Day 11 – Ben Tre to Saigon

5 Mar

Woke up this morning with the cockerel at 6am. Kept sleeping under my mosquito need until the required 7:20am. Discovered that my room mate John had been up several times in the night.  Probably at least partly due to the 16 beers he had to pay for later. Hadn’t heard a thing.  Unfortunately on his last outing, he had managed to lock me in the room. The local guide came to look for me but I had lost valuable seconds of breakfast.

Amanda however discovered the local guide unzipping bags in the ladies room whilst the rest of us were at breakfast.  Confronted by Vinh, he explained that he was checking for animals! Ha.

I did manage to video my fried eggs this morning.  Not sure why.  Perhaps still a bit tired.

We left the homestay by tuk tuk – the motorised lorry type. Avoiding the cyclists on the narrow paths caused a few complaints from the locals, and the low hanging branches almost decapitated us several times.

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First stop of the day, after leaving the tuk tuks was to walk with our overnight bags to a coconut processing part of the village. Here we found them using every part of the coconut – the dust, fibre, milk, oil, and others bits I didn’t know it had, to make things as diverse as “coal” and coconut candy.  This was given to us to taste still hot from the pan, and was like a caramel goo, flavoured with coconut and ginger.  Others flavours available, if you like coconut.

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The standard tat shop had some snake & scorpion wine for sale and we had a sample to taste. Almost like whisky, but sweeter and weaker. Also sampled the coconut wine. 29%. Not bad for 10am. Bridget didn’t complain too hard.

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Also for sale was python fat. And then we saw the python, nicknamed Monty. Several of us had a go at holding it with some interesting poses for those that had not held a snake before.

Moving on, we boarded a boat to take us to another part of the Mekong Delta to a place where we were able to taste the different fruits. And coconut. We had a young coconut each to drink from and were also shown how to open it and use a coconut spoon to take the flesh out.  Not as strong as you might imagine. Avoided the tat shop on the way out.

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Back on the boat we passed many coconut processing facilities with lots of boats carrying coconuts and lots of sweaty men offloading them.

We stopped at a brick kiln – the only beach I’ve seen that is covered in bricks. Not many workers here but hundreds of thousands of bricks. Very manual processes involved and 3 weeks required to keep the fire going.

Whilst Julian dozed on the boat again we got dropped off in Ben Tre City and were able to tour the market before getting on the bus to Saigon. First sight was a man with a pair of scissors and a live bird in his hand.  Thankfully he appeared to be untangling some wire from its foot and released it. Perhaps if we weren’t watching it might have had another destination.

The market included turtles, live birds, quails, all sorts of fish and seafood, strange vegetables, taro, sweet potato, and something green that looked like a man without any teeth.  It also had live coconut mice that are apparently nice grilled. They live in coconut trees and kill them.

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The sellers were all happy to smile for photos and chat away wherever they could. I’m pretty sure one of them was discussing my girth with the guide, but he gave some other story.

Back on the air conditioned bus, we headed off to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Stopping at the same service stop as the day before for some fried chicken and chips.

Arrived at the Asian Ruby Hotel in Saigon (they use both names) and was pleasantly surprised at the standard of the hotel – best so far.  We sampled the extensive cocktail menu before heading out for a meal.  Tried to find Le Jardin, but despite my protestations and extensive  Google research we headed off on the wrong direction.  Ended up in an Argentinian steakhouse, where I devoured the rack of ribs in Vicar of Dibley sprout style.

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Eaten far too much. Diet starts tomorrow.

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