When we set out in the morning we are sure that we'll make our next destination today. It's a good thing that Vietnam is so densely populated - otherwise our consistently bad sense of time would leave us stranded on most nights. As darkness falls and we are still 100+ kilometers from our intended destination, the glowing Nha Nghi signs save us again.
These little roadside guest houses are cheap and perfect for the weary traveler. We get a pleasant room and a hot shower, and in the morning we are back on the road after a quick stop at the local market for breakfast.
Every town that lines the road is much the same. They are no more than half an hour from each other and they all have at least one Nha Nghi, one place for pho, and one central market - that's all we really need anyway. As we drive through, the activity always centers around the markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables, vibrant flowers, dried goods, live fish and not so fresh looking meats are ubiquitous. Each town reliably sells bread, avocadoes, cilantro and tomatoes to satisfy our California style cravings.
At the markets, people are surprised to see us. They smile or scoff at us and the excited children always shout "Hello!" Some over charge us but others bestow us with gifts of limes and watermelons. Very few people here speak English, so we end up conversing in sign language mixed with our terrible Vietnamese. They love to listen to our attempts! When Jeremia expertly says "hen gap lai!" (see you later) it puts everyone in a fit of laughter. When we wander the markets at night, the middle aged men want to be photographed with Jeremia while the women reach out to pat my cheek and tug on my nose ring. At one sweet cafe, on Tet (Vietnamese New Year), I was even gifted with 30,000 Vietnamese Dong (a bit more than a dollar) as good luck money.