Dust and Sanctuary - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 23, 2016

Dust and Sanctuary

Tra Vinh

Dear little friends

Our hotel in Tra Vinh was pretty interesting. Our bikes sat in the lobby in all their unwashed glory and the people in the ground floor room had to sidle around them. There is a lot of sidling anyway in Vietnam, things are always up close and around you, it can get on a Big Sky Montana girl’s nerves.

Our hotel in Tra Vinh.
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The elevator, and let me be eternally grateful for elevators after the stairway hell in Hanoi, was chrome plated and Bruce had lots of fun photographing our funhouse photos in it. There was a tiny balcony that dried things like shoes and clothing in minutes, still a novelty after weeks of rain. There was a tiny desk and a tiny table that promptly disappeared under helmets and bunches of tiny bananas and other junk.

Another ducky ceiling in our hotel.
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We settle into a hotel room and it looks like pure chaos but after two months of this we have a system of pannier placement and we are getting good at packing it up with zero losses. A hotel room is sanctuary from a strange place or people, difficult weather, staring, dust. They all have wifi now and we were nearly three weeks behind on this journal. So our time in Tra Vinh was spent on that and occasional forays to the market, for coffee, and for food.

Fruit seller in Tra Vinh.
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Every town has a new mysterious food that they sell.
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A "chid" (junk food) store in Tra Vinh. Term coined by Jeff and Kristen Arnim.
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Beautiful banana arrangement in Tra Vinh.
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From the balcony there was a close-up view of a large backhoe digging up the street, gravel being poured, pipes laid, steamrollers rolling, and over it all a cell phone tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower that lit up at night loomed. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Eiffel’s name is actually spelled VINAPHONE.

Eiffel's other tower, in Tra Vinh, Vietnam.
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Downtown Tra Vinh isn't that attractive. Just a block or two away though, are tall shady tree-lined streets.
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Christmas was fast approaching and racks and racks of red-and-white children’s clothing were lining the streets. We had heard that in Saigon all the kids dress up in Santa-themed clothing and we would have loved to have seen that. Here in Tra Vinh it seemed like that might happen too, so on Friday night, the night before Christmas Eve, I stood on our balcony and gave a running tally to Bruce inside, “Four kids, no, five, in Santa clothes!” When full grown men started going by on their motorbikes wearing Santa outfits complete with flapping beards it really took the cake.

Christmas clothing for children were being sold everywhere.
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Our hotel guy spent a lot of time peering out at the construction with disgust. People were riding on his tiled sidewalk space instead of on the road, so you had to watch your back all the time. He also watched us come and go without comment or maybe a tiny comment or nod if he was feeling extra jolly. There was a bit of money counting going on, flip, flip, flip of the crisp or wilted bills between his fingers. He had pointed at the room price sign three times when we checked in to make sure we got it, no dickering allowed even with the dust and construction noise. He was no Mr. Personality, our hotel guy, but you always knew where you stood with him. Pay your hotel bill and you will have sanctuary.

Hotel lobby reflected in the elevator door.
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Tra Vinh has a lot of large trees shading the streets and reminds us a little of Siem Reap, Cambodia, but without the shoals of western tourists. In fact the only foreigners we saw in two days were the Dutch folks who rode on the cargo boat with us and we didn’t flag them down because it seemed we had exhausted any conversational topics already. We found a pleasant coffee shop to hang in. If you return to the same coffee shop suddenly you are a fixture there and they show you where the toilet is.

Our coffee lady in Tra Vinh.
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This was the first place we really saw the lottery ticket thing going on. One after another women, old women, old men, young kids, and disabled people would approach our table and offer lottery tickets. This is completely mystifying to me, this is a communist country, why do people have to sell these to live? How can they possibly make any money on them? Outside the coffee shop were ladies with tables spread with lottery tickets and folks pondering their various lucky number line-ups.

A handful of lottery tickets.
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Tra Vinh was a snooze town, for sure, and generally I like that in a town. The construction on each and every street within six blocks of us robbed it of much charm, though, and we decided to move on to the larger town of Can Tho for Christmas. Bruce had run out of things to photograph in our hotel room and the Santas were moving in on us. Time to bug on out.

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