I awoke on Friday morning and was told that I was returning to Saigon today. I was surprised, but I met this news with relief as otherwise it was looking like a final day of awkwardness. The only redeeming feature of the day ahead was going to be a full case of beer. However I would not need that now.
With today being Friday and me not flying until Sunday I wondered if Phuc had miscalculated or simply wanted to get rid of me. The suspicious side of me assumed that her purpose was now fulfilled as she had a promise of payment and only needed to get me to an ATM to fill today's cash requirements.
We went to Phuc's parents for breakfast. This consisted of rice, fish, dried fish and shrimp. The dried fish was truly lovely. I was offered beer but beer is not a breakfast drink. Straight after that Phuc and I hit the road in search of an ATM. I am fairly certain that we went to Tinh Bien. This is a small town right on the border with Cambodia. We followed a channel and flooded land to get there and Phuc pointed across to let me know that the other side was indeed Cambodia. Once again this was a pleasant ride in mild conditions. As I stated earlier the rice harvest is in full swing and the narrow roads are lined with bags of rice ready for pickup.
Once again we managed to find an ATM with low withdrawal limits, this one only allowed 2 Million out. I could see that Phuc appeared to be frustrated as my credit card was ejected time after time until I found a value that it would accept. It was below her demands and I feigned consternation before suggesting that we look for another ATM. We did find another and between the 2 I was able to withdraw enough for her and myself..
Returning home I was offered more beer, I accepted this time. Some of the family had one too. I will consider it a fare well drink. The other alternative was a celebratory drink at successfully fleecing me. Maybe the family just drink on Friday mornings.
Anyway I had barely sat down with the beer when I and my bags were bundled on to a motorbike and it was off to the bus stop. My elation was hard to conceal.
In the past when leaving Phuc there had been tears and extended periods of her holding onto me. This time there were no teary farewells, no "when will I see you next" just a quick cuddle and good bye. In fact as we waited for the bus she spent more time talking to the other people around rather than me. I think that she well and truly understood that this was the end of the gravy train.
A minibus arrived, I and my bags were bundled on board and I was taken away.
It is funny how in such a short time, 5 days, my attitude was turned around so completely. As the bus pulled away my primary thought was:
The Bludger "WAS FREE".