17 September – Chau Doc – Can Tho
But at least this time it’s reasonably light outside.
However, it’s still only 6.00am, which means I’m awake a bit earlier than I wanted, or needed, to be.
While some sleep was achieved, there were certainly lots of times that I woke up during the night.
Yep, slept like a baby. Just minus the crying bit….
I lay there, doze a little more, then get up at 6.30am.
I’m not a fan of mornings at the best of times, but right now, I really hate them. The sore throat, the muscle aches, and the general unwell feeling, just makes it such a struggle to get going.
But once I do get going, I do slowly improve throughout the day, albeit still needing paracetamol and a sleep at some point. I then reach a stage, usually just before bed, when I feel like I’ve maybe turned the corner.
Only to then have a restless night’s sleep and wake up feeling like crap again.
Two steps forward, one and a half back again. It’s really annoying me….
We do our final pack up, and then head downstairs before 7.30am to wait for our bus pick up to the Hung Cuong office and bus station. The young guy at the front desk has already spoken to them, and they’ll be here at 7.35am.
We say our goodbyes and head outside to wait. A few minutes later a small van comes down the street, and it looks like we’re on our way. But instead of stopping to pick us up, it drives right by. Assuming he must just be turning around, we give it a few minutes.
He doesn’t return.
Back inside to our young guy, and he phones them again.
No, all good apparently, and they’ll be here soon.
Outside again to do the waiting thing, as well as some clock watching. At least there’s things to look at as Chau Doc begins its day.
Several breakfast carts scattered about the area, as well as all the usual early morning deliveries.
Including the guy on the motorbike, steering with one hand, while carrying a tray laden with four bowls of pho on it.
Not sure I’ve seen that before….
Eventually our van returns, the driver hands me our bus ticket, and we’re quickly on our way. It appears we are indeed running a little late, as he seems determined to make up as much time as he can in the four minutes it will take us to drive to the bus station. Waiting for the garbage truck guys in front of us to do their thing, which will take all of 20 seconds, is seemingly, 20 seconds too long….
I’m glad, and I hope my assumption is correct, that he won’t be driving the actual bus to Can Tho.
Fortunately, we get to the bus station in one piece, and I look around to see who is likely to take my money for the tickets I already have.
No one appears keen, and just like the other day, dealing with a foreign tourist just seems all too difficult.
And I’m struggling with that. Over the journey we ‘ve managed to get our point across on far harder things, and people have always been keen to help us. But here, I’m met with shy looks and silly giggles, while standing there with my wallet in my hand.
Finally, a girl approaches and scribbles 200 000 on my ticket. Money handed over, transaction complete, and hopefully lesson learned by the onlooking gigglers….
Back outside to wait for our bus, which hasn’t yet arrived.
A few minutes later, it’s here. Some people get off, some people get on, and our bag goes on underneath in the luggage hold.
The bus then begins to move off, while we’re still standing on the footpath. Slightly panicked, I look for someone to show me either concern, or reassurance. Or maybe even both.
In the end, I get reassurance. Which turns into relief, for me. The bus is just moving to a different part of the square, apparently. Not sure why….
We walk over to its new parking space and we’re soon boarding. Shoes off, and into the supplied plastic bag, and as Lisa makes her way to towards the back of the bus – mainly to get away from the loud and annoying, chubby toddler who is sitting with his mum in the front seats directly behind the driver – we’re quickly directed to the two front passenger side seats.
The very seats that, for several reasons, aren’t ideal.
First off, it’s where they keep a small rubbish bin, along with several stacked plastic stools, thus limiting the leg room available for slightly taller than the usual passengers.
Second, we’ll have a bird’s eye view of the quality driving that we’ve come to expect in Vietnam. Not to mention, a clear and uninterrupted view of any head on accident….
And third, while he’s at least sitting in the window seat across the aisle, we’re just a little closer to the obnoxious, chubby kid, than I’d like to be.
Could be a looong trip….
About 8.20am, and we’re on the move. Kid is now on his second sweet snack that is designed to keep him quiet. But that little bribe is failing dismally.
It does seem to be working well on the chubbiness issue, though….
Off through the streets of Chau Doc, and as expected, the large front windows that are giving me an uninterrupted view of the road in front of us, certainly aren’t an advantage.
I try not to look, but like a car crash – probably not a great pun – I can’t help it.
A few minutes in, and we pull over to pick up our first add on passenger. Turns out, we do that something like 15 times over the next hour.
I was expecting it, anyway.
Back near the Murray Guesthouse at one point, and then out onto another fairly main road where we stop at what seems to be some other bus station, with several different bus company’s buses.
