Mark came to visit me during the Tet holiday. It was a very strange experience for us both!
I left school early on the 14th of Feb, bused to HCMC, and then jumped on a xe om to the airport to pick him up. There was some confusion when he arrived, as he snuck out one of the doors that I wasn’t watching. Luckily, a nice man lent Mark his phone, so we got everything sorted out quickly. We then jumped in a taxi, got overcharged (to be expected, since I was so happy to see Mark that I wasn’t paying close enough attention), and then checked into our hotel.
We relaxed for a while, Mark was exhausted from the flight, before heading out so he could see the city. We had fun shopping at the night market, before heading back to our hotel to crash out. The heat was a bit of a shock for poor Mark!
On Sunday, we headed to Ben Xe Mein Tay to catch a bus home. I hadn’t realised quite how busy the buses out of the city would be at this time of year, but we were able to get on the 7.15pm bus that evening. Back to the city for us!!! On the plus side, we found a fantastic Indian restaurant (http://www.babaskitchen.in/) which made me extremely happy! Indian food is definitely close to the top of my list of foods that I miss… We arrived back at Mein Tay at 6.30pm, to discover that half of Vietnam was also travelling. It was chaos. There were buses that had been delayed for three or four hours, and no one really had any idea what was going on. Thankfully, a lovely Phuong Trang employee managed to squeeze us onto an earlier bus that was going to Chau Doc (oh the benefits of being a Westerner in Vietnam), so Mark experienced his first sleeper bus. He was duly impressed, and as we weren’t due to arrive back in LX until about 1am, it was appreciated. I felt sorry for the poor security guard at school who had to wake up and let us in…
The next day, we slept in and relaxed. It had been a pretty stressful and exhausting few days! I showed Mark around town, we stopped in for some supplies at the supermarket, and he got his first glimpse of my life when a guy asked to take my photo…
Tuesday saw us up early for our trip out to Tra Su Forest (http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g311303-d814880-Reviews-Tra_Su_Bird_Sanctuary-Chau_Doc_An_Giang_Province.html). This is a lovely spot, with so many birds and plants to see! It was my second visit, but I love it there.
The 18th of February was Lunar New Year’s Eve. We went into town with my friend Violet to watch some singing, dancing, and dragon dancing displays. Mark bought me a Pikachu balloon :). It was very busy, but quite fun. Then we headed back to school to watch the fireworks. Security stopped us on the way in to share some food and rice wine, another first for Mark!
On Thursday we relaxed again, visited the crocodile farm (http://casaulongxuyen.com.vn/introduceen.aspx) and went for a swim in the school pool. It was feeling very strange not to have any students around on a school day! I managed to stress myself out trying to get bus tickets to Can Tho for Saturday. Last minute bus bookings during Tet are apparently a BAD idea.
On Friday, Violet invited us to her friend Nhung’s house to join a New Year party. Of course we accepted, and it was a fantastic day! Nhung is an amazing cook, and I think she fell in love with Mark, much to her husband’s regret… There was obviously a huge language barrier, but beer is an excellent equaliser. We had a wonderful time, and she invited us back for lunch on Monday.
On Saturday morning we ended up taking the motorbike to Can Tho. The road was quite bumpy and dusty, but we survived. Because our butts had not taken enough punishment, we joined our EcoTours (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g303942-d6780643-Reviews-EcoTours_Private_Day_Tours-Can_Tho_Mekong_Delta.html) guide for a four-hour ride around a nearby island. Not for beginner riders, with bumpy tracks… It was very interesting! We tried eggfruit, which tastes a little like sweet potato and has the texture of overcooked boiled egg yolk. I wasn’t a fan… I found out that the reason some houses have a type of cactus as a hedge is to keep out demons, and that the small shrines you see around are basically houses for ghosts (if they have their own house, they won’t visit yours!). We stopped at the Goddess Tree, which is an enormous ficus. During the war, the whole village would shelter there, out of sight of any planes flying overhead. Then we stopped for a rest at a homestay. I got pooed on by a water snake, and we watched a visiting family learning how to find snails on the lotus leaves and stems… After that, we went back to town for some well deserved rest and a shower. We went for a wonderful (and much appreciated) massage, had some dinner, and then passed out. It was a long day!
On Sunday we looked around the market for a while, Mark had his first banh mi op la, and then we headed back to school. We stopped off to check out some pink ducks that I noticed the day before, and to take some pictures of a lotus field. When we got back to LX, I saw that my favourite banh xeo restaurant was open, so I dragged Mark in there. He ate two. The waiter said it’s the second time, ever, that someone has been able to eat two!
Monday saw us back at Nhung’s house for more food and beer. Good times 🙂 I think we both put on a couple of kilos during his visit. On Monday afternoon, students began to return to school, which signalled the winding down of our time together. We ate lunch in the canteen on Tuesday, but my students were all a bit too scared to talk to him. It was funny, because they’re usually hard to shut up. Mark packed up, we had some dinner, and then boosted off to the bus station for another long, late night journey.
After a few hours of sleep, we had a final wander around HCMC, bought a few gifts at Ben Thanh Market, and then headed to a poster shop on Bui Vien Street before one final Indian feast at Baba’s. Then it was back to the hotel, and on our separate ways. It was very difficult for me, thank goodness for sunglasses and riding masks!
I was back at school on Wednesday night, and in class on Thursday. I had a wonderful time, and it was so good to see Mark after so long, but it actually made me feel a lot more homesick than I have felt before. I guess I’d supressed how much I love living with Mark, and having him here, and then gone, really showed me how much I miss him.
If I had been a little more on the ball, I would have planned things a little better: made bus reservations much earlier, and been more prepared for the town to shut down for four days. I recommend visiting here during Tet, especially if you can make some local friends, it’s so interesting, but be prepared for closures and chaos!
Pretty lotus blossom
Tra Su: where the duckweed is so thick you could imagine it ‘s grass…
Cherry blossoms in HCMC
Trying to get back to LX before Tet.
Party time at Nhung’s
Tra Su birds
Tra Su birds