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Our bargain tour of the Mekong Delta
Dec 2nd, 2009 by Tessa
Mekong River tributary & the bow of our boat
Mekong River tributary & the bow of our boat

Mekong tessa 2

So, we continue on with our adventures… Since no trip to Vietnam is complete without seeing the Mekong Delta (and since Phoebe had been assigned the “homework” of researching it) we decided to try something different and go on one of those organized tours.  We found the “exact” same tour offered from $9 a person to $46 a person, so being the budget travelers that we are, we of course chose the $9 tour. 

 We woke up early in the morning and walked to the “bus parking area”. Our guide passed all of the big fancy busses full of German tourists, until we finally arrive at our little, broken down “special” bus. Laughing about our bad bus kharma (and at our cheapness), we boarded the bus and set off for a 2 hours ride to the Mekong Delta.  My mom had the illusion that once we got out of Ho Chi Minh proper, that we’d come across quant rice fields and banana fields, but it was like one giant suburb all the way.

Coconut Boat

Coconut Boat

Coconut candy making factory, when its done it's like a coconut flavored "Bit-o-Honey"

Coconut candy making factory, when its done it's like a coconut flavored "Bit-o-Honey"

We arrived and got into some small boats that took us to a coconut candy factory; As our group learned the process of making the coconut candy, I hung in the back and proceeded to eat all of the samples I could get my hands on. They use every part of the coconut to make the candy, they even use the husks as fuel for the fire that they cook the over. We also learned that if you bought 5 bags of the candy (each with about 50 pieces in it) you get one free! =D What a deal! I reminded my dad that us buying the candy helped the local people, so now have 300 pieces of candy – sucker!
Maggot tea!

Maggot tea!

 We got back into the boat and went to the honey farm. They poured bee pollen, fresh honey, lime and tea into my cup. Gazing over the rim, I couldn’t help but notice (and  announce) that there were maggots in my cup! I flicked them out onto my plate and watched them as they crawled away. Well, now I had something interesting to write about… Mekong boat w fam

 We got back into another little boat, with two paddlers that harassed us whole way for tips and “big money”.  But my mom was okay with it, because Phoebe and I got to finally wear those cool pointy hats so she could take our picture in them. The next stop was our lunch place. Because we didn’t order the giant fried fish that was 15 dollars (and kind of freaky looking – they stood it upright in this dead fried fish contraption) and everyone else did, we were the last to get served (but who cares ^_~ cause we had coconut candy!

After lunch, Dad fell asleep in a hammock and almost got left behind, and on my 5th piece of post-lunch coconut candy I managed to pull a tooth out!

 When we get back to the bus, we are tired and worn out.  After about 15 minutes on the bus, the driver pulls off on the side of the road into some random parking lot and the tour guide says “everyone who is on the 2 day trip, stay on the bus, everyone on the one day trip, get off the bus.”

 One day trip… right that was us!

 We got off the bus and the guide brought us over to another bus. All 14 of us clomped down the parking lot to find that the new bus only had 2 seats open.  “Hmm. That’s strange,” the guide said, and then he went to a 2nd bus to see if they had and seats open.  The driver said he did – and so our guide said “BYE” and with that, he jumped onto the bus and drove off, leaving 12 of us in the parking lot without a bus!  Well apparently the other bus didn’t really have any seats, as they said “sorry” and drove off without us too!!!   There we were, stranded in the middle of the Mekong Delta suburbs with no ride home.  Not to fear though, we wouldn’t starve (after all, we DID have about 250 pieces of candy left) and one of our new friends from Australia (hey Ian!) reminded us all that we weren’t really stuck – because in Vietnam we are RICH and could just hire a taxi all the way back if we wanted. The adults dispersed and started waiving down other buses that passed, asking for a ride. Eventually we found one of those “luxury” buses that had room on it and we drove back to the bus area in comfy leather seats and air con.  So yet again – it all worked out great!

