This morning Pati and BeeBee got up at 5 am for a 6 am start. (The local rooster slept in until 6.)
Meeting their guide in the lobby, they walked quickly to the boat dock, where they clambered on board a small tourist boat with 10 chairs (one each used by Pati, BeeBee, the guide, and the boat captain) and not much more. While the tour description used the word “leisurely” to describe their boat trip on the Mekong to see the Cai Rang floating market, it was really full throttle, because they were on a tight schedule.
After about a half hour on the river, they reached their destination, the floating wholesale market that supplies the retail sellers.These boats were larger; each one specialized in one or two fruits or vegetables. The cargo of each boat was advertized by a few of the items tied to the top of a large pole at the front of the boat. There were huge piles of pineapples, red onions, watermelons, tomatoes, and other produce. Tourist boats full of passengers converged on this produce flotilla and merged loosely to steer slowly though the middle for the best views. Threading through the produce and tourist boats were smaller boats each containing one local occupant. And finally there was the small boat containing the lottery ticket salesman with his upright display board, who sold to the sellers.
By 7 am, they had exited the floating market and were on their way back to the dock. Almost as soon as BeeBee had asked about the many clumps of green plants floating in the river and growing at its side (water hyacinth), the boat captain steered toward a much larger ship at the water’s edge, tied the boat up to a tire on the side of the bigger ship, hurried to the back of their boat, stripped off his shirt and trousers (down to his boxer shorts), and jumped over the side. This is when Pati and BeeBee began to think that they might miss their flight.
However, the boat captain had hurredly explained to their guide (in Vietnamese, of course) that garbage had fouled the motor and he was going to fix (or at lease assess) the problem. Soon he climbed back on board, donned his shirt, untied the boat, walked back to his chair (leaving a trail of Mekong water behind him), and resumed piloting the boat in his dripping underwear.
Apparently he had not fixed the problem, since he explained to the guide that the boat was moving more slowly because of the motor. Again the prospect of missing their flight came to mind, but, in fact, the boat had docked and they were back at their hotel for breakfast before 7:30, as the guide had promised.
By 8 am, they had finished a hurried breakfast and checked out of their hotel. The car ride to the airport went smoothly, and they had checked in for their flight, passed through security, and were seated at their gate by 8:30 (Try that at Dulles!) for a 9:05 boarding.
(Thank you, Mr. Vinh, for a very rewarding visit to Saigon and Can Tho. We will miss you.)
They had seats 1A and 1B on a small 72-seat prop plane. Of course, the plane loaded from the back, but no one had managed to fill their overhead bin by the time they got to their seats. (There is no underseat storage in front of the first row of seats.) As usual, they first checked for the nearest exit. The door to the cockpit was directly ahead of them, so that wasn’t the way out. Then they saw that their emergency exit door contained the window beside BeeBee. Convenient!
The flight was a short 50 minutes and their luggage was among the first to appear on the conveyer belt. Pushing their luggage cart, they exited into a warm day full of almost overwhelming offers for taxis. There was no sign with their name waiting for them. One of the taxi vendor ladies persisted until she found out their hotel name. She then went away “to call the hotel” and came back to say the hotel had never heard of them, and they should just take a taxi there. She did help them log onto the internet, by providing the password for wifi at the nearby coffeeshop. Pati decided to call their previous guide for help, since he had never been given a phone number for the guide on Phu Quoc. Mr. Vinh came through again, and soon a driver arrived to take them to their hotel. The hotel receptionist told them that their room had been upgraded and was ready for them. The tour coordinator called soon afterward to tell them that the hotel had made the mistake; this seemed to be confirmed when three maids arrived to finish preparing the room.
After cooling down in their lovely room, Pati and BeeBee had a refreshing swim in the pool about 50 feet from their small patio.
Pati and BeeBee then set off to find the beach. The receptionist gave them a map and verbal directions. As soon as they stepped outside, the helpful hotel policeman/porter pointed them in the wrong direction. After this hot detour, they found the beach and a shady restaurant. Since it was just after 2 pm, they decided that it was time for lunch. The wait staff specialized in ignoring customers. Eventually they were waited on and received almost all of their food. (Pati’s rice bowl came but without rice. He didn’t really want the rice but he had paid for it.) Their lunch was finally over at 4 pm. They will not go back there.
After walking back to their hotel (a shorter trip back), Pati had another swim in the pool while BeeBee enjoyed the internet.
They ventured out again after dark (it was only marginally cooler) to investigate potential restaurants and laundry providers. The road to the beach was dark, and, although they have small flashlights, they decided to save that walk for another evening. They returned to their hotel for a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s excursion.
Note: They have many pictures for this blog post but are unable to upload them this evening. They will be added later.