This is something I wrote around April 30th 2005. Just now getting around to posting it.
Today I took a trip to the Mekong Delta. We visited the town of My Tho (pronounced more or less as Me Taw with a slight up and down tone/waver in the voice on the My if you want to get the tone right), took a boat ride up the river, had lunch, visited with local people, heard traditional music, saw how coconut candy was made, rowed traditional boats up the various small tributaries, and had a good time.
On the bus ride back to Saigon our tour guide, Mr Tung, entertained us (in somewhat broken english) with his war stories. He served in the Viet Cong in the tunnels at Cu Chi which the US carpet bombed the hell out of, probably killed a few Americans, and took two bullets himself. One in his upper left arm (he showed us where his arm is still missing some chunks of flesh and is badly scarred from the entrance and exit wound) and one in the leg one night while above ground from a helicopter gunship. Among other things he told us some traditional eastern medicine remedies. Since I have some fans of eastern medicine reading this I thought you might be interested.
Cure for rabies:
Mr Tung told us that a crazy dog would sometimes bite a man and cause the man to go crazy. I can only assume he was talking about rabies. To cure this, he says, you go out to the forest and find a toad. A really big one. And make sure it is not a frog. Toads have rough skin and don't jump very far but frogs are slippery and can really jump. Frogs and toads are "same-same but different". I can't help but smile whenever I hear a local say "same-same" but it seems to be a common expression. Anyhow, he made very sure to explain to us to get a toad and not a frog. Then you burn the toad very completely down to charcoals. Grind up the coals really well and dissolve them in water. Make the afflicted person drink this mixture. In a couple of days they will be better.
Cure for diarrhea:
Take a piece of paper and draw three hungry dogs on it. I suppose you have to be a bit of an artist for this cure. I can't draw a very good dog and I'm pretty sure I can't draw a hungry dog. But draw three hungry dogs on a piece of paper. Burn up the paper. They are big on burning things around here. I see people burning little bits of paper by the side of the street all the time. Take the ashes from the burned paper, mix them in water, and drink it. The hungry dogs will eat up whatever is causing you to have diarrhea and you will be better.
Cure for hemorrhoids:
Mr Tung says that when you have find it painful to use the toilet and you have "flesh coming out of your anus" (they don't hesitate to talk about their bodies here) you should try this remedy. I assume he meant hemorrhoids. [darn, I have forgotten the hemorrhoid cure! Well, I know where I can contact Mr Tung if I ever need it.]
Cure for cancer:
Here it is folks! The cure the drug companies don't want you to know about because it's so cheap! To cure cancer you have to go to the snake salesmen and find a cobra. Not just any snake but a real cobra. The biggest one you can find. Drain the "juice" from the tail of the cobra. I'm not sure what constitutes juice or how exactly you define the tail of the cobra but that's what he said. Drink it. Voila, cancer cured. He cautioned us against using chemicals to cure cancer (chemo, I assume) because all that does is make your hair fall out.
Well, there you have it folks! This was all told with a straight face to my tour group of around 50 people on the PA system of the bus on the two hour ride back to town. I shit you not. We are in the east and it was told to me by an older Asian man so it must be honest to Buddha eastern medicine!
Oh, and after over two months of living here I learned something interesting about local bathroom habits today. First some background: In every Vietnamese home bathroom there is a shower head on the wall. But no shower tub or enclosure of any sort. The floor is all tile. You just shower right there on the bathroom floor and it all goes down a drain in the corner. Yes, everything gets wet. So don't put anything anywhere in the bathroom you don't want to get wet. Beside the toilet (which you stand right next to as you shower) there is another smaller sprayer on a hose. Just like the kitchen sink sprayer many of us have to spray down dishes. With a little handle on it you push and everything. Vietnamese don't normally use toilet paper. They use this sprayer and their fingers to blast the turds off their backside. Sort of like a bidet. Apparently they have been providing toilet paper (in a little plastic container so as not to get wet easily) as a courtesy but I guess I'll have to give the sprayer a try next time I go number 2.
They are still celebrating their April 30th defeat of the Americans aka Liberation Day. There is a very loud concert going on in the park behind my place right now. They are singing something about Sai Gon.