The river cruise.
Nov 9th, 2009 by Tessa

After a relatively quiet morning with Elsa and Sheila, both families rented  bikes to ride around on (“mountain biking is what we had in mind – however we had quite the hodge-podge of bikes in all shapes and sizes). Somehow I managed to get the hot pink one. While I tried to stuff Mr.Pomelo (my giant citrus friend) and my day bag into the bike’s front basket, my parents conversed with Libby, our Vietnamese friend who was going to give us a bike tour of the area. Realizing that I couldn’t stuff both my bag and Mr.Pomelo into the basket at once, I started off down the “road” with the fruit in my left hand and my right hand on the bicycle. As you can guess, it only took me about 30 seconds to run myself into the nearest rice field. With my mom hollering at me to PUT THE POMELO INTO THE BASKET and rolling her eyes at me, I dragged the bike back onto the “road” (if you could call it that). Strapping Mr.Pomelo to the back of the bike, we set out again. After riding along side of, then crossing over the “main highway” (I MEAN SERIOUSLY! WHO COME’S UP WITH CALLING IT THE MAIN HIGHWAY – IT ONLY HAS 2 LANES?), we turned to go towards the river. Libby was going at a good pace for the little kids, but as you probably know, I like to go fast! We turned onto the dirt road and I kept going. Sharing the lane with 2 water buffalo, Sheila, Mr.Pomelo and I road ahead, farther then we were actually supposed to go it seems.

“You two have gone too far! You missed the village’s main road!”

“There was another road…?”
“Yeah Libby has gone on ahead to see how high the water comes up to in the shallow section.”

So we went back.

“THIS IS THE MAIN ROAD! NO WONDER WE DIDN’T SEE IT!” I stood with everyone looking at what quite looked like a deer trail through a field. They could not tell me that I didn’t see the turn. There was no possible way I could have seen it.

Well, it turns out that the river was 4 times as deep as our guide thought it would be.  We couldn’t go back – both Phoebe and Elsa had crashed on the road we were on because it was steep and rocky and they were both bleeding and whining.

We found a farmer, and paid the farmer and his wife 30 yuan (about $4) to bring us and out 8 bikes across the river on his bamboo raft (literally, 6 large sticks of bamboo lashed together with some rope). Libby, my dad, Mr.Pomelo and I went with 7 bikes and the old man farmer across the river on the first trip. Mr.Pomelo wanted to go with my mom though, so I escorted him back to the other side when old man farmer went back to pick up the rest of the crew.

.

We went on trip #2 with 8 people, 2 bikes (one of which was a tandem) and old man farmer. We did our best to sink the bamboo raft (if you could call it that). I sat in the front, trying my best NOT to rock the boat. Elsa and Phoebe, who had wiped out on the slope earlier, had their legs in the air so that they wouldn’t get wet. Julie and Sheila were in the middle of the boat and were at least 6 inches under water, while Bass and my mom were holding their cameras as high up in the air as possible.

“Dead fish floating your way,” I commented.

“EW! EW! EW! EW!” Elsa tried her beset to scoot to the other side of the boat with her leg in the air to avoid the fish head.

“TESSA STOP TIPPING THE BOAT!” My mom said.

“I AM NOT!” I shifted to the side of the boat where the fish head was to avoid Elsa tipping us.

“NOW YOU’RE ROCKING IT!”
“I’m trying to even it out!” The boat was now sinking farther under the water. A tour floated past us on bamboo boats. Someone looked at us for a couple seconds before announcing:

“You’re sinking.” She pointed to the boat.

“Yeah, thanks,” Julie said.

Suprisingly and contradictory to what my mom expected, we made it across the river without someone (or one of the bikes) falling into the river. We all stepped lightly onto the other bank, pulled our bicylces off of the raft and peddled away.

The Tradegy
Oct 19th, 2009 by Tessa

 There are four bunks per room in a train car. The one across from mine is empty. My mother should have been there. The bed is cold and stiff and the blanket and pillow are untouched.

