Leaving Nam

Cau Treo Travel Blog

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I woke up feeling like I had just gone to bed. In the dark, we got into our van and started the journey to the Vietnam/Laos border. It was a little after 5:30 am and we had hours and hours of driving ahead of us.

There were only seven people heading to Laos, including our tour guide. It was the end of the trip for The Canadians and The Kids were heading up to Sapa. I was sad to see the rest of my circle go, but I did like having a smaller sized group. I also thought it would give me a chance break away from the group more and meet other travelers.

Our hotel packed us some pastries to go for breakfast. The driver promised we would stop in one hour for a coffee break.
At the cafe
We rested and when most of us were alert, we were well out of Hanoi. The misty air added to the beauty of the green countryside. There were very few people on the road, just a rare truck or motorbike. It was so peaceful and I think we all started to feel a release of the inner tension that had built up as we had gotten further north in Vietnam.

A guy in our group pointed out that it was much more than an hour since the drivers promised a coffee stop. He was in need of a cigarette break. I reminded them, but we were in the middle of nowhere. For once, I wished I could just find a Starbucks. The first cafe we stopped at was apparently not a cafe.

Further down the street a place was open and they seemed flustered and unprepared for our business.
The only coffee they had was slow drip. I was so... slow... We relaxed there for awhile until the drivers urged us to get going. It was so nice to be in a place where they don't pay any extra attention to travelers. I liked being treated like just another person. We left and continued our drive through the rice paddies, mountains and villages.

We stopped only once more for a "bathroom break" on the side of the road. I went down a hill and into some bushes where I thought I had some privacy. I looked across the stream and there were some kids on the other side watching me. Oh well. We were supposed to stop in a larger town for lunch, but the drivers kept on driving, only pausing briefly to switch places.

It had become clear to us that they were most concerned with getting back to Hanoi.
One of the drivers spoke English very well and he was the one who kept making false promises in an extremely charming and convincing way. I was thinking he was probably in a rush to get back for a date in Hanoi with some poor girl. He told us to forget about the town we were supposed to stop in because we could eat a great lunch at the border.

It was sometime in the afternoon when we arrived at the border town, Cau Treo. We sat down in a "restaurant" filled with army members and ordered "lunch". The driver told us our options: Beef noodle soup. We were already suspicious of him and wanted to confirm that it was beef. He responded emphatically, "It's beef. Not chicken, not pork, not dog. Beef."

More military men came and they were eating interesting meals that I guess were not available for us.
Rice
We were brought the saddest bowls of soup I've ever seen. It was basically watered down ramen with bits of things in it. I poked at the lukewarm mess in front of me while a monkey roamed around by our table. I bought some packaged peanuts and then went to the bathroom which was in a separate building. There was a sign saying there was a fee to use the bathroom, but no attendant. Water was leaking from parts of the ceiling like a shower and everything inside was soaked. When I left, an attendant had magically appeared to collect my money.

We went into the building where we would get stamped out. The floor was inexplicably wet and there was an atmosphere of shadiness. The two of us who arrived in the room first were approached by a border crossing official who asked us for something.
We couldn't understand what he wanted, so he started to draw it. Ooo, fun... guessing games at the border!

I finally figured out that he wanted- an American two dollar bill. I told him that none of us had two dollar bills, but we would be happy to give him a dollar or two or a 20,000 dong bill. We filled in the rest of the group and each handed over the equivalent of 1-2 USD. I don't know what would've happened if we hadn't given him money, but I wasn't interested in finding out. It was a small amount. He looked happy and I was happy to not have trouble at the border. Getting stamped out was a breeze and we walked to Laos.
worldcitizen says:
It appeared to be beef. But the pieces were so small, I couldn't confirm so I didn't eat them!
Posted on: Jun 10, 2008
sybil says:
so what kind of meat was it really?
Posted on: Jun 10, 2008
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At the cafe
At the cafe
Rice
Rice
Tea
Tea
Monkey at the border
Monkey at the border
Cau Treo
photo by: worldcitizen