We have been delayed a day because our clothes are being washed (we have a situation of needing more clothes but not wanting to carry any more!) And we are hiding from the sun in our room until after lunch when the heat of the day isn't so crazy. I have been a bit productive though. I bought a recharge card and put the code into the phone and it seems to be working (thank you to the Expat blog and Google translate for helping me work all of that out!). Also, I successfully ordered 2 hot coffees in Vietnamese for breakfast this morning. That was pretty exciting.
So we left Ben Tre in the morning and cycled along the river and out of town. We took a wrong turn and on the way back along the highway to our turnoff, a guy on a motorcycle slowed down to speak to us (without, it seemed, any regard for the trucks and other motorists). He was interested in where we were from and how we were enjoying Vietnam. He liked the opportunity to practice his English and was excited to tell us that he sells baby dogs. This was one of the first super friendly interactions for the day and he talked to us, slowly driving his motorbike next to us, the whole way to our turn off.
We meandered through some back streets because we both wanted to avoid the highways and were treated to some beautiful scenery, chickens running all around us and waves and smiles as we passed through. Somewhere near Tan Thanh Binh, my chain broke so we had to walk. We asked a young man if he could direct us to somewhere we could buy a new chain, he couldn't speak much English so he went away and came back with a girl who was a lot more confident and who directed us to a mechanic. There are many motorbike repair shops along the roads (not just highways) and it seems that most are happy to service bicycles as well. The mechanic fixed my chain and asked for a very small fee (10,000) and the two friends stayed with us to make sure that we were OK.
I bought some small koala souvenirs with me from Australia and gave one to the boy and one to the girl to say thank you for helping us. They thought they were cute and in her best English, the girl asked if we would like to have tea with her. We said that we would and went back to her friends shop for a drink. We discovered that their names were Anh and Lien and they introduced us to their friend whose name I could not catch (she is Catherine on Facebook). The three teenagers were lovely and they bought us some sweet popcorn and a kilo of rambutan for the road. They wanted to take photos with us because I think western travellers are a bit of a novelty and we have some of them too. We had a little trouble communicating but they were very helpful when we asked to practice the few Vietnamese words that we are learning. When I asked if they had Facebook, they were very excited to add me to their friends list and I promised that they could practice their English on me any time. They all waved us goodbye as we hopped back on our bikes.
We reached Mo Cay a bit after 3pm and checked into one of the motels on the map. We have been really lucky with internet since we got here. When we arrived at the airport in Ho Chi Minn City, I bought a Mobifone sim card and the internet seems to be unlimited (although it slowed down to basically nothing after some heavy use for the first 2 weeks) and works almost everywhere. I don't know if I have the best deal or whatever but considering how useful it has been, I think the price is more than reasonable (I think about 90,000 in the airport and I recharged it with 100,000 two weeks later so $10 I think). The words Nha Nghi seem to be guest house or motel and all of them so far have been air conditioned and have ensuites. The owner of the one in Mo Cay was awesome. His name is Tuan and he helped us a bit with our Vietnamese. It has been well received when we ask people to help us with our pronunciation! People seem surprised but pleased that we are trying to learn the language and my phrase book is getting really full as I add more during every interaction.
On the first night we had a beer with some men on the street. Their names were Binh and Xay and we talked about where we were going, our names and Vietnamese words for things around us. We used pointing and drawing things to communicate mostly and it was really fun. The following night, we got into an accidental drinking competition with another group of local men. Because we were again using little words, pictures and pointing, as soon as there was a drop in the conversation, the guys would yell 'yo' and we would have to drain the glasses. One of the guys worked at the bike repair shop on the corner and oh man did he look sore the next morning!
There were just so many lovely interactions that I can't tell you about all of them but we met a woman and her son, Loan and Dan, at their grocery store and they both lived in Melbourne so had very good English. They asked us to stay and chat with them, explained more words to us and showed us how to find the Buddhist noodle shops (vegetarian food!!) - hu tau chay.