15 October – HCMC
A Sunday. And even though it’s a Sunday, we’re up a bit after 7.00am.
Wouldn’t happen at home…
Downstairs just after 8.00am, and Tung and Vy look like they’ve been up for a while. And neither looks terribly happy.
A pump near the kitchen has leaked overnight, and there’s now water all through the loungeroom and over to the front door.
And as the pump is still leaking, it’s making it difficult to clean up.
We try to give them a hand by moving a few things, but Tung doesn’t really want help. He’s not happy, so rather than risk getting in the way, we head out.
Instead of turning left and heading past yesterday’s breakfast lady, we turn right. We’re more than happy to have banh mi opla again, but we want to see what else there is on offer.
And I don’t want to walk past our opla lady in case she sees us, and gets upset if we go elsewhere.
Around the corner we spot a husband and wife with a banh mi cart. Along with quite a few locals waiting for their banh mi’s to be ready.
With that being a really good sign, as well as being more than happy with having a banh mi for breakfast, we join the queue.
With a bit of finger pointing and hand gesturing we manage to get our requests across.
And at 10 000 Dong, the price was alright, too.
They were a really nice couple, as well. And I think they were also pretty happy to have us order from them.
We head over the road to have another look at the market we were at yesterday. While it was busy then, it is absolutely packed today.
So packed in fact, it just makes it too difficult to move. Having already seen it anyway, we give up and make our way back to the main street.
Rather than going straight back to our block, we decide to walk around the block. This gives us a bit more of an idea of where we actually are, as well as making a little more room for the caphe sua da we are yet to have.
Fortunately, we manage to do it without getting lost, and we’re soon back ‘home’.
Room for the caphe sua da now found, we head to the first ‘café looking’ place we find.
But, for some unknown reason, they can’t help us.
Never mind, we continue our search.
And just a few doors down from where our banh mi couple were set up, we get lucky.
“Caphe sua da, please”, I say to the young guy.
I must be saying it wrong, though, as I get a confused look in return.
I eventually get my point across, and we’re soon sitting on the footpath enjoying my second favourite drink in Vietnam, while doing my most favourite thing; watching the world go by.
And we do that for almost an hour.
Which got me thinking.
I just don’t understand people who have to be doing something all of the time when they’re on holiday.
You know, wanting to fill every waking hour seeing that particular museum, or this particular tourist site, and then seeing another one straight after the last one.
I know everyone is different, but seriously, if you fill your days constantly seeing and doing something, you just miss so much.
Anyway, just an opinion that perhaps may not be shared by too many….
While we’re sitting there, we watch a little old lady walking down the street selling those hard rice cracker biscuit, type things.
I believe they are Bánh Tráng Mè. Love Google!
Anyway, she stops over the road and sells one to a local for the grand total of 10 000 Dong.
She then looks over, sees us sitting there, and gives us a smile.
I motion to her that I would also like one, and she heads over, still with a big smile on her face.
Pointing to the one I want, she helps me put it in a bag.
I give her a ‘cam on’, and she giggles, while repeating it. While I may have made her day, she most certainly made mine.
Yep, that interaction thing again.
We head back to Tung’s to try and get our stuff sorted a little for our Mekong trip starting tomorrow. Our guides are coming over tonight to meet us, as well as see what’s required with regards to carrying luggage on the bikes.
A plumber has been and fixed the pump, which you’d struggle to get that done in Australia on a Sunday morning, and everything has pretty much been cleaned up. Apparently the water was turned off overnight and that caused the pump to overheat. When the water was turned back on, the pump failed.
Hopefully for Tung and Vy, that doesn’t become a common occurrence…..
Clothes, bags, and all the other stuff that we’re carrying around Vietnam, kind of sorted, we head back downstairs as Pierre arrives. It’s good to see him again, and although it’s been almost 18 months, it feels like only yesterday.
About half an hour later, his wife, Kim, arrives. It’s lovely to finally meet her.
With Tung and Vy, we sit and catch up over a lunch of banh xeo, which is Vietnamese pancakes with prawns, pork and beanshoots. It’s beautiful, but as is the Vietnamese way, there’s just too much.
This is the spot where I’d normally stick in a photo to prove all of this happened, but somehow the couple of photos that were taken, are now nowhere to be found….
Anyway, lunch done, Pierre and Kim head off, as they have a wedding they’re going to down in the Mekong.
It was nice to see them, and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to do it again, at some point.
Feeling a little lethargic after all that food, Lisa and I head out for a walk. Being a bit too early for a beer, which wouldn’t help the lethargy, anyway, we head off in search of caphe sua da.
