11 september – can tho
Those sounds of the Mekong, mostly frogs and crickets, worked well, with sleep, unusually for me, coming pretty quickly.
Up a couple of times during the night, to do what has to be done when you get up in the darkness, and then up a bit before 8.00am.
I head outside for a quick look at Green Village in the morning, while Lisa does her thing, and on the way back to our hut, I see a familiar face walking towards me.
It’s Hiep, Thy’s husband, and the smile on his face is almost as big as my smile. The handshake becomes a hug, and it’s just so good to see him again.
While, mainly due to his work commitments, we’ve never really sat down and chatted for long periods, I feel like we have a connection. It started with our first trip here, when, on our second night at Green Village, but only our fourth night in Vietnam, the boy became sick while we were looking around Can Tho.
It was the genuine care and concern both Thy and Hiep displayed to our predicament, and while we were extremely grateful at the time, we didn’t fully appreciate how it would ultimately shape our Vietnam journey.
But three years later, on just our second visit to Green Village, Hiep told me that he remembered our family from last time.
I mentioned at the time that it wasn’t so much what he said, but the way in which he said it, and it was from that very moment that I’ve always felt that connection.
Hug done, he’s keen to show me the new pool. He seems pretty proud of the new addition, as he should be, and tells me it should be finished in the next few days.
Lisa’s finally ready, so we head up for breakfast of banh mi opla (bread roll and fried egg), along with a passionfruit juice. All very simple, but all so good.
Our breakfast view.
Back to our room to get organised for our ride, and then back out to sort out a couple of bikes.
Some extra air is required in one or two of those round things that makes biking far more pleasant, so the nearby foot pump is utilised.
While it’s just one leg and one foot getting a rather mild workout, it’s at this point I realise how hot it is already. This is concerning, as if I’m already noticing it, then the intrepid explorer will definitely be feeling it more.
I can’t help but think back to way the last ride we did down here ended…..
Air back where required, we’re on our way by 9.30am. And yep, with the sun beating down, it’s already warm.
Out onto the narrow path, which doesn’t seem as narrow as it used to, and it all comes flooding back. Water on one side, houses on the other, and the lush green foliage, along with the tropical fruits, that is all quintessential Mekong.
The bikes are alright, and while the ride is as flat as you can get, you still occasionally need to use the brakes, which are perhaps not as good at the stopping thing as they could be.
This doesn’t worry me, as I’ve dealt with enough bikes in Vietnam, as well as Cambodia, to make allowances for any braking shortcomings. But the inability to stop exactly when you want, is concerning Lisa slightly.
My helpful advice of how to slow down, is to use a combination of initiative, the slight inclines of the path that you will come across, along with any available small furry animals*.
She seems to appreciate the advice, but I’m not sure all her concerns have completely vanished.
*Disclaimer – no furry animals were harmed on this ride, in the process of slowing down.
Up a bit further we come across some activity in the canal. It’s a barge, with an excavator on it, and it’s doing some dredging work on the other side. I’ve only seen this once before, and that was back in 2016 when we were returning to Ninh Binh with Toan, after a couple of nights in Pu Luong Nature Reserve.
I found it fascinating, as well as rather unnerving, back then, and all these years later, I still feel the same way.
The way the barge lurches around in the water as the excavator reaches down for another mouthful, makes me very pleased to be watching it from solid ground, and not floating on a muddy looking canal.
Rather them than me!
Off the bike, and I watch; Lisa would use the words, ‘excitedly, like a young toddler who has never seen a digging machine before’, whereas I prefer the word ‘intently’, as the guys go about making the canal deeper.
While Lisa may have been sniggering at my interest, those guys seemed more than a little pleased to have an audience.
Although, and I’ve only just thought of this, they may well have been sniggering and laughing at me, like Lisa was, too.
I just found it interesting!
Seeing as we have no concrete plans for where this ride will take us, I take a look at Maps.me to see how we can get over to the other side for a closer look.
Route worked out, we set off.
We get to a bridge, and seeing as it will take us to the other side, we use it. Down the path in the opposite direction we just travelled, and we eventually reach the dredging area.
Navigational success is achieved!
But there’s one small problem.
The barge and the excavator are now dredging on the other side. Yes, the very side where we were standing on just 10 minutes ago.
The young toddler child in me wants to cry, but the adult-ish me manages to hold it together.
Slightly disappointing, yes, but also just a little funny.
We turn around, the Vietnamese heat still doing its thing, and head back from whence we came, with me still leading the direction challenged one.
Being in Vietnam, unlike Australia, we need to ride on the right. But with very little traffic on these paths, particularly at this time of day, I occasionally drift across to the left.
“Why are you riding on the left?”, comes a question from behind, in a rather mother / teacher tone of voice.
