Our Last Dinner in Vietnam - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 4, 2023

Our Last Dinner in Vietnam

Our Last Dinner in Vietnam

But before I talk about our last dinner, which in my expense journal I labeled, "Weird-ass dinner...."  I should mention the strange iced coffee place earlier in the day.   We had seen the rather large coffee place full of customers on a main drag in Chau Doc the day before and whenever I see a restaurant or coffee place that is that full of customers I take note.  So, we went to the busy cafe.  While we were sitting there enjoying our excellent iced coffees we realized all the people were not exactly customers of the cafe.  They were vendors of used things and had tables set up where the sidewalk merged with the  open air cafe.  

One woman had an enormous pile of used watches that several people were pawing through and analyzing watches up close.  Another vendor was selling a hodgepodge of old porcelain and vintage or antique small stuff like jewelry and flea market type stuff.  We never got out of our chairs to go look at exactly what the stuff was because we knew we didn't want any of it, sight unseen.  It was enough to watch the antics of the vendors and some of their hangers-on; the wanna-be vendors/experts.  There were groups of them sitting at tables inside the open-air cafe in deep and serious discussion about the stuff.  I have been to so many estate sales and know the vibe well.  These are people who are obsessed with a certain thing such as watches.  They might know quite a bit about watches but they also might think they know quite a bit more than they actually do.  And when there are groups of such people there are generally not a whole lot of actual customers so they go to each other's table and are interested in what they are selling and talk the talk.  They may even get so engrossed in what the other person has that they either buy or trade their wares with that person.  

So, we were enjoying our coffee and just watching these sorts of things going on in front of us.  The closest table of guys had one or two wooden objects that looked very old but we couldn't tell if they were crude, round, wooden containers or what.  They actually were all drinking coffee they had ordered and had been there seemingly for hours which meant the servers had to occasionally come around and give them more ice.  

They were shooting the crap and then a guy arrived with a fairly large wooden Buddha, the fat belly smiling kind, in a plastic bag.  Finally, new material.  Everyone at that table got excited and held the big fat Buddha and passed it around.  Lots of discussion began as they rapped the wood.  To determine the age?  The type of wood?  No idea.  It didn't look old to me but I didn't know one word of what they were saying about it.  I love wooden Buddha images to be sure but I care nothing for the Chinese or Japanese style of Buddha with the big round belly.  Buddhas aren't supposed to be fat!  And they aren't supposed to be smiling either.  Where did they ever get the impression that Buddha was ever fat?  I'm missing something here even though I studied Asian art and religion many years ago.  I guess that kind of Buddha just doesn't speak to me. 

One of the guys pawing through the pile of old watches took one to a table near us that was in the sun and he looked closely at it in the sun.  Then he left it there on that table in the hot sun.  No one ever retrieved it.  It sat there the entire time and one time someone else went over and checked it out.  There was a lot of wandering back and forth by the vendors themselves from table to table.  The porcelain woman's husband brought a watch over for her to look at and she kept it.  And one of the guys near our table looked like he was going to keep the Buddha even though I saw no exchange of money.  We really didn't know anything and still don't so I'm not sure why I'm reporting this at all.

But, at one point a guy came off the side alley next to us carrying two clear bags of live snakes.  He wandered through glancing at watches and porcelain and the fat Buddha of course and no one paid any attention to him that he was carrying a dozen or more snakes!  I sure paid attention.  I was looking for holes in those bags.  He just nonchalantly ambled through the crowd with his snakes looking things over.  I half expected him to start hawking his snakes.  "Snakes!  Got snakes!  Anyone?  Snakes here."  But he disappeared and that made me even more nervous.  I asked Andrea, "WHERE DID THAT SNAKE GUY GO?"  She said he ducked down the street.  Whew.  Snakes gone.

Guys were lighting up cigarettes, discussion had not died down, the Buddha was back in its plastic bag, the watch woman was grabbing huge handfuls of watches and dropping them into a plastic bag but then another man wanted to see them again so he was going through them inside the bag.  The guy across from the Buddha suddenly pulled from his pocket some object I had no idea what it was but all the guys had to pass it around and examine it.  They were always very serious.   We had to get out of there.  It was just so weird.  When we left, that gold watch was still sitting in the sun on the table far from everyone and probably too hot to handle.  It was a mystery.

The coffee was great.
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Then, later, we went out to find dinner.  There are precious few places that actually look like restaurants in Chau Doc of any town we've been to outside of Saigon, but we found one.  At least it was a place that had tables inside.  The woman there even had a menu that had some English on it, a real rarity.  She was just beginning to learn how to use her translation feature on her phone and was excited.  We figured out what we could order that she said was possible and then she sent her husband and son off to have someone cook it!  What?! Apparently she had no cook and she sure didn't look like a cook and her husband looked mad that he was being ordered to go find the food for us.  

I then started to look around the place and each wall was filled with old clocks.  This was not really a restaurant but more like their living room that was filled with a few tables and chairs.  The woman sat down at the table next to ours and was cleaning an old clock.  She was very happy we were there but I was seriously questioning the level of my own happiness and, sure enough, I was wishing we had found a different place.  

Our food arrived from who knows where.  It was two small bowls of chicken bones in some very nice sauce and one larger bowl of boiled cabbage with a few sprigs of cauliflower for variety, but not in color.  We crunched at the chicken bone nuggets trying to avoid splinters that we could choke on.  Oh, there was some broken rice as well.  The food was edible but certainly not what we were excited for.  The worst part for me was that the woman was watching every mouthful I took as she polished her clock.  I felt I was under a microscope.  I couldn't look at her.  

Her husband was around and basically ignoring us because he was still angry at his wife.  Whenever they interacted I saw that they basically detested each other.  When the woman was through polishing her clock she asked her husband to hang it up on the wall which he did obediently but with a secret grudge.  Then she asked him to take another clock down which he did with some trouble.  He gave it to her and she looked at it for two seconds and told him to hang it back up.  He was boiling inside and as he was hanging the clock back up it almost fell.  I was watching in horror.  If it had fallen and smashed into a hundred pieces I was prepared to run.  Just throw some dong out for "dinner" and run.  It was getting heated in there.  

Finally we had each finished our bowls of chicken bones and what was left looked about the same, minus the nice sauce.  We couldn't talk about our meal the entire time, just sat there gnawing on bones and pushing cabbage down our throats as if it was all super delicious.  Every time I looked at the woman she smiled.  It was awful.  She was polishing a large glass clock face as we left and I just hoped her husband wasn't going to break it.  

One of the strangest meals Andrea and I have ever had.  But we ate everything and paid Clock Woman probably four times what she paid for our food.  She will be on the hunt for another clock with her profit.


Today's ride: 6 miles (10 km)
Total: 184 miles (296 km)

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Rachael AndersonWhat an ordeal! I hope your day is better tomorrow.
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