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Running away from Home

Raging on the river

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 7 April 2010 | Views [313]

We were instructed to get up at 6:00am so that we could have breakfast and be packed up by 7:00am, but the recorded voice over the loudspeaker started at 5:00am. I imagined that it was Socialist propaganda encouraging every Vietnamese within earshot to get up and work. Work to make Vietnam a better place. I just wanted to get up so that I could have a decent meal. There was a rumor that breakfast was included in the tour price, but they asked me to pay for my eggs and baguette. I found out afterwards that breakfast was free up to a certain amount. Anything beyond that and you have to make up the difference. Dammit! They did it to me again. I went back to the clerk at the hotel and demanded 20,000 VND (about a dollar). She said she didn’t owe me anything. I proceeded to argue the point with her until she admitted her mistake. I couldn’t believe how excited I was getting over a dollar. I almost had a nuclear meltdown over it, but it wasn’t me. It was the coffee I had this morning. I ordered iced coffee with milk and I got my first taste of Vietnamese coffee. In Cambodia, coffee with milk comes to you almost white. In fact, I wondered a few times if they had left the coffee out. In Vietnam, though, coffee with milk is still dark and very, very potent. I’ll bet that I made that woman think twice about her career in hotel-restaurant management.

The tour included a brief visit to a real Mekong fishing village, and a fish farm. I feel conspicuous enough touring alone through Asia. Being one of a group of Westerners walking through this small village, I felt….ridiculous. Fortunately it didn’t last long and we were taken to a souvenir shop where we were encouraged to spend, spend, spend. We were then taken to a boat that was even more plush than the one we had yesterday, and we cruised for three and half hours from Chau Doc to Vinh Long. During this time I continued talking with my young British friends and they told me about some of the trials and tribulations that they had gone through on their journey. All of this time I thought that I was just a f***-up because of some of the things that have happened to me, but they all had stories similar to mine. I dropped my camera in a toilet. One of them put his mobile phone in the washing machine. I have had several injuries and illnesses since I left, so have they. It just goes with the territory. If you take yourself out of your own element, you open yourself up to risk. It made me feel better, and I like having new people to tell my stories to. I like to think that I’m getting better at story telling….practice, practice.

The boat trip came to an end as all good things must, and then the herding started. Over the next five an a half hours I was herded onto three different buses and a ferry. I got to see a lot of the delta, but it was time to do an about-face and head back north towards Saigon, Hoi An, Hanoi and eventually the Chinese border.

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