Day 15 Tuesday 30 December 2014

We are now firmly back in Vietnam but this is still part of the Mekong and the Mekong delta and is in many ways different to Hanoi.

Historically this area did not become part of Vietnam until the French colonial period when the borders were redrawn (again).  Hanoi and the surrounding area has long been Vietnam.  The marriages between Vietnamese kings and Cambodian princesses led to gifts of land in the centre of the country being dowries and therefore becoing part of a larger Vietnam.  Cambodia was a strong and huge country at the time of the Angkor constructions but subsequently weaker.  The name Siem Reap actually reflects the town being conquered by Siam (Thailand).

Our visit this morning is to Tan Chau to see a floating fishing farm.  These have become incredibly important in feeding the Vietnamese in recent years and we are shown the way in which the families live on a floating “raft” with the fish farm suspended below, with cage with wire netting on three sides but the fourth side closed with wood to prevent the full force of the river flowing through the farm.  The farm we saw was responsible for some thousands of tilapia fish which were about half grown and will eventually reach close to 1kg each in weight over a nine month period.

Photographs can be found at:

Special boats have been developed to move the young into these individual farms and for the grown fish to be taken away, still alive, so that the quality of the fish is maintained until the last possible moment.

Leaving the fish farm we return to solid land for a while and we walk between houses and gardens inspecting the growing peppers and a variety of other plants and fruits plus a lot of ducklings before embarking on a rickshaw ride.  As elsewhere the presence of satellite dishes means that battery powered tvs means these people do know what is going on in the world.  I suspect the bicycle powered rickshaws are retained solely for the tourists and we progress to two further visits.  A basket weaving factory where the noise must drive everyone deaf very quickly.

The individual parts often have to be dyed red (the colour of the day) or green and are then fed into the weaving machines by hand,  Hugely labour intensive and the potential for error high so the operators have to keep a close eye on the feeds and we see the machines being stopped and errant colours being removed to ensure the patterns are right.

These rickshaws are not designed for big fat western bums like mine.  To mount them we stand on a beer crate (upside down) and then insert our bums on the back seat.  We then lift our feet up to rest on the seat facing the other way (we are so big it is a single seater).  Now I cannot tuck my legs up like that because of my size so it is a question of finding a comfortable position with one leg tucked under the other.  And there is nothing to hang on to apart from the seat.  After a few minutes my nerves subside and I do manage to capture a couple of pictures of people passing us by and of another rickshaw rider.  I need a smaller bum and more flexible legs!

The second visit is a silk weaving factory where our new most excellent guide explains at length that this factory is particularly good at weaving black silk.  However production today is at a standstill due to a power failure – which is probably just as well as the noise would probably be impossible.

The machines are Jacquard and the design is driven from a continuous loop of what looks like punched cards which ensures that the design and pattern repeat regularly throughout the cloth without the careful attention of an individual machine minder – we are told one minder can look after two machines!  There are 70 machines on site.  A long step from the silk weaving capabilities seen in Laos earlier in the holiday.

Another afternoon cruising down the river.