Vietnam 2022 – Trip Report 4

10 september – ho chi minh city – can tho

Yep, 12.50am was too late.  I really need to be better, but there were two beers still in the fridge, and I didn’t want to leave them there, nor take them on the bus trip with us.

A job needed to be done, and the job was duly done.

Alarm goes off at 7.50am, although it wasn’t really needed, as I was already awake.

And I’m not sure how much sleep was actually achieved, as it felt like I spent the entire night just waiting for that alarm to do its thing.

Not to mention the several trips to the toilet to get rid of those last two beers.  There really didn’t seem to be that much liquid in those two little cans….

A quick pack up, that doesn’t feel quick at all; why does it feel like we now have more stuff than when we arrived 48 hours ago?; and we’re downstairs by 8.30am.

Room key handed over, non-working fingerprint kept, and a kind of see you later, with the view being that we’ll return in just over three weeks, for our final three nights.

Those three nights, which feel so long away, are not yet booked.  I wanted to see what LeBlanc, and the area, was like, prior to committing to a second visit.

Well, it didn’t take long to realise that I loved both aspects of our stay, and we actually tried to book our return visit yesterday afternoon.

But apparently, it’s easier if we just book through

I really don’t understand that, but so be it.  We’ll worry about that later.

Out on the street at 8.30am, with the view we need to find a taxi.

But of course, when you need one, you can never find one.

Not wanting to look like a dumb, lost tourist, by simply standing on the street waiting for a taxi to come by, we set off in the general direction of Pham Ngu Lao Street, in the hope we’ll pick one up while walking.  But it doesn’t take long, as in mere minutes, when the realisation dawns on me that one half of this partnership is unhappy with this walking thing.

Even though one half is only carrying a backpack, while the other half is carrying the big heavy bag, as well as his own backpack.

I walk on, occasionally stopping and waiting for the slower one to catch up, while also feigning compassion and care.

We come across a street that looks both interesting and familiar, and I quickly realise where we are.  It’s street sign / house sign street, and it’s not far at all from where we stayed in 2019.

Which is good, as I know exactly where we are, but it’s also bad, as we have drifted off from where we need to be.

Adjustment is made, without divulging too many details to the still unhappy one; she won’t know where we are anyway; and we’re now walking up towards Pham Ngu Lao Street.

Eventually onto Pham Ngu Lao, and that heavy bag is getting heavier, as the Futa bus office seems to get further away.

Twenty minutes after embarking on this, apparently, hugely unwanted walk, we finally arrive.  Heavy bag dropped to the floor, shoulder now in recovery mode, docket handed over to the helpful girl behind the counter, along with 330 000 Dong (2 x 165 000) for the tickets, and we’re soon seated out the back in the waiting room.

Five minutes later we’re in the shuttle bus, with requested masks on – for the first time since walking out of the airport two days ago – and quickly on the move.

But the moving didn’t last long, as five minutes later we’re off the shuttle bus, and into another holding area.  Our bags, however, remained on the bus, as it drove off out of view.  This was slightly unnerving, and I was pleased that I still had our passports in my pocket.

We sit and wait for a bit, while watching the traffic, as well as a rather impressive looking rooster doing its thing on the footpath in front of us.

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Roosters on city streets – it’s a scene I always find interesting.

The shuttle bus soon returns, from where and for why, I have no idea, and fortunately, our bags are where we left them.

On the move again, until we stop again, to pick up more passengers.  There is now no room left for anyone else, or anything for that matter, on our little bus.

Our now very crowded bus moves off again, and it’s nice to see a few city streets that we haven’t seen before.  Including street food cart street, which must be where most of the street food carts that you see around the city come from, judging by the number of manufacturers in that particular street.

The drive makes me think back to last time we did this, and incredibly, even though we’ve stayed at Green Village three times, it was way back on our first trip in 2014.  Strangely, I actually enjoyed this drive back then, and even now, all these years later, nothing has changed.

An hour after arriving at the bus office, we finally get to the bus station at 9.50am.  Off the shuttle, follow the crowd, show our tickets to someone in a uniform, and our bus is pointed to.

Big bag goes underneath, shoes are removed and placed in a supplied plastic bag, and we make our way onto the bus to find our ‘bed’.

Yep, it’s a sleeper bus, as I suspected it would be.