“Because of the shade over this side”, is my matter of fact reply.
The conversation comes to an abrupt end, as I suspected it would.
On we go, and rather than making our way to the village, as was our original plan, we make a small detour to parts unknown.
It’s all very local, and the path is now nothing more than a single file walking track. It’s still hot, but cooling in the shade, it’s scenic and natural, but there’s also that rubbish issue that is occasionally / sometimes so visible. Overall though, it’s beautiful, and the people, with their friendliness, just make so much better.
Anyone who says the Mekong is boring, either hasn’t been, or was perhaps whisked around in a day long tour group, with 30 other people who looked just like them.
Our single file walking track eventually opens up to a large cleared area, which looks like it will, at some point, become a new housing estate. It also looks like the area I found last time, just that this time we’re at the other end of it.
Not much in the way of interesting things to see, we head back to our narrow path and the canals.
We eventually make our way back to the village that we set out to find in the first place, and it’s absolutely bustling, with the market in full swing.
It looks much bigger than three years ago, and there seems to be a lot more around.
Through to the other end of the market, eventually, and we find a place doing caphe sua da’s. Second box ticked for the day, with two ordered, and at the ridiculously cheap price of just 10 000 Dong each.
But it was their reaction, and appreciation, to us choosing them for our order, that really stood out.
We ride on a little further to allow the ice to do some melting, and it’s all same old, same old, but in an even better way.
Bit more local, bit more intimate, and the hellos and interactions just add to the whole experience.
Along the way, I get a text from Vietjet Air, which while it hasn’t happened often, does make me nervous when it does.
And yep, this text is going to alter our plans.
Our 10.30am flight to Danang, in two days’ time, has now been pushed back to 12.05pm. That, ordinarily, wouldn’t really matter much, but that 1.5 hour difference now means we’ll miss the train to Hue, where we have four nights booked.
It’s the same train trip we’d done back in 2014, and were really looking forward to repeating, so it is a little disappointing. But, this is Vietnam, and things, especially flights, are known to be altered at fairly short notice.
On the plus side, I hadn’t yet booked the train tickets, as I kind of knew that the scenario of trying to align an arriving plane with a departing train over here, was always going to be tad ambitious.
Oh well, time to consider a Plan B.
We reach an intersection of paths, and rather than continue, we turn around to find somewhere to enjoy our slightly more da melted caphe sua da, on the way back to the village.
Views of the Mekong.
Through the village, which is now very much in siesta time, and back out in the general direction of Green Village. But the objective isn’t Green Village, and instead it is to try and find something for lunch.
Maps.me consulted, and one possibility is the little village where we were dropped off on the shuttle bus yesterday. There’s two ways of getting there, one being the slightly shorter option of the main road that we’ll likely get cooked on, or the longer option of continuing on our narrower paths, that will have far more shade.
This option will also require more Maps.me consultation, as we need to cross back and forth over several canals. And with my brain only able to remember two, or three at the most, turns, Maps.me will be left open.
The longer more scenic route is chosen, and yes, the phone is looked at often. We eventually get to the village, and while there’s not a heap of options, there is one right in front of us.
They do cơm tấm, according to their sign, which is broken rice, and by the look of what we can actually see, it comes with either chicken or pork.
Looks good, Lisa’s happy, the owners, who were more than a little surprised when they first saw us, are even happier.
Area pointed to where we can put our bikes, and we’re soon seated undercover, not far from the road.
Two plates with rice, grilled pork, cucumber, and some green garnish bits and pieces, quickly arrive, along with a fairly watery soup, and a couple of much needed tra da’s (iced tea), which looked more like water than tea, but were much needed and appreciated.
Our lunch ladies.
It was all really good, and while food can be found everywhere in Vietnam, the Mekong just has this knack of being able to do it exceptionally well.
But it’s also more than just the food. It’s the where, and who you’re actually interacting with, that just makes it so much better.
Comfort zones pushed, of both customer and vendor, but so rewarding and so much fun. And that just makes me think of the people that choose those day trips down here from Saigon, and how much more there is to the Mekong, that they’re missing out on.
I can’t ever imagine doing this any other way.
Stomachs and heat dealt with, I fix up the bill. He says it’s 20 000 Dong each, which is just ridiculous, and I suspect, judging by what others were paying, we may have been given a bit of a discount.
Bikes retrieved, we’re soon on our way. Main road avoided again, and we disappear back down to the canals and shade, trying to retrace our steps, or is that tyres, back towards our village.
We eventually get there, after looking at my phone more times than I’d care to admit, and then make our way in the direction of ‘home’.
The tradition of the photo by the sign continues.
Back at Green Village about 1.30pm. I’m sunburnt, I’m tired, and I’m soaked with sweat.
