In this 6th part of the series of her soon to publish book, Sashi Sherpa shares her experiences during her stay in Vietnam from the café to Mekong-Delta- Tour to Vinh Trang Pagoda. Read this story to find out more.
Later that night, we went out to explore the city and ended up in a small, adorable café called Broma where a handsome old man- probably in his sixties was belting out popular classic rock songs- dressed in blue denim and lose white tee with a big picture of the Aerosmith. We sat there for a good amount of time and drank wine overlooking the popular square beneath us, NguyễnHuệ walking street, which was majorly filled with local youngsters, couples, teens playing their roller skates, surrounded by colourful cafes, restaurants, pubs. The place was perfect to hangout and to let your hair down, especially after a giddy historical tour. I think we stayed there until we could get the vibes from the manager there that it was time to shut the bar.
Next day, we were all set for the most awaited tour – Mekong Delta Tour – the one that takes you cruising on the mighty Mekong river delta on a long-tailed boat, rowed by the locals wearing that legendary and popular conical palm leaves hat. Our trip started with us getting picked up first from the hotel in a 15-seater van and after a few stops, some more tourists got added. Our guide today was a woman, tiny and energetic but it was kind of difficult to understand her accent at times.
Our bus stopped at one last pick up point before we started heading towards the tour of the day. The last set of tourists was a group of chatty older men and women, probably in their early or mid-sixties and from their heavy accent, we assumed they were from United Kingdom.
Our guide in her incomprehensible accent requested them as they climbed into our bus, “Wachhhyou haattt, please.”
One lady from the group with short wavy hair, sounding confused asked the guide, “My hat? I don’t have a hat!”
“Head,” the guide repeated, gesturing towards her head.
“She means my head,” she turned towards her friend in the back and joked with her peers.
I found that kind of rude but I did not want to judge her so soon. Within minutes, our bus was racing on the highway. Our driver seemed to have come straight from the set of Fast and Furious and was not letting anyone win the race on the road.
At one point, there was another bus asking for passage, our driver did not budge and when the other driver managed to pull his bus, neck to neck with us, started hurling some angry abuses at our driver in their local language.
Looking at the way that driver’s face was getting contorted and his fast-moving hand gestures, I could figure out that he was deeply upset. In a true don style- our driver who barely stood a little over five feet and must have walked this earth for at least 60 years, wearing dark shades, gave the other driver one glance- raised his short, round and fat index finger to his lip gesturing the other guy to shut up and before he got to react our driver slammed his feet on one of the paddles and off we went in super speed.
“Omg…why are tiny people always the one with so much of attitude?” I said and we all laughed.
Our first stop was at Vinh Trang Pagoda that housed two large statues of Buddha – one sleeping peacefully and the other one laughing. This temple has beautiful garden to walk and move around. Visit to any religious place always brings so much of peace and calm. This was definitely a 360-degree different for us who had just rode in a bus whose driver would have put even Vin Diesel to shame, if he was to race with him.
The temple already had a few tourists inside. As we sat at the entry for them to come out first so as to not crowd too much inside, as per our guide’s instruction, one by one, tourists who were inside started coming out and that included a bunch of young white men and women.
Looking at every man coming out with super fit body and almost everyone probably had abs beneath the tees they were wearing, my colleague, Ashish, almost feeling inferior but finding a way to criticize said, “I swear when I will travel next, I will ensure that I have a sexy body like them. Look at them, they are wearing such a cheap slipper but only because of their super fit physique, they are looking so good.”
Saraniya and I looked at each other and broke into a hysterical laugher – Ashish being Ashish could not appreciate people without finding faults in them. He angrily looked at us as we made way inside towards the table, while me and Saraniya tried hard to subdue our laughter.
Finally, the main highlight of the tour was about to start. We were all shifted in that big boat that sailed on the muddy Mekong delta river and were transported to a small island where we stopped for sumptuous lunch. For non-vegetarian, it’s heaven!! But for my colleague like Ashish, who is a hardcore vegetarian, it’s challenging. He looked at the table and I could see sadness spreading over his face. I pushed sautéed spinach and boiled rice towards him- he still looked unhappy.
I totally get his feelings- absolutely pampered and the only son whose mom cooks amazing food that is laden with desi ghee (butter) and spices- the things placed on the table was a torture for him. While my other colleague who is a die-hard meat lover like me, it was heaven as we dug into our plates filled with chicken and fish and ate greedily.
