My final days in Vietnam
01.03.2016 - 05.03.2016 32 °C
Back in Hanoi, I had hoped to take in a show that night of Traditional Vietnamese Music and Dance, but sadly, didn’t realize that it was only on Saturdays, so instead I found a lovely little Vietnamese restaurant, that also offer cooking classes, to have dinner. I probably should not have eaten, given, the amount of food on the boat, but my stomach was well trained and was actually hungry!
Yummy dinner served so beautifully
Another full day, I was glad to get into my bed. I got up early as I wanted to go down to Hoan Kiem Lake which is in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and is really a central park for everyone. It was a really fun morning seeing all the people exercising in their own ways. There were a number of groups of people doing different forms of Tai Chi, Chi Gong and other forms that I didn’t recognize. I love that people come out in the morning to exercise together. What a great idea!! I guess we have the equivalent of gyms, but it really doesn’t compare in atmosphere!
Others were simply visiting or doing solitary practices sitting by the lake.
One of the groups of women were doing Tai Chi and it seemed very much to be the Taoist form. I decided to just try and join in, but I am so rusty so it was pretty bad. Nevertheless it was fun for me to be involved. One of the women insisted I continue with them and we ended up doing some Chi Gong and then came the fan form that I had no idea about. I was handed a fan and proceeded to try an follow their moves. It was an experience! I loved being part of it. It turned out that one of the women had a son in Edmonton. Such a small world. Wish I had a photo but I only took a video which I can't upload, so you will have to imagine it......
On the way back to my room, I stopped for a "coconut coffee" which I have to say was delicious at a little coffee shop called Notes. Every customer writes some kind of note to be posted somewhere in the the coffee shop. It was very sweet. The young man working there wanted to take a photo of me as well. I look very relaxed, but I can tell you that was short-lived as I was booking my accommodation in Can Tho on the phone while drinking my coffee and unbeknownst to be left my Visa card on the table. Ten minutes later, I realized my mistake and came dashing back. Luckily they found it and were keeping it safely for me. Saved once again! That was a relief and it never ceases to amaze me how much kindness there is in the world.
I flew back to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta from Hanoi for my last couple of days. I wanted to have some heat before I left as I know it will be awhile till it is warm in Saskatchewan! I spent the first night in Can Tho hoping that I would find this amazing boatman that had taken me out the last time. But, as luck would have it, I discovered that he only worked on weekends and this was Wednesday. The other disappointment was though I booked a room with a river view, it ended up being a room with no window! It was advertised wrongly on Hotels.com. What to do, I had already paid for it. In the end they did refund me a bit of money, but I would have preferred the "river view"!
I was able to arrange another boatman for the morning to take me to Cai Rang Floating Market one last time and it ended up being the same boatman, Mun, who had originally taken me when I was first in Can Tho. Amazingly, he remembered me. It was great to be on the water once again and the market was as lovely as ever. This time I got to visit a Rice Noodle Factory (it is a very small operation and factory is not really what it is at all) and see how they actually make those rice noodles. Not only that but I got to eat some of them. I never realized that fresh noodles would taste better.
Mun, my boatman showing off his expertise at noodle making
My attempt was pretty pathetic, I had wrinkles all over my pancakes!
Cai Rang Market photos:
I loved watching these boatwomen taking a break and enjoying each other's company. Women work so hard in Vietnam, it is good to see them taking a break.
Restaurant on the river!
I booked my last night at Nguyen Shack which I had stayed at my very first two nights in the Mekong Delta. It is right on the canal and very peaceful. As they were not fully booked they gave me one of the more expensive bungalows for the night. I simply loved it and could have stayed there a week if I had it. So great to hang out on the verandah in the hammock and take in all that was there. In the evening the fireflies came out adding to the experience. The sounds of nature were so full and alive.
My beautiful room
And the verandah............
In the evening I met a French Canadian woman who was staying at the guesthouse for a few days and she and her two other Canadian friends were renting a private boat to go to a more distant floating market, so I decided to go along with them for the last morning. It was lovely to be with them. They laughed a lot and were a delight to be with. They jokingly said I am not a “real Canadian” as I don’t speak two languages and I don’t skate! On the way we stopped at some fruit orchards and were able to walk for a bit. I enjoyed seeing all the fruit trees and a pleasant surprise of some lotuses in bud and water lilies in bloom. I had not really seen hardly any lotuses as they are not in season yet.
Our trip ended up being 8 hours, but I really enjoyed being in the experience and it felt like a great way to end my time in the south. Before I knew it I was on a motorbike (Lyly, the tour guide from the guest house gave me a lift) once again heading back to Can Tho to pick up my big bag and then off to the bus station. I was back on a comfy Orange Futa Bus and safely got to HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) about 10pm. I had booked a room very near the airport planning on getting a better sleep, however, I had made a mistake on my phone with the dates and it ended up that I had their last tiny, very standard room on the top floor. It was not the deluxe double I expected! It may not have had a window either! The biggest problem was that they have these little oil burners with fragrance in the rooms burning away all day, with no windows and the fragrances was simply overpowering. Unbelievable, but it was late and I had paid, what to do. I got them to bring me a fan and turn on the AC and as I was the only room on that floor other than the Laundry, I slept with the door open and the fan outside hopefully bringing in some non-fragranced air. Needless to say it was not a great sleep despite all my planning. The taxi came to pick me up and take me to the airport. It was so close I could have walked, had I known. I had my last irritation, with Vietnam, as the meter said very clearly 15,000 Vietnamese Dong and he was insistent that I owed him 50,000. I have to say I lost my temper. Who knows, maybe there is something that I don’t know…….
Luckily these little incidences are a minor part of the time and in fact the kindnesses are expressed much more often than these difficult moments. I could have not found my way around Vietnam but for the endless times that people helped me in one way or another. Normally, I catch onto a bit of the basic language, but I really didn’t do well in Vietnam with the tones. One word has six meanings given the way you say it. So the chances of saying something correctly are not that great!
As I prepare the map for each entry I see how incredibly busy it has been for my trip, back and forth and then back and forth again. But it has worked quite well. In fact, I kind of like revisiting places as I often have a different impression each time. It also has added continuity to my time in Vietnam.
I feel happy about this time I have had here and in China. It has been quite an adventure. I think back about my expectations of this time and see how it has been different in lots of ways than I anticipated and yet so rich and unexpected in other ways. I really feel very alive and it has been such a good experience to move out of my usual bounds of "what I do". I really feel like I thrive when I get away from my limited idea of what I can or can't do. I feel so grateful for this opportunity to be with this "inner adventurer" part of me. I have a sense of coming back to Vietnam at some point as there are a few places I would like to see that I was not able to get to. Surely I will come back at a little warmer time of year in the north. I so appreciate being able to share my journey with you. It has really added to my daily delight in the unfolding of it all. It is such a good feeling to know that my journey is not a mystery to everyone. I look forward to seeing you all when I return in Regina, after my time in Sedona and the San Fransisco Bay Area. You can see I am stretching it out making sure that I get as little winter as possible! The way things are going with Regina weather, Spring will be in full swing.