Kids and Whistles

Our Mekong Homestay

A few weeks ago I found myself in Saigon
visiting with my friends and doing a little planning for the future. I decided
for this trip to take one of the hotel motorcycles with me as an experiment and
see if it would be more convenient than using a rental. As is usual in Vietnam,
things happen differently than what you plan.  Here is how it all worked out…..

I elected to catch the Phuong Nam sleeper bus and have the
small Honda stored in the belly. Poor little Puffy was partly disassembled and
with the front wheel hanging off  by the
cables and she was unceremoniously stuffed amongst the luggage. As usual, the
trip was uneventful and I woke from a sleeping pill induced slumber as we were
on the approach to Saigon. I knew that once my
friends Nghia and Hau discovered I was in town, my days would become very busy
so I waited a couple of days before contacting them electing to get in contact
with Graham instead, a friend and fellow Trip Advisor contributor. The fun

Grilled Duck Tongues mmmmmmm

started with lunch when we went to a Pizza Hut close by a large
French/Vietnamese joint retail complex called the Lotte mart. We ordered a
pizza and 2 glasses of Pepsi. The waitress arrived with 2 cans of Pepsi and 2
glasses. Uh no…… sorry….. We want 2 glasses, not 2 cans. The waitress actually
looked fearful of having to return the drinks and asked if we would drink
them…. Uh no, we want fountain drinks. She left and then returned with two cans
of diet Pepsi. Whaa???? How difficult could this be? Again we tried to order
the glasses, but got an argument we should drink what was brought. That was
enough!! It had only been a few minutes since we ordered, so we simply told
them to cancel the order and left. The look of absolute panic in the faces of
the young employees left me with the impression that the employer may be a bit stricter


than in other countries. Hopefully the poor girl did not get into too much
trouble. After the fact, I thought about it and this is what I assume may have
happened. The Pizza Hut was most likely out of the fountain drink, and in
typical Vietnamese fashion, instead of informing you and letting you make a
decision, they just make assumptions that are often incorrect.

Not to be put off our quest for food that was bad for us, we
entered a Lotteria next door. We ordered our burger and chicken and began
eating when our conversation was interrupted by the shrieking wail of a police
whistle…. What the heck???? Across the room came 2 or 3 answering blasts that
had our eardrums vibrating like jack hammers. Oh dear…. Perhaps this should be
added to the Webster’s definition of stupid…… Some genius must have noticed how
kids loved whistles and in infinite stupidity (in my opinion) offered on free
with a child’s meal. After walking around wild eyed from the deafening
experience, I decided to get out of town and check out the city of Can Tho. Finding the


local bus station in district 5 was a bit of a challenge, but a few wrong turns
and I was there. Hmmmm….. how to get my bike to Can Tho???? I asked at one
company and it seemed too late to add the bike as cargo. Darn!! Towards the end
I found a local company that would accommodate me….. for a price! Ha! No
problem! The 250000 dong I paid (12.50 US) had the crew advise 3
passengers that they would need to catch the next bus and Puffy was strapped
down in their now vacant seats. The four hour trip had me replaying over and
over in my mind the musical peeps of all the chicks loaded on board in a big
basket. (Much better than the shrieking whistles) I spent the afternoon buzzing
around Can Tho to get a feel for the city. I have to admit there is something
about the place I like. I did see some tourists but no backpack area and from
what I could tell, the city was about good eating and fresh fruit. I also

Can you spot the rat head?

noticed the lack of people driving by their horns which was a refreshing
change. I could go on a bit more about my impressions and likes of Can Tho, but
that is for another time. I was prepared to spend a second day discovering what
the city had to offer but as usual, things change quickly. Nghia and Hau had
discovered my little get away and it became a great excuse for them to get out
of Saigon for a day, so in the morning they
arrived at my hotel with Nghia’s car. They had remembered me saying that one
day I wanted to visit Soc Trang, so back to Saigon
went Puffy via a different bus company that treated her as cargo. The tree
amigos then headed to Soc Trang just to see what is there. Hau had been there
years past but he was sure it had changed and it was new to Nghia and me. We
went to the Bat and Clay pagodas and a drive around the mostly Khmer populated
town before heading back to Saigon. Wait a
second Nghia exclaimed! How about we go for a night in a Mekong
homestay for a night of peace and quiet (and some snake soup, and BBQ rat)

