Hoi An and Back
Well the highlight of the last few days was talking to my family on the
holidays. Technology is amazing. These emails alone are cool, but being
able to talk through the internet (for less than $1USD for five minutes)
was quite a treat. Fortunately I awoke early on the 26th and was able to
place calls beginning at 7:00 am...2pm USA west coast time. I was on my
third and final call, when two minutes into talking to my dad the power
went out in the little
coastal town of Hoian. I learned technology
doesn't hold a candle to the third world...er...at least can only hold a
candle to it. The power and internet was off for about ten hours so I
had to complete the call at what was one in the morning in
California...Sorry Dad...Merry belated Christmas.
first I thought it was my fault, as the moment he got on the phone and
said "ching chow chang" I responded with the one lengthy Vietnamese
sentence I have mastered..."Toi la qui Xa tang"...(I am Satan). No
sooner had i uttered the last syllable when POOF...no power. I guess
that showed me. Time to learn a new sentence. LOL
So I learned these emails have garnished quite a following, as my
friends and family have forwarded them to other friends and family as
well as new friends I have yet to personally meet.
AWESOME. welcome to
Vicariously Vietnam...I'm so glad to share this experience. When I
transfer my photos from the digital camera I'll be sure to send some
So what have I been up to the last couple of days besides blacking out
the central coast of Vietnam? We decided to pay a few extra bucks and
take a plane from Hoian back to
Hanoi instead of taking a train. The
train would have taken 16 hours while the plane was a little more than
an hour. Considering the limited time I have in Vietnam, every hour is
precious. With the extra time, we decided to extend our
stay in Hoian.
I mentioned before, Hoian is mostly a tourist beach community. It is
very slow paced, especially when compared to the
hectic chaos of Hanoi.
In some parts of Hoian, motorbikes cars and even bicycles are not
permitted on the streets, and people walk along the narrow streets
enjoying the restaurants, art galleries, and zillions of
For the last few days, we were those people. After the Christmas Eve
party, Chris and I enjoyed a night's rest...(as we needed it!) We
piddled around, ate, and picked up our clothes.
I am so excited about the new wardrobe, although considering how much I
have been eating, I'll be lucky to fit in the specially tailored
clothes. Extra girth aside, the tailor did a phenomenal job. Crazy to
think shirts and pants made to order were completed in less than 15
hours and priced at under $10 USD each. My favorite additions ar the
sportscoats...Hopefully I'll fit in them in 2006.
food in Vietnam? Pretty darn good. I am travelling with a
Vegetarian, so at times we go meatless, which is equally delectable.
Since Vietnam is largely buddhist...especially in
Hue and Hoian, there
are a lot of vegetarian restaurants that have mastered the art of
vegetarian cuisine. Many of them make meat-like products which you would
swear are the real thing. Mind you, I am a reformed vegetarian who would
tell you if it tastes like funk...but they really could fool you. I have
eaten feaux rabbit, pork, chicken, and beef. The beef is a little iffy,
but the rest of it is so good. Part of our vegetarian cuisine has also
been at Indian restaurants so if you like saucy food dipped in flat
bread or curry, you'd be in heaven.
As a lover of meat...especially pork ribs and shellfish, I have opted to
taste all Vietnam has to offer. Their soups are available with or
without meat, and are similar to soups I have eaten at specialty/chinese
restaurants in the USA. The meat dishes are excellent, although they are
often served on the bone (even when chopped in small pieces) so meat
must be carefully eaten. I've enjoyed sauteed calamari and sweet and
sour pork, both served on banana leaves. One of my favorite dishes was
served in a claypot, allowing the pork, onions, and peppers to simmer,
similar to a fajita style but with Asian flavoring. The seafood is
flawless...some of the best I've eaten (go figure.) Because of bird flu,
all the chickens were slaughtered. While we are starting to see them
around the countryside, it is almost impossible to get chicken in
restaurants. I have had eggs a few times though.
