I woke up and still had a sore throat and cough. I decided to take some medicine that day and either I was naturally getting better, or it worked. Shew! We had both slept better. I decided I would wait and take a shower at the hotel, because I did not feel like wrestling again with the handheld shower. Spray to the face is not a fun way to wake up.
We only had time for breakfast and then said our goodbyes to the boat staff. They all had big smiles for us and it was a bit bittersweet. There was something really special about boating through the canals, waving to workers and locals. I will never forget the smiling, friendly people there. The “hellos” that first night just made the whole Mekong Delta part of the trip extra special, and is something I won’t ever forget. The “fuck you” took a little bit away from it, but ya know…teenagers. Jerks.
Anyway, one of the main reasons that visitors go to the Mekong Delta is to see the floating market. A lot of people just do a day trip from Saigon to see it. I’m glad we didn’t decide to do it that way and that we got to go beyond the touristy area and really into the heart of the delta. The market wasn’t really what I expected after seeing the floating market (which was also definitely touristy) in Thailand. I thought this market was supposed to be more local, but the vast majority of the boats ‘shopping’ were tourists.
It’s interesting because while there were a number of boats, it really didn’t seem like there were that many things beings sold. It was also all food, which I didn’t expect. It’s in a wide area of the Mekong Delta, so that is very different from the smaller canal ‘blocks’ that the Thailand market had. And the Thai market had much more sold, in addition to food. I’m shocked to say I preferred the Thai market, even though it wasn’t really authentic. The food there was amazing, and it was just more fun. Now having said all that, all markets are interesting. It’s something totally different than what we find at home and it’s an experience. We are all about the experiences!
OK, back to the market. We had a private, small boat, driven by an old man who was spitting and blowing his nose in the river. You know, like some athletes do: holding one nostril and blow forcefully. But he wasn’t blowing to the ground, it was in the delta. Totes gross. He was also coughing a lot. He had a big smile, though! Hahaha. Anyway, after about a 10 or 15 minute ride we were at the market. Check out this video to get an idea of what it looked like.
We went to one end, then turned around. We saw an example of why you shouldn’t swim in the Mekong Delta. This boat was emptying all their food garbage directly into the water. Eek. Here’s a video. Apparently our boat captain knew her as they waved at each other before she made the Delta salad.
After seeing that, I lost my appetite a bit. Not that I was hungry to begin with, but the only thing that looked interested was the fresh pineapple and we had just had it for breakfast. Q was surprised we didn’t want more pineapple; I guess it’s a tourist crowd pleaser. I was thinking of my hairdresser’s advice and requested a coconut instead. Our boat captain immediately started scanning the area for the coconut, yelling out to people asking if they knew where the boat with the coconuts was. Or at least that’s what I thought he was yelling. Maybe he was asking for a kleenex. Just kidding 😉
Eventually the coconut boat came to us. We were asked which coconuts we wanted. I had no idea there would be a choice. Of course we chose the ‘special’ ones (i.e. ‘expensive’). Here is a video of them cutting our fancy coconuts for us. Note the bravado at the end when he’s handing the coconut to Sal. I mean, we probably got ripped off. But who cares? It was delicious.
And that was the end of the famous floating market. A little anti-climatic, and I wouldn’t do it again, but as I said above, it was an experience.
The captain drove us back to a pier in the town and we got out and went to a local market to do a little shopping. Q got a lesson in how the prices for things for locals are very different than those for Westerners. He asked a man, in Vietnamese, how much the shirts were and he said 1 for a certain amount (I don’t remember). He turned around and immediately told us the price and had a strange look on his face. I asked him why he was looking that way, and he said that he had heard the local customer before him get 3 for that same price. Westerners get inflated prices all the time. It just is what it is. I sort of laughed because I was used to it by that point, and I went to someone else for a shirt so the man at that stall lost a sale. I tried bargaining with some other stalls, but apparently I wasn’t good at it because most of them didn’t really bargain all that much. Ha! I decided I would do the majority of my shopping in Saigon. I did bargain with one woman at a stall and boy was she was relentless. She was funny, though, because she kept saying, “Good Morning, Vietnam!”. I would bet money that she spoke English well and that was part of her schtick. Hey, it worked! I bought stuff from her. I think you just get to the point where you’re tired of haggling over a dollar or less.
