Saturday, 7 June 2008

Off to Komtum today, I think.

14/5 - Up loaded up and of to the bakery to pick up some tasty stuff for breakfast. We had to go through the market. It was heaving. People don't get off their motos, just pull over and check out the merchandise and decide whether to buy. The housewives all turn up early to get their fresh food, none of this refrigeration lark here, then it back home to get cracking. We got through and picked up some tasty looking pastries and Khien told me to pick on e up that looks dec idedly li ke a cake to me. I don't usually do cake for breakfast, but I never used to do noodles or chillies either, cake should be less of a wrench. The market wasn't so bad on the way back. The photo lady from yesterday was there at the roundabout, but I saw her too late to shout and make a fool of myself. Will that last the day? I very much doubt it. Out of town a few K's and we pulled over at a cafe for tea, coffee and YES it is a cake and bloody lovely too. It was a loaf cake, no ceremony, snapped in half and get stuck in. The pastries were filling too, even Khien kept one for later. We set off yet again, di thoi big boy, we passed through rubber plantations. The plants are not like the rubber plants you see back home. It looks a laborious task to collect the sresin, but the Vietnamese are good at them jobs. We pulled into a rubber plantation for a gander and bounced around a bit. It's all clever stuff, the collection method. A nick here a pot there and resin everywhere. Di thoi again and through a few villages, there's street/roadside markets in most of them and loads of the little tractors with long steering arms, pulled over at the markets. They double up as taxis for the farm workers. We've passed loads on the way back from the fields loaded up with people, most wearing the nun las. We pulled into a monument to the mail men and women. Lots of these monuments have statues of several people all in different ethnic clothing. Khien always tells me the different types. He also pointed out some shy grass, the leaves close up when touched. He comes across as a real country lad, but I think he has picked a lot of it up from the farmers he speaks to along the way. After a bit of clowning around, Khien is an expert, it's back on the bike. The scenery around here is more rolling, so not so stunning, but still eye catching. The resin from pine trees is being collected too, so I asked about it. There was something illegal going on, but I'm not sure wh at. Something to do with making it into explosives and fishing with it. There is a legal side too, but I missed it. Khien was clowning around again, h e did Kung Fu for a couple of years, so was kicking at a dead tree when he spotted a mouse hidden in a hollow branch. He nearly wet himself. Big, hard Kung Fu fighter. He legged it when I went to scare it out. Di thoi lady boy and we pulled over at a roadside cafe for some sugar cane drink. We hit the hammocks. Khien tried to mother me into a low one, but I lounged next to him and the lady brought a table over in between us and put the drinks on it. Anything to make life relaxed and easy, they are smashing people. We had a bit of crack with the lady, he's a real charmer. He knows most of the answers to the questions about me now, so I don't get too involved. It is the Vietnamese way to ask and I quite like being celebraty. We finished off the pastries, the sugar cane was nice too, we had a bit of a swing and then left with a big smile from the lady. We are passing through poor places now, with mostly wooden houses. The housing material seems to be the only difference, the people seem to be doing the same thing, but look poorer.
The schools always seem to be going in or coming out in dribs and drabs, but when we hit peak hour time we both wave and shout and it's like a Mexican wave as we pass. It lifts my heart to see it, a real boost to morale. Like Carol said, I'm just a crusty marshmallow. Morale isn't low, but the kids do make life even better.
We passed a wedding in full swing. They look to be good fun.
Next stop, a pepper plantation. It tastes great straight off the plant. We jus wander into all of these places. If anyone is around they usually have a quick word, then just get on with their business. You may not believe this, but there was somemore clowning around and then we are off again. I've suspected bus drivers are crazy when I have been on them, but being on the outside, more than confirms it. We had to pull off the road to avoid one. They dont give a toss about the motorcyclists.