“Brother, I feel bad for you,” I said with my mouth still crushing the tiny bones of the succulent chicken piece.
“The way you guys are chewing those chicken pieces and not even throwing out the bones, I doubt you guys are feeling bad for me,” he said sarcastically.
“Bro, look at the hot girl sitting next to you. You won’t feel hungry anymore…hehehe,” Saraniya replied to him and laughed.
We were referring to a pretty French girl in our group. Saraniya and me had purposely kept the seat next to her empty so that Ashish could sit.
“She is eating more than you guys and everything she can lay her eyes on,” he said exasperated as that French girl scooped up a big portion from the whole steamed fish that was kept on the centre of the table; it was held from both the sides by tiny sticks of bamboo like it was still floating.
Of course, for someone like him, this had to be then scariest scene ever!
He toyed around with rice and spinach on his plate for some time and I think he took a few bites and left the table saying that he will wait for us outside. We took our own time of tasting and eating everything that was there before our eyes.
We then went on cruising the winding canal of Mekong Delta, on a long-tail boat, rowed by a sturdy strong local woman. She used oars like it was some light stick and sped past some of the other similar boats. Tourists were playful in the other boats as well, as they decided to overtake us and we cheered for our boat woman to row faster. It was fun and it was beautiful beyond word cruising on that canal shaded by jungle on both sides.
I skipped the part where we were also taken to the coconut plantation where they showed how they rip off the hard-shell of it; how they collect the milk which they used eventually to make various kinds of sweets. Well, being from India, this was not something extraordinary for us to talk about, isn’t it?
That night, we stumbled across the party heaven called the Bui Vien walking street. It is one of the craziest partying places- the place was thronged with tourists as well as locals. Honestly, after Ibiza in Spain and Mykonos in Greece, this was the third happening night street I had witnessed. We ordered a beer tower that was as tall as the table and don’t ask me how much we danced and how we danced.
Ashish is not just a vegetarian, he doesn’t drink as well- he was our unpaid bodyguard and the video, he had captured of us, he showed us the next day when we woke up with throbbing headache- I did not know that I even knew such moves – it was neither Bollywood style, nor Western: I saw Saraniya rotating her head and hair in a circular motion trying to match the beat of the music- honestly, it was nowhere close to the kind of music that was being played. And me on the other hand, I was doing standing snake dance- that was the only thing I could think of; along with the beat of music I would be raising my hands and also make ‘ow’ sound at the same tie, and would bring down my hand in wavy, snake like motion trying also to make my stiff body as wavy as possible.
I cringed at the video. “Please delete it,” we begged together.
“No way…you guys did not spare my ‘dolly’ video…I am going to make this one viral now. It’s my turn. Thank you, God!!!” saying this, before we could catch him, he dashed out of the room.
In precisely one second, we heard the pinging sound of our respective iPhones. God!!!!!! Our video was sent on our office group with dancing and laughing icon in the caption.
Honestly, what happens in Ho Chi Minh was never going to stay here.
We waited at the boarding gate of VietJet airline that would fly us to Hanoi in two hours. We were excited about what Hanoi had in store for us.
“Saraniya, I hope you have your luggage with you,” as always, Ashish who cannot spend an iota of time or opportunity, teased her.
He was referring to the incident where she had actually forgotten her one and only luggage at Saigon airport while we were waiting for the immigration to give us visa-on-arrival.We had to run helter-skelter, searching for her luggage which we eventually found next to the area where we had submitted our medical declaration form. Thankfully, we had remembered before we had exited the airport.
The always smiling Saraniya darling’s cute face had lost all the colour when she realized the blunder and for a minute, all of us were silent, not knowing how to react. But once the luggage was discovered, Ashish went on full rampage on pulling her legs.
“I want to know how did you manage to forget that one suitcase of yours? I hope you won’t get lost yourself,” he would laugh saying this, almost choking on his own laughter.
“Don’t be over smart. It happens with people,” Saraniya would retaliate.
“It doesn’t happen with anyone, dumbo, you are a special case.”
“Sashi, see, what he is saying. Help me to beat this guy,” she would call me out.
Thankfully, the announcement was made just at the right time about the boarding being started. So, I did not have to play the referee as both of them got busy with picking their stuff.
Also read: Welcome to Ho Chi Minh V
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Sashi hails from Sikkim. She is now working as a professional with a travel and hospitality business organisation as its General Manager. She revels in writing as a passion. Her novel on social life is being readied