Vietnam adventure- Day 6- Laters, Baby!
I slept. I slept a full 7 hours. I felt like an overexcited child on Christmas Day this morning. Vung twice asked me if I'm OK and tried to touch my forehead to check I didn't have a fever. Today I was supposed to have been trekking and biking, but as it stands, after yesterday's bamboo bridge incident, even stairs are proving troubling, and my travel agent had changed my itinerary anyway. So this morning, after 7 hours non stop sleep (did I mention that I slept for 7 hours?) I hopped into the car with Mrs Chau, the hotel chef and Vung to visit the local market to buy the ingredients for the 5 course lunch (which I will then eat) that I will be taught to cook this morning. On the way, Vung asks me to teach him some English slang. He explains that an Australian once taught him to say "titty for now" instead of goodbye. "Um, Vung, he may have been joking with you... A titty is a breast. You are saying 'breast for now!'... I think you mean 'ta-ta for now'", I explained. Vung translated this to Kin, who made breast motions as though he were describing Katie Price in a game of charades. Vung went bright red as I wiped away the tears of laughter in the backseat. I wonder how many people he has said THAT to in the last 10 years! I spent the next ten minutes teaching him some slang to pass on to fellow guides, so hopefully, if any if you end up with a Vietnamese guide if you are over this way, he will tell you to "jog on" or "on yer bike" if he doesn't like what you are saying, call you "divvy" if he thinks you are being stupid and tell you that "you look HOT" if he thinks you're pretty. My parting slang phrase was "Laters, Baby"...to the women that are reading this, I doubt i need to explain- to the men, one thing- Fifty Shades of Grey... I couldn't think of any others, if you can, please let me know, we still have about 10 hours driving to do together!
Mrs Chau doesn't speak great English, but food and cooking are a universal language. She knows everyone in the market and took me right into the depths rather than buy from the hawkers in the edge if the road- their produce is fresher apparently.
Having taken you through so many markets already, I won't bore you with the detail, except a few unusual sights- including a full sized pig, freshly killed, strapped to the back of a moped with the blood still dripping out of it's mouth. It made eating the pork ribs later on a bit challenging...
When the Vietnamese expelled the French in 1954, they chose to keep a couple of things- it's bread being one of them. As odd as it sounds, alongside all this Vietnamese culture (and even in the tribes), exists mini "boulangeries"- French bread and croissants are available everywhere, and often served alongside traditional dishes such as Pho.
Vung, who today, is wearing a "Galvin Klein" T-shirt (not a typo on my part), pointed out the fish stalls- catfish, shrimps and whitebait all gasping for their last breath- it seems to me that everything here is sold alive- alongside worms, maggots and rat. Only joking on the last bit, I didn't see it, but apparently it is available.
We passed a temple. Vung pointed out the high ledge that needs to be navigated to gain entrance- most temples have this in order to slow people down and make them think about the fact that they are entering a holy site, and slow their movements and thoughts. He says that maybe I should have one of these steps in all of the rooms I enter. I poke my tongue out at him and promptly trip over Mrs Chau who has stopped dead at a stall to buy herbs. I think Vung is getting to know me a little TOO well.
Having got all of our ingredients, Vung and Kin dropped us back at the hotel- the market is only a short walk away, but the three of them had conspired against me and are preventing me from walking, unless absolutely necessary, this morning due to yesterday's bamboo bridge incident.
Mrs Chau and I head to the kitchen and begin to prepare the vegetables for the 5 course meal that I am to cook and then eat for my lunch. Within 5 minutes, the power goes down and we end up preparing and cooking out in the dining room as the kitchen has no windows- the rest of the staff, however, continue to get lunch ready for 32 guests and 11 staff by candlelight. Troopers!
I won't bore you with the full 4 hours worth of preparation, but just to say that we ended up with the following-
Herb and chicken salad
Sticky baked chicken
Beef and vegetable spring rolls
Garlic fried water spinach
And if I do say so myself, it was bloody delicious- Claire and Jonny, I think this may be the menu for Friday 8th when you come to dinner!!