There are lots of the babyslings in this neighbourhood and the woven bamboo baskets too. The minoirty peoples have a completely different look to the run of the mill Vietnamese. More like Peruvians. Perhaps it is a mountain thing, or jungle thing, as they mostly hale from th juingles. We pulled over to give Jack a rest and for a bit of a clown around. 3 ladies sat over the road h ad a good lauigh. They were sat on the step having a good old chin wag. It reminded me of my Mam and the other miners wives standing at the gate nattering at the end of a shift, waiting for the men to come home. While we were there, 3 lasses with babies in slings walked passed, one had the bamboo weave basket no her back too, another an umberella for a sunshade and the last was smoking a pipe. We set off again, with a cheery goodbye from the doorstep ladies and headed for Sea Lake, so called because of its blue colour. It looks man made, but is a volcano crater, it must have been a big volcano, the lake is a big one. An old fell came dashing over to show us a big centipede or millipede, either way it was big. I had one in my room the other week. This is another romantic setting and there are starry eyed couples, but I soon put the mockers on that. An addictive ca phe da, iced coffee and we are off again, headed back to BMT city for the night. We are sharing a room from here to save dosh, so there was a super clowning moment when Khien spotted my fins, mask and snorkel, he was like a kid in a sweet shop. and disappeared down the corridor wearing them. We got shifted eventually and caught a taxi to a BBQ testaurant. A little wrough iron BBQ is put on your table and you do it yourself. Keeping the adventure going, we had wild boar, it was better than the porcupine though that was OK too. A few beers, abit of charming by Khien and back to bed. He cam sleep for Vietnam. He always tells me not to set my alarm, hel'll wake me and I end up waiting for him to wake up. He wakes up lively though, so we don't have to hang about long. The worst thing is he wakes up singing.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Day 2 to Hoi An. Today to Buon Ma Thout.

13/5 - Village life starts early. About 4.00 am Toto were being played in the yard next door, a little bit surreal. I nodded off, then woke, then nodded off, then woke, then gave up and got up, the village life noise was too much for me, but Khien was snoring like a good 'un. He came out in the end and showed me the official toilet and washroom. The lads next door were dipping into a waist high jar, I was just about to join them when Khien came out. There was a shower in our place, but it would have been whimpish to use it.
There are plenty of pot belly pigs all over the show and chickens. An Aussie lass is trying to get to stroke the pigs, but they are having none of it. We went down to the lake and some of the fisherman are coming back in. The catch is mostly small stuff. One lad had a fish about 1lb, so he was smiling, that's a big one. There's lots of lads out on the lake, so I guess the fish don't get much opportunity to get big. The nets are put in the water then the fishermen clash their oars on the water to chase the fish into the nets. Any that are not eaten fresh are smoked, not in papers like weed. A few of the old dears are walking around smoking pipes and have babies slung on their backs. There seems to be more women smoking them than blokes. I think this is either H'Mong or Lat minority people, they have a tradition of using these slings, some of the kids being carried look like they should be walking, which surprised me. The longhouses give the village a great look. Whole families sleep in them with curtain partitions. There is a the ladies section at the back where they get banished to when the lads want a bit of privacy. It sounds like the women are 2nd class citizens, but they control the money. All the money coming in is given to the wife, if the lads want a drink or a smoke they go cap in hand and if they do anything out of order, no money, no sex and no cooking, so perhaps it is more 50/50 than it first appears.
These people work hard and have a knack of going at at nice easy pace. They have long days but pace themselves nicely.
There were only 3 tourists in the village from what I could see, but daytime visitors must be due as a load of elephants with seats on are trundling through the village. The Aussie lass has already set off on one.
Breakfast now, omlette and french stick, typically Vietnamese, it's popular and we get some kickass coffee again. Time to hit the road Jack. I'm glad Khien relented from going to a hotel. I'm starting to enjoy getting up early. Di toiy, let's go, Khien has taught me this, so I taught him di toiy big boy, but I get di toiy lady. We skirted the lake, there's lots of rice farming going on. We pulled over at some kids fishing. They lower a net, about 6ft x6ft, into the river by a hand held frame, leave it a few minutes then bring it out most of the fish are stickleback size, but they are bagged up, perhaps for fish sauce, very popular in Vietnam. Khien got nattering to the eldest lass hauling the net. They work from 6am to 6pm doing this. She seemed to take a shine to Khien and invited him to have a go, so it as a quick di toiy big boy. Perhaps he's not the ladies man he makes out, but he is a smashing lad.
We stopped next at a brickworks, this looks like a family concern, the lad is loading the bricks from the kiln onto a conveyor, Mam is stacking them on the trolley and Dad and another bloke are unloading them. The kilns are tall brick towers with tunnels underneath where great tree trunks are loaded and set on fire after the clay bricks have been cut in the nearby clay mixing leanto and loaded into the kiln with coal dust spread between them. It looks very time consuming, but well organised. The bricks go for 500 Dong each, 32 bricks for $1.