A perfectly dramatic way of describing a sad scene in yet another novel in which the mother has died don’t you think? Fortunately, my mother is not dead. Unfortunately though, train tickets are not refundable.

Due to an emergency, my mom had to fly back to Shanghai. She didn’t want to because she thought she’d be lonely. Just to make sure that she isn’t lonely while we’re gone, I am not going to tell you what is wrong with her! (Forcing you to email her to figure out what’s wrong!!! I’m a genius!)

EDIT- My dad is forcing me against my will to write about what happened. But I still think it was a great idea.

The day after we went to the Zoo (in Chengdu, China where the giant pandas are), where I swear that Phoebe was the main exhibit because of the amount of photographs people took of her with their crying small children, we met Tom again for Tex Mex. As soon as we got there, I attempted to converse with the Chinese waitresses in Spanish. I quickly realised that NO-ONE in this restaurant spoke Spanish, much less English. Mom dove for the chips and Guacamole- but no she isn’t food poisoned. We were all finished with the meal, it was probably the best Mexican food I had eaten in China (which really isn’t saying a whole lot, but still, it was okay….). We were all convercing when mom suddenly brought her hands to her mouth- no, she doesn’t vomit either! Her eyes went wide and she simply said, “I think my crown just came off!”

So we call the consulate. They give us a hospital. We get to the hospital and they have an English speaking doctor who put a temporary cap on her tooth and we shipped her back to Shanghai where she has instructions to harass the FedEx people until they fork over our new Kindle. Oh, and hopefully she can get her tooth fixed while she’s there.

my version of the ricshaw adventure
Oct 9th, 2009 by Tessa

My mom managed to write down her side before me, but here is my view of the story:

The streets were swarmed with people, most of who would stop and stare at us. Rickshaws followed us down the side walk on the bike lane

“Hello!? Miss-a Lady!? Won’t-ya ride-a rickshaw?” I’ve made the observation that instead of actually using articles they add a quick “a” to the back of words to make it seem like they are saying the articles.

“No-a ride-a me rickshaw, I-a pay-a less!”

“No, no, no! I pay-a good-a price!”

Dad repeatedly looked at his watch. Announcing the time after a minute had past. “Oh now we only have 37 minutes,” He said. Phoebe danced on the small strip of cement between the road and the bike lane- trying her best to flag down the full taxis that hurried past. We were starting to become desperate. If we didn’t catch this last train, there weren’t any more trains for 3 days.

“If we find a four person rickshaw- we’ll take it!” Mom finally declared as her power walked down the dirty side walk. Right on cue, a 4 person rickshaw glided up to us. Dad showed him where we wanted to go on the map.

“60,” He said

“15”

“I only-a take-a for 60,” He hesitated, “but-a for you-a I give-a for 40.”

“15,” I repeated, as I walked on. He slowly pedaled after us. He could see that mom was interested.

“30!”

“15!”

“25,” He snorted, “Last offer.”

“20 and you’ve got yourself a deal.” My mom cut in.

“Okay!”

I got in and sat down on the bigger seat facing forward. Mom objected. “Dad and I get the bigger seats because we’re bigger.”

“But you freak out when the driver takes a sharp turn!” I objected. We had been in a rickshaw before…. She sat down on the seat- wasn’t like I didn’t warn her.

He swerved left where we were supposed to go strait. We were now on the wrong side of the large swamp like field that the freeway ran over. Going down the abandoned road full of potholes, we could see the station on the other side of the marshy area. It smelled horrible and continued to get worse as we went. We passed decaying buildings on either side. The station was soon obscured by the mass of windowless apartments. Soon after the road had turned into a dirt road, the guy pulled over. A man with frizzy, grease covered hair and missing teeth was standing in the alley next to us. We were close enough to see his missing teeth and the bandages wrapped around his hands. The rickshaw driver hollered to the man and mom grabbed my arm and continued to squeeze it like she did when a car came to close to us on the street. The man walked closer to us and pointed the way we’d been going.

