14 January 2002
Oh, was Ba Chuc grim. Just like at Cheong Ek (“The Killing Fields” in Phnom Penh) the skeletons of the dead people have been cleaned up and put in a glass-walled stupa, but at Ba Chuc there’s a tiny museum containing pictures of the bodies when they were found. I just hope they looked like they do because they weren’t found for several days, and not because of what the Khmer Rouge did to them when they were alive.
On a lighter note, on the way back, Minh stopped the bike so I could watch this mad man shin barefoot up a 40-ft palm tree to collect (I think) cane sugar. While we were standing at the roadside, two men and a monkey pulled up on a motorbike. Apparently, the older of the two had just bought the monkey for 300,000 dong (approx $20) and was going to release it on Sam Mountain. It turned out he was 40 and single. He asked me if I was married. When I said I wasn’t he told me: “You are very beautiful.”. It was time to leave…
Back to today, and I went with the rest of the tour to Sam Mountain, which I climbed, despite the searing heat. The view towards Cambodia was exhilarating, but I may have been hallucinating, as I saw what I’m sure was the “rescued” monkey from yesterday, tethered to a stake. Still, at least he wasn’t in a poky house or shop, I suppose.
After a brief stop at a ‘stork sanctuary’ – basically just a lot of storks perching in very tall trees – we headed to our hotel in the town of Can Tho.
So far Can Tho has been notable for two things: on the way to a restaurant for our evening meal we saw two men on a motorbike try to snatch a chain from around the neck of a (local) woman. Then, during the meal, a Japanese bloke in our group bought this local delicacy – a duckling embryo, ie a duckling still in the shell. The waitress told us there are two ways to eat it: one is to slurp the “soup” from the top, then spoon out the duckling, which breaks up when put in contact with a spoon, or shell the egg and pick off the remains of the white to expose the duckling. The bloke added something extra – dangling the duckling by its head so his mates could take pictures of it. The episode brought the restaurant to a standstill, but the bloke and his two (female) companions declared the duckling “delicious”.