Along the road families make granite bricks from the nearby hills. It is all done with hammer and chisel and I can see the marks on the stones just like in th temple at Angkor in Cambodia, built hundreds of years ago.
After some beautiful countryside we rolled into TP BMT, Buon Ma Thout. Khien dumped me at a roundabout with a monument on it, in the middle of town and went off to get some picnic food. I walked around the roundabout and smiled at the photograph lady, then sat on a wall. I took out my mobile and the photo lady came over to check it out, followed closely by a young couple, none of us could speak each ohters language, but I had a laugh with the photo lady. I have learned Vietnamese for son, daughter, grandson, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, so the family photo always comes out and I show off both my Vietnamese and family. This inevitably leads onto wife, but I haven't learned how to say "buggered off" in Vietnamese. Perhaps I should try to learn divorced. We were having such a good time, we never noticed Khien sat at the curb beeping his horn. I said goodbye, but she followed me to checkout the wife bit with Khien. She is single too, so I gave her a hug and a knowing smile and she laughed. Khien tried to set me up with a date that night, typical Khien, but she declined, with a laugh. A lot of people frown on divorce in Vietnam, but I've come across loads of divorced ladies. I haven't chatted the men up, so don't know about them.
Di toiy, with a big smile and wave in both directions. Next stop a set of waterfalls. Khien sent me off to take some photos and stroll and when I came backhe'd set up the picnic on the road on newspaper. Rice paper, herbs, pork, sauce and noodles, more herbs and a beer. I'm having a great time with this lad. He packed all the non-organic bits in a bag, very none Vietnamese like. We clowned around a bit and got back in the saddle. A young couple turned up, this is a very romantic spot, but they didn't stay long, I think it was Khiens singing, he's only slightly better than me.. The picnic made them smile, I wouldn't be surprised if they had gone off to get one. The next waterfall in the same park, is even better. It was a bit of a hike to get there, over a couple of bridges and up and down some rock steps, but well worth it. We did a bit more clowning on the way. Khein is looking out for m, this walk was good though, it made him realise I can do most things, just in my own way, he still watched me like a hawk. this is a beautiful place. I had real sweat on when we got back, so we had a sit and a cold drink to cool off. I think Khien was quite proud of me. We met another Easy Rider with a Scottish lass and picked up my passport and Khien's ID. We'd got half way around the lake this morning, when he got a call to tell us we are dopes, but the Easy Rider brotherhood came goo, we didn't have to go back for them.
We set off back towards BMT city for the night, so I could have had a date. We hit a bit of rain, but were dry by the time we reached the hotel. A bit of laundry, a nap and repack and then out for some food. It is raining again. We went on the bike. Khien has a good friend in BMT, Quon and he came along later with his girlfriend, Loin. He's all goggle eyed with her, he is 30 and she is 20 and she has to be home by 8.30pm, her parents have told her, much to the delight of the grumpy old man. Quon came back and we had a few more beers. We'd had rabbit and beef for eats and they were as usual delicious. The beer was a trial beer and very nice too. Khien has the gift of the gab, he chats up all the waitresses and had Loin grinning like a Cheshire cat. He picked up another nickname today. "Check it out Khien". He moves in close if we pass any fit lasses on motos and checks them out in his wing mirrors. I pulled him up on it and he said "Check it out" so it stuck. He is a little bit tipsy tonight, so I pulled him up on that too and it was the last time we used the bike at night. He went back to run Quon home too, even though he said he'd get a moto. It was good to see the respect Khien showed him. Quon took him under his wing when he first arrived in Da Lat from his home town to study. I hit the sack when he went back.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Off for the 5 day tour to Hoi An.

12/5 - I woke early and threw the curtains open to see how heavy the rain is, only light. I headed for the shower, but never made it, the little lass from the hotel knocked on the door and stood there with fried eggs, baguette and a pot of tea. The little tip came good, but she is a smashing lass anyway, really bubbly and smiley. It has saved me a trip out too. Ready to roll, so I sat in reception, the mobile shop, and waited for Khien, while he sat on his bike outside and waited for me, but we were only like that for a couple of minutes, before he popped his smiley face around the corner. He loaded up the bike and the little lass brought me a coffee, so I encouraged him while I sipped. Loaded up and we set off, in only damp conditions, not really rain. As we left the little lass shouted "Don't forget me". How nice are the Vietnamese. The friendliness is almost overwhelming.
