The last stop on this tour was the city of Chau Doc, which is only 2 km from the Cambodian border. There is a big bump in the flat delta lands called Mount Sam (Nui Sam) which has a long spiral path to the top with a hundred pagodas along the way. The view from the top is breathtaking. Actually, it was already amazing part of the way up, because my travelling companion suffers from vertigo and could not continue the ascension. He went back down to have a Coke somewhere and wait for the group to return. (Getting the tour bus to drive around looking for him when we returned was as close to carjacking as I have ever come. While the other tourists understood my concern, the Vietnamese guides seemed to have no problem with the idea of just abandoning him on the spot.)
That part of the Mekong delta was having huge floods at the time.
The tour guide made it very clear that he did not much like Cambodians. The area had been invaded sporadically by Khmer Rouge troops, so we were told horror stories of the atrocities committed in various villages. The only one that I recall had something to do with Vietnamese villagers hiding in caves and starving while the Khmer Rouge pillaged and raped. The situation was desperate, so the villagers decided to kill all of their own children so they wouldn't suffer from starving to death. Naturally, the valiant Vietnamese army arrived to rescue them just one day after they slaughtered their offspring.
However, the guide had one positive thing to say about Cambodians, even though he wrapped it in venom. "Cambodians are so stupid," he claimed. "They are probably the stupidest people in the world. But they are also very honest. If you lose your wallet in the main street of a village, it will still be lying in the same place if you come back for it the next day."
I think it is a very long term feeling, but it was revived when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia to overthrow the Khmer Rouge. Just like when the U.S. invaded Iraq, the people of Cambodia did not run out and wave Vietnamese flags in joy, even if they were happy to be rid of the Khmer Rouge.
I think I should mention that quite a few of these photos -- including all of the ones in black and white -- were taken with "disposable" cardboard & plastic cameras which were commonly available 10 years ago (although I saw somebody with one of those cameras just last week and was amazed that they still exist), so I don't want to hear anybody claiming that they can't post pictures because they don't have a good camera.
Hey ~~ this is great. I tend, probably along with almost everyone, to think "oh I've seen that" about older threads. But looking at this 2 1/2 years later, it's all new again. Thanks for floating this back up to the top.
Looking at this thread, I also thought how very lucky we are to have people willing to share pictures and experiences (thanks, Kerouac) and others willing to enhance the reports with their knowledge (thanks, HW).
Absolutely fascinating reports and stunning photos of the Mekong area. Reading through these posts certainly has opened my eyes in regards to Southeast Asia and specifically Vietnam. I'm looking forward to seeing updates one day, as you are sure to take future trips.