While the French Canadians went out into the world spreading their wings to the Cu Chi Tunnels, I stayed back in back I began to call the ‘Bat Cave’ aka the air-conditioned room still darkened by the shading curtains. I stayed in that bat cave most of the day along with Phillip the German while only venturing out for food and water. We did eat a tasty dish at the nearby market that seemed like pho but without the broth. To my delight, it had fried spring rolls, grilled meats, and some veggies including mung beans, as well as other mysteries only a finely tuned observer might be able to decipher. Without much further delay, we went back to the Bat Cave to be hugged by the cold embrace of the air-con upon the initial creak of the room’s door. With only the two of us in the room, the only lights involved were our two personal bed lights; it would have been a shame to disturb the darkened isolation we worked so hard to create. We both went about researching our individual trips. I tried to form some general itinerary of places that I could not live my life without seeing. It was a plan and a way to look forward to what lay surely ahead for me. Along with planning out the scope of my trip, I studied up on my Vietnamese forming a cheat sheet out of the notebook I bought for such a lofty pursuit. I had no plans to master the language or even approach conversation level; I just really wanted to be able to communicate certain necessities when I especially venture into far flung towns and villages that are not expected to know much or at all of the English language. One of those necessities was obviously food as I formed a food encyclopedia with the Vietnamese word for the dish combined with the English description. Besides the foodie obsession that drew itself across several pages, I went about producing the alphabet with my broken English interpretation of how they seem to be pronounced. The one thing that finally pulled the two of us out of the confines of the Bat Cave was the free happy hour beer that can be picked up daily from 6-7 pm (I have been able to stretch its limits thanks to my convincing charm and the fact that I have been here so long to grow some familiarity with the friendly Vietnamese hostel staff). Once there we joined efforts with the four French Canadians, Nick from Philly, and three others at the hostel. Since Philip already knew my game plan and was full onboard, all I needed to do was convince the rest of the group to join us to the Asian street taco stand and thanks to my flair for the imaginative especially with such a decorative array of colorful words at my disposal when discussing food they came along for my guided tour through the exotic world of food. I called out for the Great Migration and so we went with me at the lead. With one vegetarian order required on top of the ten other orders needed to be made, I had my hands full as far as how I would explain to this poor yet lucky woman what I would need. I felt great to be bringing all this business to her since I had already eaten her food twice before and she was always nice and with a smile. With my phrase book handy, I communicated the need for a non thit banh nuong trang (thit meaning meat) along with the regular ten orders. Since she only had a small foot high grill with possibly two square feet to work with she could only make two at a time. While everyone chatted away, I worked with the woman by handing out the finished tacos and keeping order. I watched her work trying to memorize the method for further practice. Beyond the taste of the food itself, I enjoyed working closely with this woman to communicate what we needed by using some Vietnamese phrases and numbers. I am damn proud of myself! The tacos are only 10,000 dong each (50 cents) but for such a quick swell of attention coming her way, she did well for herself. Since this was more so an appetizer I had to feed the people and that meant discovering the next best food on the tour. I wanted a pop-up style restaurant but known lucked across my path so I regretfully herded the masses to a brick and mortar restaurant with disappointing food (at least to me with saddest display of pho I hope to ever see). No worries, we went back to the backpacker street for cheap beers in air-con heaven. We killed bottle upon bottle with each sweeping round that further amassed themselves all across the table. We chatted and laughed deep into the night well past my grandfather bedtime. God I wish that we could all stay together for longer and not go our separate ways. I guess I should fell blessed to have met so many people that I grew such a bond with to the point I hate to say goodbye. At the same time, I can only imagine how closely the friendship we deepen when we have hit off so well in such a short period of time. We ended the night with the main core us of doing some damage towards the fall tally count. I don’t remember the final number but I do remember the sight of the table hidden by a stout array of beers. What didn’t matter was the beers but rather the friendships made. The people have really made traveling the great experience that it has been for me at this juncture in the trip. Safe travels to all and I hope we meet again!
Riding Vietnam Day 152: To the Bat Cave!