Today, sandwiched between the driver of our mini-van and his co-pilot staring wide-eyed at the tractor trailer coming directly at us, I knew I was in Vietnam. Or perhaps it was before when our van broke down on the side of the road in front of someone’s house and every Vietnamese in our van unloaded and emptied their bladders in the front lawn without repurcussions. Or maybe it was at 6AM this morning after an overnight to Saigon from Mui Ne when I stumbled bleary-eyed from the bus to a bustling city where 6AM was no different than 6PM. Or it could have been driving deep into the Mekong Delta listening to Vietnamese pop music from my co-pilots telephone/MP3 player looking out onto small tributaries where women in cone shaped hats pushed boats down the stagnant water way. No matter when it happened, it was today that I felt like I really arrived.
It was our most interesting day. We skipped the tourist buses and went local finding ourselves not so much on a bus, but in a minivan with about 11 other Vietnamese headed toward the Mekong Delta town of Can Tho. Everyone fell asleep almost right away. Lindsay leaned against me, I leaned against a grandmother next to me, her grandson rested his head on my arm and we all snored in harmony. About an hour later our van broke down and within 15 minutes another arrived. We were quickly ushered into that van and off we went. I found myself in front a scary, but much better location than Lindsay in the back. She survived a vomiting in front and beside her, but only barely. Our friend Sam, was full-blown car sick.
It doesn’t sound comfortable, and it hardly was, but it was one of those experiences you wouldn’t trade for an air-conditioned luxury bus. Because then we would hardly be in Vietnam.