Bill and I were anxious to leave Saigon – the hustle and bustle of the concrete city,
How fortunate for us to find Thanh, a 50 year old (in Vietnam you are considered to be 1 year old when you are born) taxi driver – driving a taxi now for 30 years – staring out as a cyclo driver, then moto taxi driver.
Thanh’s 14 year old son joined us. Sweet, polite, stocky and lazy. He ate, slept and played video games.
Our car is a 6 year old Toyota similar in size to a SUV. New tires, genuine naugahide leather seats, plastic covered ceiling and very clean. Thanh’s livelihood depends on his vehicle and it shows.
There is so much to see on the road that time passes quickly. It took a small incident for us to get acclimated to the zen of being a passenger – once again. Driving in the fast lane slow as a tortoise here comes a bus kissing our bumper blasting their horn. Thanh keeps crawling along – I look for his eyes in the rear view mirror to make sure he is getting a grasp of the situation – I look at Bill for reassurance – look back at Thanh. “Thanh, hello, this bus is honking at you.” and the lesson ensued… “I berry goood driver, I no get ticket, bus ryver is rong, camera watching.” Cars and busses drive in fast lane, passing in middle lane, motos in slow lane. Sure enough the bus gave up and went around us in the middle lane and at the next toll plaza many cars were pulled over and the police giving out tickets – busted by the cameras! Now we just zen out and enjoy the scenery.
We chose to go to My Tho and Can Tho to see the Mekong Delta. Water is everywhere – rivers to canals to rice fields as far as the eye can see. Fruit trees growing like weeds. The flooding must be horrendous in the monsoons.
We taxied the waterways – muddy brown like cafe con leche. The water makes the scorching day seem just a little more bearable. Marveling at how the water is all encompassing – we can’t drink it in fast enough. Bill and I both nudging each other to “look”. Huge barges carrying sand weighed down to almost sinking, fishing boats, taxi boats, market boats, corrugated homes leaning over the waterways ready to crumble over. People in constant motion; buying, selling, fishing, bathing. Exhilarating for us, common place for them.
We are told that 100% of their lives are spent on the water; working, sleeping, eating, bathing.
Thanh has us board the roof a boat full of pineapples. The sales lady jumps to readiness – gets out her hatchet and skillfully cuts us fresh pineapple. The juice is drips down our chins.
We don’t want to leave – we feel almost cheated by being a tourist.
However, tourists we are – appreciative of our bed, bathroom and air conditioning.
Superficial similarities give way to real differences in design and accessories of the Khmer, Chinese/Confucian and Vietnamese Buddhist temples. Most are ancient but some have been restored by Buddhist congregations from foreign countries. The typical relics are all of antique quality and the larger “life” Chinese warriors are fierce. The incense smoke could be cut with a warriors sword.