21 September – Soc Trang
Slept really well, and didn’t wake up till it was light. But it probably wasn’t the light that woke me up, more some kind of chanting, or perhaps a Khmer call to prayer???, being played over a loudspeaker. Not really sure.
It went on for a little bit, and when it finished, I checked the time. 6.00am! Great….
Got up briefly, and was surprised to see Quang’s younger brother, Phu, already dressed for school. Wouldn’t happen in our house back home…..
Deciding I didn’t really need to be up this early, the bed and I became reacquainted again, and I dozed for another hour to make it a slightly more respectable time.
Well, respectable to me….
Up about 7.00am, and breakfast is fried eggs and a baguette, which essentially makes it a banh mi opla. Along with some watermelon and pineapple, as well as a caphe sua da.
Was good, too.
Our rough plan of spending tomorrow night in Ben Tre, on our way back up to HCMC, is now not going to happen. Instead, we’ll just get the bus in the morning, and do the trip in one hit.
No problem at all, but we now need to arrange an extra night’s accommodation in HCMC, so Lisa emails Little Saigon Homestay, where we’d already booked five nights next week, to see if we can stay another one.
Breakfast done, we head outside to get organised for a ride with Quang and Quy. In the process, Quang steps in something that had come from the back end of an unknown animal. While always reasonably off-putting when such things happen, it’s that little bit more so, when you do it barefoot…
His reaction, while then trying to work out how best to clean it off, had me in fits of laughter, which made me feel kind of bad. But not bad enough to stop me from laughing….
Foot cleaned up, we head off, and it’s not long before we’re out in the countryside. The usual sights of the Mekong, with fields of various crops, along with plenty of rice being grown.
We pull over near a field where there are three guys harvesting watermelons, for a closer look. One of them sees us and comes over to chat with Quang. He then picks up a nearby, still growing, watermelon, and cuts it up for us. Fresher watermelon I have not had. It was really good, too, as well as a lovely, and very much appreciated, gesture.
Back on the bikes, more fields, the occasional town, as well as several of those rather large concrete buildings with small holes in the side of them. I’d never noticed them before, but did see one the other day when we were at Thy’s parent’s place. They’re for harvesting bird’s nests, and the birds fly into the small holes on the side to build them. The nests are then harvested for human consumption. The actual size of the buildings is staggering, and it proves there must be considerable money in the industry.
But one that I am unlikely to ever help, seeing as my desire to eat a nest made from bird spit is not high.
We stop a little later at a pagoda, and while this particular pagoda is reasonably colourful and interesting, it’s the many bats living in the trees of the pagoda’s grounds that are more interesting.
Unfortunately, being quite small animals, and with them living in rather tall trees, eye strain and a sore neck become a bit of a problem.
Into town and we pull over for some kind of iced cumquat drink, before then heading off to another pagoda.
Yep, should have mentioned to Quang about my one pagoda per day rule…..
While the previous one was known as Bat Pagoda, for obvious reasons, I’m not sure if ‘Big laying down Buddha Pagoda’ is the official name of this one. It perhaps should be, because while the buildings themselves are rather colourful and ornate, it’s the laying down Buddha that is, to me, the standout.
It’s still being built, but the scale of it is impressive. There aren’t too many religious type statues that get me excited, but this one was up there with the Lady Buddha in Danang. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re both female; I think this one is female; and therefore not the usual image I think of when I picture Buddha in my mind? Anyway, not sure, and I do find it a bit surprising when such monuments grab my attention.
Quang then started to explain that the Lady Buddha in Danang is not actually female. That kind of shattered my moment, as I really wasn’t expecting to hear that. He tried to explain why, but with both religion, and learning for that matter, not being a strong point of mine, it all got a little too difficult.
Back on the bikes, slightly confused, we begin our journey back to the house. While it had only been a short ride and tour of the area, it had been a lot of fun. And as it always is, it’s great to see some of Vietnam from the back of a bike.
On the way we drop into the Futa Bus office to book our tickets for tomorrow. The 10.00am bus is booked – another sleeper bus – and it should take something like five hours, which will be the longest bus journey we’ve ever done in Vietnam.
That particular record is not one that I’d ever set out to achieve. In fact, it’s something that I’ve always tried to avoid. Three to four hours, if I have to, has always been about the maximum I’ve ever wanted to do. Over five hours, and yeah, nah, not real keen. Oh well, what can you do…..
We’re soon home, and just after we arrive, Quy heads off to return to Can Tho. It was lovely to get the opportunity to meet him, and he really is a great guy.
