Is this Lilliput? : Cau doc

An enjoyable six-hour boat journey along the mighty Mekong River provides us delivery all the way from Phnom Penh to the upper reaches of the Mekong delta at Cau Doc, Vietnam.

Mekong river trip from Cambodia to Vietnam

"The Boy" enjoys the Mekong river trip from Cambodia to Vietnam

Having crossed the Vietnamese border a little way upstream, this elongated, communist bulwark of a country thus becomes the sixth country we have visited since leaving the UK on August 11th.

I believe these half-dozen hops now allow me to lay valid claim to being a genuine travel writer.

A pretty shit travel writer, solely blog based, with a paucity of readers one might well argue.

Even you might say, a writer who also displays particularly poor grammar, a lack of attention to detail and a disgraceful attitude towards editing.

I cannot deny any of this.

Nonetheless, in my hallowed opinion (and of course, that’s all that matters on these pages) the ramblings of “From Sketty to sweaty” now cover enough hard yards to place me amongst a pantheon of popular modern writers such as Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson and… uh… Karl Pilkington??

I’d like to think my recent experiences might one day inspire me to turn my hand to writing fiction in the way that it did Jonathan Swift when he wrote “Gulliver’s travels”, the classic 18th century political satire cum parody of travel writing.

Fish cutlets for sale, Chau Doc market, Vietnam

Fish cutlets for sale, Chau Doc market, Vietnam

Of course, I don’t profess to being anything like an expert on the novels of Swift, and neither can I lay claim to possessing much knowledge of the travels that inspired his writing.

My instincts however, though unsubstantiated as they may be, tell me that at some point before knuckling down as a novelist, Swift most definitely visited Vietnam.

Permit me if you will to explain.

You see, my suspicions are fuelled by the first voyage of Swift’s book, whereupon suffering a shipwreck the protagonist is safely washed ashore in the land of Lilliput only to become prisoner to a race of people rather diminutive in stature.

My first impressions of Vietnam are that this land most definitely has candidature for being the inspiration behind Swift’s Lilliputians.

A vietnamese baguette seller in traditional hat, Chau Doc

A Vietnamese baguette seller in traditional hat, Chau Doc

I mean, short?

Snow White would have a field day and Disney would have needed a support cast of thousands had the fairy tale been based here in Chau Doc.

Even the vertically challenged Swansea City midfield would be imposing around here.

These people are tiny.

At 6ft 2, I usually possess one of the more elevated set of eyeballs in a room. Here, I positively tower above the locals.

Upon the hectic streets of Chau Doc, I am not just stand-out head and shoulders tall like in other parts of South-East Asia, but I am so profuse of height that I could happily rest my moobs on the heads of most local men even if they were to stand without a slight hunch.

For her part, the 0.5 (who I would normally describe as being of a healthy medium height in UK terms) enjoys a clear streetscape view of the kind she could only dream of in Northern Europe.

baby on a bike

Chau Doc babies start riding young. By six years old they are let loose on a moped. By ten years old they are experienced 500cc riders, This is FACT.

An assembled melee of Vietnamese women even sporting their omnipresent conical crowns of sun hat will inevitably fail to block her line of vision.

These people are truly miniscule.

It stands to reason why they dug and hid inside complex tunnel systems in order to outwit the US Marines during what they here term “The American War”.

There is no way a 200-pound marine fed on a diet of Big Macs and deep base pizza was ever going to give fruitful chase down a hole just about high enough to accommodate a fully grown badger.

The markets of Chau Doc buzz with teeny people selling unknown wares, whilst the city roads are jammed with motorbikes both steered and hooted incessantly by undersized riders.

Vietnam bar furniture

Sharing a beer with "The Boy" outside a Vietnamese bar. The plastic furniture is definitely a better fit for a 16 month old then me.

Café’s and bars spill onto the streets, where uneven pavements are occupied by plastic stools and chairs more familiar to junior schools than establishments licenced to serve alcohol.

These seats, set out for the comfort of paying adults, are more suitable for use by “The Boy” and his 16-month old contemporaries than beer swigging men.

My introduction to Vietnamese hotel beds confirms that they are low; a halfway hybrid between divan and futon, whilst Cau Doc’s taxi firms are clearly taking the piss out of me when they send a vehicle with similar dimensions to a SMART car, but with the intention of providing passage for four people plus luggage.

The price of rice.  Chau Doc market.

The price of rice. Chau Doc market.


I’m left in no doubt.

I sense that Vietnam is not going to be easy. Furthermore, something tells me I’m going to ache a lot over the next three weeks.


About misterkelvin

I searched, I failed. And then I accidentally found one in Ubud.
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