From Pho Quoc I made my way to the Meekon River delta area. The journey to Ben Tre from Ho Chi Minh City was a public bus after a taxi to one of the main bus depots. Some online advice was to take a transfer or taxi to avoid the stress of finding which bus to take - I like a challenge I thought. Famous last words.
Firstly the bus ticket office was a general rabble of people around it - no sense of any order. The speaking to the person behind the glass was a slit below the glass at my waist height. So this involved knee propping up my bag and semi crouching supporting myself by knee to get in a sort of limbo dance position to speak. Ticket bought and broad description as to where to go for the bus. After standing waiting for the bus at my third place and being redirected by who and ever I could find the bus arrived. This was a large modern bus with sort of beds to lie on. These beds were in 3 rows 2 high with 5 across at the back and 2 high. All quite civilised. The bus held 40 people. It eventually arrived in Ben Tre (I could tell from Google maps). I sat on a while and then was motioned off and into a mini bus which took me direct to the hotel. All for 70,000 dong. - about £2.50.
My intention was to visit two areas in the delta area but on looking at maps and distances it seemed that staying in one place was better. The travel times were quite a lot so in Ben Tre city I remained for 6 nights.
One of my first painting venues was this small thatch roofed house just off a small concrete lane. The area is a maze of such lanes and all generally well surfaced. They generally run alongside small channels and have many houses dotted along them. I have been told this is a wealthy area with its money haveing been generated from coconut revenues. You could say the roads are not paved in gold but coconuts.
After a short while painting I was joined by the boy from the house. He was interested to watch and then made off bringing me a coconut to drink from a straw. Cutting the coconut was a masterly affair with the final part being cutting a small piece to act as a spoon to gouge out the young inner layer. Coconut is a natural laxative so after drinking three I wasn’t reaching for prunes for a few days.
It just comes to mind the lovely nature of the Vietnamese people. I think this atribute is also common with others from nearby countries. When you pay at a restaurant and need change this is given to you with thumb and first finger of both hands together giving over the bank note. There are no coins in Vietnam. You then receive a small bow of respect and gratitude. Quite lovely people.
Another painting was again from along a lane with the view across of a house. The sun caught the roof sheeting which drew my attention to it. Again I was supplied with a coconut to drink - thankfully just one.
The final painting was tall and narrow and of …. you’ve guessed - a coconut tree. I must say I didn’t take it terribly seriously and gave the sky an orangey sunset look and again what was I given by a local man who came past on a motorbike - yes a coconut to drink - just one I’m glad to say.
On the penultimate day I took a private two hour river tour to see the narrow channels from the inside rather than from along them. I took this photo of a river boat with the eyes painted on the front. This is quite common and legend has it that these eyes are to fend off monsters and evil spirits.
After the boat tour I prepared and sent a package of 14 paintings to send home. I also did a stock take of remaining canvases and have 48 left - more than enough. So far I have painted 93 canvases and sent all home. I must say that quality of some done at the start of my trip in Australia and New Zealand was quite poor but got better. Before I came away I had done little practice and certainly little plein air work for about a year so this time of concerted effort and consistent painting is well overdue.
My Osprey 80L ruck sack is now 20.5kg and the 32L day sack is 7Kgs. The main bag is reducing in weight as paintings are sent home and some items which are deemed unnecessary are jetissoned. It’s a constant battle agains weight and bulk but I have learned a lot as to what I need and what to do without. Clothing gets severely limited and so far 2 T shirts have become rags for painting and then dumped before the next flight.
My time in Vietnam was about to come to an end. It’s been 6 weeks and I must say I have enjoyed it. There is so much to see and more. There are areas I would love to come back to to explore so with only 6 weeks all I could do was to scratch the surface.
People have asked what we have missed in our time away and in Asia. It’s been over 7 months so far. I miss sleeping in my own bed. Potatoes and butter with black pepper (mouth watering even typing that!), rain and probably much more besides.
Tomorrow I shall travel to Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC or Saigon. I need some more art materials as I don’t know when next I will find a shop. I had found a fairly good shop in Hanoi and stocked up but some of the colours they didn’t have.
I have borderline high hopes that the HCMC shop will have the quality I’m looking for as good paint is expensive and it might not be stocked here. From HCMC I have two flights to Sri Lanka and the adventure continues a little further.