Uncle Five, who we met back in 2017, dropped by for a visit shortly after. With help from Quang, we have a bit of a chat. He’s curious about why we keep returning to Vietnam, so I explain the main reason is the people. I think that may have surprised him a little, but at the same time, I think he liked hearing it.
He leaves soon after, and the realisation hits me that I feel a bit ordinary. Again….. So I go and lay down for a while.
Up for lunch about 1.30pm, and while feeling okay, but not great, I’m really not that hungry. We have noodle soup with pork, fish, and vegetables, but I just can’t finish it, and I really hate doing that. I just feel so full, and I don’t really know why.
I go and lay down again for half an hour or so, and that seems to do the trick, as when I get up, I feel much better.
Lisa gets a reply from Little Saigon Homestay, and unfortunately, they are booked up for tomorrow night. Plan B of returning to the Thien Hai Hotel (we stayed there in both 2016 and 2017) kicks in, and fortunately they have a room available. And seeing as it is just for a single night, and we won’t be spending that much time in it apart from when we’re sleeping, we book one of those cheaper windowless rooms.
Another box about to be ticked, to go with the sleeper bus one…..
We head outside about 3.30pm with Quang and his dad, to see some of the area behind the house. I’d wanted to have a look out there for a while, but darkness and lack of time had stopped that option two years ago, and then the rain had put paid to it yesterday.
Out onto a fairly narrow path, and it’s mainly farmland all around us. But there are a few houses here and there, and it seems that an aunty, or some other relative, of Quang’s, lives in every second one. We head into a couple to say hello, and even get the opportunity to watch one of the aunties herd a flock of baby ducks with a broom. I’m reasonably confident that flock is the correct term, but not as confident that herding is.
Can you even herd ducks? Regardless, they were incredibly cute, and it was funny to watch.
We continue our walk, and while it is ‘just’ farmland, it’s stunning. So lush and green, and just a such a great looking area.
Quang’s dad disappears, but soon returns with his boat in a canal, we’ve been walking near. We pile in and head off past rice paddies and lotus fields.
Yep, it’s just a beautiful area, and it’s nice to see it from a slightly different perspective.
We head back and leave the boat, to begin our walk home. There’s quite a few around just going about their business, including quite a few kids on bikes. Everyone is so friendly, and we get lots of smiles and hellos. It seems like such a great little community.
Almost back at the house, and there’s very dark and ominous looking clouds heading our way. We walk a little quicker and make it back just as it starts to spit. It doesn’t last long, but is very heavy with lots of thunder and lightning.
I head over the road to deal with the beer situation, and finally, I can now tick that box. Twenty four cans, all snuggly sealed up in a box, for, as I suspected yesterday, 240 000 Dong.
Box purchased, as well as ticked. Finally!
Back to the house and get the fridge to do its job on the beer, while I do something about a shower. Suspect I was probably a little overdue after not being able to have one yesterday when the water was turned off.
Shower almost complete, and the power goes off. It certainly made completing the process interesting. As well as the getting dressed part…..
Clothes eventually positioned where, and how, they should be, and I come out to see Quang’s dad finish off cooking dinner by both candle light and mobile phone torch.
It’s not long before a dinner of prawns, rice soup, and chicken, is ready, and we soon find ourselves back on the floor in the front room. And eating by candlelight, as well as the gentle glow of the coals that were cooking the prawns, just added to the whole experience.
A few of those now cold beers, along with the food, which once again, was fantastic. But not for the first time, it was all about where we were, and who we were doing it with.
The next couple of hours just fly by – almost didn’t even notice the power come back on – with much eating, much drinking, and even more laughing. And just like the previous two nights over the past two years, it was incredibly special and meaningful.
The time, unfortunately, comes to call it a night, which I was really not looking forward to. But it had nothing on the goodbye that I knew we were going to have to deal with in the morning.
It was hard enough two years ago, but the kindness and hospitality that all of Quang’s family has shown us since then, has just made it so much harder.
Off to bed for a little Trip Advisor and note taking, while trying very hard not to think about having to say goodbye to some true friends tomorrow. As well as also having to leave the Mekong Delta, after having spent the last week down here.
It’s a place, or area, that holds a connection that I feel is on a par with the connection I’ve always had with Hanoi.
There’s always been something there, from way back in 2014, but it’s evolved to become something even more significant.
A future trip to Vietnam, with only a visit to the South?
While perhaps unlikely, I think it could, just maybe, be possible.