We pull up and the driver jumps out. He heads over to the window of a small office and appears to pay some kind of fee. Another guy there points to something on the side of the bus, and the driver looks over with a bit of a surprised look on his face. He heads over and deals with what ever the issue is. I can’t see, but I suspect the luggage hold door was probably left open.
I sit there and try and work out if we’ve done any hard left turns since we left, as well as wonder how far back into the hold our bag might be. If it is actually still there.
Oh well, we’ll be driving again in a minute, and that will no doubt take my mind off our, now possibly lost, bag….
Soon back on the move, and it’s not long before we’re out in the countryside. The road ranges from narrow and built up, to wider and more open, to sometimes being in the process of being re-made.
The bumpiness associated with that re-made bit, coupled with the bus’s suspension, makes that a rather painful experience.
About the only thing that doesn’t change, is the standard of driving. It’s certainly not the worst driving we’ve had to deal with, but it still leaves quite a lot to be desired. And it’s not just our driver, but most of the others that we’re sharing the road with, as well. It then begins to rain, and, well, that just adds to the whole scenario.
As expected, the driving does divert my mind from our possible bag situation. Unfortunately it’s not enough to divert it from that kid sitting opposite.
Without a doubt, he is the biggest pain in the arse of a kid I have come across in a very long time. He’s now sitting in the aisle seat, which is essentially next to me. Well, he would be sitting there, if he wasn’t spending his time climbing all over his mother, and annoying the bus driver by tapping him on the shoulder.
All the while with yet another sweet snack in his hand.
We pull over around 10.00am, and a couple jump off. Not sure why; perhaps a quick toilet stop?; and we sit there for a few minutes.
And then, almost as an afterthought, several others follow suit. Including that kid and his mother.
A minute later, and with only one or two returning, we’re back on the move.
Were they always going to get off then? Or have we left them behind?
I really don’t know.
And actually, I really don’t care.
The rain has now stopped, and the kid is gone. Life just seems that little bit better.
And now with one less distraction, it’s easier to take in the scenery of the Mekong. The various businesses set up on the side of the road, including the countless plant nurseries. School kids, as usual, dressed immaculately in their uniforms, going to, or coming from, school, either by walking or by bike. The canals and rivers lined with houses; quintessential Mekong; which you always know you’re about to see, as the bus hits that bump at the start of the bridge. You’re also well aware of the moment you leave the bridge, too.
There must be a reason, but for the life of me I can’t work it out….
And then, as we get closer to Can Tho, the many road side vendors, selling whatever their thing is.
It soon gets much busier, as well as far more built up, and then, in the distance, the Vin Pearl building in Can Tho comes into view.
Getting close now.
Into the city itself, and we soon pull up at a bus station. It looks familiar, and I’m pretty sure this is where we got off back in 2014, when we came down from HCMC. Several get off, but I’m not sure this is where we get off this time. I’m pretty sure there’s another, newer bus station, and I suspect that’s where we need to get to. I look at the driver, and he confirms it, by motioning to us to stay put.
Back out on the road, and I follow our journey on Maps.me. I think I can see where we’re heading, and from the little I know about this particular bus station, it seems to make sense.
Sure enough, just before 12.00pm, we pull into a much bigger and newer looking station. Off the bus, and fortunately, our bag is still where it should be.
Bag retrieved, and next challenge is to work out where we exactly are, and where we actually need to be. All I know is someone from Green Village is picking us up, but as to where exactly, I have no idea.
A guy from the bus tries to help, but the only word we both understand is ‘taxi’, so that doesn’t go far.
That’s okay, I enjoy challenges.
We head over to the main building, hoping that free wifi will be available. As we enter, scanning any recognisable signs, a young girl walks towards us.
It’s fantastic to see her again, as well as a bit of a relief that we found her so quickly.
Although it was more Cammy finding us.
Quick hugs and catch up, and then we’re into a car, which incidentally, is the first car we’ve been in since we left Melbourne almost two weeks ago.
Back out on the roads of Can Tho, and then into the outskirts of town. Pretty soon we’re on familiar roads, that tell me we’re getting close.
I’m like a kid at Christmas, and I’ve been so looking forward to returning to Green Village, pretty much since the day we left, almost two years ago.
It’s funny, I love Vietnam as a whole, and while Hanoi is definitely one of our favourites, Green Village, and the Mekong in general, really does mean so much to me.
The people down here have a lot to do with that.
Soon off the main road, and onto the narrow road that runs down to a canal. Turn right, under the bridge, and then, a few metres further up, the Green Village sign at the top of the driveway.
Down the driveway, out of the car, and by the time we get to the communal area, Thy is already there. Hanh, Cammy’s mum, is not far behind her.
More hellos and hugs, and it’s just great to see them again.
We also meet Thy and Hiep’s daughter, Andrea, for the first time. Thy was actually pregnant when we were here in 2017, it’s just that no one knew it at the time. Including Thy.
