So I said I wouldn't talk about the hotel. I changed my mind. It was just a brief stay-over, as we intended to travel to Vinh Long the day after arriving. Tu asked if we should go to Vinh Long directly from the airport, but that is a 3 hour trip, and we landed at 10.30pm, local time. So, no, we needed a night to rest.
Previously, we'd stayed in the family house in the market. However, c. Thu and a. Son have upgraded from selling veggies, to being a full service quik-mart. Since it is almost Tet (New Year), they have stocked up, and every available space in the house is filled with inventory. There was room for us to sleep, but after lots of confusion, we ended up staying in a nearby hotel for the night, instead.
It was a very small room, the bathroom hadn't been cleaned properly, and it was a smoking room. Tu couldn't sleep well (this, after a 30+ hour trip), Alex kept moving around on the bed, and as a result, I didn't sleep well either. An aside: we keep Alex in bed with us, because once in Salt Lake City he actually fell off of the hotel bed. So, he sleeps between us now.
We checked out at around 5 in the morning, which actually isn't that weird, being in the city. Ho Chi Minh city starts to wake up around 4.30. We checked out, and paid our 350,000d (exchange rate is 20,000d per US$) out of money I had left over from the last trip. That left me with just enough currency to pay the taxi (another 30,000d).
We arrived at the market house just in time to catch a. Son opening up. Because of space issues, he has actually expanded into the street in front of the house, and hangs a tarp from the awning over night, effectively creating a tent around his merchandise. Upon asking, we learned that he sleeps there, to prevent mischief and thievery.
The tent was just coming down, so we dragged our carry-on and assorted other stuff through the maze made up of stacks of stuff to be sold, into the actual house itself. More greetings followed, and we dug out our gifts from the boxes which had been deposited there overnight (and stored on the 3rd floor, where there was a little bit of space available).
For the next few hours, Alex played with HyHuu, and Tu caught up on news with c. Thu, and I wandered between the house and the market stall, taking pictures.
Alex and HyHuu playing in the main bedroom (2nd floor of house), with Tu and c. Thu looking on.
Close-ups of the back half of the market stall. Top pic is to the left, bottom pic is to the right. This area used to be a sort of family gathering area / parking for the motorcycles. Now it's inventory. If you look closely at the top picture, you can just barely see the metal railings (behind the decorated bags), behind which is the 2nd floor mini-balcony.
This is something of an example of the market. I am shooting across the street, from in front of the family's stall. It's still early in the morning, and not every stall is up and running yet, but we are already well into the morning rush.
c. Thu and Alex in front of the market stall.
Mid-morning, I saw a. Son putting on a shirt. I told him he looked good (I said 'pretty', actually). He laughed, and told me it was time to take HyHuu to school. I guess my understanding of Vietnamese is getting better. Not good enough though; after some confusion, and talking (in Vietnamese), and Alex fussing around, suddenly Alex was on the motorcycle with a. Son and HyHuu, and off they went. Alex got to see HyHuu's school and meet everyone there. He isn't in the country 24 hours, and already he's gone to school.
After this, c. Thu and Tu and Alex and I went to the coop-mart to get a few things. Think of a wal-greens, with a grocery store attached. Also, a sort of home goods and clothing store on top and (I think) a KFC on the side. I have some video from the trip - you can find these all over YouTube, but this is useful, I think, to see what the traffic is like. Unfortunately, my connection is too slow to post it here. So imagine chaos.
Anyway, we got back to the house, and then I went with a. Son via motorbike to exchange some money and get lunch. I should have taken video of that trip also - still scary, and this time from a motorcycle. Maybe later. We ate lunch, put all our boxes outside for the taxi, found out the taxi wasn't anywhere near, moved the boxes back inside (I managed to knock over several different stacks of merchandise), waited waited waited, then finally moved everything around the block to where the taxi was (finally), and the loading commenced.
I don't know how he did it, but the driver got 3 big boxes, all our carry-on stuff, Alex's car seat, and several more boxes of this and that, into the car with me and Alex and Tu and a. Duy. We headed out of the city (a different way than usual), and 3 hours later, we were in Vinh Long.