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Published: March 16th 2018
A lot has happened since my last post five days ago. Unfortunately, in those five days I have had my passport confiscated, been interrogated (and I do mean interrogated!) by the Immigration Office, threatened with deportation by same, told to leave the place where I was living, avoided a fine somehow and left a little nervous about my time here.
Long story short etc - I'm now in Ho Chi Minh City, arrived this afternoon, and am heading back to NZ on Monday, two weeks early. Bummer.
From the 12 March my time in Vinh Long has been in slow motion as I've waited for my status to be resolved. The staff at the language school have been terrific. So supportive and concerned about me that it's amost been too much. They have interceded with the authorities to some extent, acted as my interpreters and champions and generally made sure I wasn't too much of a nervous wreck. Lyn was a nervous wreck!
During that time Ms Thanh took me out a couple of times on her scooter to look at some of the local history - temples, pagodas and such. She also took me for a couple
Kids thought I was funny.
of meals; My suspicion is that they had decided to try to make up for the upheaval of the few days since 11 March but regardless, it was considerate of them and her to do it. She had me attacking Ban Xeo, a big egg pancake stuffed with all sorts of delicious things, a traditional Pho, Vietnamese coffee and a few other delights, which were actually delights
Last night, my last there, we had a small party after classes. Just cake and soft drink but then Ms Cuc had invited us around to her house for drinks and some eats. These turned out to be hot tea and fruit which was lovely. Ms Cuc (younger then me) has seemed to see herself in something of a motherly role with me and was forever concerned about my well being, especially with what I was eating and drinking. I've got a feeling she may have been inwardly frowning as I drank the occasional Heineken in the kitchen of the school in the evening. For all that she is a very sweet person, totally means good and does heaps of worrk for Catholic charities here and also for the hospital. She is
very genuine. The tea we had at her house was designed to get me to sleep, she assured me, and the fruit would help my digestion.
Huy, the young chap who works in sales at the school, is a camera fiend - selfies- and has a selfie stick with a remote control (incidentally, a really good thing to have) and so we had, I don't know how many, photos taken of us all in those various poses that the Asian people (yes, total stereotype) love to get involved in.
Farewell Vinh Long:
This morning I packed up my stuff, we had an early lunch, Ms Thanh organised for a taxi to come at 11.30 and when it did five of us piled in as I was escorted to the bus station by the staff. Five of us in the taxi to the bus station with so much handholding going on my fingers were bruised. Cuddles, smiles, “We love you” (I have it on video), and all absolutely over the top and way too flattering but sincere I think.
So Ms Tam, Ms Cuc, Ms Ha and Huy saw me off with Tam organising my ticket for
me and telling me to ring her once I got there and she would organise for her favourite Saigon driver to pick me up and take me to my hotel. Is that service or what?
The mini-bus trip was cramped and boring to be honest. Boy, does that sound like a jaded, ignorat tourist! I kept my eyes open and looked at everything that was going on but it’s all the same of not a lot for 130kms. By “not a lot” I mean it’s a constant procession of small settlements,100’s of vehicles, roadside stalls, ramshackle lean-to’s, dirt, mud, rubbish and so on. Some of the way is bordered with rice paddies and the closer you get to Saigon the more urban it gets until you are, almost without being aware, suddenly in the middle of it all.
I waited about 15 minutes at the bus station before the driver turned up and then it was a quick drive, relatively, through the swarms of scooters to the hotel where I was welcomed warmly and “upgraded” to the point that I now have a window room. The US dollar tip did the trick I’m sure.
The hotel is
in a sort of “Pub Street” a la Siem Reap. It’s called a walking street but scooters and cars still use it. It seems that walkers just have a little more freedom. It’s about three blocks of bars and restaurants, very lively and fun to be here after the quietness of VL. My room is very small but plenty adequate for one person. Lyn and I in here would find it a stretch though.
A very little unpacking, enough to find my togs, and then I left for the swimming pool only 200 metres away. It’s run by the same people that operate this place. Not a big pool but a decent size for having a kick around in and a nice relaxing time. I left there after an interesting conversation with a Belgian guy about Vietnam and the Cu Chi tunnels (he couldn’t bring himself to rent a gun there and fire it either) and wandered around some streets close by before ending back up in Pub Street where I stopped at a bar, sat on the footpath, watched the world go by and had two beers and fries.
There was an English couple sitting at the
next table so I went over and had a chat to them. He was from Blackpool, heavily tattooed, thick accent, she from Scotland, heavily tattooed, thick accent and we had a good old chat. They recommended a bar opposite my hotel, called the Crib, run by an Aussie, with live music but it wasn’t what I was after. I left them, bought myself a cheeseburger and went back to my room where I gladly ate it and watched some indecipherable TV. And if you ask, "why a cheeseburger?" – I felt like some FAT and GREASE! And I got it.
So here I am, five to eight and ready for bed. I’m going to get up early-ish, go to the Ben Thanh Market and explore before it gets too hot and noisy then I will slowly wander through some of the places I wanted to last time Lyn and I were here and also see some of the places I’ve already been to but want to spend more time in.
Ciao to all
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