Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can Gio and Monkey Islands

The day before we left, we headed out of town for a tour of Can Gio and Monkey Islands. This "Eco-Park" and island whose residents have been fishing and harvesting rice (Vietnam is the 3rd largest exporter of rice in the world), with the same labor intensive methods for hundreds of years, is home to bats, crocodiles, and the infamous wild monkeys. This is the actual 'Monkey Jungle' where unchecked monkeys run free across the landscape and your back. They'll steal your shirt and hat, if you don't watch out. Amity and our delightful tour guide, Phou, forged a universal bond as they clutched each other in fright when the monkeys came too close. Phou was born and raised in the Mekong Delta and moved to Ho Chi Minh City with her parents for more opportunity. She attended school in the city, learned flawless English and a wealth of information which made her by far our favorite guide to this incredible, resilient, mysterious, ancient, modern, elegant, primitive, scary, warm and welcoming country and its people. Phou became part of our family by the end of that day and we would liked to have brought her home with us. On our last night, Mr. Thanh, his wife and sons invited us to their home for dinner. We had yet another banquet provided by people who own little and share all. Even Amity nibbled at the sumptuous home made spring rolls, shrimp salad and glazed chicken wings filling our bowls. And just when we thought we'd done justice to the feast, out came the ever-present bubbling hot pot of broth and endless, nameless vegetables for simmering. We learned one culinary maxim if not many on this trip. The rice noodles go directly into your bowl with hot broth poured over them. Any other method leads to over cooked noodles, which would be unfortunate.

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