We're currently in a town called Chau Doc on the Vietnam - Cambodia border, gathering our strength for Phnom Pehn and lying low for a few days while trying to avoid the tour touts and other hazards. Vietnam has been a bit of a mixed bag if I'm honest. Hanoi and the other areas in the north and centre were great, but Saigon and the Mekong delta has left us feeling a bit underwhelmed.
So too has the street food. It may be because my first street food experience in Saigon left me with food poisoning, but alot of what I see on the beat I find either uninteresting or unappetising. Much of the food seems to have been sitting out in the sun all day and there's only so many times one can get excited about a bowl of noodles.
Furthermore, we've been getting a little sick of being overcharged and talked about while we're eating. Only this morning a perfectly good bowl of won ton (pork dumplings in a peppery beansprout and green onion infused broth) was destroyed by the fact that everyone in a six stall radius was both pointing and laughing. I know I should be magnanimous and good humoured about being a massive pink idiot, but it does wear a little thin after a while.
One thing that never fails to perk me up however, is ca phe sua da - ice coffee with sweetened, condensed milk. This is something akin to Vietnam's national drink, and is available on almost every street corner. To make it, the vendor pours some pre-brewed black coffee concentrate over about a quarter of a glass of condensed milk, and then mixes the whole thing with a tall glass of crushed ice.
I've had ice coffee before, but nothing that compares to this. The coffee is fantantastic - rich, dark and strong, but in my opinion it's the condensed milk that makes the glass. Off white in colour, thick, sweet and syrupy, its the kind of thing that should disgusting, but somehow manages to interact with the coffee and ice in a way that can only be described as transplendent.
Ca phe sua da is at once refreshing, stimulating and moreish - some of my best moments in the country have been spent sitting in the shade with a glass of this in my hand watching the motorcycles whizz by. While Vietnam has its fair share of touts, scammers and serial starers, it also has ca phe sua da, which in my mind more than makes amends.