We called in to Vietnam Airlines to get my ticket. The morning flight was full, so I got a ticket for the afternoon, no rush then. Now we are off, but not too far, only to one of the 3 summer palaces the ex-king had built in Da Lat. Khien doesn't have a good word for him. It seems he was a philandering puppet for the French, who spent the peoples money building summer palaces wherever he fancied. The palace isn't flash by todays standards. It is Art Deco, I think, and surprisingly palatial inside, done out mostly in gold and yellow. The flower thing with the colours. Every chance Khien had he slagged off the ex-king.
We moved onto another pagoda next, not as spectacular as yesterdays, but nice gardens. Khien was more taken with the women than the gardens. He blushed big style when I pointed it out to him.
The next stop was out of town a bit to Sap waterfall. There's a rollercoaster that will take people down and bring them back up, if they want. It doesn't spoil the natural look of the place either, it is well hidden. I was going to walk down and take the rollercoaster back, but Khien convinced me to take it both ways and I'm glad he did. It was great going down, you are in control of the brake yourself, so I let it rip, but paniced a bit when I saw the car in front of me looming. The trip was worth it just to go on the rollercoaster, but the falls are pretty too. Not huge, but set down amongst the jungle in a beautiful setting. Thank heavens for my stick again down here, the Vietnamese build big steps for little people. The rollercoaster ride back up was less spectacular, but I'd have been knackered if I'd had to walk back up, it is a fair old hike. Some blokes were clambering across the rail back up as I approached and the last one got his foot caught in the rail. I think I flapped more than he did, I had no control going back up, but he quickly scampered away.
Off we go again on Jack, heading down the mountain through some beautiful scenery. Next stop, Chicken village. It has a huge concrete chicken built there by the government to try and create some mystique around the village with a story made up around the chicken, in an attempt to keep the minority people here, that have been relocated. The government seem to want to control the several minority peoples within Vietnam and stop their nomadic ways. The kids are given free schooling, which is not normal in Vietnam. The story is a Romeo and Juliet type story. I don't know how it will make the people stay around, but then I am not Vietnamese, so don't know the psyche. The village is a dirt track, with wooden houses set back from the track. The houses have a large area in front of them that is used for the kids to play on or for sundrying crops. It is a very poor village with very smiley people. I hope they are as happy as they appear. The kids are especially happy when Khien pulls over, some are too shy to come over, but some come running over shouting for sweets that Khien had picked up along the way. His heart seems to be with the minority people, he talks about them often and I can hear the feeling in his voice. He has a theory that one day they will come to power in Vietnam, as the Vietnamese become more westernised and have less kids, but the minority peoples don't, so they will tip the balance of power. I have a feeling they will be intergrated before that happens. Khien had a good chat with some of the women and loves the kids. The dialect is different, but he gets by. He is a great lad, full of love and fun. Some of the houses are still made with bamboo thatch walls covered in mud, the floors are hardened earth and all the houses look neat and tidy. Not having too many belongings will make that easier. I think this minoriy people are the H'Mhon, they all seem hard working, there is a lot of activity in the surrounding fields, all the farming is manual.
