Mekong Delta Blues and Life's A Beach!
Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
13Trip End Mar 19, 2009
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The slim, older Vietnamese gentleman ambled to the microphone stand on the stage. A subtle spotlight was cued from the rear of the bar to illuminate the man and the band trio. The man quietly asked the band members, consisting of a drummer, a guitarist and a harmonica player, to play in the key of G.
He began to sing: (envision your typical blues temple and beat).
"I Woke This Morning .....Ninh Binh Phong Bu
In the Middle of a Ricepaddy Field......Cam Cum Ding Dong
Too much rice wine was still swirling in my head and a cow was eating my shoe...
I've got those Mekong Delta, Mekong Delta blues...
I lost my way through those dang canals
Because I drank too much booze.....Pham Ding Binh Nam Fu Dong Bu Bu !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I spent two wonderful, relaxing days traveling primarily on boats through the spidery waterway network of the Mekong. Here, at the Mekong Delta, the Mekong River finishes its long journey that began in the melting snow-capped Tibetan peaks, gathering rainwater through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia before emptying its waters in the South China Sea.
The fertile Mekong Delta has been a rice, fruit and fish basket for people here for several thousand years. It's waterway tributaries emanating like an intricate spider's web through this lush delta zone.
Traveling with a good group of people, we hop on small, narrow motorized boats that transport us along the river through Delta life; busy floating markets and narrow neighborhood canals, people working, washing clothes, sleeping in hammocks, building new boats, kids waving, big smiles, very enjoyable way to pass the day.
We stayed overnight in Cao Thao, the biggest city in the Mekong. Looking for a restaurant, I was enticed by the waitresses in their slinky short dress so I sat down and started reviewing their menu. I stared in disbelief. The Vietnamese menu I was accustomed to had drastically changed. Here the menu read like a horror movie: fried squid, fried eel, fried frog, pig's bladder soup, my fingers frantically flipping through the pages for something familiar, something edible. Pork?Chicken? Beef noodle? No words of English spoken here, only puzzled looks. Finally, YES...there its was...beef fried yellow noodle and vegetables....and beer draught. Big portion. I was happy and the slinky dresses smiled.
A Vietnamese man explained some interesting Vietnamese women habits to me. Many drive their motorbikes wearing face masks, hat and light jacket covering their arms, all looking like a petite gang of bank robbers. One assumes they're cold or concerned about traffic pollution but no... it's protecting themselves from sunburning their skin. Since Southeast Asian people tend to be darker skin than say Europeans, Vietnamese men like women with smooth white skin so the women go through great effort to keep a lighter complexion. The grass is always greener...
Also the man said he prefers women from Mekong Delta, says they're prettier because they're slender from healthier diet. He says in Ho Chi Minh women get fat from eating too much BARBQ food. He knows because he was also fat from too much BARBQ food!
LIFE'S A BEACH
Before the Mekong region, I stayed up the coast at a nice beach town called Nha Trang. Great place for a weekend getaway; of course when you're traveling everyday is a weekend day. It's great constantly trying to recall what day of the week it is. It's just a beautiful blur...
Anyway, ten bucks for a nice room where you walk outside, cross the street that has only a handful of motorbikes and voila! you're at the beach. Can't complain.
I especially enjoyed watching the locals enjoy their beach. Smart people, they come out right at sunrise and then later late afternoon, to avoid the hot sun. Morning time is for badminton, tai-chi exercises, aerobics and afternoons is for picnics, soccer, volleyball, kite flying, these people enjoy their life.
I heard criticisms from travelers that Nha Trang had no Vietnamese culture. Sillies...societies enjoying their lives in a myriad of fun ways at the beach is culture!
However, if you need culture in a more traditional form, Nha Trang has abundant culture in the House of Embroidery, a beautiful gallery designed to embody the sublime artistic experience through exquisite silk paintings, water fountains, profound exhibits, pretty Vietnamese women in glimmering silk dresses weaving and harmonious Vietnamese music playing.
Then there is Ho Chi Minh City whre I finish my Vietnam experience. Social/politically, most signs and references now refer to the city's former name Saigon.
On a positive note, the sky here, compared to Hanoi, is blue. Another positive note, it's a great place to be a motorbike repairman; you have job security for eternity. Saigon has literally millions of motorbikes, primarily because the average person can afford them versus a car. Forget the lyrics "nobody walks in LA". Saigon hands down wins the "nobody walks" city award. Motorbike mania.
I can envision a perfect Matrix sequel sequence where Keeno Reeves is in the middle of a saigon street, performing his usual slow motion twists and turns, avoiding an onslaught of motorbikes like he's dodging bullets.
Say goodnight Vietnam.....ciao!
Next stop...Cambodia's Angkor Wat
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