Sunday, January 6, 2013

Weekend on the Mekong Delta

The Rice Lady
I spent a good part of Saturday attempting to sleep to rid myself of a cold. I didn't have much luck on the sleep side, but got some decent rest by sitting still for a change. Once I set foot outside of the hotel, momentum seems to carry me from place to place.

I went along with several others for a foot massage at what was supposed to be a very good place. Err... Well... OK, the opening phase of having a school of little fish nibbling my feet was amusing, made moreso by the reactions of one of our companions. It was definitely a bit strange, and she's definitely very expressive. The next phase was the actual foot massage, which was a workout for my feet and not always entirely relaxing.

Based on the attire of the women providing said foot massage, they were more accustomed to male clientele. I'm not sure how many times my foot ended up in the boobs of my massage chick. My feet have not had contact with another woman's chest since I was an infant. Not my scene. Nor that of my feet. Holy shit.

No need to return there, nor follow the advice of the source of the recommendation.

Having survived the foot experience, I went with Amy and Stacy (the pediatric therapists on the International Extremity Project team) to a great vegetarian restaurant for pho. They're IEP veterans and have been there many times before. It's definitely a bit of a "do you westerners know where you are?" kind of place. Very authentic. It's small with lightweight stainless steel tables and colorful plastic stools for chairs -- like you might see in a kids' classroom. There is no menu -- you either want pho or you want the vegetable dishes of the day with rice. The broth is rich and garlicky and the noodles seem to go for miles. Much more flavorful than anything I've had at home.

Dinner for four of us cost 100,000 dong -- that's US $5. Total. I don't know of anywhere in the U.S. that you can get a full meal-size bowl of soup for under $5, certainly not four of them -- plus four bottles of water. Lots of things here are very inexpensive, especially food if you veer away from the tourist area.

Watermelon Mauraders: Beware!
On the way home we visited the rice lady. She sits in front of a market next to the Nam Bo restaurant. She starts with a waffle on a small edible rice plate (looks like styrofoam) and folds it like a taco shell white white rice, black rice, crushed peanuts and sesame, bean paste, and coconut. Soooooo yummy.

On Sunday about eight of us got up at 4-frigging-a.m. to go to the floating market. We took a boat from downriver? upriver? as the morning showed up. Along the way, a guy in small boat pulled alongside ours selling coffee -- hot, hot coffee with sweet condensed milk. Apparently it's wonderful. And strong. That much caffeine and sugar would probably put me into orbit, so I'm just trusting the happily caffeinated among us that it's true.

At the market -- also known as a chunk of river -- everything is done on the water. The small boats come to you, you go to the larger boats. You never get off your boat. It's all produce. Boats advertise their products by impaling them on a tall bamboo pole. There were a lot of watermelon conquered that day. The message was clear to any potential watermelon marauders, come near and find your melon on a stick...

I now know what the small rectangular bump-out at the back of the boat is all about -- having now seen a woman squatting and seeing something plop below her. OK, well then, that would be the ladies' room. Poop deck indeed. (Although the true definition has nothing to do with fecal matter.) Everything happens on the river. And in the river. Such an educational experience.

Thankfully I have been able to use actual toilets thus far the entire trip, although the option of the drain in the corner has frequently been available as well. Like I said, educational. It's definitely wise to develop a BYOTP habit. Even when a porcelain bowl is available, toilet paper may not be.

We went to a wild walmart-ish co.opmart, where I bought crayons and coloring books for the pediatric patients. The different departments are really more like different stores. The first floor is grocery (I'll have to go back and explore). The second floor had a book store, a few specialty departments, and a larger area with clothing and home goods. It seems all fairly chaotic and crowded to me, but probably status quo here.

Following the advice of two of the docs who had joined us on our first foot massage, we ventured out for a different place. It was much better, much cheaper, and far less creepy. The ladies managing our feet were there just for our feet. Hooray. No ta-tas on the toes this time.

Another bowl of pho and early to zzzz... So much walking in the heat takes a toll on the energy levels.

But first... best man fashion...

1 comment:

Brian said...

Hilarious and, um, educational. So cool that you're leaving the "tourists only" spots and seeing (and tasting) more of the "real" culture.