Monday, March 12, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Stories from the Couch

Having enjoyed lunch in Can Tho and managed to snag a bus heading for Long Xuyen, the Harrington duo crammed into the little gray bus which proceeded to fly down the narrow streets connecting one delta town to the next. Along the way, anyone who looked like they may need a ride to the next town was hollered at from one of the men riding the bus, being offered a ride to their destination. This created a bit of a rotation in the seating arrangements but did little to disturb the Harrington's crammed in the back with their day packs in their laps.
A bit exhausted from their early morning walk and full tourist days, the Harrington's walked from the bus stop to a small cafe to refuel before checking into a hotel. Using hotel wi-fi the couple checked their CouchSurfing messages in time to see that a couple of Long Xuyen hosts were ready and willing to meet up for dinner so long as the Harrington's made a call to let the CSers know the couple was in town. So, after a short nap and some time catching up on soccer, the couple found themselves at the front door of the hotel being handed motorbike helmets and being directed as to which bike they should climb aboard for a night tour of the city.

The rest of the evening was enjoyed taking in the sights of a city at night from the back of a motorbike with a couple of stops to enjoy the generous, interesting and friendly company of these CS superstar hosts. The night began with a delicious bowl of lemongrass fish with noodles and sugar cane juice followed by a run around town and topped off with strong coffee and tamarind juice. All the while the Harrington's were blown away by the incredible generosity of these four friends who were not only showing them the town and offering their friendship and knowledge of the land, but were extending Vietnamese style hospitality in offering to purchase meals and drinks. Every act was more than the couple would have dared to dream, little did they know the following day would be simply a continuation of this supreme hospitality.


Waking up, the Harrington's made an executive decision to enjoy a double breakfast morning, hitting up their complimentary breakfast of bread and coffee before hopping on the back of motorbikes for a second breakfast of Vietnamese beef pho. Fully loaded with food and energy the Harrington's enjoyed the day with 2 of the 4 CS/friends they had met the previous night. With flexible jobs in the city, Nam and Nguyen were able to treat the Harrington couple to a trip across the river to Tiger Island where the couple learned about Vietnam's political history, particularly of the 2nd President who lived many years on Tiger Island. The grounds of the president's childhood home and nearby museum were well tended yet extremely quiet and peaceful on a Monday afternoon and definitely left the Harrington's feeling as though they'd had a particularly unique experience.
With hotel reservations on an island awaiting the couple, they reluctantly said good-bye to their fabulous new friends after a fantastic lunch of various tofu dishes and another generous outpouring of hospitality as the two morning tour guides took the Harrington's to the bus stop in the next city and made sure the couple had the proper bus tickets to get to Rach Gia and then to the Island the following day.

With nothing but fondness for Long Xuyen and the ability of CouchSurfing to bring people together, the Harrington's enjoyed a more comfortable, yet lengthy bus ride to Rach Gia, their jumping off point for Phu Quoc, Island.

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