Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Driving Me Crazy

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Can Tho to Bien Hoa today: 200km along the hot, exhaust-choked QL1 through Vinh Long, back near My Tho, and up around Ho Chi Minh City to cross the Dong Nai into town. It’s a long day compared to our previous hauls, but we manage it by 16h30 with plenty of time in between for lunch, snacks, nuoc mia (or sugar cane juice with lime!)…

The drive is mostly uneventful, but we do stop for some delicious Hu Tieu Chay, or vegetarian Hu Tieu – in its non-vegetarian form, it’s a hearty stew of rice noodles, root vegetables, meat, fried onions, and the usual assortment of herbs and condiments. The selection of vegetarian meats here is amazing, and our steaming bowls fill us right up – definitely satisfying!

Around midday the heat gets a bit overpowering, so we stop in a supermarket for some nuoc mia and pastries. You can find vestiges of Vietnam’s French colonial past in their cuisine: banh mi are sandwiches served on half-length French-style baguettes, and more upscale areas will have French pastries on sale (but sometimes with a Vietnamese twist: it’s not uncommon to find coconut or red/green bean used as fillings.) As an added bonus, there’s a bit of air-con in the supermarket. If you’re feeling a bit woozy from the tropical heat, this can be a decent (and possibly free!) way to cool off; just don’t expect to find supermarkets outside larger cities.

After that, it’s around Ho Chi Minh and on to Bien Hoa, where we get a room for 220 000 VND (11 USD) and set out in search of food. There are some vendors along the waterfront selling little skewers with various foods on them that are fried in oil to order; we get two with tofu, two with stuffed okra. Delicious! We walk over to a nearby bookstore hoping to get a road map, but find that they only sell schoolbooks. Fortunately, there’s some kind of fair and market going on across the street, so we check that out. There are amusement park rides, drink stalls, and more clothing merchants than we can count. There’s also a nice lake to stroll around, with a street full of kebab banh mi vendors on the other side – so we grab a couple to complete our dinner.

We’re pretty exhausted from the drive; it’s surprisingly tiring to navigate Vietnamese traffic! We put in a tiny bit of research on Cambodia, then pack it in for a good night’s sleep. We’ll need it, because we’re hoping to make the 270km drive to Da Lat tomorrow!