what they told you not to do
11.01.2011 - 13.01.2011 87 °F
so here's the plan, take two motor bikes about 85 kilometers to a little island near a floating market, stay overnight with a vietnamese family that doesn't speak english, then get up in the morning and go out by boat to see a floating market, and tour around in some canals. ok, sounds interesting, i am only scared to death to get on the back of the bike, sit behind some guy who doesn't know that oh, please slow down means SLOW DOWN, i am terrified... and what if i really cannot do this and we are 20 kilometers down the road? and lots of what ifs. so of course we sign on, and the two moto drivers show up, both nice and not total speedsters... especially because they have our rolling suitcases tucked on the front, and us on the backs...wearing helmets, as that is definitely the law here, everyone except little kids (how does that make sense?) has to wear a helmet, unlike in NM where you are allowed to fall on your unprotected head do awful damage to yourself if you like... off we go, at first on the highway, then oh hurray, onto little roads with rice paddies all green on the sides, then crazy nurseries growing potted plants to sell in saigon for tet (new year, coming beginning of feb) the vietnamese call the plants in pots bonzai, and lots of them are little trees, also whole arbors of trained vines, and dragons and shapes and all sorts of flowers. really strange, and very pretty. everything in neat rows with people working to get the leaves just right! and trucks full of plants, and motorcycles with plants strapped on... everything goes on a motorcycle... including ladders, windows with glass, baskets of ducks, entire market stalls, ...
we stop for lunch, mmm soup and meat and vegies, then go down the road and have drinks and a nap in a hammock cafe... coffee, tea, sodas, cocnut... for about fifty cents you buy a drink and the use of a hammock under a tree. we lay in the hammocks, and both of us fall asleep! i think we were there about an hour.. very relaxing, maybe a good idea to bring home? off again on the bikes, and finally after 4 hours of travel, arrive at a biggish town, Vinh Long. we neet the boatman/homeowner, get into his boat, and head across the river to the island.. off the boat, walk down a narrow dirt path past fish ponds and vegetable gardens, and get to the house.
it is an old wooden house, couple of rooms, with grandma, grandfather, mother, father, 3 kids, and assorted friends/relatives. and chickens, cat, and dog, all hanging out. the moto drivers each go the the bath room and take showers, then we ask to get clean too. the bath room is a little room with some water buckets, a dipper, and couple of towels. dan goes first. is it cold? no room temperature. i'm next - and yes, it is cold- pouring water down my back is not cozy!! but i am a lot happier with the road dirt washed off!!
mom goes to the kitchen - a separate add-on room in the back- to start dinner. i follow her, and watch as she cooks dinner for about 15 people on two tiny woodburning stoves. she cuts up vegies and rolls fish balls to make a fish stew, and fries two big whole fish, carefully turning them over using chopsticks, from somewhere there is a chicken dish, and a huge pot of rice. it is all served up with tea and little glasses of rice whiskey. maybe one of the best meals i've ever had!! and all done in the smoky dark little kitchen room with a broken chair for a shelf and all the smoke blackened pots hung on nails on the wall.
our bed is in the living room, and as special guests, we get a mattress on a big wooden plank. the moto drivers don't get a matress, just a thin woven mat on their plank. with a mosquito net for both privacy and to keep out the bugs, we are pretty comfy.
the toilet is another matter... it is down a dirt path, then onto two boards that lead out over a pond like tiny pier. on the pier is a plywood box that you squat in... oh no, cannot!! well, enough said.
the boat ride in the morning was interesting, through some canals, lots of fruit trees,,, the big boats are fruit wholesalers, little boats pull up alongside and buy from them... only disappointmnet, we couldn't buy as it is all in big amounts.
then we go again on the motorcycles, out to the highway to get the bus to the next destination: along comes a little van, the moto drivers flag it down, and that's our bus... slow ride, with a flat tire on the way, and we arrive here, to chao dac...
skipped the sightseeing, just went to the market, hung out with the fruit vendors and looked at dried fish and multicolored beans and noodles and vegetables familiar and strange... i do love markets, the abundance, the freshness, the colors, the smells. people going about their business, yelling out what they have and trying to get noticed.. lots of hubub, bicycles, motorbikes going right down the aisles. people trying to sell pickled cabbage and strange sugar candy.