15 September – Chau Doc
I wake up a bit before 7.30am. Which is good, on two counts.
It means I actually got some sleep, and it also means I’m still alive.
It was a rough night, though.
Fortunately, I suppose, it was all about the high temperature and the just generally feeling like crap. There were no mad rushes to the toilet; although there was one brief visit that wasn’t terribly fun.
I remember waking up some time around 3.00am, which was after the mad dash to the toilet, and actually thinking that I was perhaps feeling slightly better. May have been more wishful thinking, than anything else, but I did feel like I was perhaps not quite as hot as I had felt. Although the sweat soaked sheet probably said otherwise. And that was despite the fact that the air conditioner was still on…..
So now, at 7.30am, how do I feel?
Not great. But probably not as bad as I thought I was going to. At least I’m not thinking about doctors and hospitals, at the moment.
Lisa wakes up and straight away touches my skin, which she had done several times throughout the night.
That might explain why I didn’t sleep terribly well…..
“You’re still really hot”, which, while I want to take that as a compliment, I know it isn’t.
“I actually feel a bit better”, I reply.
I don’t think she believes me.
We just lay there for an hour or so, until I get to the stage where that starts to annoy me. I get up and go to the toilet, and then start getting ready. Not sure what for, but I don’t really want to be laying in bed all day.
“What are you doing?”, she asks in a rather authoritarian tone.
“Ummm, getting dressed”, I nervously reply.
“You’re not going anywhere!”, is the authoritarian one’s response.
I kind of realise she’s probably right, so I meekly surrender and head back to bed.
I’ve never really seen her like this, and I suppose it’s nice to know that she cares, but it’s also a little scary.
For some reason all I can think of is Kathy Bates, in Stephen King’s Misery movie….
Back in bed I soon have a damp towel on my forehead, and yep, I’m starting to wonder what’s next.
So I lay there, doing the Trip Advisor thing, while feeling very much like a patient. I hate it…..
Eventually she heads off to see what she can find for breakfast. Now being out of the room, I consider checking to see if the window is locked, but then realise we’re on the first floor.
I doubt I’d make it….
She returns a few minutes later, along with a couple of the women from the hotel who help her with the plates.
While I felt like a patient before, now I feel like a whiny wimp with man flu…..
Banh mi and jam, along with fruit and green tea for Lisa, while I just have the fruit. She’s also brought me back a tea, as well, but, because I don’t really like the taste of tea, green or otherwise, I normally don’t drink it.
But that gets me thinking; stuff that’s good for you, more often than not, doesn’t taste that good. Hmmm, maybe a cup of tea is what I need today….
Not having much to lose, apart from swallowing something I’d rather not, I ‘enjoy’ my tea while sitting on the bed.
Gee, it made the fruit taste even better….
A bit before 10.00am, I’ve had enough. I didn’t sit on a boat for over four hours yesterday to spend my first day back in Vietnam sitting on a bed.
I get up, put my pants back on, and my foot down!
“Come on, we’re heading outside!”, I say, but probably not as authoritarianly as Lisa did earlier. What can I say, bluffing isn’t a strong point of mine….
But, it can’t have been too bad, as she accepts my ultimatum / demand / wish / request / watery eyed, snivelling plea.
Out into the street, and up to Le Loi street. But this time we turn right, which is away from town. Up a bit we turn down a local ‘Hem’ (laneway), and all of a sudden we notice how quiet it is. It’s also significantly cooler, now that we can feel a bit of a breeze.
We come across quite a few kids out in the street, and we get heaps of ‘hellos’, as well as lots of acknowledgements and smiling faces from some of the adults we walk past. Once again, it just reminds me of how much I love the Mekong. Friendlier people, you will not meet.
On we go, and a bit further up, a guy standing out the front of his house tries to tell us something. Unfortunately, the language barrier prevents it from going too far. And then, just after his house, the Hem comes to an abrupt end. I suspect that conversation was probably going to be along the lines of the Hem being a dead end.
We turn around and walk back, receiving a bit of a smile from him as we walk past.
While there wasn’t that much down there to look at, I just really enjoy seeing the locals going about their lives, living in their small communities.
It’s all so real.
Back onto Le Loi street, and once again the noise, as well as the issues associated with walking the cluttered footpaths, returns.
Keeping an eye out for our first caphe sua da of the trip, we continue on. No luck on Le Loi, but we see another narrow street on the other side, so we head across.
It looks like it might be interesting, so we head down. All of a sudden it opens up a bit, and there’s heaps of people around. We’ve stumbled across what seems to be a wholesale fruit and vegetable market!
While it’s not a huge market, there’s still plenty going on. Bikes, bikes with trailers on the back, small trucks, and people just carrying more stuff than should be possible. It’s madness, and the sheer numbers that are there results in several occasions where we were just unable to move. Which, for the first time in my life, being stuck without any possibility to move forward, back or sideways, was actually a good thing. It gives you an opportunity just to watch. To be a part of it.
