Can Tho and The Floating Market

  • By Daniel
  • 2009-11-13 23:11:00-0800

We woke up at 6am on Friday to get a head start on the floating market which only lasts the morning. When we fetched our motorbike from the valet there was a tiny blob of bird crap on my seat. Only after trying to flick it off and getting it on my fingernails did I consider bird flu.

We gassed up the motorbike on the way to breakfast. All of the gas station in Vietnam are full service, but this was the first time I noticed that their pumps are configured to turn off at 20k dong and every 10k afterwards, making it easy for them to count without looking as they fill numerous bikes.

We cruised through the city and through more construction. Bridges are the most common project after new buildings. I wished that I had a compass so I could better know where I was. I wished I had an iPhone 3gs and considered the idea of leaving my 3g with Tien. I thought maybe it wouldn't be good to force her into an Apple world where Apple had such little penetration and thought about other smart phones, like the Droid, and contiuned down a line of thinking that many technologists have gone down where they end up damning the circularly innovating companies like Nokia and Motorola who have been busy doing nothing remarkable until Apple lit a fire under their ass by releasing the iPhone. Now everybody is releasing new platforms for smart phones that sync data (omg what an idea), have real browsers and email, and have standard platforms for app development (no thanks to Sun and Java here either.) I then continued by damning every carrier who locked their customers into contracts with a particular network and no way to get a device outside that network. iPhone, droid, pre... Three new smart phones, all locked to their providers. I silently thanked the hackers for breaking through this asinine misbehavior and allowing us to actually use the devices we have paid for. I still had no compass.

At breakfast I ordered eggs with bread and iced coffee and proceeded to burn myself on the platter my eggs were served in, then ate the peppers that were in the pan with my eggs. This day was not off to a good start.

I thought a lot about Colorado. I had decided to go back to Colorado for December to see my family and stay with my brother now that he's out of the army and back in America and was really excited about it. It had been a long time since I'd spent a good chunk of time there, and I hadn't spent much time with my brother in years. Hiking and video gaming, here we come.

We scooted on over to the market and found ourselves on a road running parallel to the river. We stopped so I could take some photos of the floating market and a guy who was loading watermelon into a boat offered to ride us around the market for 100k. I thought that might be a little steep, especially since he was on his way out anyways. Tien didn't want to go with him because he didn't have any life jackets. Even after I pointed out that he was an experienced captain and that there was a whole river full of boats that people were busy not falling out of she still didn't agree so we went back to the corner market, valeted the bike and hired a boat with life jackets for 100k. These life jackets sat untouched and barely noticed at the front of the boat for the duration of our voyage.

Mango Captain It was just Tien and I with the captain as we cruised up and back down the river through innumerable boats exchanging fruits and vegetables. There were a few common styles of boats, most being the big junkers that were anchored to each other and the riverbed. Most people in junkers would sit with some of their goods on top of the cabin waiting for somebody to come by. They had bamboo poles sticking up off of their boat with example fruits tied to them so people could spot what was available at a glance while passing by. Some people were cruising around in smaller ferrying goods from here to there.

Local transport onboard Sometimes we would be right next to the other boats and sometimes we would be far away. I kept switching between my 10-20mm lens and my 50mm, wishing I had an 18-55mm or a second body.

There were many other tourists, some in large tour groups and some with privately rented boats like ours. I saw a slightly heavy slightly balding white guy with an SLR on the back of a boat taking a lot of photos and thought I probably looked just like that. I watched my other self for a while and didn't care much for how I looked.

As we were pulling back into port our captain gently and accidentally ran the boat into a brick wall sticking out from the steps leading I to the water. He looked back and laughed then corrected his parking job.

Back at the market we found a place to get some drinks. I got a fresh sugar cane drink that was delicious. We sat and enjoyed the drinks for a while and I thought again about smart phones and realized that the iPhone doesn't have a Vietnamese keyboard layout.

We didn't stay at the market long and opted instead to cruise the city. After having been the driver in Da Lat and the fact that my ass hurt so bad sitting on that seat, I really disliked being a passenger. I was missing the five contact points of a bicycle, having really only one since the motorbike was too small for the foot pegs to do me much good.Defiant I tried to enjoy the ride while looking at the river, some parks and all the local daily things, but I was honestly really happy to return to the hotel for a rest before starting the journey home.

We grabbed lunch at the restaurant that we had intended to visit the night before and then began our long and painful ride north under the mid day sun.

I saw a John Deere sign and wondered how much business they got in the Mekong where so much of the work was done by hand.

A steam roller came driving down the road going the opposite direction. Apparently in Vietnam they redo the roads while still letting people drive on them.

The billowing clouds in the sky reminded me of that song "little fluffy clouds", which I first heard incorrectly as being by Orbital, and I decided to put them on my iPod.

After one and a half orbital albums we stopped to take a break. We looked in vain for a place with wifi and decided to settle for hammocks instead. Laying there with an ice cold drink, staring up at the ceiling of our wooden hut, tien asked me if I knew about those kinds of houses. She told me that the roof was made of coconut leaves and said that when she was a little girl her family lived in a house made that way. That was amazing for me to think about, having come from living in a house made from bamboo and coconut leaves to now, and the unknown future.

As I paid for our drinks I realized that Ho Chi Minh was on all the bills in Vietnam. I wondered why it was that only this one man was so important and how that had steered the Vietnamese culture.