Day 5 - it' the end of the Easy Rider road for us!
June 26th. Up early today not because I had to - but because the 'ole rice wine petrol hangover had kicked in - oops! Thought I'd go for a walk but just wanted to check the football scores on TV first! Ended up getting hooked on the Holland vs. Portugal game (hmmmn that means last nights England game couldn't have been against Portugal oh well!)...Anyway, this was a terrible game as i'm sure you all know! 16 yellow cards and 4 red cards (that's right yeh?). Highest number in history and obviously stellar refereeing of course! Shocking! Anyway, after all that excitement it was off on our last day together! First we stopped off at a beautiful bridge, where you can see a part of the original Ho Chi Minh trail in the background. We took a nice morning walk here, making sure to keep out of the way of the leeches which apparantly are quite rampant at this time of year - yuk!
Then it was off to meet our last ethnic group of the trip - the Brau people. They are a very interesting group; only 500 left in this particular group so they may not last much longer......even tho' they are a very old tribe. The rules are that they cannot marry outside of their group (most of the tribes are like this) and therefore there is a pretty small pool to choose from for husband and wives. They live exactly like their ancestors; on the land and in their lifestyle. Tiny wee people, very brown and sinewy 'cos they work so hard on the land. When we went in to see them, they all touched our skin and said that i looked more like them (obviously the tan is on overkill right now, oops!)....They were hanging tobacco plants from the ceiling to dry....and pretty much just chillin' out a bit when we popped by!
After this it was time for some agriculture, so we hit a pineapple farm and met the local farmer who works the land. Usually this is only one of many fruit crops that farmers grow, because although pineapple farms are plentiful in Vietnam, each plant only grows one pineapple, once a year, so that alone wouldn't be enough to keep a family going.
Then it was on to an ice factory in a wee town we were passing through. Up till this point, none of us had really thought too much about ice - apart from realising quite early on that although some people had fridges at home, very few had freezers. But we didn't really think through where they get their ice! After seeing this wee place, we realised "ahhh, this is where it comes from"! Most mornings, local people will just pop round to the "ice man" whenever they need any. On their travels, Dave and Jackie had been pretty good about not having it in drinks! Me - I like to live on the edge! And even tho' I'd read that you shouldn't, I hate warm drinks so i'd had ice many times and never been sick so far, so I felt fine about having it.. until we went to the ice factory. Well, factory is a bit of a strong word. Imagine a wee man sitting in a back room with a big generator, a pipe with water flowing through it (and another pipe he was smoking!) into three big freezers and another big box with lots of blocks of ice wrapped in tea towels, where you can pop in and pick up if and when you need some! Yep, a little different than just opening the freezer door! But really very simple; just have the generator (which the wee man bought for a very good price according to Ton!) make the ice, then hang out and wait for the customers to arrive. I asked Ton where the water came from, and he looked at me like i was daft! The tap of course! Oh right - silly me! He did say this type of ice is only for local people and we would get pretty sick from it, hence i think all the ice we get is made from filtered water...so there you go. Apparantly it's quite a lucrative business for this gentleman - good for him! And so - another interesting experience with the Easy Riders. Loved this shot of the quintessential bike, a hammock slung across the walkway and a kids GI Joe tank.....interesting mix post-Vietnam war eh.. Or am i looking into it too much?
After this we had a little more time on the Ho Chi Minh trail, then sadly it was time to come back to reality! As we were coming into Hoi An, Luong explained this is one of the poorest regions of Vietnam, with over 85% of people here being farmers working the land, rice being their principal crop. The rice fields are so beautiful; so many colours of green and everything just looks so clean and green and velvety!
After this, we stopped off at a local market to potter around; the children were so happy to see us and ask, of course, "where are you from?"....don't they look cute here! Had a nice time with them (it was still early but the market was actually closing up, as it had been going since 5am! Wow - these people really know how to fill a day! They never stop going!)... but the heat was unbelievable today so we didn't stay too long!
Last stop en route was an armaments factory where Luong showed us tons of old bombs. As I had mentioned before, due to this area being very poor, alot of local people go out specifically to look for old bombs to bring in for scrap metal to this place. The concern of course is that the bomb has not yet detonated which can defintely be the case .....so there have been many instances where people in this situation have lost limbs and sometimes their lives, looking and finding old bombs. So sad; and so ironic that post-war these bombs are still having such an effect on the Vietnamese people!
Stopped for our last lunch together and had a great old chat - the boys brought out their testimonial books and we all wrote our thoughts of the last five days and the trip ...of course mine was very long winded, corny and emotional - just like me! It's funny; but all three of felt really, really sad to say goodbye to these guys. I mean they were complete strangers to us five days ago; how do you get so attached to people so quickly - and its not just me! Jackie and Dave felt the same way - so there!
Into town then, we arrive in Hoi An. Looks lovely I have to say! Our hotel is actually quite posh! After checking in, the boys took us to the best tailor in town! Oh - my - god!! Jackie and I got ever so slightly carried away....lets just say! Basically, you walk in, you are greeted by these beautiful girls who bring you tea, coffee or water, all within 5 seconds it seemed. Then you are shown to a seat where you can peruse the most recent Next catalogue (that seems to be the big favourite here, every tailor has a copy!), but also Vogue, Elle etc. you name it, if you can find something you want made and have a pic or can describe it, they can make it for you! I had brought pics of two dresses i liked (yup, thinking ahead!) - one was a Jackie O number and the other a funky dress which Mary J Blige wore recently to an event! Also got a new suit made for when i have to return to the real world! It's incredible - I get them all back tomorrow - within 24 hours! People working through the night on all of us tourists' new clothes! Well, not exactly true, at least not at this tailors. They have hundreds of seamstresses who work in this industry AND as everyone ia promised their first fitting within 24 hours, you would need hundreds of people for that! To be honest, the whole town buzzes with tailors. There are over 200 here and wherever you are, on a motorbike, walking down the street; you get these very chatty people coming up to ask you when you arrived, how are you liking Hoi An and oh, yes do you need any clothes made! You learn pretty quickly to say "Thanks but im picking my clothes up from the tailor tomorrow!".
So after all that excitement, the boys dropped us off at our hotel, we said a very sad and fond farewell, to them and our wonderful adventure being over! Luong hates saying goodbye, so he made it quick and then they were gone! What a fab fab time! But of course this meant the three losers were left to find our own way around town. "What would we do now" we all cried? Where should we eat? We can't go to any tourist places - Luong would be very disappointed in us!....oh dear, we all sat and sighed, and hummed and hahhad and wished for the good 'ole times. What would this new chapter bring....
Well, dinner for a start... we headed into town for a potter, and what a lovely quaint town it is! Really think im going to like it here.. haven't planned exactly how long i'll stay but that depends on how much i like it - see im working on my non-anal issues of going with the flow man, sort of! Plus it will be nice to stay in one place for a few days! Had a lovely evening with Jackie and Dave then off to bed....lets see what tomorrow brings!