A tale from long ago travels….
We were quite happy wandering along the slightly overgrown pathway, brushing large banana leaves out of our way, laughing at how far we had come on our travels. As we shielded our eyes from the bright sunlight, we suddenly realised how quiet it had become around us. Surely only a few moments ago we were surrounded by the others, who were also laughing and chatting amongst themselves. We looked about and saw the little, palm-fringed hut where we had all gathered to watch the 2 ladies making some sort of natural soap (why else would you be brought here?!). The only people occupying it now were the 4 local men who had hung at the back of this crowd looking rather suspicious. We hurried back towards them, asking where the others were. They pointed towards a path which led down to the Mekong river’s edge….and exactly where we had disembarked from the longtail boat about half an hour ago.
Our well worn, muddy trainers didn’t the hit the ground as we sprinted down the path now flinging those pesky palms out of our way. We hit the quayside just in time to see our boat motoring away from us down the dark river and out of sight.
They had left us! They had actually forgotten about us! We turned and looked at each other in disbelief, a feeling of dread creeping over us both. What were we going to do now?! We were stranded on a small island that was god knows where and with very few Vietnamese language skills between us!
We raced back along the path to the little hut where the two ladies were behind a small bar washing glasses. We started jabbering at them at top speed waving around wildly as panic set in. They nodded at us calmly and picked up the telephone that was hung was on the bar wall and started talking to someone, about what we didn’t know as we couldn’t understand a word they were saying. They gestured to us that all was well and we should take a seat, although this didn’t reassure us in the slightest!
By this point the 4 men had taken up residence at one of the tables and had pulled out a pack of cards, along with a bottle of something very suspect and which they looked like they had already half consumed. They pulled over chairs for us and invited us to join their game… and partake in a few cheeky glasses of the suspicious liquid. With smiles and gesticulation we politely declined the offer of the drink, but sat with them watching their card game for a while, resigning ourselves to our fate.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, two motorbikes pulled up and the ladies came over gesturing we should get on them. We looked at each other with trepidation, should we do this? Who were these men? Where were they going to take us? After a quick discussion we concluded that we didn’t really have much choice, so we slung our daypacks over our shoulders and hopped on a motorbike each. The drivers revved the engines and in a puff of dust we set off. The road was muddy and bumpy but they drove carefully through the village. We passed the little wooden huts that housed the villagers, chickens were running about the yards often being chased by little children. We hit a junction and suddenly I had visions of my guy turning one way and my friends bike speeding off in the opposite direction…..of course this didn’t happen and we both sped round the corner and off up the road.
We continued passing through a few little villages until we came to a small building and what looked like a small garden just off the dirt track we were on. Our ‘chauffeurs’ came to a stop outside the building and gestured that we should get off the bikes. At that point we saw a gaggle of tourists at the back of the building and a man running towards us, arms flailing. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” he was shouting… at us! Our tour guide, no doubt immensely relieved that he hadn’t just lost two westerners to the Mekong! Once again it had been proven to us that, thanks to the generosity and kindness of others, you will get to where you need to go in SE Asia….it might just not be as you expect! Go with the flow….