On the road with Vietnam Track: Bạc Liêu 27-29 July 2018
It was a typical busy, stuffy night in the city as we waited for our departure to Bạc Liêu at a bus stop near a quiet stadium. The Initial shyness of strangers kept us quiet; trying to forget the problems of the past week and anticipating what was to come. But as soon as the wheels started turning our anxious mood was replaced by the familiar excitement that can only be caused by – travelling.
After several stops on the 5-hour trip to Bạc Liêu, our heads nodding in unison as our 16-seater bus tripped over the uneven joints of the bridges crossing the Mekong, we arrived bleary eyed and hungry at our destination. Minh and Việt (our tour managers for the weekend) got us up and going at 7 am. On the way to our first destination, we picked up our local guide, Vưu Bích Trâm, a local resident who currently studies in Ho Chi Minh City. With her bubbling personality she quickly steered us in the direction of our first stop: breakfast. At a small street side restaurant, we indulged in delicious Duck Curry (Cari Vịt). This was a fitting start to two days that included many surprises, all listed here:
- Nọc Nạng Historical Relic Site
- Tắc Sậy Church
- Xiêm Cán Pagoda
- Bạc Liêu Offshore Wind Farm
- Cao Văn Lầu Memorial House
- Hùng Vương Square + Nón Lá Theater
- Night Market
- Prince of Bạc Liêu House
A busy schedule indeed. All the places we visited were special in their own right. For example, the century-old Tac Say Church (Nhà Thờ Tắc Sậy) was not only monumental but also captivating in that both Catholics and Buddhists worship at the tomb of Father Francis Xavier Truong Buu Diep (Cha Phanxicô Trương Bửu Diệp), a martyr who protected his parishioners during the French colonial period.
Another destination that fascinated me was the Cao Văn Lầu Memorial House, a well-designed space bringing homage to the famous musician of Bạc Liêu. A combination of traditional buildings and a modern memorial depict the life of Cao Văn Lầu and his contemporaries. The song Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang (Night Drum Beats Cause Longing for Absent Husband), expertly sung by our appointed guide, relays the sadness of the couple’s temporary separation early in marriage.
On Sunday we visited the House of the Prince of Bạc Liêu, the richest man in the South in the 1930’s. Although the museum was very crowded, we got a good sense of what his life was about. The opulence of the house, constructed with material imported from France to ensure authenticity, is only surpassed by the stories about the family’s excesses in monetary matters.
Fantastic photo opportunities awaited us along the way. At the Xiem Can Temple (Chùa Xiêm Cán) the rich Khmer architecture (mirroring much of the imagery found in Angkor) formed the perfect backdrop for amateur modelling, while the rough isolation of the Bạc Liêu Off-Shore Wind Farm brought out the nature photographer in all of us.
Of course, much of the memories on a trip like this are made during Impromptu, unplanned events that take shape out of the spirit of the moment. Our Saturday Karaoke binge was just such an event. After a long day of sightseeing and eating, and some singing on the way, the group voted for Karaoke as the final event of the day. The scene was set for an explosion of talent and as soon as the beers started flowing the octaves started climbing. A good time was had by all and strangers we were no more.
Our spontaneity continued the next day, when we landed unplanned at a fishing restaurant. Yes, that’s right. Catch your own fish from your “cabana on the pond” or order from the restaurant. As our energy faded and the trip back to TP.HCM loomed, this was the perfect setting to rejuvenate and recuperate. One last stop on our way home was necessary at Soc Trang, where we sampled the delicious local specialty, Bún nước lèo.
And so, at 8 pm on Sunday, twelve travelers who departed as strangers from various countries, returned to Ho Chi Minh City as friends. On the way we learned about each person’s idiosyncrasies, for example, some had a knack for singing, some for modeling and taking photos, while others just love eating and talking. And for each of our needs the trip provided in abundance.
A great Thank You! goes out to my fellow travelers, to Minh and Việt for the organization and to Vưu for being our tour guide.
Make sure you are on the next trip organized by Vietnam Track!
All photos credited to Vietnam Track