Following our relaxing days on the Cambodian beach, we were in for yet another long bus ride, to cross the border into Vietnam and enjoy a stay at a local home. It´s amazing how quickly the scenery changes after the border – what was dry, brown, and dusty suddenly gives way to vibrant green fields, low lying marshes, and lush vegetation. We arrived at our homestay just before sunset, in time for a little stroll around the “neighborhood”. Beautiful mammoth trees and bushes were growing over the pathways, which followed a small river. Tropical fruits and colorful flowers were growing on the low-hanging branches.
Local kids and their puppies were wandering around, amping up the appeal immensely. Local fruit and vegetable markets sit precariously at the side of the road.
Back at the homestay, each person was assigned to a bed with a mosquito net, and bathrooms had fresh towels and hot running water. Hardly roughing it! There was even a rooftop veranda, for watching the sunrise/set.
Dinner was a really interesting part of the evening. The grandmother, mother, and aunts of the family were introduced to us, and proceeded to give us a cooking demonstration of very traditional Vietnamese food. Oil was swirled in huge woks, to which a delicate coconut crepe batter was added. The crepe was filled with minced pork and bean sprouts, folded, and handed over as our appetizer.
We happily chowed down and moved to our tables, while the rest of the meal was brought. Squash soup, garlic green beans, spring rolls, curry pork cooked in a clay pot, tofu sautéed with tomatoes, and steamed rice. An utter feast and all delicious. We could barely make a dent in the spread.
I slept like a log, and woke up early to watch sunrise with some other friends at the rooftop veranda.
After a quick breakfast, and we were off for a boat tour of the floating markets. If you don´t know what floating markets are, there are an extremely common feature in both Thailand and Cambodia. Fruits, vegetables, and various other local goods are sold from boat to boat. This a “wholesale” business, meaning you can´t just buy one pineapple – you buy in bulk, so it´s meant more for restaurant owners and people intending to sell the products somewhere else. It was fascinating to pass by the boats, piling high with pyramids of pineapples, hundreds of kilograms of sweet potatoes, heaps of corn, and so on.
Even more fascinating was watching the locals deftly maneuver their way around their tipping and moving vessels, passing products back and forth and never looking remotely off-balance. The most impressive of all was the “Coffee-guy” – a local in a small motorized boat, who jets around to serve people one well-known Vietnamese delicacy – Vietnamese coffee! Served either hot or cold, it´s an amazing and evil concoction of Vietnamese fresh coffee and condensed milk. The flavor of the coffee beans is WAY different from anywhere else – vaguely sweet and earthy and MUCH stronger. Combined with sugary rich condensed milk, it´s a rocket in a cup. The charming coffee man stood up in his rocking boat, pouring hot coffee and handing it over the side of our boat, never spilling a drop. Amazing.
Back at the homestay, we said our goodbyes to the smiling family, on our way to our final night of the tour, in Ho Chi Minh City. One more bus ride!