Published: September 24th 2011September 24th 2011
Mekong River Tour
Making Net Spring Roll Wrappers
We flew to Vietnam on Saturday 17th into HCMC. I was so thankful that we had organised a tour with an agent, as we have been picked up from the moment we set foot off the plane - did not have to organise a thing - not the visa, not the hotel transfer - nothing. We have our own private driver and tour guide for 3 weeks so we feel like royalty! But seriously, the cultural difference makes it necessary, as English is not widely spoken, and where it is, it is still fairly patchy ref understanding. Also, part of the culture is that you need to be 'introduced' (for business purposes usually or doors remain firmly closed), so we get the impression that having a tour operator 'introduce' you makes things flow more smoothly.
Have you YouTubed 'crossing a road in Saigon ' or Vietnam or similar? try a few and you will see exactly how Saigon is - just thronging and noisy and chaotic. Add oppressive heat and humidity and you will see how confronting and exhausting it is. We were taken down to the Mekong Delta region yesterday and that has been the highlight so far. At Can Tho (can-TER) we went on a little boat into a small floating market and were also taken to see 'net spring roll wrappers' being hand made. Then to a soy sauce factory then to the brick kilns. And you should be picturing the most basic of structures in all these with people doing it by hand and using handcarts and huge baskets and literally cutting sealing and packing every product by hand, with brown paper and glue or plastic and a little flame to seal them. The chickens and toddlers and puppies wander around amongst everything. I was pleased to see at the large, wholesale floating market at Vinh Long we went to this morning, that a toddler was behind a gate, on one of the boats. We have been taken to great restaurants nearly every day - some a bit touristy, but I think those ones also have the western style toilets... a good thing..
We went to the Cu Chi (gu chi)Tunnels 2 days ago and that was fascinating if a bit gruesome here and there. I had to admire the locals for fighting the US + allies bombs, tanks and artillery with nothing much more than anger, cunning and whatever was to hand, and making a pretty damn good fist of it, too! I went down a tunnel and along, crouching, for about 20m and it was widened for us fat tourists, and that was more than enough for me - they must have been made of stern stuff. Our tour guide, Trang, is a bit of a history buff, gardener and environmentalist. He can't stand the pollution (include plain old littering here) and environmental destruction that 90% of Vietnamese are oblivious to (probably because they are barely making enough to house and feed themselves, let alone worry about extraneous stuff like that). You should see the number of motorbikes and what they carry on them... 2 mattresses; a refrigerator; a whole pile of boxes etc etc and often a whole family - Dad driving with a toddler in front of him and mum behind with a baby in between them is very common. Oh, and we did see a couple with 2 geese in a basket in front and a plastic bag with 2 holes and 2 geese poking out, behind :-) we have seen some of the funniest sights in our lives. The beautiful hotel we stayed in for one night at Vinh Long had a drawer that had a little sign sticky-taped to it: "Birth Control Drawer" and yep, open it up and there was a packet of condoms :-) :-) ROFL!!!
Have to say there is only one tiny thing that we are missing dreadfully - the tea we like. Can eat foreign food 100% of the time if necessary, but just need a decent cuppa now and then! Tomorrow we go to Nha Trang (nya chang) on the coast and settle in there for a few days, which will be a nice break from all the 'whisking". Oh yes I nearly forgot - we were taken to a Gao Dai Temple for the noon ceremony today! It was beautiful, absolutely gorgeous!! It is meant to be the Last religion, to end all conflict between religions, and Victor Hugo is a saint (??).