So vibrant, so authentic, so real; I just love it.
We eventually manage to get to the end, and then do a U-turn and walk down the other side. At the end of that lane we come across the wet market section, which seems to be predominately seafood.
Again, I just love this stuff.
I go to take a photo of the various fish on offer, and the elderly female vendor sees me do it. I ask if I can take her photo as well, and she says yes, much to the amusement of the other stall holders nearby.
Photo taken, I show her. She loves it! And I just loved the interaction. She really was a lot of fun.
Begrudgingly, we leave the market, and end up in another side street, still looking for that elusive first caphe sua da.
Still no luck, but we do come across a girl doing another drink that, in my opinion, is in Vietnam’s top three; nuoc mia da (sugar cane juice).
We head over and order two, and because of where we are, there’s no need to ask the price beforehand. She quickly arranges a couple of chairs for us, and goes back to start preparing our drinks.
They soon arrive, and as usual, it’s good. But so too was the opportunity to just sit and watch what was going on around us. We’ve seen very little of Chau Doc so far, and while I’m not in the best shape to be getting the most out of it, I’m already enjoying the place. But then again, it’s the Mekong, and it’s pretty hard not to like this area. Again, it’s all about the people.
Sugar hit taken, I get up to pay. No English, she holds up a 10 000 Dong note. Thinking that meant 10 000 Dong each, I hand her 20 000 Dong. She quickly gives me back my change.
Yep, 5000 Dong each, (~30 Australian cents) and yep, confirmation again of how genuine and honest Mekong Delta people are.
We head off, sticking to the smaller roads, and end up walking in the direction of the centre of town. And as before, lots of hellos and smiles from the locals. Eventually we end up back on Le Loi, and then up in a park / riverside area, where we sit and rest for a bit. It’s pretty warm, certainly not debilitating, but it does slow you down. Unfortunately the concrete seat doesn’t allow for an overly comfortable rest, so we move on fairly quickly.
And then, a bit further up, the holy grail is finally found; a girl doing caphe sua da!
Not really needing more sugar, but also not wanting to give up the opportunity, we quickly order two, and once again settle in to do some world watching.
Caphe sua da is good, watching is good, and while not feeling that great, life just seems to be that little bit better at the moment.
And an added bonus to the whole experience was watching a motorbike repair guy plying his trade on the footpath in front of us. The job today was a puncture repair, and while I had a rough idea of how to repair such things, the way this guy went about it was really interesting.
I think I would have paid more than the 10 000 Dong he charged his customer for the repair, just to watch him do it.
Coffees done, at the non-touristy, non-city price of 15 000 Dong each, puncture repair lesson complete, we headed back in the direction of the hotel. Next goal, seeing as it was just after 12.00pm, was food. Although that was something that I was going to have to force myself to do.
On the way back, a bus went past blaring its horn. My first thought is that he’s warning the people waiting at a bus stop up ahead, but no, that’s not what he was doing.
As the bus slows, a guy runs out from a shop. He quickly hands the driver what looks to be his lunch, and just as quickly, the driver hands the guy some money.
The amazing thing was that the bus never actually came to a complete stop.
Just another one of those little Vietnam things.
Although I did now wonder how he was going to eat his lunch, while still driving the bus, as well as looking at his phone, all at the same time…..
Not too far from the hotel we come across a girl doing Banh mi’s, so an easy decision is made. It’s pork with assorted vegetables. It’s nice, but not great, which is partly because of the pate – we keep forgetting to say no to that. It’s also been lightly toasted, and again, always prefer the non-toasted variety.
But at 15 000 Dong, it’s hard to be too critical.
We stop at the pharmacy on the corner of the street that the hotel is on, and once again after more finger pointing and charades, we end up with more paracetamol. But trying to achieve electrolytes proved to be a little beyond us.
Walked down the street a bit further, and found another pharmacy. The electrolyte thing was just proving too difficult to act out, until we noticed Berocca on the shelf. Not quite what I was looking for, but better than nothing.
Back to the hotel about 1.00pm, and I’m absolutely stuffed. It’s been a much better morning than I thought it would be, but I’m now so tired, and so achey, that I just need to sleep.
End up sleeping for almost two hours, and then feel much better for it. Well, good enough to feel like I can head back out again, which we do a bit after 3.00pm.
Out the hotel, and apart from a little aimless walking, we do have a bit of a plan. We need to get to Can Tho the day after tomorrow, and because I want to stick to my public transport type travel plan, I want to get the bus.
And while there’s always the option of asking our accommodation to help us with booking that bus, I want to try and be more independent and do it ourselves.
Lisa’s not too sure on that particular idea, which just makes me more determined to do it.
