Mekong Delta...The Father, the Snake, the Guinea Pigs, the Pony and Mr. A.
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The day before I left Vietnam for Brunei, I decided to end my trip there by visiting the Mekong Delta. The night before, during my first travelbuddy meet up in Saigon for Christmas celebration, I got a useful tip from Rini (TB member Rintjez) on how to do a half day trip there.
I woke up very early that day as I need to be at Sinh Cafe by 7am and get the bus ticket to Mekong Delta. The place was already swarming with anxious tourists, waiting for their buses. I bought my ticket and just to make sure that I wouldn't miss my flight back home, I asked the guy at the counter the time the bus would return to Saigon...6pm he reassured. So I was relieved.
My bus didn't arrive on time (surprise surprise) so I waited for another hour with the rest of tourists, listening to a blind beggar playing a harmonica while his daughter steered him through the crowd, rejecting every novel offered by salespeople carrying tall stacks of books, while my eyes studied everyone around me.
I got on board and quickly made a beeline to the only empty seat available (I knew that was mine...lucky I was not in America, I would probably received angry stares from the other passengers). Sighing relieve, I rummaged through my bag and took my ipod out, trying to ease myself from the brief panic attack a few minutes ago. The journey to Mekong Delta was going to be an easy three hour ride. Ample time to numb my bum. So I thought I better made some new friends and tried to engage in a conversation with the person sitting next to me. She was a vietnamese lady and her English was as bad as my Vietnamese. The conversation quickly died before we even made it to the first hour of our trip.
Somewhere between Saigon and Mekong, the bus made a pit-stop to refuel. Everyone got off the bus to stretch legs, many of us queued outside the "Happy Room". Initially I was in the line, but I gave up eventually and walked away to the filling station. Another guy, was there too, I saw him on the bus earlier that day but didn't pay much attention.
We made it to Mekong Delta three hours later. The weather was fine, though the sky was slowly turning grey, promising heavy rain sometime that day. But that didn't deter the enthusiasm of the people in my group, everybody was smiling with glee, taking pictures of whatever they found interesting and unusual to their eyes.
I wasn't sure where I was suppose to go from there, but I noticed that people were making their way between to the souvenir shops and to the jetty so I did what everyone else would do...follow the crowd. I met Mr A again, and we decided to stay together throughout the journey, noone else (except for the tourguide) could speak English so we thought it would be a good idea if we kept each other company.
Something about Mr A...
He was in his mid 30s, single, and was travelling around the world before starting a new job in LA.
Back to Mekong story...
Our journey started with a boat ride. It was a wooden boat that could load possibly around 30 people at one time. We sat at the very back to avoid getting deaf from the sound coming out from the speaker that was nailed facing forward right where the passengers sat. Mr A and I had some nice conversations...I guess it is true what people say, we tend to be open when talking to strangers. Suddenly we could hear our tourguide talking again through the speaker "MY FAMILY!" (he was referring to us the passengers) and he went on with his elaborate explanation of the activities that he had instore for us. Mr A and I were laughing when we heard him calling us "My family" so we gave our tourguide a new nickname.
Our first stop was a restaurant across the river. It took us some 20 minutes to get there (the boat was cruising slow). The restaurant was nice and we were served with some rice and chicken (eggs for me). Mr A and I sat together at one table and was chit chatting about our lives when The father came up to us and asked us if we wanted to have a special cuisine which made up of a deep fried fish (the fish look like it was still alive when it was fried! it had that scary look) we both turned it down (because of the look). Then out of the blue, Father asked Mr A and I if we were single, we both said yes, then he said we both should date! I turned red and I could see Mr A looked embarrassed too but he kept his cool and smiled anyway. To get over the embarrassment quickly, we told him that we just got married and that was our "honeymoon"! we all laughed and he walked away to entertain the other passengers, leaving us both in a rather awkward silence (still smiling haha).
After lunch we walked back to the jetty and got back on the boat. A few minutes later, the boat made another stop, this time to a Longan farm. To those who don't know what Longan is, it is a local fruit, with brown skin and white flesh. It has black seed and taste sweet. I don't really like the taste. We walked for a few minutes and then we reached to a big hut that looks like a small hall made of bamboo. There we were entertained by some local singers singing folk songs of the people from Da Nang. According to our tourguide, the people from the highland went to work at the river in Mekong to earn money.
We left the hut and walked through the jungle until we reach a small road. There were modern houses there made of concrete, looking at the road, it made me wonder how they moved all the cement and sand to the building site.
Our next stop was another surprise for me. There were a 3 metres python, bees and guinea pigs. Some of the tourists took pictures with the python, I was too scared and Mr A was too disgusted (i think he was scared too lol) our tourguide were showing a beenest with bees still on it. I watched with cautious not to get stung by one. Before we left there, we saw two guinea pigs inside a cage (suddenly I felt like I was in a zoo). Mr A came up with a morbid theory that the guinea pigs were probably the snake's meal.
The last segment of the trip was a slow boat trip down a stream. Mr A promised me that he would save me if I ever fall out of the boat (how sweet...earlier I told him that I couldnt swim...I really cant) the boat was rowed by an old woman and a man. They were really strong as there were like six of us in the boat altogether. The boat glided gently down the stream..I felt like I was in Italy on a gondola hehe. The boat took us to the first boat we got on to and climbed back on it.
Time went really fast when you are having fun. Before I knew it, it was almost four. We returned to our bus...Mr A and I decided to sit together. We reached Saigon around 6 (good timing) and I quickly got off the bus to find a taxi. Arthur volunteered to accompany me (what a gentleman!) When we finally reached my hotel half an hour later, we said our goodbye and ended our "honeymoon" with a handshake .
My flight to Brunei was at 9 so I had to rush. I made a mistake that day and didn't pack my stuff earlier (silly Nikie!) so I ended up just cramming all my clothes in my backpack (this is why it is important to organise your stuff in your backpack, my backpack looked like a bolster pillow about to explode! LOL) and quickly ran down to the receptionist and asked her to call for the taxi. The taxi arrived minutes later and just when I thought everything was settled, the road to the airport was absolutely packed! (PERFECT!) I reached the airport some 45 minutes later. I read the meter and paid the driver the amount, I didnt have the exact amount to give so I gave him a round note...taxi driver didn't give me the change (f***!) I had not shower, my backpack looked like a bolster pillow and I was on the verge of missing my flight, and now my taxi driver was ripping me off! NEVERMIND! I said and took my backpack and walked quickly into the airport.
Soon Nikie...soon you'll be in your plane and fly back to Brunei...back to my boudoir, I miss my car, I miss clean air (must detox!) and I miss my family. I checked in my backpack, and was about to get through immigration when the lady at the counter told me that I needed to fill in the immigration form first... now how come nobody told me that?? So I walked back outside and saw some people filling in forms (that must be it) but no form around..so I asked one of the man at the check in counter...he gave me the form (I was curious why the lady at the counter where I checked in my backpack didn't give me the stupid form) so back to the immigration I went, the lady who I met first at the immigration already left her counter, so I went to the only available counter, two men in uniform with very unfriendly look stood behind it.
When I finally made it to the gate, I heard the announcement saying that my flight had been delayed...WHAT?! I was tired, dirty, HUNGRY! and my flight was delayed... I didn't deserve it. So I sat there at the waiting gallery.. trying to pull myself together. I started thinking about what happened in Mekong Delta... Father the tourguide, the scary look snake, the innocent guinea pigs, the tortured ponies...and the sweet and charming Mr. A...oh well...you can't have everything...