downside to the cooking is the prevalence of
MSG in the food (especially
in the hole in the wall places). And when I say hole in the wall, it
really is a hole in the wall-- a curbside "diner" with kindergarten size
plastic stools and an old lady using a wok on a little stove built into
the side of a wall. These are often the fronts of houses or alley ways. The food is good, and often vegetarian...dirt cheap, authentic, and
highly chemical. Those of you who aren't aware, I have problems with MSG
and nitrates. A few hours afrer eating it, my eyes redden, swell shut
and I am down for the count. One of the places we stopped for "brunch"
on Christmas was super good...so good, I had three helpings. Three
helpings of MSG packed soup and rice with Vemsggies. After I picked up
my wardrobe, I was in bed by 5 pm and was asleep until after 6 am the
next day. I awoke with my eyes swollen shut and feeling a bit groggy.
actually worked out for me because I was able to wake up very rested on
the 26th (very confused as to the date and time) but in time to make my
Christmas calls (mentioned earlier in the email). Before the calls,
however, I went to see the Hoian marketplace which bustles between 5 and
7 am. In the morning, the fishing boats arrive with their catch and the
locals gather to set up their daily shops and buy the fresh catch.
Before you actually see the throng, you can hear the chatter of close to
two-hundred, mostly women, buyers and sellers. When you see it, it is a
sea of connicle reed hats carrying baskets. I was delighted to be a
giant in this land of four-and-a-half foot tall Lillaputians. It was
also cool to see them unload freshly caught shark, swordfish and eels.
The rest of the time in Hoian was very slow paced, kick back and
relaxing. We ate a lot of good food and walked around town. At one point
we rented Bicycles and rode down to the beach. upon our bicycle trek
back, we made some perfectly right wrong turns and chanced upon more
villages and locals...similar to our motorbike expedition in Hue. It was
great. Once again, the people were sweet...especially the kids who loved
to give five and say hello as we drove by.
morning, Dec. 27th, we caught a plane and were back in Hanoi (home for
Chris) by noon. We mapped out the rest of my vacation, as there is very
little time, with still much to do. Today was museum day. we went to
Lo...known to most Westerners as the Hanoi Hilton. Most of the prison
had been torn down, but there was still an elaborate museum and many
cells/exhibits. Much of it focused on how the prison was used in the
late 1800s/early 1900s for Vietnamese revolutionaries oppressed by the
French, Chinese, and Japanese occupation. I was mostly interested
however, in how it was used during the Vietnam Conflict. It was
interesting to see a perspective other than what I have seen on the
American big screen. There were mostly pictures and articles highlighting
the humane treatment of American POWs, right until their return to the
U.S. Government. Included in the exhibit was the flight suit of Senator John
McCain, as well as photographs of his detention. This stimulated a
zillion questions in my head, making me want to read McCain's book about
his imprisonment (as I'm sure he's written one.) What was his experience?
Has he been back? How does he feel about having his flight suit on
We then went to the Vietnamese Museum of revolution which was mostly a
collection of photographs and some memorabilia about a century of
foreign occupation in Vietnam. Once again, I was mostly enthralled with
their perspective on American involvement from 1950s through the 1970s.
The pictures were extremely graphic of the carnage of Vietnamese
villages caused by American bombs and soldiers. There were a lot more
objects on display, such as weapons, and everyday items destroyed by
bombs. Opposition to
North Vietnam and "Uncle Ho" Chi Minh's Communist
forces was constantly referred to as the "American-led puppet
government. "Interesting to say the least-- Especially for this American
were museumed out for the day. Tomorrow we have plans to visit the
Mausoleum of "Uncle Ho" were his body is on display, as well as
surrounding structures. We also plan to rent motorbikes and see some mummefied monks. On the 29th...my final day, we will take a day trip to
the Perfume Pagoda which is a temple in a cave. Afterwards, it's onto
snake village for some snake snacks and then off to the airport. If time
permits, I'll send a final email...if not, It'll be sent from the USA. I
hope all is well and your Christmas/Hannukah was all you hoped it would
Lots of love (yeu...in vietnamese).