Wednesday we got breakfast at a new place. It was in the tourist area in Pham Ngu Lao and had a menu in English, French and Vietnamese. We both ordered orange juice that was fresh squeezed and not sweetened. Its natural flavor was delicious and a nice contrast to the MSG overload from the previous night. The food was so so, you really can’t male a tomato omelet too bad or too good.
We headed back to the hotel where I heard from David that he thought he might be contagious and didn’t want to expose us, so he declined a meeting and wished us well. With that we decided to plan our return to binh hoa. Tien heard that her cousin was driving to Saigon and back that evening. At first we thought this would be great, but she changed her mind after hearing that there were many people coming along because it was a bus. She said that because we would be guests it would be a cultural obligation for us to buy food for everybody, which would be fine if it were just a few people in the car, but not with a bus full of people. We decided to get bus tickets instead. She arranged them, we packed our bags, checked out and headed off to the bus stop in a taxi.
The taxi took a route that was unfamiliar, through new, wide streets with overpasses and bridges over a river. It was unlike any roads I’d seen in Saigon. It was modern, something I’d expect to find in Hanoi. It made me happy to see Saigon taking on this sort of project.
We were dropped off at a bus stop that I don’t think we’ve ever been to before. After getting our tickets we had thirty minutes left so we got food and coffee. This may have been the dirtiest bus stop I’ve ever seen, but the food and coffee were delicious.
We boarded our bus and it was very familiar. It’s interesting to be familiar with something when you don’t understand any of the words that are being said there. I doubt I could navigate this bus system myself. Incidentally though, the man sitting next to me spoke English, which may be a first for Vietnamese buses. Tien and I played wurdle until the bus pulled out of the parking lot, which felt like it was pocked with craters. The music went on and tien fell asleep. I wrote this, and now the man on my right and tien on my left are Leaning their heads on my shoulder as I peck away on my iPhone. I wonder if the camera on the iPhone has a wide enough angle to capture this scene…
Our bus stopped at the usual spot to refuel and let us all move our legs, freshen up and get food. Tien and I ordered pho and it was absolutely delicious. This was great not only because I have a head cold, but I have had a long string of mediocre or bad pho for I don’t know how long. Coffee and tea were also nice. We headed off again and got to Binh Hoa after dark.
Mai and Thu met us down the street from Tien’s house with motorbikes and rode us home where the family was waiting. It was really great to see everybody and to be home. Tien and I sat in the living room with her mother and sisters and nieces enjoying each other’s company and catching up on the last few days. I passed out some gifts I had brought from America, jewelry for the ladies and Jelly Bellies for the kids. Tien’s brother said that he was raising frogs. Everybody thought I should take medicine for my cough and that I should eat food, but honestly I wasn’t hungry. Tien warmed some water for me, I took a shower and passed out. It’s amazing how traveling can wear you out sometimes.
I had a good night’s sleep despite that I had to wake up and pee twice during the night. At Tien’s house this isn’t such a simple thing. You have to unlock this huge steel gate and slide it back, which makes a loud screeching metal sound. The day was already warming up and I took a cold shower that felt nice.
Tien’s sister in law was out on the back porch mincing a bunch of tiny fish. I had seen a slap-chop in CA before I left and thought it might be a good gift. I still wonder how it would’ve gone over…
Tien and I went to the market for breakfast and had hu tieu and coffee. Familiar food and familiar faces. Afterwards we went to see Thu’s new house being built. It is a two story brick and cement house at the edge of the market in Binh Hoa, about a city block from Tien’s parents house. Later Tien would show me a rendering of what it will look like and it looks pretty cool. It has an upstairs patio, which I love. Thu found one that is similar but looks different and more to her liking, but the builders say they can’t make changes after they’ve started building.
We headed back through the market and went shopping for fruits and vegetables. This is an open air market with fruits and meats laying out in the open air. There were several fruits that I didn’t recognize. Thu bought one and cut it up for us to eat and it was very delicious. It tasted like a grapefruit but had a much thicker rind. In fact, it did end up being a grapefruit, but not the ones commonly seen in America.
We headed home and took a nap. I couldn’t sleep much so I played Field Runners, which I haven’t played in a long time and not since they upgraded some features. Tien gave me a massage, one of the things I really missed.
That evening we went to Long Xuyen and had dinner on a boat that cruised up and down the river. It was fun, but the boat was really loud and vibrated a lot. Nhi’s spoon kept shaking in her bowl, I guess she had the epicenter of the vibrations below her. I spotted a medkit and felt like I was in a video game.