, and guests dined and enjoyed a screening of “Good Morning Vietnam.”