More catching up, and we soon have a plate of banana, orange and dragon fruit in front of us. Was nice to just sit and relax for a few minutes, while looking at how much the grounds of Green Village had changed. Two years ago the garden was still quite young, but things grow quickly down here with all the rain the area receives, not to mention the constant tropical heat. It has certainly become well established since we were last here, and it looks really good. It’s just a great spot, and it has such a calming and relaxing feel to it.
We head off to our hut to unpack, and then return for lunch. Lisa has vegetables with noodles, while I have the same but with beef. As usual, the food is beautiful, and as usual, there’s heaps of it. You never go hungry here….
Cammy gives us a Vietnamese lesson, and as is always the way, once we get past two words, nothing is retained.
Including the first two words. It’s just a lost cause…..
Lunch done, and learning not, we decide to go for a bike ride. No map, we’re relying on memory only, which may not end terribly well.
Up to the end of the driveway, and we turn left. Loose plan is to find the little town we rode to last time. The path looks kind of familiar, but not totally. Past the first bridge, and when we get to the second one, Lisa actually remembers it.
And you don’t think that surprised me….
Over the canal, and off to the right. Again, sort of looks the same as last time. Although the path is a lot bumpier than I remembered.
Eventually, up ahead, a familiar sight; it’s the entrance to the town, or village.
Through the little market area, and we quickly find the seafood vendor from 2017. We do a U-turn at the end, and pull up at a nuoc mia da cart we passed earlier.
Yep, time for something sweet and cold.
While I look after the parking of the bikes over the road, Lisa does the ordering.
We quickly have our drinks, which is good. But we’re missing the ‘da’, bit.
She may have helped get us here, but now she’s managed to order sugarcane juice that’s missing the second most important ingredient.
Interestingly, the very same thing happened when we ordered our nuoc mia da’s here on our last trip. Hmmm, she must have done the ordering then, as well…..
While the ‘shop’ is in a slightly different location, I have a feeling it is still the same guy from 2017.
With some finger pointing, as well as some basic Vietnamese of ‘da’, ‘da’, our lack of coldness issue is soon rectified.
We sit for a while just taking in the sights, and not for the first time today, I can’t help but feel very happy to be back here.
And while still not brimming with good health, I at least feel better than I did 24 hours ago. Could the worst possibly be over???
I’m a little nervous to call it just yet….
Nuoc mia da’s done, (10 000 Dong each) we begin the journey back to Green Village. Around the corner, a quick stop to buy a 1.5 litre bottle of water, at what seems to be the standard price of 10 000 Dong, and we head back a slightly different way by using more of one of the main roads.
Turning off just after one of the bridges, and we’re back on the narrow path down by the canal. We’d ridden this same path last time, but it wasn’t until we’d got back home and I looked at a map, that I realised exactly where we’d been. It was the same path where the house was that I’d been invited in for iced tea back on our first trip in 2014. Owned by a local guy, he also had a younger guy with him who has quite possibly now become his son in law.
Apart from Thy and Hanh at Green Village at the time, it was my first real interaction with locals of the Mekong. At the time, I thought it was likely a one off, but now, looking back, I realise it was just the beginning of many little interactions and memorable experiences. Especially down here.
Again, funny how stuff pans out without you always being aware of it at the time….
Reminiscing done, we continue our ride, and we’re soon back at Green Village. A quick recovery session, and then it’s time for beers on the balcony overlooking the water.
I said before that it has a real calming and relaxing feel, and it does. It’s certainly a place that is very easy to just sit and do very little.
We head up to dinner about 6.30pm, and tonight it’s pork with fish sauce, rice and morning glory, along with a pumpkin soup.
Beautiful as it always is, and once again, there’s plenty of it.
We spend a bit of time chatting with Thy and Cammy, as well as playing with Andrea. Thy mentions that her and Cammy are heading down to her parent’s place in Soc Trang Provence, tomorrow.
The question is then asked; would we like to come?
Wow! Absolutely, we’d love to!
So arrangements are made for breakfast at 7.00am, and then we’ll head off after that.
Back to our hut about 8.30pm, with a spare key, after Lisa locked the door earlier with our key still inside.
She only had one job….
A few beers with the usual Trip Advisor and notes on the bed.
While it’s been a travelling day, which means many lost hours, it’s been a good day. Just a month short of two years since we’ve been here; in some ways it feels much longer. But in some ways, it feels like only yesterday.
Regardless, it’s great to be back. But even better than that, is the fact that we’re catching up with people that we consider very good friends.
And just to top off the day, apart from a headache, as well as feeling pretty tired, I actually feel okay.
Not sure, or expecting, I’ll feel the same way in the morning, but I’m hoping today might be a turning point.
We shall see.