Nov 20:  Ho Chi Minh City to Chau Doc

I couldn't fall asleep last night.  This happens at the start of every tour.  I think it was partly due to "intrigue".

We headed out of HCMC on the road to Chau Doc.  Along the way we stopped at a Cao Dai temple.  Cao Dai is a religion prevalent in south Vietnam that incorporates elements of all other religions.  It has something to do with a floating eye.

Front of temple.

Interior of temple.  A bunch of guys swarmed our bus trying to sell sunglasses.  Why?  When I got back on the bus I donned my highly fashionable $10 unisex sunglasses, and this made them go away.

We had a toilet stop along the way.  This place sold some food and had at least two screeching monkeys in cages.  One would screech--louder than a monkey should be able to screech--then swing around the cage and stop and stare at something.  He was focused on something other than us.  The cages were far more humane than those at the sad roadside menagerie in Russia.

We later stopped for lunch, at a place the driver insisted on  There were geckos on the walls, a sight we would see throughout the journey.  (As I type this on the 29th I just saw a Geico commercial on TV.  The Geico gecko wouldn't survive two days in Southeast Asia, the little fancy boy.)  I caused quite a stir by ordering friedfrog (one word) and then consuming it.  It's true what they say--it tastes like chicken!  But not very meaty, rather like wings.  I noticed on the toilet signs that "nam" is Vietnamese for "man".  It's "man", but backwards.  That blew my mind!  Vietnam is a bizarro world.  When we got back on the bus, Amy asked how we liked our lunch.  I croaked "I have a frog in my throat."  The crowd seemed to love this.

We continued to ride through the country over many bridges.  Lots of cows, dogs and water buffalo.  A huge snake (4-6 ft) slithered across the road in front of us.  There were a good number of roosters that would easily destroy Little Jerry Seinfeld.  At one point we and the bus had to get on a ferry to cross the Mekong River.  In the late afternoon we arrived in Chau Doc, which isn't much of a town and is used mostly by tourists as a stopover on the way to Cambodia.

View of the market from my room at the Trung Nguyen Hotel.

As the sun went down we went for a 1-hour cyclo tour of the town.  A crowd of drivers was waiting for us as we exited the hotel and paired off with us like we were free Christmas hams.  A cyclo is a bicycle with a big passenger seat attached to the back, like a bike-rickshaw combo.  My "driver" was somewhere between 8 and 30 years old.  The cyclo itself was named Casanova.  (Not really--this is a joke from my Egypt trip.)  Because darkness was descending I didn't take my camera, and missed out on a nice shot of the Mekong at dusk and one of the giant fish statue.  All along the route there were local children saying "hello" to practice their English.  The driver told me how to say hello in Vietnamese but I decided to fuck with the kids by replying "bonjour", "guten tag", "hola" and "buon giorno".  At the end I was doing The Voice from Seinfeld:  "Hellllooow!"  We passed numerous loudspeakers on poles that were broadcasting some gobbledygook.  I suspected it was Communist propaganda but someone in the group translated it as "bring out your dead".  I wasn't paying attention to who said this so I can't credit you.  The driver kept pointing out bars, massage parlors, pool halls, etc.  I realized later he was suggesting places for me to go where he could tag along.

The group at dinner at a restaurant on the river.  I discovered here that the 100,000-dong note has a transparent watermark in the shape of a flaming dollar sign.  What the hell?  Other denominations use a different shape.  There was something on the menu called Miscellaneous Soup.  I tried to come up with a song to the tune of Chef's "Simultaneous Lovin'" but failed.

We left the restaurant and some of us wanted to go out.  We had to decide for sure before we left the premises because the cyclo drivers (who had taken us there) were still waiting outside, like paparazzi.  It was like that scene in The Birdcage--we couldn't leave until we had a solid plan.  We did decide to go to a pool hall that had been suggested earlier.  The cyclo guys took us there, played pool with us, and drove us home at the end.  Nice deal for everyone involved.  I won a doubles match, which I think was my first pool victory of any kind since 1993.  It was like when my cousin, former WWF Superstar Jeff Craney, won that tag team match.

I think Amy took this.  I don't like to include photos that I didn't personally take, but I offer this as proof that I did interact with the locals.  In your face, B2!