Well, it has been a few hours…..
Back through the narrow streets and lanes, and we end up where the market was this morning. All packed up and vendors and shoppers long gone, it looks vastly different.
We find another little café, head over, order the usual, take the usual seat on the footpath, and settle in to do what we do.
And while the caphe sua da has been better, as well as the people watching, it was still pretty good.
We sat, watched, and chatted.
Even though we’d been aware of them on our previous trips, one thing we had noticed a lot today were the lottery ticket sellers. And now, there was a group of three who seemed to be working together in the street we were in.
They seem to come from all walks of life, but there are a few that live with some sort of disability. And at times, that can be quite hard to see. I suspect it’s a very low paying job, and perhaps it’s a way of helping some people that would otherwise struggle with employment.
Interestingly, this morning while enjoying our first caphe sua da, we talked about how these sellers never ever approached us to buy tickets.
Well, since that conversation, we had been approached by at least ten of them throughout the day.
I’m really not sure what’s changed…..
Caphe sua da hit administered, we headed off in the direction of last night’s ATM. Wallet now bulging with not all that much in the way of value, we head back to Tung’s via my cold beer shop.
The husband and wife smile when they see me, and once again, 11 000 Dong each.
A cam on, and a good bye, and I wish I had another couple of nights here. Even though I don’t really know them, I’m going to miss them.
Drop Lisa at Tung’s, and then head around the corner for one last beer at my ‘local’.
I get there about 4.30pm, and shock horror!, she’s not open yet! She’s still setting up!!!
Trying to remain calm, I walk around the other streets for ten minutes.
Quite possibly the longest ten minutes of my life out of the way, I head back, hoping, hoping, praying even; actually no, I’m not the praying type; just hoping a lot, that she’ll be open.
She sees me as I walk into the street, and gives me a smile.
Seat quickly taken, I sit and wait for my beer. And wait. And wait.
Ok, it wasn’t that long a wait, but it did take more than the usual 30 – 60 seconds.
Ahhhhh!, I then realised why the wait was necessary, as a guy on a motorbike pulled up out the front and delivered a bag of ice.
Ice now delivered, my beer lady’s young son quickly comes good with an ice filled mug and a can of beer.
I just love this place that little bit more. But now it’s just going to make it even harder to leave….
Live the moment……., live the moment……
Turns out I’m so early that even the food vendor over the street hasn’t set up yet. The wife is ‘cleaning’ the area by splashing a dark coloured liquid, mixed with water, over the ground. She then rinses the area with more water.
Her husband then arrives with the cart and begins setting up. Levelling the cart, putting up signs, running power leads for lights; I find it fascinating to watch, and it takes him a good half an hour.
A young guy walks past a couple of times with something up his shirt.
Well, I actually know what’s up his shirt because I can see it’s legs hanging out the bottom. It’s a chicken.
Yeah…., I don’t know why…..
Soaked the whole thing in for as long as I could; I just didn’t want to leave. But unfortunately, there comes a time.
Got up and went and found my mate from next door. He gives me a ‘yo’, and as I shake his hand I give him a ‘cam on’, and try to say goodbye.
I’m not sure if he knew.
I then go back and try to do the same with my beer lady.
Again, I don’t know….
‘Goodbyes’ done, and struggled with, I head back to clean up before our Mekong guides arrive.
Thang (pronounced Tung) and Quang (who likes to be called Wang) arrive just before 6.00pm. We then find out that they are actually taking us out for the night.
I didn’t know anything about that, and initially, I’m slightly disappointed as we’ll be missing out on a final dinner with Tung and Vy. We were supposed to be going out for phó!
And you know how it is when you’ve spent the day looking forward to what you’re going to have for dinner, only to find out you’re having something else?
Well, it impacts me….
Oh well, I move on pretty quickly once we’re on the back of the boys’ bikes, making our way through the traffic of HCMC.
It’s busy, as it usually is, but we’re making good time. Well, up until the point where a couple with their young child jumped from a taxi they were in, as it pulled up on the side of the road.
Not bothering to close the door as they took off, the taxi driver was forced to get out to do it himself.
Eventually back on the move, before pulling up at an intersection.
And there, in front of me, something I have never seen before, but most definitely have a connection with.
The SABECO Brewery. Brewer of such beers as Saigon Lager, Saigon Export, Saigon Special, and, quite possibly my favourite, 333. While I like 333, it’s perhaps more the fact that it is one of the few Vietnamese words that I know; ba ba ba.
I love saying it!
