One of the things that excited me about coming to Vietnan were the pork rolls. My friend’s mum is Vietnamese and had a bakery near my high school. Her pork rolls are one of my favourite foods. And the real thing in Vietnam is just as delicous! I found a little cart where the pork was being cooked freshly on a grill. It tasted as good as it smelled.
We’ve booked an 11am bus from Buon Ma Thuot to Pleiku, 150km north. The hotel said the bus company would pick us up so, after a short walk, we hang out in the lobby waiting. At 11am the manager’s husband arrives to take us to the bus. We drive a long way out of town before he drops us at a bus station where passengers are eating. Our bags are loaded under the bus, I eat friend chicken with rice, and then we join the other passengers in boarding. The bus is over booked by a couple of seats. The driver wants us to sit up the front on the step next to him but other local passengers aren’t having a bar of it. There’s a scramble and suddenly we have seats. The bus sways along and the rural landscape floats by. The bus stops regularly to drop passengers in tiny villages and at major road intersections. No one else gets on so slowly the bus gets emptier. Until we reach Pleiku aka Gia Lai.
We check into our hotel. An older Vietnamese guest helps translate for us at reception. He speaks excellent English, so I don’t need to use Google Translate. Our room is spacious and has a small balcony. It’s not large enough to sit on but we can stand on it and take it the skyline of this town of 200,000 people going about their lives
Paul has a funny tummy and has struggled with food the past 24 hours. There’s a Jollibee close by. We are served our fast food burger and fries on cute plates. The burger tastes Vietnamese because of the sauce. No one said we had to eat local every day.
Pleiku is a small town. It’s much quieter than the other places we’ve been. But there’s still a coffee shop on every corner and plenty of places to eat. The small night market sells fruit, vegies, clothes and street foods. The market is small to reflect the small town.
There’s a somewhat fancy restaurant (by Vietnam standards) on a corner. It’s busy. We take a seat. The youngest waitor is called over to help us because he speaks a dozen words of English. We use Google translate to ask him what he recommends. We end up with a delicious thick soup the consistency of Chinese chicken and corn soup, and bbq pork with hoisin sauce and leaves. It’s delicious.
The fun part, though, is our interaction with the local diners. They are pissed as farts (drunk) and keep saying “hello” then laughing like school boys. Some come over and offer us beer. They look confused when we smile and decline (we don’t drink alcohol). But then they chink glasses and try to ask us questions. We tell them we are from Australia. Then eventually they return to their table with the carton of beer cans. That’s how beer is served at restsi5rants here: by the carton. And the meal isn’t over until the carton is empty. The scary part is that everyone then mounts their scooters and rides home. We will certainly be more aware of this when walking around at night.