The man continued on the bumpy road until we started to doubt the route again. Dad was now checking his watch at least 6 times ever minute and announcing the glum results to us every half a minute now. We came upon 2 people this time. Our driver was obviously lost. The monotonous clucking (for it was more like a clucking then a ticking) abruptly halted for the moment as we slid to a stop. The man once again, shouted something at the 2 workers standing in front of a dirt road leading across the swamp. The man pointed across the dirt road. Mom brought her hand to her forehead and whispered “Oh god…” as she shook here head. So of course the man jerks the dilapidated cart onto this dirt road in the middle of who knows where, and we cross the smelly swamp. Litter gathers in clumps in the damp grass like flies in a swarm. The man lights a cigarette and I am so close to phoebe that I can feel her gagging. We cross the swamp to find ourselves next to the freeway. Dad looked at his watch and mumbled something.

For the third time, the man pulls over onto the side of the road and asks for directions, this time from a family of 3. Just like every other child that we’ve seen at the age of 7-ish the little girl leaned out towards us and slowly said, “hello, welcome to Beijing.” I smiled and said “thank you” back. The girl instantly realized what she’d done and ran behind her mother. The man pointed to the freeway and my mom mumbled something along the lines of Oh god again.

So the rickshaw man grunted and then turned the rickshaw on. He went onto the freeway. The rickshaw was going at a good 40 mph and mom had put her leg up between me and the gaping area where there was no door. Everyone’s hair was whipping around and mom started screaming. We were bouncing up and down when suddenly a siren came from behind us. The man cursed and increased speed to the fastest the little rickshaw had probably ever gone in its life. We were avoiding cars left and right. And at this precise moment dad decided to check his watch again. The rickshaw man took a quick leap and bounded over the foot high sidewalk separating the pedestrian/bike lane from the regular lane. The rickshaw driver continued cursing as the police car went to the “official” entrance to the pedestrian lane. We swerved though stalls, dodged a truck unloading fruit, and almost ran over quite a few people while going about 60 mph. Mom started screaming “LET US OUT LET US OUT!” and then we zoomed right past the station and onto the pedestrian over pass.

Phoebe screamed over the wind, “SHOULD WE JUMP!?”
“NO WE’LL KILL OURSELVES!”

“BUT TESSA HAS NINJA POWERS!”

“TESSA JUST BELIEVES SHE HAS NINJA POWERS- THEY AREN’T REAL!” I couldn’t tell who was shouting it but it sure made Phoebe shut up. I am still very annoyed with whoever said that though- for I have repeatedly tried to convince myself that I could become a ninja and we all know that full support from parents is the best assistance in a child’s choice of career.

Dad yanked the money out of his pocket and shoved it in the drivers face. Mom continued to repeat, “someone’s gonna get hurt! Hold on as tight as possible! We’re gonna die! Someone’s gonna get hurt!”

The driver looked behind him to see that the car was a decent distance away. I checked that I had everything in one quick glance and jumped out of the cart laughing as the driver quickly took the money from us and drove off… for some reason there were more people staring at us then usual.

$5 if you can run that man over!
Sep 28th, 2009 by Tessa

For those of you who don’t know, we’re in China now.

China is VERY different from Japan. As our host kindly tells us, the only rule here is that there are no rules unless you are caught. So unless the police men is standing next to you (and actually WANTS to turn you in) then you can basically get away with anything.

A couple other facts about China:

  • It is safer to cross the street on a red light, because everyone “starts to turn right but then changes their mind to go strait” when there is a green light.
  • There is a food chain: Buses rule everything, no one gets in their way, Cars are next on the line- bikes and pedestrians get out of THEIR way, bicycles come next, and then pedestrians.
  • Motor bikes/mopeds (which are VERY popular) come between bikes and cars if the only thing on them is a person. If they are carrying a giant load of Styrofoam that is bigger then a car, then they go in between car and bus.
  • PEDESTRIANS ARE PREY

So, there you have it! Everything we’ve experienced in China rolled up into a couple little paragraphs!

onsen
Sep 12th, 2009 by Tessa

A couple days ago we went to an onsen. Onsen are traditional (or very close to traditional) hot spring bath houses. Modern onsens usually have stone or porcelain tubs dug into the ground, while traditional public bath houses used large wooden barrels (they use pools now). For those who have seen the movie Spirited Away, modern onsens and public baths don’t share to o much resemblance to the ones in the movie (I don’t know if it was because we went to a small bath house, or because it was a modern bath-house).

It was very awkward at first to strip down completely and wash off by filling a bucket up with water, soaping up, and dumping the bucket of water  on myself… Not to mention that I accidentally threw the bucket across the room….. After washing, we just got into the mineral or herbal bath depending on our liking, and soaked. I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t bathe in giant wooden barrels, but overall it was still very fun.

I SUMMON MY MINIONS!
Sep 9th, 2009 by Tessa
I summon you minions...

I summon you minions...

Pigeon "falconry"

Pigeon "falconry"

What’s the only thing better then a puppy or a school of giant koi bigger then my leg? A FLOCK OF CHEEKY PIDGEONS!

One of the markets we went to was along side a beautiful river. The water was so clear it almost looked like you were gazing into liquid glass. There was  a traditionalstyle,  vermilion bridge stretched across the length of the river. Under the bridge was a School of MASSIVE koi. One of the vendors at the market sold fish food. As we walked over to bye some, I kept my eyes on the ground, marveling at how clean the street was. We bought some food and hurried over to the river. The river was more like a large canal. The sides of it were made of river rock and cement with some grass poking out here and there. The ideal place for pigeons. We stopped at the steep slope and started throwing the small round pellets at the koi. The pigeons on the rocks slowly gathered under us to catch all of the poorly aimed pieces bouncing off of the slope. The foraging pigeons in the market behind us started to close in from the back. We were quickly surrounded on the wide sidewalk, about 10 yards away from the closest stall. Flustered by the pigeons and half flustered by my Mom hollering at them and running away (pigeons and camping without air mattresses are her week points), I started throwing the food as far as I could to get them away. My mom laughed.  ”You know you could probably get them to eat out of you hands!” She said as a joke, but I can never tell so I put some food in my hand and held it out thinking, what the heck! These pigeons have got to be the cleanest pigeons in the world!. Phoebe quickly picked up on it. After a little, I decided to try something cooler. I put the food in my hand and stood up with me hand in the air. Five  pigeons instantly jumped onto my hand and ate right from it.

Nacho Takayama

J-A-P-A-N! YAY!
Sep 2nd, 2009 by Tessa

I walked out of the airport. It looked like any other street that one would walk on, with a whole lot of busses and cars and what-not. But as I walked down the road to our bus stop it occured to me that we were in Japan. The sky was Japanese, the ground was Japanese, the signs were Japanese the ABC gum on the side walk was Japanese ABC gum! It can all be summarised in a couple words.

“Wow, we’re in Japan….”

updates
Aug 29th, 2009 by Tessa

quick summary of what is up

  • went from Vancouver Island to Seatle
  • spent 2 days in seatle
  • went to LA
  • preparing for flight to JAPAN

Just to keep you up with what we’re doing….

for those who I sent the totem pole card to-!
Aug 26th, 2009 by Tessa

The totem pole card that I sent to the school had the story of the first totem pole on it:

The chief of the raven clan owed a great debt to another chief. So he needed to think of a way to pay the debt, but he didn’t know how. One night a beaver came to him in a dream(beaver on the bottom of the totem). The beaver was holding a log on which it chewed on. But before the dream was finished he woke up. The next day he had a dream that the thunder bird brought him a totem of a raven(for the raven clan- the thunder bird is ontop of the totem). The next day he knew what to do. He got his son, and had him carve the other cheif a totem pole (the son is in the middle of the totem).

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