When the Maih Lin mini-van pulled up in front or our hotel to shuttle us to the bus station, I knew we were gonna have trouble with our bags, especially my really big backpack that now contained rolled-up oil paintings from Saigon, some “Tintin in Vietnam” shirts and loads of souvenirs. I even had a plastic bag that had 2 drums and a flute! Thankfully, we had the back seat all to ourselves and the young French woman seated on front even offered her leg space for my smaller pack. The Vietnamese guy at the 2nd row also took Francis’ luggage. At the bus station, we transferred to the mini bus that looked more like a mini van. If I had known it would be that small and with no luggage compartment, I would have paid the extra $5 for another seat just for our bags. It was a little embarrassing stuffing our bags on the available empty space. Francis managed to put his big bag at the small luggage compartment at behind the backseat. The Vietnamese who helped us earlier in the shuttle motioned for me to put my backpack at the side. Thank god coz 3 hours with a heavy pack on my lap was definitely torture. The only non-Vietnamese were Francis and I and the French girl. I slept most of the way in spite of the zig-zag way our driver was driving. A lot of tourists have commented on the way Vietnamese drivers drive. But I didn’t feel it any more unusual or riskier than the way Manila bus drivers, especially the ones driving the ordinary buses, run the roads.
The Bus Station From Nowhere
When we pulled-up at the bus station, my worst fear had come. There was no taxi and we had to take a moto. I have avoided taking a moto anywhere in Vietnam, especially in Saigon. It’s just crazy how they drive and no way was I gonna be taking one and shrieking all the way. We were the only ones that seemed to have arrived. There were some parked mini vans, a string of stores, and some moto drivers. It was a ghost town almost. We headed to a row of stores to escape the burning sun. Lo and behold, some cyclos came swarming before us together with the motos. A woman from one of the stores asked us where we wanted to go and she talked to some cyclos and arranged the trip for us. The French girl was headed to a hotel chosen from Lonely Planet for having friendly people. We headed to Hai Chau which I booked through Hostelworld. We each had our own cyclos with our packs in front. In spite of the heat, it was fun riding 30 minute to the center of town.
hau Doc was a small town and so unlike Can Tho. There didn’t seem to be much tourists and the locals don’t really mind you. Our hotel was located at a street near a market beside the river. “You are a handsome man,” the receptionist, who was probably gay, told me when we checked-in. At the elevator, he asked me if I go to the gym. The twin room was spacious and had big beds, really nice interiors, and even had a veranda! A round table had a tea service set while the bathroom had a glassed-in shower stall. It was the best hotel we had ever stayed in.
Francis as always, slept while I had late lunch at Bay Bong. Lonely Planet was right on this one as having really good food and cheap prices. I had the most delicious spring rolls ever! It was unlike any I had ever tried as the wrapper seemed to have been made of vermicelli rather than the usual rice pancake. The fresh fish cooked in a clay pot with fish sauce was tasty and melt-in-your mouth. After the river cruise, dinner was at Bay Bong again where we had 2 servings of spring rolls, eel in soup, fried rice, and fish again. The place was packed and there was even a fine-looking elderly couple who got off a nice car for some dinner. Must have come from one of the swankier hotels like the Victoria Chau Doc. We strolled around town in search of che, the cold dessert made of fruits and other stuff, which we found at one of the stalls fronting the pagoda. There were hardly any people out on the streets. The French girl we met at the mini van came ambling along and got a bowl of beef pho. There we were seated at the tiny chairs and tables telling our travel stories while the night breeze and the che cooled us.