Day 77: A Day on the Delta
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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"Where you go? Come here, come here, come here!"
Each ticket window was probably owned by a different bus company and they were all barraging us with touts for our business. Unfortunately for them none but one actually sold tickets to the place we were going, which was a large fishing town named My Tho ("Mee Toe.")
A three hour moderately comfortable if unscenic ride lead us to the My Tho bus station, far enough from the main part of town that motorcycle taxis would be needed to get the rest of the way. I mistakenly let my driver know that we didn't have a hotel reservation, resulting him dropping us off at a dank commission-paying establishment and us walking the rest of the way into town. Had I known we weren't yet in town I would've yelled at the guy until he drove all the way, but alas I did not. A local grandma noticed our obvious disorientation and volunteered to direct us to one of the hotels listed in the guidebook, one that had an identical name to the commission paying establishment we'd been deposited at just twenty minutes prior. She was very insistent and followed us (against traffic) on her bike to make sure we went the right way. "The right way" was right back to said commission-paying establishment. Two more attempts to get navigation help and another twenty minutes walk lead us to the correct hotel along the canal front. Showers soon followed as we were sweaty as hell from the rucksack load.
The plan was to relax around town for the night and do an obligatory boat tour during the day tomorrow, but we'd arrived ahead of schedule and while afternoon was waning, it wasn't that late. We decided to just go ahead and try to hire a boat immediately. A local tour company owns a monopoly on all the certified boat tour guides and charge accordingly but with some communication savvy, rumor had it we'd be able to hire an unlicensed local for a much cheaper version of the same tour, provided of course we were willing to risk the 1/1000th chance of being stopped by a police boat and fined many thousand dong (1 dong = $.001) for bucking the system. Thanks to the sincere help of an old man by the dock we were successful in our endeavor. For $15, a family of fishers sent us out with their English-speaking elementary-aged son on a thrillingly rickety boat for three hours, weaving in and out of mangrove canals along the Northern Delta and making three underwhelming but charming stops. The first was a "coconut candy factory," actually a thatched hut with a lone bizarre taffy machine and supplies of the candy on hand. We didn't want to buy any but felt obliged out of courtesy. As Jeff wanted none, I was able to use the various little taffies of our candy supply as torpedoes to be thrown at and otherwise pester Jeff with over the next few days. Great fun.
The boy paused the tour at a thatched hut restaurant beside the mangroves, where dinner would be had. It was obviously overpriced - commission for the boy's family I'm guessing - but again we just didn't care anymore and took a liking to the owner.
The Thatched Hut Restaurant Menu (as best as I can remember it)
(all dishes meant to be split btwn 2 peeps)
* Elephant Eared Fish - 150,000 Dong
* Prawns - ##,000 Dong per kilo
* Cobra - 500,000 D
* Roast Monkey - 200,000D
* Squirrel - ###,000D
* Some other crazy thing
I really wanted to try squirrel, but the owner insisted elephant fish was his best dish. "Nooo, nooo, fish I think is bettAH." Considering the pricing and location of the restaurant beside a fishing area, we agreed and wow, that was some good fish and nicely rolled into raw spring rolls to. While ordering and eating, the following two things happened: Jeff mentioned the total amount of Dong in his wallet (500,000ish), and the owner asked "would you like to try some prawn?" I errored and didn't inquire about the price of "trying" before saying yes, and out came our accidental second entre of the night. Being the menu's cheapest item, and figuring we wouldn't be splurging on a delicious meal beside the Mekong ever again, we sucked it up. Until the bill came... The bill amounted to Jeff's total cash amount, minus the tip % Americans but no one else usually pay. He found out during the conversation that we were American, fyi. So, in other words, he inflated the bill to basically try and get *exactly* as much money out of us as he knew we had. If the discrepancy between what we saw on the menu and Jeff's wallet wasn't so great, we might've fallen for it, but this bill was almost three times the menu price. It was another endearing instance of "You're a crafty one, but how stupid do you really think we are?" After surprisingly little arguing, he reduced the tab to what it should've actually been.
Shortly thereafter our pleasant cruise around the Delta in a rickety fishing boat came to an end, and we spent the rest of the night wandering around town at random into the wee hours of the morning. By midnight, Jeff craved a pouch of milk (milk is sold in paper pouches here), which I found only to discover that Vietnamese milk is actually milk-flavored sugar water, and quite vile at that. He was greatly disappointed. We stopped by a pho stall for some noodle soup, splitting a bowl between us to save costs. The locals eating there all smiled and giggled at the cute crazy whiteys sharing the same soup bowl. Two knew enough English to make friendly chit-chat, resulting in possibly my favorite street food experience of the final three weeks. The rest of the walk took us through a midnight food market where a stray dog fight erupted, scaring the crap out of us but flinching nary a local. A fat old transvestite attempted to seduce us along the way but we rejected his offer.
---Vital Signs--- No food poisoning, no mosquitoes