As a young member of the Tiger team, I sometimes found myself shy and unconfident. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get on well with other company staff. But the delightful and meaningful bonding trip to Trà Vinh province swept those thoughts away. Like people always say: “The further you go, the more you know.” I had chance to see and learn a lot during my amazing two-day journey.
I didn’t sleep the previous night, because I was so excited. When I got up and left home at 5 a.m. the next morning, I was still wide awake – I knew I would be travelling to the Mekong Delta by motorbike. Yes, this was really a big deal for me, because I had never before gone anywhere outside of the city by motorbike. I was afraid at first, but after a while it was totally awesome. I felt the wind blow over my face and saw the sun rise above the horizon.
Nearly two hours of riding later, the Tigers gathered at a Mekong Reststop for breakfast. This restaurant is designed in the vernacular style, easily identifiable through folk houses, lotus lakes and staff wearing Áo dài (Vietnamese traditional dress). This place also has good service, you can try many typical Vietnamese dishes such as Hủ tíu Mỹ Tho (white noodle in pork broth, with sliced pork, shrimp and green onion on top), Cơm tấm (rice with grilled pork), etc.
After a tasty breakfast, we continued riding to Trà Vinh province. The glamorous roadside landscapes attracted me a lot. There were large rice paddies and green meadows, with cattle grazing quietly in them. There were beautiful rivers flowing slowly through peaceful villages with boats and ferries. We stopped at Cổ Chiên bridge, a famous bridge connecting the Bến Tre and Trà Vinh provinces, to take some pictures.
We arrived in Trà Vinh at around midday and were warmly welcomed by Uncle Tung, a kind-hearted local person. Uncle Tung took us to his house and introduced us to his wife, Aunt Diệp, and his elder sister, Aunt Tư. We brought in our clothes, books and the daily necessities that we had prepared days before. After that, we had a short rest while enjoying cake, tropical fruit and a popular local dessert. Uncle Tung also offered us a cup of the delicious cà phê sữa đá (coffee mixed with considered milk and ice).
We were fully energized after our snack, so we began to classify stuff and put it into large bags to make gifts for the poor people in town. When everything was completed, the afternoon continued with three main activities: visiting a famous Khmer pagoda, team-building and stop to give presents, rice and cash to some of poorest people in the neighborhoods.
The Khmer pagoda we visited is named Kompong Chrây. It was built in 1637 and is also known as the Cave pagoda because its gate was designed resemble a cave. When visiting to Kompong Chrây pagoda, you will understand why it has been chosen as the top tourist attraction in Tra Vinh province for many years. This place not only has typical Khmer architecture, but also a large area covered with trees and plenty of birds, especially white storks. I was amazed that there was a wood sculpture workshop inside. There had a lot of woodcarving masterpieces created by the skillful carpenters, some of whom are monks at this pagoda.
We departed for Ba Om pond from Kompong Chrây pagoda and were eager to start the team-building activity. There were four groups that had been previously divided up. I belonged to Group 1, and together we competed with the other groups in four games, including brain games and physical ones. All the groups were strongly united and everyone tried their best to win. I could feel the enthusiasm in the way we all encouraged each other, yelled excitedly and laughed out loud like children. That was a remarkable team-building exercise for us and luckily, numerous pictures were taken so we could keep those priceless memories forever.
After an enjoyable time together, the Tiger team returned to Uncle Tung’s house and loaded up gifts that had been arranged for the charity project onto motorbikes. Under the direction of Uncle Tung, Aunt Tư and Aunt Diệp, we rode along narrow and rough roads to approach the remote areas. We had picked out some of the poorest families and came to give them clothes, instant noodles, rice, cash, etc. Even now, every time I close my eyes, I can clearly remember how difficult life is for those people. Several of them are very old and weak and suffer from illness. The others have to live in decayed and empty houses, and the only asset they have is a small bed made from old planks. The children have to walk a long way to school, because their parents can’t afford bicycles for them. However, I also remember the smiling faces of the kids when I gave them some sweets and biscuits. I remember the how happiness shone in an old woman’s eyes when we came to visit her. And the others constantly thanked us, though we could only give them a few small presents. In the end, this charity project left me with many feelings and taught me the lesson of being grateful for what I have now, since I’m luckier than many people.
Although we spent a whole afternoon doing many activities, none of us felt tired. In the evening, we got back to Uncle Tung’s home, quickly took a shower and dressed up for a ladies’ night out. First, we went to a local restaurant named “Lẩu cá kèo Đệ Nhất” (cá kèo is a small special fish from the Mekong Delta area served in sour hotpots) for dinner. They served us a lot of fresh and delicious dishes, most of them specialties of the Trà Vinh province. I couldn’t stop eating, because the food was so good and I was so hungry after our long day. Afterward, we left the restaurant and went to “Sóng Nhạc”, a coffee shop that has karaoke and is a favourite local hangout. We had a wonderful night there listening to Bolero songs and giving some funny performances of our own.
When I fell asleep at midnight that day, I smiled to myself as I thought about the amazing day I had just experienced.
To be continued... Day 2
By Thanh Dang