Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Penelope,

After a morning tromp with our german tour guide Cornelius we arrived at Crocodile lake. We saw 1. Wee. After the locals extincted the original population, Siamese crocs were introduced by some dutch eco plan as were the fish. We saw a heron eating a fish, a spider accompanied by an insect photographer, and some more birds and that was about it. Oh and butterflies. We did tell Cornelius to quit smoking as he’d just started at 20 (just now) and had time to turn back. Quit while you’re young, I said. The germans are all over eco-tourism ventures in Vietnam. They had their hands in the waterpark area up at PhongNha where locals once swam, and now had to pay to get to- and then this place, where it’s probably a good thing to have a guide- who is a volunteer and has better language skills though he knows nothing of the land at all really but the basics. So that was a bit of a downer. But what to do. We stop, we listen for monkeys, we keep walking. We ask what bird we hear, he doesn’t know. But the plant basics- ok. And hope over time the people catch on to the whole tourism = $$$ like costa rica has. You can really see the difference. They just don’t get it- though the wi-fi connections are way better here then in CenAm. Anyway after tea, and a hot trek back , we drove across the uneven slow roads into Saigon. We came back late to the chaotic street of Bieu Vien, closed and cramped and pressed out everywhere- foreigners and locals alike to eat some bbq-- The phoenix hotel mercifully had a lift since the one before it was 5 flights up and didn’t. Another early morning start where we successfully hunted and gathered our breakfast wares- of passionfruit/mango smoothie and most proud of cathy who brought back an omelet sandwich for me and a vege sandwich for herself. I was however not awake and so having to hunt down money to pay for the trips made me totally grumpy- and our plucky new guide Xuon (soan?) took a bit of my grimacing but he was never without a smile. Since he hearts his hometown that is the Mekong delta, and the mandarins his hometown is famous for. He was also never without information and a thick Vietnamese accent that was hard to wade through sometimes. But we managed and he was nice- warning us about motorbike! Motorbike! Be careful! And it’s good you should try it. Very delicious. Or that’s terrible. I hate it. He is also addicted to facebook and we are now friends. The 3 days on the delta was a haze of activity- yes there was some enjoyable moments- candy making ‘factory’ where we handled a snake? Which he said wasn’t poisonous- however, unless it was defanged could still do some pretty damage if incited. Anyway then a couple shots of banana and snake rice wine- cuz why not? Really? Uh. I can only hope they don’t starve it and it’s doing ok as a captive snake… And more watching the candy making- better. Onward to a fruit farm, and more canals, and noisy motors, and houses on stilts and boats going here and there- none of it really for show- as everyone seemed hard at work harvesting rice, pulling in fishing nets, rowing fruits to market. There was also a rice factory, that had pet hedgehogs and a jungle cat, really a small operation like the rice candy making place- bustling tourists in and out in the small not very sanitary? quarters. There was a bird ‘sanctuary’ where we, for a thrill- were put on motorbikes if we wanted [we were non-pulsed] not like those other tourists he talked about having- and taken to an outpost where there was a massive amount of egrets and cormorants- however while we were there the woman down below was carrying a dead one, probably a baby fallen from one of the trees and I think one was about to be bludgeoned for the same offense, since I don’t know she can’t return them or? That’s life on the farm or in the wilds or whatever. Not for the faint of heart. Somewhere in there was a weaver at a poor Cham village [enclave of muslims], an iridescent bird flying into the water, cats and dogs and plenty of chickens wandering about and bridges and information about bridges, the different regions, map gazing, and a couple more random temples each chaotic (one with caged birds you could set free and loads of incense, another where there were whole roasted pigs, fruits and flowers being brought in to be blessed and left and then picked up the next day? Or hours to be consumed by the owner) and so popular was this place you had to pay to get in the area by the government run temple… and a deserted venture with dinosaur replicas. As well as the fried elephant ear fish, and some delicious basa fish, and amazing taro root fried rolls, pumpkin flower fritters!- what else? More fruit. An elderly cat not doing well by the riverside. All the women in the colorful crazy printed pants. Narrow plankways half standing, creaking, decaying- on and off boats and a fish farm? Cocky young boys driving the waterways with their feet, laughing or serious lined women rowing the long oared boats down the canals. Pineapple on the floating market even though cath can’t eat them and I only wanted a piece. We had to take the whole thing. Oh and while I had the best cashews of my entire life in cat tien, I had my worst cup of coffee here in the Mekong. But quickly amended as I ran across the street to a cafĂ© and got more. Oh and government mandated flags adorning each property or fines await. And now we’re on our way back. A bathroom stop, a lunch place, tipping the driver and guide and 2 days left in Saigon before Cath heads out. Update- the lunch place was a tourist trap. They charged us to use napkins! are you KIDDING ME. horrible end to a pretty solid tour even if it was a bit slapdash in it's togetherness. We did break down once? Did I mention? But my van did that in CenAm too- though cath says it's her fault. Back to that horrible restaurant we won't ever talk about! Ach! To which when asked I said, Xoan horrible. VERY BAD! Tourist-TRAP. He laughed and seemed equally horrified. But mainly in that- omg they think it's a tourist trap just like I do kind of thing. We still tipped him well but STILL. Anyway we had all this fruit to carry afterward- and our hotel is like 5 flights up- good god and we asked the woman and half paying attention to us she said they were full- then didn't tell us about breakfast or that she was shutting the doors? so thank god cath noticed the bell... and ugh travel weariness has set in. We did, after cath braved the 5 flights AGAIN to get the password right even after we verified it the first time! It was wrong. Needlesstosay we are so only staying here one night. And getting thee gone to the California Guesthouse ASAP. Where we should've been all along. Tomorrow weasel coffee, jade emperor pagoda, Saigon beer, yogurt and hopefully good attitudes. We must make stands where we can! Even if it's not that bad overall. Even if we can make due. Sometimes it's simply better mentally and emotionally to say, no, let's make a change. Who's with me! ok- xoxo, m.

1 comment:

somebody's mom said...

I'm exhausted for you, my adverturous child.