Khien had asked if I fancied lunch at his Grandad's. It sounded like a good idea to me and it was. We rolled into the open yard and his Grandad was there in a flash. 62 and fit as a fiddle, he almost shook my hand off. Khien was earning his corn translating now. A glass of tea appeared before I could get my helmet off. Khien had told me of the Vietnamese tradition of tea being the first thing that happens whenever someone arrives anywhere at homes, businesses, restaurants and the grumpy old man told me it used to be like that in the UK when he was a lad. Another custom Khien mentioned is the Vietnamese give visitors 20 questions rattled off in quick succession and I got that too. Kids, married, home, age, my legs. It is like a formality and once it is over you can sit back relax and field the next 20 questions. The family here is Grandad, Grandmother, 3 uncles and aunties and about 4 kids. Grandad fusses around me like a mother hen and Grandmother just gets on with life quietly in the background, smoothly moving around and in between everyone. We went from the wooden out-building to the bricks and mortar house. I took my trainers off and was setting off for the house, when Grandad's flip flops appeared in front of me, so I donned them for the 10 yds walk. Nothing is too much trouble for anyone. More tea appeared in the house and the table was started to be set. Khien makes himself at home flitting around the house. Grandad keeps shaking my hand, smiling and laughing. He wishes me luck in health, wealth and everything going and tells me his house is my house and wants me to come back. Grandmother cooks the food with the help of the other lasses. There is all sorts laid on with as much rice wine as you want, but I took it easy. There's chicken, fish, beef, noodles, loads of different veg and there's eggs. Grandad is trying to fatten me up, he keeps putting chicken in my bowl before I can try anything else out. Yo, Vietnamese Cheers, is said a lot too, with the rice wine in hand. GET THIS LADIES, all the blokes sat around the table, whilst the ladies sat around a mat laid on the floor, Grandma and the 8 month pregnant auntie too. The Vietnamese are great at sitting on their haunches, I get really jealous. I mention to the blokes about the ladies sitting on the floor and was told that is just the way it is. The women come and sit at the table and chat whenever they fancy. The food was brilliant and now the fruit, rambutan came out and I had one put in my hand everytime it was empty, but I do like them. I have been invited to stay for as long as I want, whenever I want. Grandad wants us to stay tonight, so he can take me fishing and drink rice wine and beer. If I come back to Vietnam, he wants me to bring some wine from England, he says the wine in Vietnam is expensive and not good. I will try to call here again before I leave Vietnam. Coming here for a few days has to be better than sightseeing. Diep, my unofficially adopted daughter want me to call to see her before I leave too, she has made a present for me. It is all getting a bit overwhelming. Khien started to make moves to get us on the road again and about 30 minutes later we managed to leave. I have had a great time and would love to go fishing with Grandad, we'll see. I felt like a million dollars as we drove on and the sun was shining too. Khien stops regularly, to give Jack a rest he says, but I think he is looking after the old man on the back. We stopped at a bamboo bridge. I thought the one in Cambodia was rickety, this one is definitley not for heavy traffic. It is used to allow the villagers to get their crops over the river. There is no way I'd drive a motorbike over here, I have enough trouble walking over it. We are having a good laugh along the way, we are already good mates on the road. The rain came on and there was still a long way to go. The gortes trainers weren't waterproof against this. I had my Green Bay Packers cape on, but it only came to my knees, below that was drenched and I'm having a whale of a time, loving every minute. The scenery is great, rain or no rain. We are headed for Lak lake, a minority village and to stay in a long house overnight. Khien is having second thoughts and thinking about a hotel, worrying about the bloke on the back, but he relents when he sees how good a time I am having. The rain eased off a bit for the last few miles until we pulled into the cafe at the village, but not enough to dry us any. The cafe is run by the head man and Khien sorts out a longhouse for us and we have a beer, whilst it is readied. I felt sorry for the lad and lass who went off to ready it, the rain had started again, but they never flackered, just jumped on the moto and off they went. We even have to hand in passport and ID here, it is a way the bobbies make a few extra bob I reckon. We had quick look at the lake, the rain had stopped and the sun was dropping, not that we could see it. Khien set us up with some food for later at a cafe. It is more of a bit of spare space in case someone drops in. The canoes on the lake are hollowed out tree trunks and solid. The longhouse is on stilts and there's only me and Khien in it. It could sleep about 40 at a push. We got a mattress on the floor, a pillow and a mozzy net. I was dead excited, like a big kid. Khien took pity on me and gave me an extra mattress from out the back. We settled in, put on the sandals to give the trainers chance to drip and headed for some tea. The jeans will dry better on. Tea was a whole roast chicken and rice porridge/soup and both were well received along with a couple of beers. The family sat the other side of a curtain having a natter and a good laugh. The TV is on, but little attention is paid to it. "Good family life." said the Grumpy old man. Fed and watered we headed back. Once there, I asked Khien about the toilet whereabouts. He walked to the edge of the balcony and pee'd over it. Nature he said. It is still raining, so it will soon be diluted. Who am I to argue with the locals, so I pee'd over the side too, brushed my teeth and spat that over the side too, the toothpaste, not my teeth. I wont say in which order I did my ablutions.

Out and about DaLat with Khien.

11/5 - Off with Khien, the Easy Rider, for a day around the outskirts of DaLat seeing this and that. He is a good laugh and doesn't seem to take much too seriously. We headed out of town. The scenery around DaLat is smashing mountainous countryside, not rugged mountains, but forest covered mountains. Some of the forest is pine and there are some clear areas. Khien says it is mostly because of American bombing and agent orange. Some may be due to local deforestation, which is now banned. Some of the things done in the war are very sad, but I guess that is war.