The Bat Pagoda

before heading back? Sounds good to us…., so onto a Sampan and off to a small
island we headed for a relaxing evening. Ahhhh it was a nice evening and being
in a tropical paradise with nothing but croaking frogs, good friends, and
almost cold beer is part of what life is all about. It was with regret (as
usual) when we departed the next day to return to Saigon
and the hustle and bustle. We picked up puffy…. A little bit more battle weary
from all the kilometers. As is the norm, the rest of my time in Saigon was
spent with my buds,,,, ( did I ever mention that I consider them to be among
the best tour companies in Vietnam?….
Yes I imagine I have.)

This blog has actually taken a very long time to complete.

Once lit, this candle will burn for 30 years

My so called retirement leaves me with very little time to work on the computer
for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Since I started this page, I have done 3 easy rider trips
into the central highlands as a rider in training. Who knows what direction my
life is changing towards…. I only thank the powers that be that I have the
support of an incredibly strong and devoted life partner that is my loving
wife. Without her….. I am nothing.
As in the past, I will wake up tomorrow and post this as
written…. good or bad

A couple of nice gals

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

4 thoughts on “Kids and Whistles

  1. I really enjoy your blog. I spend some of my retirement in Vietnam every year. Justr a note about something I learned from my friend Viet. When a waiter or waitress makes a mistake, he or she has to pay for that mistake to the welthy restaurant owner. The cost of their mistake may be as large as a whole months income. Most people working in restaurants in HCMC are poor people from the countryside (almost half the population of the city). Many recieve no pay, only tips, held by the owner to deduct mistakes and then gives the remainder at the end of one month.
    I am a well off American, so now that I understand their plight, I pay for their mistake and also the correct order.
    A young lady from Can Tho went to work as a waitress in HCMC. She would make only aproximately 500,000 Dong (25 usd) per month. One month I visited her after she apparently broke some dishes. Her net that month was only 200,000 vnd (10 usd) “Troi oi!” I tipped her 300,000 vnd to help her out. She cried for happy and thanked me profusely.
    Please keep up your blogs, they are so interesting, thanks.

    1. Yes, I understand how things work and I often pitty a person having to work for such a place. In this case it was a Pizza Hut Franchise…… hopefully the poor girl did not have to pay….. I felt bad afterwards, but it is too late to do anything about it.
      Thanks for the compliment Claude I will write when I have the time.

  2. Dear Owen
    Yesterday, I came across your website via TA – and your helpful comments/advice for traveller to Vietnam.

    I have been working my way through your blogs since you first started – I really your stories interesting and you have a way of transporting your readers like they were sharing your adventures with you!

    I take a special interest in your blog, as I was born in Can Tho Province (1973), and adopted as a 1 year old baby to a Western couple. Only returning back to Vietnam for the first time last year, in April 2010.

    You are right, Vietnam left a remarkable influence on me (despite me kidding that it was only a 3 week vacation), and now I’m returning again in December, hopefully for a couple of months! Reading all the info you have (good/bad), soaking it up – hope to meet you and your lovely wife if I do come to Nha Trang!

    Thinking of doing a TEFLA (Teaching English As A Foreign Language), course in Ho Chi Minh City – one of my friends did it, it was a very intenstive 1 month course, with practical experience gained at a classroom. Is there any positions or need for English “teachers” up where you live?

    Kind Regards

    1. Thanks for the kind words.
      There is no end to the need for English teachers in Nha Trang (or anywhere else in Vietnam for that matter)

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