So we have been on the road now for more than nine months…that is a long time. And during all those weeks and across all those countries, we have not stopped anywhere for more than five or six days. And I think we were ready to! We found the perfect spot on the island of An Binh, just a short ferry ride from the city of Vinh Long.
Now usually this part of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta, is somewhere where tourists might come for a day or two if at all, but through a work exchange website we had found a Not for profit group looking for volunteers. Viet Artisans is a project designed to empower local women with skills and a regular, safe income to support themselves and their families. The women are taught techniques to make handmade books, textiles, postcards and loads more, to see a little more check out their website here…
Ella was here to teach the ladies some english, especially for talking to tourists coming to the workshop, and Ryan to use his camera skills, photographing products and the environment for their website. Our two weeks melted away so quickly. In the mornings we went to Viet Artisans, stayed until lunch, then explored the island and town in the afternoon. An Binh is a maze of small paths and lanes, crisscrossing between fields, homes and canals, all of which is amazing to cycle around. The fertility of the delta means this rural areas is prized for its fresh fruit and man did we eat a lot of it!
Speaking of eating a lot this was obligatory during our stay. Not only did the ladies at Viet Artisans continually plied us with food (I mistakenly told them I missed potatoes so they cooked me a bowl of thirty of them!) but the meals at our homestay, both breakfast and dinner were huge and delicious. After the third night we explained we could not eat five courses every night, but I don’t think the message never got through! Nam Thanh homestay is very close to the ferry terminal and the family are so kind and friendly; you also have access to free bicycles to use plus far too much food! The lady who did the cooking took a real shine to us, well mainly to Ryan… well more specifically to his beard! She liked to stroke it and one night she and two friends came to have their photograph take with the famous beard; she burst into hysterics every time she saw him! Tung, the brother of the owner, became Ryan’s second best friend as he was practising his english. We introduced him to the art of taking a ‘selfie’…a truly proud moment.
After so long on the road having a routine, if only for a couple of weeks, was really nice! I know that sounds incredibly sad but I don’t even care! It was great not to have to think about where to eat every night, not have to pack our bags and move and amazing for people to recognise us and know our names. I think both Viet Artisans and the homestay enjoyed having people staying longer than a day…and secretly we did too! I never got used to hearing ‘hello teacher’ every morning but it was wonderful to get to know these lovely Vietnamese people. On our last day we got given a big lunch and our own personalised handmade books to keep as a reminder.
All we can say is thanks for having us!