But it has been so much fun, we’ve seen stuff that we haven’t seen before, and it is quite possibly the best time we’ve had on bicycles down here.
Bikes parked, and then it’s back to our hut for a much needed recovery session.
That done, we spend a bit of time lazing on the balcony, writing a few notes, and trying to work out our Plan B for the Danang to Hue bit, the day after tomorrow.
We have a few options, with the preferred now being a trip over the Hai Van Pass on the back of motorbikes.
I message our accommodation in Hue, Kota’s House Homestay, in the hope that she may know of someone who can come up with a couple of bikes and their riders, to get us there from the airport in Danang.
She says to leave it with her.
An hour later she responds, asking for my WhatsApp number, and letting us know someone will contact us shortly.
And sure enough they do. Someone from a company called Motorvina contacts me, and gives us the option of 1 million Dong each, for the trip only, or 1.3 million Dong if we want to include food.
It’s not exactly what I was hoping for, in that a couple of drivers / riders only, would have sufficed, as we’ve seen a bit of the area prior to this. But, we don’t have a lot of time to sort out an alternative option, so we go with the ‘trip only’.
They require a $10 USD deposit, which doesn’t seem worth the effort, but I guess is understandable, so in the interests of keeping it simple with round figures and all, we send, via Paypal, $20 AUD. (~320 000 Dong)
Now I just need to make sure I have 1.7 Million on me for Tuesday.
Plan B now sorted, I head up to see Thy about some beers on the balcony. No problem, and then she mentions the possibility of heading into the city after dinner.
Sounds good!, so it’s decided we’ll have dinner fairly early.
Back for those beers, and then a very much needed shower after our sweaty antics today, before heading up for dinner at 6.00pm.
Not a bad place to enjoy one.
Tonight it’s a whole fried fish with rice and morning glory, along with a chicken and pumpkin soup.
Again, all good, but the fish is absolutely sublime. Even Lisa likes it!
Made friends with Nana the cat again, a couple of small bits of fish may have helped, and also met our new neighbours, Rafael and Alexia, from Switzerland, who have only just arrived, after a few days in Saigon.
A quick trip back to our hut to finish getting ready, and then back up to find out Rafael and Alexia will also be joining us. They’re both lovely, and so easy to talk to.
Thy and Hiep have organised a car, and the six of us, along with Andrea, all pile in. Andrea is incredibly intelligent, and her English is exceptional. She also likes to talk, as in really likes to talk!
We get into the city, and we’re dropped off down at the waterfront. We walk down towards the Uncle Ho statue, stopping for the obligatory photos, and then on to the bridge with the lit up lotus flowers on it. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it’s known as the Lotus Bridge.
With Uncle Ho, Thy, Hiep and Andrea.
It’s very colourful at night, as too is a lot of this part of Can Tho. They love their lights, here.
We head back towards the statue, and decide it might be time for a café or bar, which we find opposite Uncle Ho.
It’s actually hard to miss, as it’s possibly the most colourful place on the street.
Climb some ‘only in Vietnam’ stairs, that would never pass in Australia, and reach the second floor where we find a table looking out towards Ho.
Try to do the right thing and order a smoothie, but apparently they’re out of smoothies. In the end, and it was quicker and easier anyway, I go with a Tiger beer, which as a bonus, was cheaper than my smoothie option.
Everyone else, however, manages healthier juice type drinks.
Hiep orders some small snacks, which after our large and filling dinner, I really don’t need. It’s some kind of cold meat, where lots of offcuts seem to have been stuck back together again, and then cured. It doesn’t come across as very Vietnamese to me, and taste wise, yeah, well, it’s probably only better than the duck tongue we had five years ago down here.
But it’s really not about the food, as it’s all about who we’re here with, and the opportunity we have.
A couple of true friends, that back in 2014, we could never have envisaged having, and two new friends, who up until an hour or so ago, we’d never met.
It really is amazing this travel thing, the way it brings people together.
We sit and chat, before making a move about 10.00pm, and we’re back at Green Village by 10.30pm.
It’s been a great day, and again, apart from a possible ride, it was a day that really didn’t have too many plans.
The good news is we still have one more full day here, but the bad news is that after tonight, there’s only one more night.
And that really annoys me. Not because there’s only one more night, but because I’m actually thinking about that. I really need to stop looking ahead, and instead try and be much more ‘live the moment’.
Duly chastised in my own mind; hopefully I’ll listen; the plan tomorrow is little more than another bike ride. And I’m more than happy with that.
Oh! And I learnt something today! Geckos. You know, the ones you see on the walls, and occasionally running around on the floor, taking care of insects. They actually make a noise!
It’s a chirping sound, which kind of sounds like a noise you’d hear coming from a bird. I’d heard it before, and had assumed it was coming from a nearby bird, but no, it’s the geckos!