Oi Goi Oi!

Again my eyes open early though I can’t capture a sunrise on my lens due to the fact that the hotel is in a very busy area of Ho Chi Minh City.  Not much of a sky to see here.

After our morning ritual of coffee, breakfast and climbing on the bus we are all set for our day-long trip to Chau Doc via Cantho.

A few hours in, most on the bus need either a coffee or a bathroom  break so we stop at the Vietnamese version of a Starbucks.   Much more relaxed atmosphere than the chain, with much better coffee!  They use this aluminum coffee filter and place it on top of a glass, one-third filled with condensed milk.  They pour hot water on the filter of ground coffee beans and when the condensed milk and freshly brewed coffee meet, the result is heaven to the taste buds! Don’t know how these people remain thin!     

There are hammocks all over and when you order your coffee they will bring it to your selected hammock.  We congregate around some low, small tables so we can chat.  Again, Vietnam unexpectedly is providing me a flood of memories of my childhood and my country.   Hammocks are a standard in Paraguay.  Rarely will you see a back yard that doesn’t have one.  The shade from the trees they are usually tied to, providing a perfect setting for a siesta and shelter from the brutal sun, while the hypnotic side-to-side swing helps keep the flies away and you sound asleep.  But no time to sleep now.  I do not waste the chance to go back in time and space and lie on one, nonetheless.  I recall, while I do so, that it takes a bit of balance to climb on!  

After a few more hours (observing daily life alongside my window)  

and a stop at a lotus plantation

we arrive to Cantho   and it’s time for lunch near the river.   

Lunch of vegetable soup,  steamed shrimp with mango sauce,

stuffed pumpkin flower   and crispy pork with mushroom sauce, is divine.  Heavenly coffee, divine lunch… there’s an out of this world theme in this post. 🙂

There is a market on the side and I buy yet another scarf and t-shirt.   Our guide has taught me to say “Oh my god!” in Vietnamese and when I exclaim:  “Oi gioi oi!” when a vendor quotes me the price, I get a look of total surprise and the most charming  of giggles  as she calls the other vendors and has me repeat it.  This was me just before I said it.  They are having a ball.  Didn’t get me much of a discount but it did make for fabulous interaction.

A short distance from there we climb on scooters for another of what my tour company calls UFE’s (Unforgettable Experiences).  Scooters and drivers wait for us to take us to a bird sanctuary at the other end of the town, Banglang.    Didn’t spot many birds.

They leave us and we walk through town.  My “inside quietness” surfaces as I photograph their faces, their houses, their town.   

Back to bus.   Karaoke or Internet anyone?  

Long Xuyen is our next stop where we visit the Cao Dai Temple.  Not a promising start…  

Then a surprisingly pretty building…  

Then puzzlement when I see the monument in front with a reverse swastika embedded. Turns out that the reverse swastika, which happens to have a Buddhist influence, is sacred to many Vietnamese.  The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness.

Cao Dai is a religion that aims “to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers form a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”  May get my vote on that premise.   I am mesmerized by its colors and by its principles.  About 2 million people practice it in Vietnam.  Persecuted by the communist rule, it gained in the ’80’s its acceptance.

Back on the bus.  Am really liking crossing the countryside.  We are taking this route so as to be near the Cambodian border.  Tomorrow we are cruising from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Pnom Penh, Cambodia on the Mekong River.

On the way we view a bit more of daily life.  School is out and some girls are in the traditional ào dái dress, used as uniforms in the school. They are heading towards the local ferry which will take them home.  A lot of life takes place on the river; they are so dependent on it.  

We arrive to the Dong Nam Hotel in Chau Doc.  I take a shower and again get on the bus to go to dinner at a local family’s house.  It’s actually a bakery by day and at night she hosts small dinners for tourists.  I try taro and rice soup –purple in color with what to me was a pretty strange taste.   Egg noodle with seafood –great.  Stir-fried morning glory (a plant not the same as the one in the US which is not edible) –delicious!   Catfish cooked in a clay pot –good.

When we arrive it was pouring. First downpour in almost 20 days of travel. It reminded me so much of the storms that hit Asunción and used to scare my mom so much. Ay Vietnam, what are you doing to me?  You have generated so many memories!

The rain brings in a visitor that was not invited to the table.    Mom did not like them; I liked them less.  She got accustomed to them; my aversion got stronger.

Back to the hotel.  The rain is steady and strong and turns into the prequel of dreams of times long gone.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cantho, Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Long Xuyen, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Oi Goi Oi!

  1. Dean

    I love the shot of you in the hammock. You look so happy 🙂

  2. Mark

    Lidia, I have enjoyed reading all of your journal entries, but this may be my favorite. Such lovely photos! And no one gets sick.

    • 🙂 It’s actually one of my favorites too. Am I allowed to say that? So happy that you have been reading. Thank you!

  3. Frances Yniguez Miranda

    Loved the photo of the Lotus Touched but not soiled, like a virtues women. Aww and the photos of people and everyday life, those are the best. Thank you for sharing and God Bless

    • The photos of faces, specially when they are not aware of my camera, are the ones that I treasure most. Some, where they directly look at me are also of note. Basically I love the feelings they reveal without words. Thank you for reading Frances.

  4. The purple soup has me curious. What did it taste like?

    • Taro is a root. It soaks up most flavors and I hear it’s not really all that flavorful on its own (and toxic raw, by the way). Don’t know what else was in the soup but it tasted “perfumey” to me. Just strange. Some of the group loved it. I left most of mine untouched. It was the consistency of a potato soup.
      I had taro chips and that I liked… soup, naaahhh!

  5. Mary Mora Cordova

    Thank you so much for your thoughts Lidia, my friend. I don’t know how you found time to comment:) I love the pink uniforms of the girls, so pretty. I love the way you get to sense memory so many moments during your travels. It reminds me of the book, The Alchemist, in a way. Because he found along his journeys that he was just where he needed to be, among other insightful moments. Love seeing your gleeful smile at the marketplace. Take care sweetie, and enjoy, enjoy and have fun!

  6. Hello sweet Mary! The ao dai’s are white. It makes them all look so innocent and beautiful. Of course, most all the girls are about 80 lbs. so they wear the ao dai so well.
    The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. Paulo Coelho one of my fave authors so I love that you mention it.
    A disclaimer now: I am back in LA though still trying to adjust physically and mentally to the enormous hour difference. Because I had Internet issues in most places (and sometimes sheer exhaustion caught up with me) I did not post every day. I did, however, write my impressions out so now I am continuing in a way, thanks to this blog, on my journey. Stay with me… there is a lot more to experience!

  7. You do look so happy in the hammock! I’ll bet you’re a lot of fun to travel with! I also like “The Alchemist”! 🙂

  8. Ahh, the power of the Internet…To be halfway around the world and still be able to enjoy sites of Vietnam is truly amazing. Beautiful photos–that temple is breathtaking. I love the use of so much color. Who says worship must occur in drab surroundings?

  9. Ahh, Vietnamese coffee, god does it pack a punch with all that sugar!!! Loved it but I think my waistline doesn’t miss it. 😉 Gorgeous photos Lidia, especially of the kids. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  10. Oh my…where do I start. I loved so much about this, but especially that you are finding so many parallels with Paraguay. That is something!

    The large photo of the little boy lambasted me! What soft, loving eyes. And the little girls in school uniforms? I suppose they don’t like them, but they are gorgeous.

    Thanks for all the photos and the bits of info that teach me – eg.yet another spiritual path I didn’t know about.

    Gorgeous, Lidi – and you handled that hammock as though you’d never been away!

  11. Beautiful people. Thanx for sharing

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