It looks like I lucked out at the Internet cafe today – my keyboard as barely-functioning space bar and shift keys, so apologies if mistakes slip through that I can’t be bothered correcting.
Today, Friday, pretty much followed the same pattern as yesterday, and for that matter the day before.
- awake between 8 and 9
- eat breakfast
- laze by or in pool
- wander around town until sweatier than John Candy (when he was alive)
- get back to hotel pool ASAP
- forget how hot it is
- repeat from “wander” until legs lose motor function
Today’s wandering initially involved checking out the famed Japanese Bridge, which must be famous for non-architectural reasons because it just looked like a bit of footpath that happened to extend over some water.
After raising an eyebrow and turning on our heels, Janelle and I headed through the market (As I may have previously mentioned, its pungency is comparable to a barrel full of Irishmen’s feet). I took Janelle to a tailor who had been recommended to me by another Australian, and got her advice on colours and materials for a rather spiffy suit (“Don’t get double-breasted, Dan, it’s out” – I would have had no idea).
After spending quite some time being measured and bargained with, we left satisfied but somewhat poorer. I ordered a dark-grey suit and waistcoat plus a deep burgundy-red shirt to match, US$58. We’ll see if it’s worth it tomorrow. Janelle’s had considerable trouble with a tailer near the hotel; twice they have failed to get the back right on her Chinese-style dress.
After the tailoring, Janelle and I were convinced by a nearby shop to get a massage. What I didn’t realise at the time was that, while women had the dubious privilege of being massaged semi-nude in the fairly public shop window, men had the even more worrisome task of riding a motorbike to the family shack on the other side of the river and being massaged by a rather enthusiastic and muscly chap (Is it racist to nickname him Ming the Merciless? Probably) who pounded me like a side of mince, and cracked my fingers for good measure. I left poorer and wiser than I had entered, but probably no more relaxed. A motorcycle ride in Vietnam alone is enough give some people a nervous breakdown, and I had two.
We grabbed some lunch. I got Spaghetti Amatriciana, which was Amatriciana in the same way as I’m the Prince Albert Hall. I.e. Not at all. I was a weird mix of undercooked tomato and onion, but at least it was edible. I thrust it down my gob and tried to forget about Ming.
Recipe for Spaghetti Prince Albert Hall.
- isolate oneself, from birth, from all sources of information that might give you an understanding of italian food
- one day, have a sideways glance through a kaleidoscope at a sketch of a faded polaroid shot of an actual Spaghetti Amatriciana
- three years later, recreate Spaghetti Amatriciana from memory
It’s understandible that they don’t always get it right. Particularly considering that in this town, as with the clothing designs, everyone photocopies copies everyone else’s menus. Most cafes and restaurants have the chalkboard slogan “Same Same But Better”, or “Same Same But Different” (if they’re worse). I have actually found myself using “Same Same” and other pidgeon english phrases with other Australians, which is a little embarassing.
Later on we headed back to the pool, and I had a great bit of pool-volleyball with Joanne, another Australian staying at the hotel. She and her partner Peter are touring with a group, and tonight they took us along with them for a Vietnamese cooking lesson. We paid about $7.50, and were taught how to cook a delicious salad, some fish smoked in banana leaves, and spring rolls. Then we sat down on the balcony overlooking the river and waited for our food to be cooked.
Amongst the food we cooked were several other delicious morsels, like barbequed chicken skewers that must have been the most succulent I’ve ever tasted. In all, probably four courses passed over the table, and at the end, they gave us printed recipes to take with us.
That’s all for today – tomorrow we head out to the ancient Cham ruins of My Son, and check out our suits.