The guys used the bathroom at the market, but I decided I could hold it until the rest stop. Before we knew it we were again with our same driver and on the way back to Saigon. The plan was we’d get a snack at the rest stop, which was about an hour or so from where we were in the Delta. I listened to a podcast, riding along and thinking how somehow I had managed, in Vietnam, to avoid a squatty potty the whole trip. That was pretty amazing, because they have a lot of them around and we had been to some very rural places! I was congratulating myself mentally, like an idiot, because I was also jinxing myself. All I could think about then was the bathroom. About 45 minutes later I asked how much further it was, as I was regretting not having used the facilities at the market when I had a chance. He told me it was 20 minutes. OK, I thought I could handle 20 minutes. After 30 minutes we still weren’t there and I asked how much longer. Basically I was that kind in the car on a family vacation. He said he wasn’t sure and that it could be up to 20 more based on traffic. TMI alert: Ladies, you know what I’m talking about when you have held it for so long and it’s just painful? I was hurting. I had three choices: 1) explode, 2) pee myself yelling, “let’s hear it for American tourists!”, 3) ask them to stop immediately somewhere for me to use what was more than likely going to be a squatty. Good Lord, I chose 3.
We stopped at what I think was a gas station pretty quickly after I told Q I couldn’t wait for the rest stop. Q pointed that there was an outbuilding in back to do your business. I had Sal come with me because I didn’t see where I was supposed to go, and frankly I was frantic at that point. Then Sal showed me where Q was pointing and yes, it was the dreaded squatty. It was a tiny little building that was like a shed and there was a group of men sitting outside, not far it, that I had to walk past. It’s weird when you know people are probably listening to you pee or worse. These were tin walls. This was a ‘room’ that was probably about the size of a bathtub. Obviously there wasn’t a sink. I tried to remember what I learned when I read the Wiki page re: how to use a squat toilet, but I’m old and can barely remember what I had for dinner the night before. Using one hand to steady myself by gently holding some wire that was about waist high, I balanced over the toilet and did my business. I was shakey, yes, but I did it! Huzzah! When I was done, the next challenge was trying to figure out how to get my kleenex out of my bag because one hand was holding the wire and the other was holding my pants out of the way. I managed to figure it out. I’m not that much of a doofus. I pulled my pants up, pulled back the bolt, and walked out of shed feeling relieved and proud of myself, but also slightly traumatized. OK, maybe I am that much of a doofus.
If there is one takeaway I want anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog (that is planning their first trip to Asia) have it is this: take Purell and Kleenex. This cannot be stressed enough. I feel like I should write a thank you letter to Purell, as I am confident it is thanks to them we didn’t get significantly sick in Asia and especially Vietnam. Foreshadowing!
We got back to the car, and not 5 minutes later we were at the rest stop. I wish I was joking about that, but I’m not. Q explained he wasn’t sure how long it would be in traffic and blah blah blah he didn’t want to lie blah blah. I was grumpy. I could have avoided that whole fiasco if I had just held out 5 more minutes. We got out of the car to stretch our legs and I immediately went to the western bathrooms and peed again, trying to erase the image of myself wobble-peeing in a shed not 10 minutes earlier. I actually prefer peeing behind a termite hill in Africa. I promised my bladder that it was only the good toilets from here on out for her. Thankfully that statement is NOT foreshadowing, because that was my one and only experience with a squatty potty. Hilarious that it was after I was thinking I had managed to avoid it the whole trip. Definitely jinxed myself.
Eventually we were on the road again and before we knew it we were back at our hotel. We said our goodbyes to Q and checked back into the hotel. They had stored our luggage there as we didn’t want to lug everything to the delta. We got our new room and rested for a bit, then headed to the rooftop bar for a beer with a view.
That night we went to the closest thing that Saigon had to beer hoi near our hotel. We ordered food and had our beers with the ice in them again. This place was different, though, because once the ice started to melt they’d take it out of your glass and put it in this bucket which had other chunks of ice. They’d then get out a bigger chunk of ice and put that one in your beer. We started thinking about the germs from the shared ice bucket, but it was too late by that point. In for a penny in for a pound! We ended up being fine and it was good people watching.
Back to the hotel and to bed. It was a good, quiet sleep.