After lunch Vung and Kin pick me up and drive me 200 yards to Pom Coong and Lac Villages. Yes, 200 yards- I'm telling you, I have been taken prisoner. Send help. And chocolate.
The village is a tourist experiment- bear with me, it isn't exactly a Spanish "strip"! As I have explained, Vietnam retains much of it's charm BECAUSE it isn't very good at tourism- but here is one place where the government HAVE put money into the tourist trade, but are still managing to allow it to flourish under its own traditional culture. As you walk in, you see the bamboo houses on stilts- many of which house "Homestays"- which are essentially Vietnamese family houses with an extra room that is rented out at about £10 a night to travellers. Finally, for the first time in 4/5 days, I saw a few westerners- but not many, tourists here are mostly Vietnamese- the government provides a weeks PAID holiday for government workers (policemen etc) to go away to areas of historical importance- what a great idea.
With Buffalo working the paddy fields and mountains in the background, it is an idyllic village with the added bonus that there are handmade wares for sale- weaving being the main trade. Bags, scarfs, tablecloths, throws, rugs, bracelets, shoes, you name it, if it can be weaved, you can buy it here. The second option is anything carved out of wood- instruments, wind chimes, jewellery... I instantly wished that I had bought a bigger case, and told Vung this. He responded by shaking his head vigorously and miming an old man with a broken back- well, he had been heaving it around all week!
The colours and the quality of the items available is dumbfounding- I think I now have all of my souvenirs in one shopping trip- an exquisite pair of weaved ballet pumps (£5), scarves, hand whittled instruments, bags, bracelets and some beautiful paintings that I fell in love with- Stevie, we need to make room in the bedroom for them!
Everything is made on site, and I was mesmerised by the elderly tribeswomen at the looms, creating little masterpieces for the likes of me to take home and hang in our houses. Karon, if you are reading this, you were right- these people are amazingly talented and I have a little something for you!!
Vung bought a bow and arrow, hand carved- it was £6. Amazing.
It took us several hours to walk round and meet the locals, and the whole trip was a joy. There were a couple of little bars, if you can call them that- bamboo chairs and tables set up next to the paddy fields where you can buy a local beer for 35p and watch the local women weave and the men whittle wood into whatever you ask them to create.
Kin then drove us back the 200 yards to the hotel (um, when you send the rescue team, can you also bring wine?), and as I got out of the car, Vung turned, winked at me and said "Laters, baby". I have created a monster.
Once "home", I had another massage, and then an early dinner in the restaurant. Banana flower salad, tarro soup, sticky pork ribs, chicken and vegetables were on offer, but, still full from my delicious lunch, I picked a bit and hobbled back to my room with a glass of wine to write this blog.
The last 2 days have been delightful. A lovely hotel in a stunning setting- massages, great food, WINE, and being treated by the staff ("Good morning Miss Moss, how is your foot today?") like a princess. I have had chocolates with a poem delivered to my room each night, fresh fruit each morning and clean sheets and towels every day. I needed the rest, and I needed to feel safe, clean and happy. But, strangely enough, I am ready to leave. Tomorrow we leave for Ho Binh, where, after ditching my (obviously too heavy) bag, I will go to meet Huang. I have sponsored Huang through Action Aid for 6 years- and when I arranged this trip, I contacted them to ask whether I could visit him, his family and his village- where my (and other sponsors') money has ensured that he has been able to attend school past the government provided primary age, and also put a fresh and safe water well in his village.
I can't wait. I am prepared for how emotional this might be- I am with him for 2 days, during which I will see his school, his house and hopefully get involved in some community projects. I will be staying in a shitty hotel again, but I don't think that it will matter...
For now, I am going to finish my glass of wine, munch my complimentary chocolates and read my book in my crisp white sheets.
Goodnight all... or should I say, Laters Baby...