I wanted to go abroad, New Zealand to be exact, but Dung and her Mam said I should tour in Vietnam and then Dung would go with me. She didn’t want to go to New Zealand. The ladies won and perhaps I dodged a bullet, as I may have been in Christchurch when the earthquake hit. I was going to start there.
Anyway, we set off with the bag strapped to the back of the moto and got about 3 kilometres before we moved it to the front. A definite change for the better.
Our first destination was Vung Tau. A big seaside resort. Dung has Aunties there and so do I now. It is a bit of a hike on the moto, especially as we have to go through the suburbs of HCMC. Not a pleasant drive at anytime, but we plodded along nicely and worked our way around the city through the rush hour. Not good timing, but at least it was cooler than the afternoon would have been. We stopped to ask directions several times. Signposts in Vietnam are like the old rocking horse doodoo. We got around and across the big bridge and then it was plain motoring to the outskirts of Vung Tau. We stopped for Pho somewhere that I don’t remember and it was very nice too and an appreciated break. We plodded along through several towns, villages and bits of places. Night time driving in Vietnam is tiring, as the roads can’t be trusted, potholes appear on the best of them and if the lights coming the other way are a bit bright, then the potholes become invisible, sometimes.
We got to Ba Ria in good time and now we are not far away from Vung Tau. Ba Ria has benefited from the offshore oil and is a lively rich place. It has a dual high street with one way traffic on each stretch. They probably provide good cruising for the multitude of young ‘un’s in town, but we weren’t there long enough to verify this. Dung says the adolescents here don’t try to hard at school, but live off their rich parent’s money. How she knows I don’t know, but it looks that it could be likely. There’s not a lot of traditional Vietnam to be seen here.
The winds are getting very strong now and gusting, blowing the bike around a bit, but nothing too bad. We were quite a few kilometres out of Vung Tau and we hit a big, new, dual carriageway with a dedicated, protected lane for the motos, very nice, apart from the double manhole covers every couple of hundred metres. They aren’t there in the opposite direction, so 50/50 seems fair and it is easy driving and now worrying about the kamikaze bus and lorry drivers. The road went on for a good few kilometres and we hit a big roundabout in town that Dung recognised, but that was the end of the knowledge. We went on for a few hundred metres then decided we had no idea where we were going and phoned Auntie Long Nho. Back to the roundabout and wait for her daughter to come along with a motoman and show us the way in. Auntie Long Nho has a very small room in the very Vietnamese area of Vung Tau. Usually relatives all huddle into it and kip there, but they won’t do that with me. I think it makes them feel too awkward.
Long Nho cooks and sells hu tieu. We have made it here for 22.30 and she is still on the street with her stall selling. First though she shows Dung to a room for rent and we ditch the bags. It is less than plush, so we booked in only for the one night, but it is a bed and the old lady in charge is a good old stick. Back to Long Nho’s, a quick call into her house and back to the street stall, a couple of hundred metres away, for hu tieu and very tasty too. Long Nho gets up at 5 a.m and goes to the market, where she has another stall, buys her ingredients and starts cooking to sell from 6 a.m. to around about 11 a.m., then she packs up and goes home for a few hours, having the hu tieu ready to sell on the street, close to her house from about 5 p.m. to whenever she decides to call it a day, between 21.30 and midnight. Even when she calls it a day, she has the washing up to do and tidying away. She is ably assisted here by T, her 16 year old daughter, who plods along getting rid of the waste and rubbish, washing the dishes, chopsticks and cleaning the stall down. Long Nho assists by finishing off any food that is not sold, ably assisted today by Dung.
|Long Nho finishing of the goods.|
|T finished her washing up, ready to go.|
T is a very beautiful young lady and is at the di choi (having a good time) age, but has been put on a leash and now works here until finishing time and then starts school at 7 a.m. Not an easy life for a young lass and she has lots of admirers to make it even more painful. She is from the poor section of town which seems to embarrass her a bit, but she has plans to get out and to get her family into the richer end of town. Their room is simply that, about 4 metres by 4 metres at the end of a dark alley. There’s no kitchen, they cook on a gas stove under the stairs that go to the upstairs rooms and the toilet/shower is shared with some of the other rooms occupiers. Not an easy life, but Long Nho is probably the smiliest member of this side of the family. Being with her is fun and friendly and she cooks very good hu tieu. About 23.45, Long Nho is almost set to go home and we are getting weary, so we head off and leave her and T to finish off.
Day 2 in Vung Tau. Up showered, packed and dropped off the bags at Long Nho’s. Her 4 year old son, Boi, is still fast asleep when Dung dropped the bags off. He stays there until he wakes and if he is hungry will head off to the market to his Mam and Dad to get fed, which is where we headed. Vung Tau, being a seaside resort, has good fish stalls on its market and the market in general is a good one. Long Nho and Bup, her husband, have their stall in the middle of the market. She seems very popular and everybody knows her. The appearance of an Englishman sitting and chatting whilst eating somemore hu tieu and some huge king prawns pulls in the friends from around her for some questioning. The hu tieu was good again. Bup has bought some fish to take home to cook lunch for us. It looks like a huge mackerel and tastes like tuna. He is a good cook too, the fish is delicious, cooked under the stairs. He likes a bit of ruou with his food, but I left him to it, we were off to do some sightseeing, after finding a hotel. We cruised out of the Vietnamese area and closer to the seaside resort area and dropped luckily on a good hotel, at £7 only £1.50 more expensive than last night and at least 3 times as good. We booked in and hit the prom. There are 2 main beach areas in Vung Tau. This end has some big, new hotels and some more being built. Posh on the hotel side of the road and very Blackpool like on the beach side with thousands of deckchairs and shades for rent, drinks to be bought and tat also, hanging around the stalls, good seaside tat though, although I never saw any KISS ME QUICK hats, but there was the Vietnamese equivalent, a tatty straw hat and very beautiful Dung looks in it too. We’ve done some cruising and had a drink on the beach and now it is getting hot, which brings out Dung’s bad temper, so it is back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.
Vung Tau is a big Vietnamese holiday spot, buses pile in during the day and go home in the evenings and there are the stay over people too. It is a very rich town, again the oil has boosted it along with the tourism. Big, posh cars abound, big posh houses too and the dressed up posh mix with the everyday people. In fact we went to a seafood place for dinner and there was a film star at the next table, so Dung tells me. He is the Indiana Jones of Vietnam, so Dung tells me. There is a posh lady with him, at least she dresses that way and a bloke who talks big, so Dung tells me and some other lads, but the one who gets all the looks is the lady in the £2.50p suit, Dung. She looks stunning and turns all the heads when she comes in. The food is very nice, just what the doctor ordered. Lots of squid in different cooked forms and some pork and a couple of beers too. The boy is chilled by the beach. We cruised a little bit more. This is the other beach area, bai truoc, front beach and here the young ‘un’s do big time cruising around and around the prom dual carriageway. There are a few likely lads drag racing on their 2 wheeler sewing machines, but generally the prom has a good, relaxed, holiday feel, with a racey edge to it.
After a bit of people watching, it is time to hit the sack. Day 3 on the road tomorrow, but going nowhere far.