Went on a tour of the Mekong Delta River. Had a boat cruise through the floating market of Cai Be. This was postcard stuff here. We were amongst all the locals going about their daily shopping/exchanging of goods, with fish, tons of exotic fruit, loads of fresh vegetables, they were shouting and calling out to each other, heaving stuff to and from their boats, little kids sat munching away in the boats whilst their parents were at work. It was fascinating. Then we went to the workshops to see how the village made coconut candy and rice paper. We had loads of free samples of candy and Vietnamese tea.
Stopped for lunch and we were recommended the local delicacy of ‘Elephant ear fish’. Apparently the fish looked like an elephant ear (didn’t see the resemblance myself). Now I’m not really into seafood. I’m into SEE-food, I see it and eat it, but this is all about trying the local dishes. This fish is exclusive to the Mekong River. It comes with fish sauce which they love over here, it smells pungent and doesn’t taste great, but we rolled the fish with noodles and veg in rice paper and it wasn’t bad. Now this reminds me of when me and my ex went on holiday to Fuerteventura a few years ago and we ate at a different restaurant every night sampling the local food and wine which we loved, and a middle-aged English couple from up north came by, whining and moaning how they could not find bangers’n’mash. BANGERS’N’MASH!! Me and my ex looked at each other in disbelief and thought why don’t they piss off back to Lancashire and get it then?? Honest to god. One of the guys on the trip was an American of Vietnamese heritage called David, and he was a lovely guy, trying to teach me how to use chopsticks. I explained I’ve had several people try to teach me with no success. Once again I’m fine with just the chopsticks and have the motion perfect, go to actually use them and it all falls apart miserably.
Going back on the boat trip for a 3 hour cruise passing villages we saw loads of kids splashing about and playing in the river, and they got so excited to see us, they all congregated on the banks shouting and waving ‘Hello’ to us – their beautiful smiles and laughter were infectious, so we were all waving back like lunatics. Other people were washing in the river, and people watching is so fascinating, it’s great.
Got to the main city Cantho, and a group of us went to dinner, all the little kids were waving and shouting ‘Hello’ to us on the streets, and we were not hassled for anything at all like in Saigon. Next day we were up early to go to the biggest floating market of Cai Rang, and we were taken on a rowing boat to get in amongst it and sampled local fruits and bread which tasted of doughnuts, then went back and chilled on the roof of our boat watching the world getting on with their lives.
Then went to a local market on land where we saw live eels and snails in buckets, live fish which when purchased were smacked over the head, had their throats cut then were deflaked there and then. We stood watching mesmerized. There was tons of meat hanging about with flies all over it, and a plate with a pigs head and trotters just sat there. I almost turned vegetarian. Almost.
Had a 24 hour journey on a sleeper bus to Hoi An. The beds are made for midgets, and you’re cramped in like sardines, but it’s the cheapest way to get there. I didn’t actually get to see any of Hoi An as the sickness kicked in. Luckily I came pre-prepared with antibiotics, but felt awful, so just stayed in my room all day feeling like I had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and lost miserably.
Got bus next day to Hue feeling slightly better, and got a motorbike ride to take me to the Citadel, after managing to haggle the price down. They really do push their luck! The Citadel is the Imperial City where the Emperors official functions were carried out, and it’s a ‘Citadel within a Citadel’, and within the enclosure was the Forbidden Purple City, which was reserved for the Emperors private life, and only eunuchs were allowed in as servants as they posed no threat to the Royal Concubines. The place was very regal. Next day took a boat cruise down the Perfume River taking in a KungFoo show by local kids who were fantastic, and lots of temples and tombs. By the end I was all tombed out, so missed the last one to go browsing through the market and stopped off for a drink and chat with a local man and woman. He was trying to get my email address; I gave him a fake name, just to be polite. The humidity here is between 90-95%, it’s a killer!! The lady at the hotel where I was staying was very sweet and gave me a bunch of bananas to take on the night bus, and I got picked up by a motorbike to take me to the bus and as I was wearing a skirt I had to ride side-saddle. Interesting experience.
Another overnight 12 hour journey on sleeper bus to Hanoi. It’s like being on a poor man’s version of the Harry Potter train (obviously this is a bus, but use your imagination). It amazes me how much of a faff people cause by choosing a seat, they have a mothers meeting – “Oooh, what about this one? Or is this one better?” Their all the god damn same. It’s not rocket science, choose a seat and sit your arse down! They really do like to cram everyone in, there were people sleeping on the floors in the aisles. Honestly. There was a sour faced fat arsed local woman who sat in the aisle next to me – practically on top of me, so I had to ask her to remove her handbag from out of my face several times, and she was so loud and got off at 3am with her gaggle of 50 million screaming kids. My god this is hell. Got off bus and they are really quite aggressive here, and I’d already heard that about the North, I had taxi drivers pulling me in all directions, walking off with my bag to put on their bike, shouting after me, pulling my arms, so I screamed at them to BACK OFF!!!! and got in a taxi car, and he totally overcharged me, did not give me enough change and when I challenged him about my change he dived in the car and drove off. Thanks then!
Went to see a water puppetry show as it originates in North Vietnam. It was in the theatre with the authentic music and singing to accompany it, the show was an hour long and I really enjoyed it. Afterwards grabbed a Bia Hoi which is the local beer for the equivalent of 10 pence. It was so refreshing, and a bargain, I could get hammered on 50p!!! Met a lovely Chinese girl from Bejing in my room whose English name is Tori, so we booked to go on the Halong Bay boat trip together for 1 night and 2 days.
Drove 3 hours on a bus to Halong City, and then got on the boat which was really nice. There was a group of Vietnamese women who kept to themselves, a group of French (90% of the tourists here are French, all to do with their conquering history), and we met lovely people on our boat. We had lunch on the boat then went for a cruise through the bay up to some caves which we took a walk through. Our guide spent ages describing how different parts of the cave looked like people or objects e.g. Homer Simpson, a Buddha, jellyfish, a monkey etc. It was so humid we all looked like we had just stepped out of a sauna; sweat was dripping off our heads, down our tops and backs. It was so gross. Got back on the boat and took a leisurely cruise down the bay again which was beautiful. There are over 3000 small islands in the bay. We sat on the top deck all playing cards and drinking beer, and then we were told we could go for a swim. Now we had all witnessed the enormous jellyfish swimming by, but we all decided to swim anyway it was so hot we needed to cool off, so all of us including the crew jumped off the top deck into the sea which was so warm and had a swim. Luckily no-one got stung, and then we watched the sunset over the bay with a beer, and then had dinner which was bloody lovely. The Vietnamese crew then cracked on with the karaoke, and no-one else would sing. They asked me, so I sang, and then the French decided to have a go, and listening to a Vietnamese crew member singing a rendition of The Beatles ‘Love me do’ has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever heard in my life. Chilled out on the top deck after watching the sunset , then watched the sheet lightning in the sky, it was about every 30 seconds just lighting up the entire sky, and fell asleep in the chair I was so relaxed, then Tori woke me up to go to bed. We shared a room and the fans were a welcome relief. Heard the thunder overhead during the night, but there was no rain. Got up early for breakfast the next day and we sailed back to Halong City taking in the spectacular views. Then got back to our hostel, and they were having wine tasting and a BBQ on the rooftop bar, so me and the guys spent the evening there.
Next day I was off to the airport to go to my next stop of Laos….