‘Beds’ found, Lisa’s in the middle, I’ve got a window, and we begin the process that is the opposite of extraction, which I guess is insertion, to make ourselves ‘comfortable’ in what will be our ‘home’ for the next three hours or so.

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She eventually got there.

Insertion complete, some sort of comfort level attained, and a couple of minutes after 10.00am, we’re on the move.

But, as has been the case this morning, the wheels stop doing the rolling thing just ten minutes later.

We’re at some sort of small Futa bus depot place, and again, we sit and wait.  Not sure for what, it may have been fuel, but the bus driver did have time for a cigarette.

Hopefully that wasn’t the only reason for the stop…..

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Futa Bus Depot employees, with typical Vietnamese working boots.

A few minutes later we’re back on the move, and the city street landscape begins to give way to the more wide open spaces, with the usual sights you see on the side of the road.

Car repair places, plant nurseries, marble statue vendors, along with sunglass sellers and drink vendors, simply propped up beside the road.

The suburbs soon disappear, and they’re replaced by the rural landscape that is the beginning of the Mekong.  Lush green fields of rice, coconut and banana palms, as well as lotus plants and lots of water.

And graves, or burial plots, dotted throughout.  That also brings back memories from 2014, when we saw them for the very first time.

We seem to be making good time, and the driving is, well, it’s typical Vietnam driving.

It’s not the worst we’ve experienced, but it’s also far from the best.

The attitude appears to be that if the bus, or truck, in front of you is overtaking on a blind corner, then it must be safe for us to also do the same.

Sometimes that assumption is correct, but sometimes it is not.  This gives me a new definition of happiness – which is, seeing the flashing headlights of an oncoming bus, stop flashing, as we pull back into the lane that we should have been in all along.

I really need to stick to looking out the side window, and not the big one at the front….

The drive, and the driving, continues, until just after 12.00pm, when we pull in to the Futa lunch / toilet stop.

Off the bus, and rather than retrieving my shoes, a pair of communal slipper / sandal type things are utilised.

Being of a Vietnamese variety, they don’t really work with my feet, but at least there was more sandal under my foot, than not.

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Our lunch stop.

We find a banh mi stall, and two pork ones are ordered for 25 000 Dong each.  Drinks are next, with a grape ice slushy thing, as well as a mango one.

They’re both very refreshing, and also very cold, with the temperature of them giving me something that I haven’t had in a very long time, which is an ice headache.

Gee, I’d forgotten how painful they were!

Back on the bus by 12.30pm, and the drive to Can Tho continues.  The late night, early-ish start, catches up with me, and a little nap allows me to forget the driving thing.

Wake up to the sights of an approaching city, and follow our route on to see if I can get an idea of where we’re heading.

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Big wide rivers need big long bridges.

I get a message from Thy, with instructions to take the free shuttle bus from the bus station, to somewhere that doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

We reach the bus station around 1.30pm, the final extraction from our pod eventually achieved, and we’re quickly out to retrieve our bag.

Into the bus station, and over to a Futa woman to show her Thy’s message on my phone, which is partly in Vietnamese.

She nods, and points us in the direction of a guy at the other end of the building.

He then looks at the message, also nods, and hands me two icy pole sticks with the number three on them, as well as some Vietnamese writing.  He then points to some nearby seats, which means, and not for the first time today, we’ll be doing some more sitting and waiting.

We sit, and are then joined by a young local girl.  She’s not only keen to talk, suspect there was a little bit of practicing some English, but she’s also keen to make sure we’re okay.

She looks at our icy pole sticks, and then takes them back to the guy who gave them to us.  A short chat ensues, and then she returns with our sticks, and instructions to sit here and wait.

Which was exactly our understanding, with our only real concern being was how do we know how long we have to do that for.

She’s not sure, but she thinks about ten minutes.

We sit and chat, her English is really good, and it turns out she’s at university.  She was really lovely, and the fact that she was so concerned about us, speaks volumes of the kind of person she obviously is.

Which, being down here in the Mekong, isn’t all that surprising.  I’ve said before, they are an incredibly caring group of people.

All of a sudden there’s movement at the doors, and we’re called up to our shuttle that will take us to wherever we’re supposed to be going.

We say goodbye to our guardian angel, and head outside.

That shuttle bus, is in fact something like seven or eight shuttle buses, and with no signage, and just a bunch of people holding icy pole sticks like us, there’s no real way of telling which is ours.