Looking across the street, at a place that has brought me, and continues to bring me, so much happiness, was quite an emotional moment.
Spiritual, in fact…..
A little later, now in District 11, we turn into a fairly narrow street full of restaurants, along with countless persuaders?, enticers?, annoying in your face type people?, or perhaps it’s easier to just call them touts.
As it begins to rain, we pull up outside a Chinese restaurant and head in.
We chat with the boys, getting to know a little about each other, while we enjoy wantons and dumpling soup. Along with a beer, or two, of course.
And with the amount of food already, I suspect my stomach could be in a world of pain, or at least great discomfort, by the end of the night.
Food done, it’s time to head to…., well…., another food place.
That rain that had started earlier, is now coming down a fair bit harder.
No problem, the boys have plenty of plastic clothing.
This is now like water off a duck’s back to me. Haha, see what I did there?
But to Lisa, this is all a bit new. She has a bit of a perplexed look on her face, as she tries to work out which is the front of the pants, and which is the back.
“It doesn’t matter, honey”, I say, through slightly gritted teeth.
She finally sorts it all out, and now has quite a smile on her face.
Yeah, you won’t be smiling for long once you realise how much fun riding in the rain, really is, I think to myself…..
Back on the bikes, we end up in District 10 at a BBQ quail place.
It seems half the registered bikes in HCMC are out the front, and in the restaurant itself, double the people.
It is packed!
But being a Vietnamese restaurant, it is calm, relaxing and quiet.
Extricating ourselves from our plastic; see how much fun this is now, Lisa?; we head upstairs to where it’s even busier.
There aren’t too many spare tables; read none; but the staff, as always, find us one.
And a few minutes later, tiny birds, still with heads, but now very much naked, appear in front of us on plates.
Apparently this place is quite famous amongst the locals; which perhaps explains why the majority are actually here; and judging by the quality of food, I can see why.
It was excellent, although next time, I’d perhaps give the part of the bird that contains the brain, a miss….
We’re sitting fairly close to where the food is being prepared, and the chef, or owner??, comes over to our table. He chats to the boys, and interacts with us, and then shakes our hands. I love that, and again, I’m not sure if he knows how much that means to me.
Proof again, I suppose, that if you get away from the tourist hotspots, you’ll find the ‘real’, and genuine, people.
While we’re there, Khoi rings us. He wants to know if we’re okay, and if the boys are looking after us.
Pffft, please! Friendlier guys you’d be hard pressed to find. He also talks a little about our next few days on the tour, and that he’ll check in from time to time.
Seriously, like Tung and Wang, he is a helluva nice guy.
Quail done, and my stomach is now beginning to strain under the pressure. Which is a little surprising, seeing as they seemed to be 90% bones…..
Time to again make a move, and while the rain has almost stopped, it’s not quite enough to forego the plastic.
Back out into the streets, and soon the scenery begins to change.
Brighter, busier, noisier; yep, we’re into the area around Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien streets, District 1.
Maybe I’m just old now, but seriously, it’s a pretty ordinary place.
Far too many that look like me, and probably far too many not as well behaved as me.
Yep, I’m just old.
And maybe a bit grumpy, too.
Old and grumpy, perhaps….???
Shut up, Lisa!
We continue down De Tham street and pull over at a small place where it looks like we can get a beer or two. It’s next door to a restaurant, and there’s a BBQ place opposite. Turns out they are all kind of the same place, and while there’s no problem ordering a beer, we have to order some food as well.
Great, just what I need…..
The boys look at the menu and decide to continue the ‘more bone / less flesh’ theme.
Well, that’s going to tick a box that hasn’t been ticked before.
Not that chicken feet have ever been a ‘tick the box’ item for me.
Oh well, if they’re going to be on a plate in front of me, then I’m going to have to give them a go.
Well, they’re a bit tough and sinewy. Perhaps even a bit ligamenty, if you know what I mean. They’re also a little fiddly to eat.
But they actually weren’t bad.
And one advantage of them, is that if you get something stuck between your teeth, then you have the claw there to dig it out.
And obviously if your back is itchy, well then……, you get the idea.
But might be best to pick your teeth before you scratch your back, though…..
It was nice to just sit and chat some more with the boys, before they dropped us back at Tung’s. They were both very professional, which was great, but I think we’ll need to help them to relax a little, over the next three days.
You know, be more ‘friend like’, rather than ‘tour guide like’.
I suspect it’s Lisa that scares them, which she tends to do….
Back at Tung’s, we call it a night.
Early start tomorrow, the boys will be back at 7.30am.