Journal of my trip
- 30 August -
30 October 2017
Journal of My Vietnam Trip.
This is the journal of my 2017 trip to Vietnam.
29 - Tuesday - To JFK and Vietnam
30 - Wednesday - JFK - Alaska - Siberia - Vladivostok - Japan - Vietnam
31 - Thursday - Miss Oanh - Dinner at home
01 - Friday -
02 - Saturday - National Day
03 - Sunday - Tay Ninh
04 - Monday - Cao Dai Temple - Nui Ba Den
05 - Tuesday -
06 - Wednesday -
07 - Thursday - Hoa Mom Them - Dinner at Club 50
08 - Friday -
09 - Saturday - Hue - Tombs of the Emperors - Purple City
10 - Sunday - Hue - Emperor's Theater
11 - Monday - Hoi An
12 - Tuesday - Hoi An
13 - Wednesday - Hoi An - DaNang
14 - Thursday - DaNang - Swimming in the storm stirred ocean
15 - Friday - DaNang - Ba Na Hills
16 - Saturday - Ba Na Hills to Cam Ranh Bay and Returning to Childhood Home
17 - Sunday - Day at the Beach
18 - Monday - Cam Ranh Bay to Saigon
19 - Tuesday - Saigon
20 - Wednesday - The sign - tickets = Visit to Mom
21 - Thursday - Saigon - Tuy Hoa
22 - Friday - Tuy Hoa - Around the Hotel
23 - Saturday - Tuy Hoa - Da Dia Beach
24 - Sunday - Tuy Hoa - The Beach
25 - Monday - Tuy Hoa - SaiGon
26 - Tuesday - SaiGon
27 - Wednesday - SaiGon
28 - Thursday - SaiGon - DaLat
29 - Friday - Arrive DaLat
30 - Saturday -DaLat - Big C
01 - Sunday - DaLat - Ngoc Bich
02 - Monday - DaLat - Lunch with Hoa, Ha and Quan
03 - Tuesday - DaLat - Night Market
04 - Wednesday - DaLat - Walk around the lake
05 - Thursday - DaLat - Tiger Temple
06 - Friday - Dalat - Truc Lam Monastery
07 - Saturday - Market
08 - Sunday - DaLat - Motorbike Day
09 - Monday - Temple - Guy
10 - Tuesday - Ticket home to SaiGon
11 - Wednesday - DaLat -Lunch with family
12 - Thursday - SaiGon - Meeting Andreas
13 - Friday - SaiGon Meeting Andreas, Hoa and Thanh
14 - Saturday - Cu CHi and Thao Ly and friend
15 - Sunday - Cu Chi - Quyen and friends
16 - Monday - SaiGon - Asus - Market
17 - Tuesday - SaiGon - Andreas and rain
18 - Wednesday - SaiGon - Lunch with Niece Ky's Family
19 - Thursday - Oanh and Dinner with Friends
20 - Friday - Oanh and the man in the bushes
21 - Saturday - Off to My Tho
22 - Sunday - My Tho - Xuan Hai
23 - