Sunday, 6 October 2013

Saigon Separations

Did we have to leave this beautiful setting?  One more day please?!  Ah well, at least we had a boat trip to the floating market,  Oh, I wish you could have seen it.  Boats of all shapes and sizes, weaving  in and out.  Bunches of bananas flew high in the air before being caught a d stored on board crafts.  Watermelons, cabbages, spices, eggs, rocks and cement were flung with ease from vendor to buyer.  Tiny boats bobbed around selling drinks, beads and all manner of things.  It was pitch and toss of the highest level.

I would have liked to have gone once more round the block (some may say I have done that a few times already - tut tut).  Still, it was interesting looking at the riverside shops.  They had some interesting items like coffins....COFFINS!! Now there was a thought.  How would they collect them?  Would they tow the behind the boat with body in situ?  

We pulled over to visit the market.  We were becoming immune to some of the sights now.  The old 'look at my frogs and birds' routine is wearing a bit thin.  But the smell never wears thin.  The pungent odour from the fermenting fish sauce had us all scuttling back to the bus for the return journey to Saigon.  

Sailing speedily along the highway, we saw the workers grafting away in the paddy fields.  Many of them had erected beautiful tombstones dedicated to their dead relatives buried there.  The graveyards were pretty full and they had to go somewhere.

Have you noticed a theme developing here?  We actually passed a Vietnamese hearse, complete with undertakers.  Dressed in white robes with 'Karate Kid' style headbands, I thought it was a local martial arts' group out for a jolly.  They were having a right old laugh.

Woeful Wind explained in detail the Vietnamese burial traditions.  White headbands for sons; yellow for grandchildren and red for grand grandchildren ( how endearing that sounds.  Much better than great-grandchildren).  If your child dies, no bands are worn.  You must smile and you are not allowed to cry.  What!!

For richer people, the wooden caskets are buried.  Three years later, the bodies are exhumed and the bones cleaned.  The bones are placed in the correct order in a ceramic casket for reburial.  This time they get a headstone.  Always one to spot a bargain, I would opt for the cremation at a very low temperature.  The bones would be intact, so one stage would be skipped.  Pretty nifty idea that one.  

So final lunch of the big Happy Family tour.  Aah.  Louder! AAH!!  That's better. And what should happen?  We had our first proposal.  Abe, of the cheerful chuckle and ginormous golf club fame, had noted that Loretta and Rose rarely ate lunch.  One for a bargain, he wondered if they might consider marrying him.  Two for the price of one. BOGOF.  I think he may still have to caddy for himself as no reply was forthcoming.  Next time Abe.

Final afternoon in Vietnam and we were faced with the brutality of man and the horrors of war.  The photos were too distressing and I took some time out to sit with Hubby.  War solves nothing.  People have to sit round a table to talk eventually.  Pointless, pointless destruction.  

Thank goodness we were able to sit in the Notte Dame Cathedral and absorb its healing atmosphere.  As we crossed over the road to the famous Post Office, my heart was lifted.  A bride and groom.  So happy.  Proof to me that love is the answer and makes the world go round.

And so, our final evening.  We met on the lobby for one last time.  Some hugged, some kissed.  We even hugged those who were staying with us. We had made some new friends, some hopefully for a lifetime.  How wonderful it would be to see their faces again.  I may not be a cordon bleu cook, I may not have a swimming pool (yet) but there would be a warm Hieland welcome - and a chance to see the monster of course.  Kathy would be able to set up a 'spot the monster' stall too.

After one last photocall and a group 'thank you' to Wonderful Wind, we splintered apart.  The web was broken.  I gave Rose and Loretta one last hug before watching them toddle off into the night.  I just hoped they would not get lost again.

So, off to Floor 13 for us, except it has no number, just a dining room.  Happy surprise.  We were not alone.  Nurse Judy was there with her husband, Dave.  I don't think I've mentioned him before.  I'd better before it is too late.  We wouldn't see him again.  Suffice to say, if you ever need a guard dog or an early morning call, he is your man.  He almost had me out of the boat one time when he performed an animal impression.

Last but very definitely not least were Tania and Frank.  This turned out to be the start of a very beautiful friendship.  As Dave and Judy retired, there followed a lengthy hilarious hour or so of travellers' tales.  Tania could write a book on the story of her afternoon tea at The Sail in Dubai alone!!  Suffice to say, if you are ever fortunate enough to travel with this pair, make sure Frank has his credit card. 

The cleaner had been hanging around for a while and our bills were presented.  We took the hints and headed for our room, mouths and sides aching with laughter.  Time for a quick call to my brother and sis.  Great to hear their voices.  I didn't feel quite so far from home.  Lights out.  Night night. X

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