Vi Thanh to Vinh Long 98km
Today, for almost 20km, I followed a major road, that followed a major canal. Doesn't sound like too much fun, but when you consider that the road was on the west side of the canal, and I was on the east side, riding unbelievably smooth single track through coconut and banana trees, you might understand why I had a huge smile on my dial. Amazing, fantastic and fun pop to mind.
My route started on a very wide, four laned road, which got smaller and smaller, the further I rode. I was passing through villages, markets, rice paddies, and the above mentioned jungle. Yep, fun, and not a tourist to be seen.
The reaction from the locals has been mixed. One guy was a little angry with me as he reckoned I had spooked his cow, which came out on to the trail at a great pace, and sprinted ahead of me. Most just waved or called Hello. Others stared at me as if to say WTH (what the heck) is a foreigner doing on our street. One bunch of kids wanted to talk and take photos, then joined me for a km, until I hopped on a ferry. They all watched me go, and waved and cheered when I waved goodbye.
I had a couple of other exchanges with animals. I ran over a snake, about 1.5m long, green and blueish, and very alive. A bit scarey. I was hoping it hadn't crawled up my back wheel onto my panniers.....they do that in movies..... Almost ran over a chicken that didn't see me coming, and saw the local rat catcher selling a bunch of 6 or 7 dead rats to a restaurant. Also saw two pigs in a small trailer, taking up the whole trail, a pig tied up and strapped on the back of a scooter, and a very big one, standing in the front of a very small canoe, mid canal. They eat a lot of pork here....and seemingly a bit of rat.
Something that is uncommon in NZ, but seems to be common here, is that whole villages follow one religion. The split seems to be even between Buddhism and Christianity. Not as many Buddhists here as Cambodia, but still a few monks out begging, although their temples are not anywhere as big, colourful, or wealthy as in Cambodia. It also seems to be wedding time here, just as it was in Cambodia. This involves big tents, elaborate decorations, very loud music, and even before anyone turns up, speeches. The wedding breakfast happens as early as 7am, and people come and go all day, with continuous loud loud music.
Today is Saturday 27th December, and kids were at school, as they were Xmas Day and Boxing Day. Businesses are all open, everyone is at work. This is the first time I've been in a country in December where Xmas is not celebrated with a holiday. Seems very unreal.
Today has been all about canals, and I think I've been on four ferries. One took me from the wonderful single track, across to the centre of a city three times the size of Christchurch, with heaps of traffic and thousands of scooters. Ensures you are focused at all times. I found myself looking at signs, shops and other attractions, and got tooted at. I'd drifted into the right side of the far right lane, reserved for scooters going the wrong way down the street... Amazing that this "dot on the map" is such a big city, the name of which I've never heard of, nor can I remember it, but just under a million people live, work, sleep, marry, give birth, and die here.
Vietnam has a national lottery. Everywhere you go there are people selling tickets. On street corners, outside shops, on ferries, in markets, anywhere there are people. These sellers wave the tickets in your face, and then just stand in front of you, even if you say no. Very persistent. Another guy who was very persistent, was the blind "musician" begger on a ferry. He played a sort of tin can, with strings attached. Not what I would call music, but he pushed his way back and forward through those on the ferry, keeping playing until they paid him to go away. Then he sat in front of me, and added his takings to a huge wad of cash he had stashed in his jacket. A very lucrative day I would have thought. He didn't get off the ferry with everyone else, just waited on board to annoy those on the next crossing.
Last night I found a supermarket. Not huge, certainly nothing like a Pak n Save, but I got to wander, and choose. Tuna, dried bananas, 6 X one serve packets of cereal, apple juice, tasty crackers. Yummy. I'm still struggling to find food on the street that looks like it might be digestable, so this was a significant find. I'm also still at a loss with the money. The best thing to do is bring out your cash, and let them take the correct coloured notes. All the zeros don't make it easy, and the locals often say two, for both 2000, and 20,000. Makes life interesting. Still got lots to learn.