We stopped off at a pagoda and although I thought I had seen enough pagodas, I enjoyed this one. The Buddhas inside were interesting and the big happy Buddha outside was the happiest Buddha I have seen, even happier than me. The only down side is I've forgotten the pagodas name. I have also forgotten the order we visited everything. (Hang on I'll get my camera.)
We checked out the market gardens, mostly flowers, which DaLat is famous for. The colour of the flowers have different meanings, I THINK, red is for luck, pink is for love and happiness, (is that possible said the Grumpy old man), yellow is for power and features in the ex-monarchs furnishings etc., orange is for the elderly. I have been told slightly different meanings by different people, but they are never far off the same.
Khien stopped several times as we went along. He showed me the coffee beans and we had a quick chew, he seems to chew everything. I'd wondered what all the plantations were. There are 3 types of coffee plants, but mocha has become the favourite, as it is the shortest, so easiest to harvest. On some of the plantations there are passion fruit, mingled in with the coffee plants. There's probably a reason, but I didn't ask Khien. He picked one for a chew and it was smashing, really tasty, the coffee beans weren't bad either. I wasn't keen on the bark used to make incense, but Khien tried it, so I did too and spat it out too.
We had a coffee break at a cafe that also grows mushrooms, collects silkworm cocoons and brews rice wine and very nice rice wine it was too. Khien told me the viagra rice wine is the one with the snake in it and blow me they are out of it, so I tried the banana one, good for your back and it works, mine didn't hurt at all when I fell over drunk. We carried on a bit aboard his bike, Jack. It comes from "Hit the road Jack". Khien is a little crazy in a good fun way. Next stop was the silk factory. They collect their own cocoons and buy the ones from the locals. It is clever how the silk is collected and spun, I was quite engrossed, but Khien moved me on to the shop. I don't know if silk is dear, but here a top was 6 quid, for a lady, it felt nice too. Apparently, clothing sold elsewhere as silk, tends to have some cotton mixed in, not that I would be able to tell, which is probably why it is done. We did so much I cannot remember it all. We ended up back at the cafe, as Khien had ordered lunch before we left. The food laid out was loads and delicious and the beer was pretty good too. Still no snake rice wine.
After Da Lat, I'm not sure where to go. I don't fancy the seaside tourist resorts. I had a look at Cat Tien National park, but Khien in good tout form, showed me some of the rides out that the Easy Riders do. I didn't fancy the 5 day one to HCMC, but the one to Hoi An sounds the business. I held back on a decision, unusually, until I could find out if I could fly back from Danang to HCMC. Believe it or not, I have a plan for next week, so next week will probably be a write off. We headed back into town and paid a visit to the Crazy House. You should see this place. It is designed and still being built by a Vietnamese lady who studied architecture in Moscow. Somewhere along the way she got mixed up between Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland and has produced this place. It is used as a hotel too, it is a really cool place, a sort of fantasy land. The steps are just the job for me too, they are staggered left and right. It is not easy to describe, I'll try and get some photos on the web.
Khien is really keen for me to go on the trip to Hoi An, understandably, it is his living and I really fancy it, so we agreed to go to Vietnam airlines in the morning and see if I can get a ticket. Khien dropped me back at the hotel. I thought I'd better get my laundry back if we are off tomorrow. I'd only put it in this morning, but the little lass from the hotel went and got it for me, a little damp, but not to worry, the girl done good. I settled up for the hotel and laundry and gave her a little extra, I thought she was going to cry.
I headed off to the Central Market and the rain came on again, but only light so I kept trudging down some of the narrow streets. This is a smart little town, if I don't head off with Khien tomorrow I think I'll hang around a couple more days. I finally got myself some soap, toothpaste and toothbrush. They were down to nil and the toothbrush is a bit battered after 4 months, a bit like me. They came to $2. This place is cheap to live, Vietnam, out of the cities. I finally got to Central Market, I took the miandering route, I believe it is called getting lost. The market is mostly fruit and veg with lots of food stalls around the fringes. There are some fish stalls too. It is a lively place. I picked up some tasty snacks along the way, including a chocolate cake and the heavens opened, so I ducked into an internet shop. It was a waste of time, it was still raining when I came out, so I shopdoorwayhopped my way back to the hotel and ate my snacks on the balcony, then packed and watched some football with a cup of tea and my chocolate cake. What happened to the beer and black pudding??? I'm getting soft.