River Food

River Vendor Making a Barbecue SandwichSo I like to try foods from the street vendors, “street food,” but haven’t had anything from a river vendor. That changed today.

John and I took a boat tour of one of Can Tho’s floating markets. We had sweet hot coffee from a floating beverage vendor. Very similar to what we had at the shop next to our hotel.

Later on during the tour we crossed paths with a woman selling sandwiches from her boat. By the way, there’s plenty of good bread, baguettes, etc. to be had in Vietnam, which I found pretty surprising.

She had some mystery meat on skewers in a bowl. I asked what it was, “barbecue” she said. Hmm. Well, the baguettes looked great so I bought a sandwich and hoped for the best. She garnished it with shredded carrots, basil, chili sauce and another vegetable I didn’t recognize.

I never did recognize the meat, but am guessing it was pork. The sandwich was delicious and cost lest than a buck (20,000 VD). It was obvious from her expression and disposition that she’d deeply gouged me and was happy about it. The kickback to our boat operator wasn’t hidden. Makes me wonder how much these people live on when a dollar has room for a kickback.

Barbecue Sandwich

The basil was a nice addition.

Traffic

The traffic in Saigon is pretty nuts. As I mentioned in an earlier post many motorbike riders will drive up onto the sidewalk for a bit and then back into the street in an effort to get around a slow driver or other obstacle.

At uncontrolled intersections (and you’d be surprised at home many seemingly big intersections are uncontrolled) the traffic simply interweaves in all directions. If you want to cross the street at one of these intersections do so slowly, but deliberately, while watching the traffic. Riders and drivers will go around you. Don’t try to avoid them, let them avoid you. It seems crazy, but it works.

Coffee

Coffee Shop
The Vietnamese drink a lot of coffee. It’s a not too widely known fact that Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee behind Brazil and many think is poised to take the number one spot. So there’s a lot of coffee here.

This morning, John and I stopped by the small shop next to our hotel for a quick coffee. The proprietor spoke no English, but managed to communicate black coffee and coffee with milk. Mine was with milk, John’s black.

His came in a small cup, like espresso, mine was in a small juice glass, in a hot water bath. The coffee is very strong and sweet and the milk is sweet and condensed. 15,000 VD for the two cups, so about $0.70. Good deal.

Coffee

Dense

Halo Hotel, SaigonSaigon is dense. How dense? I was across the street from my hotel, literally across the street, and I could not find it. Had my phone out and it was telling me I was right where it was, but I still couldn’t see it. Steil had to come out and show it to me. Yes I was operating on four hours of sleep after 28 hours of no sleep, so I was cloudy, but still!

If you see the vertical sign towards the middle of the photograph above, left side of the street, saying “HALO HOTEL” you’ve found my hotel.

Storefronts are narrow, maybe 15 feet or so wide. The sidewalks are packed with motor scooters and bicycles and people selling their wares from baskets and carts. You frequently have to step into the roadway as you walk down a street because there simply isn’t space on the sidewalk. In fact, when there is room on the sidewalk, expect to make way for motorcyclists who have jumped the curb to avoid an obstacle in the road (especially during rush hour).

It’s a bit disconcerting to hear people honking behind you as you walk down the sidewalk wanting you to step aside so they can drive past.

Tao Dan Park Birds

I went to bed at about 1:30 am after arriving in Saigon. I woke up four hours later and at about 6 am decided I wasn’t going to fall back asleep so I headed over to Tao Dan Park to see the birds. I’d read local bird owners bring their pets to the park for fresh air. Kind of interesting.

In Can Tho

It’s Sunday and I’m in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The flight to Saigon was hellish. In retrospect, booking a seven hour flight two hours after a 13 and a half hour flight was not a brilliant idea. My butt, four days later, is still sore! I thought it would be my back, but it’s my butt. I’m old.

I arrived in Saigon about 11:20 pm. Went through customs easily. Bought 3,000,000 dong (about $150, BTW, I love the unfortunately named Vietnamese Dong, it makes for endless adolescent jokes at Herr. Steil’s expense) from an ATM and walked out of the terminal where there were probably a couple thousand people waiting to greet arriving passengers. Very strange. Four thousand eyes on me as I exited the terminal. I felt like a star. (I thought maybe there was something going on, but now I think this is just the norm.)

That’s probably the defining characteristic, in my mind, of Saigon. There are masses of people everywhere. That was certainly true of India as well, but Vietnam feels altogether different. Much more affluent. Vietnam is not a rich country, but it also doesn’t feel like a poor country. Very few beggars. In India it seemed we were constantly harassed by beggars. Here you’re much more likely to be harassed by vendors, though it isn’t oppressive. They give up fairly easily if you politely decline.

This morning we went to the floating market. Tomorrow to Ha Tien.

Buying my Tortuga carry-on backpack is proving to have been a great idea. I love skipping the whole checked bag thing and its size forces you to focus on what’s important and jettison the rest. Despite its carry-on size, it fits a ton. I love it.

Well

I hate it when writers use “well” conversationally in their writing. What could possibly be more, well, contrived? Does that not sound completely and utterly unnatural?

They are pretending to stop mid thought to consider their words and then proceeding when having found the right word. But they don’t have to tell us that. They’re writing and we’re presented with the final product. We’re not there with them while they’re composing.

So why put this “well” in? To sound folksy? Conversational? Or, well, just stupid?