Just keep walking (Chau doc, Vietnam)

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After many days sitting in a tuk tuk and on coaches, and our most recent long journey being from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh to visit the Killing Fields (click here to read about our experience), the decision to take a coach or boat to Vietnam was easy, by boat. We decided that after many days of ‘the boy’ having to sit still on our lap for long durations, the boat would be fairest on him as he could walk around and move freely (within reason of course).

The six-hour journey down the Mekong River was very pleasant and well organised and the border crossing was the easiest to date. ‘The boy’ was happy running up and down the boat with his toy cars and we took it in turns to sit out on the deck.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' has a snooze on the boat to Vietnam

We arrived at Chau doc in the early afternoon and as we set upon dry land we were bombarded by a huge number of locals touting for business for their cycle rickshaws.

After some negotiation we secured two rickshaws and headed off into the town centre to find some accommodation. The rickshaws were different to the ones I’d previously seen in Asia. The cycle was at the front with a very small shallow carriage on the back. It’s hardly big enough for two adults, but the locals manage to stack them high with goods for the market and entire families who perch precariously on the edges of the seat. ‘The boy’ loved this new mode of transport and spent the entire journey waving to the huge number of motorcyclists who drove past at speed.

Accommodation was easy to find, so after dumping our rucksacks we put ‘the boy’ in the sling and headed out to explore.

I’ve been intrigued to find out if the traffic in Vietnam is really as bad as people have warned us. It is. 95% of the vehicles here are motorbikes, so the streets are a manic mess of bikes weaving in and out of each other, pedestrians and the odd car. This takes me to the art of crossing the road in Vietnam. Unlike India where you walk out, stick your hand in the air to make a stop motion and the traffic slows to allow you to cross, the traffic in Vietnam does not stop. We had been advised by a couple of backpackers that in order to cross safely you shouldn’t falter, just walk confidently from one side to the other. Apparently this is what the locals do, so when a bike sees you step out into the road they anticipate where you will be when they reach you and either nip in front or drive around the back of you. If you stop or hesitate this confuses them and that’s when accident can occur. Simple hey!?

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Walking around the busy local market. Even here you can't escape the motorbikes!

I have to admit that this strategy goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about crossing the road in the UK, so feeling very responsible for ‘the boy’ we decided to see what would work best for us.  After many attempts to cross the busy streets I can confirm that the advice we were given was indeed correct.   It’s a bit nerve wracking to start with, but after checking that there’s nothing in your direct vicinity you just walk and the bikes weave effortlessly around you.

Not so bad when you’re wearing your baby in a sling but I’m nervous about how we’ll manage doing the same thing with the buggy….

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Chau doc riverfront

Tomorrow we’re heading to Can Tho to visit the famous floating markets.

Top tip of the day:
If your baby suffers from travel/boat sickness keep a nappy bag within easy reach. They are watertight, tie securely at the top and are scented which makes the environment more pleasant for your fellow passengers.

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