Out the front doors of the hotel, and we turn left. Two reasons; trying to keep off noisy and cluttered Le Loi street, and two, taking the opportunity of checking out the rest of the street we’re staying in, that we haven’t yet seen.
And what a great street it is. So many little local shops, selling anything and everything, and so many friendly people really keen to say hello.
It seemed like every second house had someone standing out the front saying hello to us as we walked past. And there were several occasions where a grandparent would appear with their grandchild, prompting said child to wave and say hello. It actually got to the point where I wondered if there had been a chain of phone calls made, passing on the message that there were these strange western tourists walking up their road.
Regardless, it was really nice, and while it’s only a small thing, I always love those little interactions.
Up to the end of the street, and we turn right. It’s a busier road, but still has nothing on Le Loi street. A bit further up we see a nuoc mia cart, and because it’s been over four hours since our last one, we order a couple to take away. Being slightly closer to town than this morning’s one, this time they’re 6000 Dong each.
We continue on our walk while enjoying the cold sweet juice, and occasionally check Maps.me to make sure we’re going in the right direction.
We eventually turn off to the right, and take the first left. Maps.me says we’re here, but we can’t see the Futa Busline office.
We do however find the Hung Cuong bus office, so make the decision that that will do. We head in, and while it initially looked promising that we’d be able to achieve what we set out to do, it quickly came to screaming halt.
My Vietnamese, and their English, meant a successful outcome was never going to be a possibility. Although, I was reasonably confident that my highly skilled pointing finger would eventually achieve success, they seemed to think otherwise.
But then, just as it looked like we’d be returning to our hotel and asking for help, a young guy turned up at the office.
It seems someone had raced off to find a person that was fluent in the two languages, a skill that neither I, nor any of the bus employees, were equipped with.
Apparently buses run every hour, starting from around 7.00am, with the last one leaving at 7.00pm. Cost is 100 000 Dong, and Chau Doc to Can Tho is about three hours. And included in the price is pick up from your hotel.
Anyway, that’s enough of the facts, figures, and just general really helpful information, I’ll get back to my usual waffling and rambling on….
Our saviour really was a lovely guy, and his help was very much appreciated.
Seat booked for the 8.00am bus on Tuesday, with hotel pick up at 7.30am, and no money required until day of travel, we head off back in the direction of our hotel. But this time, we go the long way. Down any small side street we come across, and even down some tiny little narrow alley ways that we would never have dreamed of walking down five years ago.
Local neighbourhoods, local life; the real world, and so much better than the manufactured tourist stuff.
Eventually back to the hotel, and I drop Lisa off. Apparently her knee is sore, which is a problem, but at least it’s only her knee that’s giving her grief. I feel like I hurt everywhere.
With nothing else seeming to be working, I go off in search of a beer.
Back on to Le Loi, down several side streets I come across, as well as more of those small laneways. Walk and exercise achieved, but the beer remains elusive.
Shattered and defeated, I head back to the hotel to drink their beer on the balcony. It’s an honour system where you mark down each beer you have, (mostly around 20 000 Dong each) and fix up the bill at the end of your stay.
Interestingly, they have a BYO corkage charge of $3, if you bring your own beers in. I’m not sure if that’s each beer, or each day, or if it only applies to beers drunk in the common area where the bar and pool table is.
Lisa joins me on the balcony and we have a couple up there while watching the world do its thing down below.
With dinner time fast approaching, we head back to the room to get ready. Back out on Le Loi street, we find a small pho restaurant tucked down a narrow lane. Seeing a couple of locals there, it looks promising.
And it is. Better than the pho that we get from our local Vietnamese place at home, and at 30 000 Dong, about a sixth of the price we pay.
Pho done, we head off towards the centre of town. Coming across our Bun Ca ladies from yesterday, and seeing as they appear to be bug free tonight, we decide to have a couple of beers there.
And again, they’re more than happy to see us.
One beer each, and then with a little charades, I manage to get my point across about buying some more to take away.
She puts four in a small plastic bag, and then even throws some ice in to keep them cold.
Seriously, her husband, if she has one, is a very lucky man.
Tied up securely, and then into the small backpack I’ve fortuitously brought along with us, to avoid finding out how the $3 corkage charge works.
I have no intention of paying twice for my beer….
Finding an open pharmacy on the way back, we manage to buy, what turns out to be some pretty ordinary tasting cough mixture, some more paracetamol, and some cold and flu tablets. All for the princely sum of 54 000 Dong.
Back to the hotel, and a quick check with the young guy at the front desk about borrowing a couple of bikes tomorrow morning, and then up to the room for the usual beer and Trip Advisor thing.
Two beers, and I’m done. Once again, just absolutely stuffed, along with those continuing muscle aches. The decision is made to cease flogging that dead horse, and it’s lights out by 10.00pm.
The one small positive is that while I don’t feel great at the moment, I do feel better than I did 24 hours ago.
Hopefully the worst of it is over.