In fact, I could have made it, had I realised that the bus left not from Vinh Long, but from Can The, some 30km up the road, and, even then, required a minibus for a further 10km to get to the bus station on the main road between HCM and Rach Gia. Futa bus lines are one of the best, but they have the same attitude to geographical locations as Ryanair does.
As it was, I got to the Vinh Long bus station nice and early, a little after dawn, then everything fell in a heap when I was confronted with the Can The conundrum. The helpful people at the bus station told me there was a public bus to Can The and where to catch it, so I headed there. The bus stop had a couple of people waiting languidly, so I joined them. We waited. The day got hotter, and we waited some more. After what seemed like hours, I gave up on the languid waiting competition and returned to the bus station where I asked the question I should have earlier, the one about what time the bus leaves. It left at midday. The only alternative was a 500000vnd taxi trip, which, bearing in mind the time, I accepted, and off we headed to Can The.
We arrived at lunch time, and nothing much was happening. This didn’t disturb me, I’ve lived in France a long time, but there were one or two backpackers who seemed a little overwrought. Anyway, I bought a coffee off a convenient stall, and settled down to wait.
The minibus arrived, we were bundled on it and driven to the bus station on the main road where the few of us who were going to Rach Gia were put un a larger bus, and off we went. Unfortunately the combination of hard suspension and bumpy roads precluded much photography (in some ways no bad thing), but the two hour journey to Rach Gia – actually, it wasn’t Rach Gia, but yet another bus station a handful of kilometres away necessitating yet another change of bus – gave me time to digest the countryside. The towns, such as there were, were fairly anonymous, but the network of canals, rivers and rice paddies I found fascinating, and vowed to come back, this time with the ever reliable Brompton and take the time the delta deserves.
Having unexpected time on my hands, I took the time to wander into Rach Gia. Most would pass through it on the way to the ferry with nary a second glance,
which is a shame, as it is a pleasant town with a bustling, friendly market spreading along the river into the centre. People really welcoming, especially the schoolchildren who love to practice their English on any unsuspecting visitor.
Aside from the market, and not far from the ferry terminal, there is a temple deicated to an early resistance leader, Nguyen Trung Truc. He operated from 1861 until 1868, harrassing the French in the Mekong delta region. Although most famous for his successful burning of the L’Espérance, a French controlled transport, he later became head of Ha Tien province, where he continued his resistance , despite the signing of the treaty of Saigon in 1862, which ceded the southern part of the country to the French. From his base in Ha Tien in 1868 he successfully attacked and captured the French fort in Rach Gia, but this proved his last act. The French recaptured the fort, and Truc with it. He was executed in Rach Gia that year.
I’m not big on temples, but this one dedicated to Truc is interesting because of the graphic retelling of the attack against L’Espérance in a series of paintings, the statues dedicated to the man and because it is a living temple still very much in use. The French have long gone, but not the spirit this man helped engender.