Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Backpackin’ the Delta……..for old time’s sake!!
First things first.............. The writer is a 60 year old Aussie, who has in the past, "flash packed" around Vietnam with his wife, this time, traveling solo, and having one last go at backpacking. It's been a very long time. So, cheap accommodation, cheap food, cheap grog and cheap transport. Leave the credit card at home and travel on the bones of my rrrrr's.............a real test of my resolve, for old time’s sake !
Nothing’s changed……………..Saigon's still hot, noisy, hot, crowded, hot, and full of rats with gold teeth. Plus….. it’s still bloody hot! I squibbed on the public bus system from the airport and opted for a taxi. Not a great start when trying to travel cheap, but I figured $6 was not going to break me !!
First night at Long’s guesthouse in district 1, $15 US/night, your own bathroom and air-conditionings a bonus. With help from Mrs Long I managed to buy a sim card for my phone and change some $AU into Dong. So, armed with a phone that worked and a wheelbarrow full of Dong........it was out into the night.
I hadn’t walked more than 50 meters and they were onto me like blowfly's on a cow pat………….. Ladies, well sort of ladies. I probably wouldn’t have taken one home for a Sunday roast with the family, but I’m sure their mothers probably still love them. The first to approach what is obviously a potential client, i.e. a western man walking without a female partner, and in her eyes, desperate for the carnal delights that she has to offer, was, and these are her words, not mine, a bootifool girl........... My words…"well past her use by date"….if you’ll pardon the pun. I’d reckon somewhere around the 60 mark, and that’s being kind. She informed me that $20 US would satisfy every dream I had ever had and that I would be sure to be looking for her “nex night”. " I vely good" she said “ you look me nex night…I vely vely good, I love you long time” was the last I heard from her that night. At least 6 – 8 more girls and 2 young guy’s masquerading as women tried it on, and all got the short shift quick smart.
Street food is fresh, cheap and tasty……..Prepared in front of your eyes, served up to you sitting on a kindergarten stool at a table that only a child could sit at comfortably, and, in the middle of the footpath. Things that I’ve never tried before, some great, some not so great. I can tell you, if I ever see curried snake (python) on a menu again….it will stay on the menu !!!! It was so tough that if they’d minced it into patties….you wouldn’t get you fork in the gravy!!! The snail dish was magnificent.!! There was even a B.B.Q. thing happening with dog. Normally, a delicacy only sold in the north of the country, but, because this is District 1, full of tourists and backpackers, it has found its way south. Just a little tip in case you are ever in this neck of the woods or up north, around Sapa or Bac Ha. It’s sometimes hard to pick the difference between a suckling pig and a dog when there whizzing around over the coals. But if you just remember that if it has an apple in its mouth, it’s probably pig……..but if it has a Frisbee, its dog.
The next couple of hours were spent strolling from one food stall to another and in and out of an assortment of bars, pubs and grog shops sampling things as I went, Bia ba ba ba (333’s), Beer Saigon and some very strong rice wine saw me very happy with the world that night.
Back to Mrs Longs and a restful night………
As is my norm when travelling, I’m up with the sparrows and back on the streets armed with my camera to watch a city fire up for the day………out along the same route and back to the same area for a big bowl of Pho, Vietnams equivalent to Corn Flakes. Now, I’ve always had great admiration for the “work ethic” shown by the people of this dynamic country. Long hours, hard work and no complaints. But the “work ethic” being shown by that aging street prostitute was exemplary. She should be held up as an example to all. Our country needs workers this dedicated. I met her first at approx. 9.30pm and at 6.00am she was still trying to “do her bit” for the economy. Her hair was in disarray, her makeup smudged and a hacking cough was almost overwhelming her. I am not sure whether the slightly bow legged gait being displayed was the 6’ high stiletto’s giving her grief after many hours walking the street or whether she’d had a busy night…….we’ll never know.
How’s this for an entrepreneur. I’ve had breakfast and I’m heading off to BienThan market before catching a bus south to Can Tho. A friendly young kid approaches me with a basket of newspapers hanging around his neck. “Where you from” I hear," land of Oz" I respond, “you had newspaper, you know what happen in you town” he says, as bold as brass. “Which paper you need.” I looked into the basket and sure enough, he had Aussie newspapers rolled up as if for morning home delivery. You know what I mean……wrapped in cling wrap that takes 5 minutes of fighting and frustration to get the bloody paper out. “Only 1 dollaaaaar, cheap for you”…….Yep, I gave the kid 20000 VDNG and he disappeared into the crowd at the speed of a startled gazelle, leaving me fighting with the cling wrap. The front page headline………….”Christchurch devastated by earthquake” I had bought a 4 week old newspaper !!!!!! I smiled, had a laugh and thought, this kid will be a millionaire someday...... or he’ll become “a rat with a gold tooth”.
By Graham S Dixon
67 Slab Rd, Middleton