I approach a guy who looks like he might be a driver of one of them, and show him my sticks.  He shrugs his shoulders, and turns away to continue whatever it is he’s doing.

Okay, that didn’t quite go the way I was hoping…..

I approach a second one, thinking that at some point the process of elimination will kick in and help us find what we’re looking for.

Sticks shown, and I receive almost the identical response as driver one.

I’m not too concerned, but Lisa cracks it and makes a small scene.

That annoys me more than the snubbing, and I can’t help but let her know.

I head back to original stick handing out guy, who is now standing at the doors to the station, and show him his sticks.

He points to the one we need, and we’re quickly on it, and squashed right up the back.

Back out into the streets of Can Tho, and the assumption is that we’re heading to another bus station, which is likely closer to Green Village.

That assumption, like most of my assumptions, is incorrect, as we proceed to drop other passengers off in obscure places of Can Tho.  I try and follow on, but it makes no sense, and I have absolutely no idea.

Several more dropped off, and with passenger numbers thinning out, our driver appears at the back door of the bus.  He wants a conversation that’s not going to happen, so I show him Thy’s message.  I think he understands, but I still suspect that a phone call is likely to be made at some point.

On we drive, now well and truly out of Can Tho, and we end up on a rural road that looks really familiar.  I’m pretty sure this is the road that will eventually get us to Green Village, and a little further up, we pull over.

I can’t see Thy, or anyone else I recognise for that matter, but our driver indicates that this is our stop.

We head out, and a young guy finds us.  Bags into the boot, us into the backseat, and we’re once again on the move.

Familiar road gets replaced with familiar bridges and familiar narrow lanes, and I now know exactly where we are.

Five minutes after getting into the car, we pull into the narrow driveway of Green Village around 2.30pm.

Out of the car, and there’s Thy!  It is so great to see her again, and I’m pinching myself that we’re actually here again.  It has, for obvious reasons, been far too long!

Drop our things in our hut, and then it’s back up to the communal area for a late lunch of noodle soup, just as the rain arrives.  The soup is beautiful, but it’s the catching up with Thy, as well as Andrea, her daughter, that is the real highlight.

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With Thy and Andrea.

The rain, which is now much heavier, is accompanied by a pretty impressive thunderstorm and light show, so we just sit and chat some more.  While it has been a long three years, it now feels like those years have just disappeared.

The rain finally eases, so I take the opportunity to take a look around.  Being the Mekong, which means abundant water and constant warmth, the plants down here grow quickly.  Five years ago it was a new garden, three years ago it was an established garden, and now it looks like it’s been here forever.

Do a lap of the block, check out the new pool down the back that is almost finished, and then back to our hut for beers on the balcony, while listening to roosters in the distance.

We eventually do the shower thing, and then head up for dinner at 7.00pm.  Marinated pork and rice, which is beautiful, along with a chicken and vegetable hot pot, above one of those naked flame things.

As usual, it’s all really good, and there’s never a chance of going hungry down here.

We give Thy the Tim Tams we’ve been looking after since we left home, but only after the fridge in our room fixes some of the damage the Vietnamese heat has done.

Nana the cat makes an appearance, as does Big Big the dog, and again, it’s just great to also see them.

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I’m actually not a cat person, but Lisa is.  This photo annoys her immensely.

Food, a few beers, as well as some durian moon cake, which was actually pretty good, then it’s back to our hut for an early night.

It’s been a long day, and a rather tiring one, as travel days tend to be, and after pushing the envelope last night, a bit of extra sleep is probably a good idea.

Rough plan for tomorrow is a ride, a caphe sua da, and lunch out in one of the nearby villages.  But it needs to be done relatively early, just in case today’s rain decides to make a return tomorrow afternoon.

Sleep comes relatively quickly, while listening to the usual sounds of the Mekong.  While I’ve absolutely loved our last two days in Saigon, with its hustle and bustle, I also love it down here.  Interestingly, that love has always been there since the start, from way back in 2014, whereas the love for Saigon took a bit more time.

Regardless of all that, it’s just great to be back.  Although I’m still struggling a little to believe that it’s actually happening.



2 thoughts on “Vietnam 2022 – Trip Report 4

    1. Thank you so much, Pepi, and glad they’re bringing back some memories. And yep, it is a beautiful place.
      Back home now, unfortunately, so will have to start thinking about when the next trip can happen.


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