A small sampan
Maybe it was from the beer and rice wine cocktail or the exhausting trip to various places of interests along the Mekong or the fear of the unknown or the 45-minute shower that got me sleeping like a log. It may have well been all of these that gave me the most comfortable 8 hours of sleep, considering that we practically slept in an over-sized wooden crate! Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all except for the insect bites that I considered battle scars the morning after our Vietnam home stay family adventure.
At 6am I was up and about getting ready for the second day of our Mekong river run. We had a light breakfast of fresh baguette and coffee, packed our stuff and boarded the tiny motorized sampan on our way to the rendezvous point with the rest of the group. This time I felt more at ease, initiated from the previous day, that the sampan started to feel like a gondola gliding through the romantic waterways of Venice. The river paths started to widen as we lightly sped through the innards of the Mekong to make our way back to the pier. But as we neared the dock I noticed that the sampan was not slowing down. Thao seemed to have no intention of stopping and a steadily, escalating sense of foreboding emerged. I remained calm.
Going to the Market
The first change I noticed was my vision turned to sepia. I looked down and I noticed that my trusty Rider rubber slippers turned into a dark brown suede Church Ryder III. My cream colored Guess cargo shorts started to tighten and lengthen to become a Levi’s 306 STA-Prest tapered slacks as my blue cotton singlet started to accentuate my well defined pecs it grew sleeves and started to feel like an all cotton Sunspel shirt. This time my hair did not grow long, as I was expecting Lara to surface again, however, there was that familiar tingling sensation on my lips from another permanent pout. I looked at my reflection on the water and I saw a familiar face wearing Persol style 2244-S sunglasses in brown lenses, no wonder the sepia texture of this hallucination! My throat started to itch and craved for a Vesper Martini.
Can Tho Floating Market
I cleared my throat to ask Thao why we passed the pier, in my noticeably British twang. He did not reply and I am starting to get worried but maintained a composed pouty look. The river started to become even wider and deeper. There were bigger sampans all around us loaded with all sorts of fruits, coffee, food, and tourists. Some sampans looked suspicious though as they were bigger than the others and did not have any goods on board.
Our sampan was making its way to one of these suspicious ones and I got ready. As we moved closer, 2 guys appeared from the larger sampan, carrying ropes and they seem to be getting ready to haul us in. Even with my sunglasses the glare of the sun coming from behind the men pierced my eyes, blinding me momentarily, that my last vision was these guys throwing the ropes towards us and I swear it felt like we were being reeled in like a freshly caught elephant ear fish. This is it, we were being kidnapped for ransom or maybe to extract some useful information.
I looked away to try to shake the momentary blindness. When my vision restored I was surprised to find that the
suspicious boat was no longer in front of us. Was it part of my hallucination? What emerged was another boat loaded with tourists and I saw another familiar figure, a Vietnamese guy in pink short sleeved polo shirt, it was Trung the tour guide. It turned out that our rendezvous point with the rest of the group was in the middle of the river. This was really cool! Our sampan glided right next to the bigger tourist boat as we were assisted aboard. Even the other tourists cheered, marveling at the coordination of the pick up. We said our goodbyes and gratitude to Thao as we headed to the floating market of Can Tho and I switched back to normal.
The floating market of Can Tho is quite interesting. Sampans of various sizes were loaded with all kinds of goodies, mainly fruits and all sorts of edible stuff – coffee, bread, rice cakes, etc. We bought pineapples, which were peeled very skillfully right in front of us, and while they lack in size they certainly makeup for the perfect mix of tangy, sweet and juicy flavor. I had a cup of iced coffee and thought about the great things that happened to us on this trip.
We were exposed to the Vietnamese lifestyle beyond the normal tourist experience. Although, this is only the tip of the iceberg I think we got a better exposure than if we had stayed with the familiar hotel accommodations. My hallucinations made me cope with the unknown and kept me relaxed, however, we took precautions even before going on this trip. I did a lot of research on the Internet for options and reputable but reasonably priced tour providers. Testimonies of other travelers proved very valuable in making an informed decision. When we got to Vietnam I also checked out the brochures from various travel agencies to see if my chosen providers are reputable enough to surface in the legitimate travel market. It pays to see the local tours landscape as well once you get to your destination just in case there are better deals and, more importantly, to check the legitimacy of your chosen tour providers. Its also good to check out the local tourism authority, more than the tours, to get to know the culture so as not to do anything that would offend your host and make you spend the night or eternity in the local prison.
While we were on our way to the home stay accommodation we were also sending text messages and tweets to friends and families so they could keep track of our activities. Technology has really gone a long way and we could use it not only to get to our destination but to keep track of our activities and make our loved ones feel secure knowing that we are safe.
And the best disposition during these travels is to keep an open mind. My partner and I were in this trip with his 60-something-year-old mom and aunt. They were very good company as they immersed themselves in the culture and whatever experience was in store for us. They might be senior citizens by age but they embodied a very young spirit for fun and adventure…next up Bangkok!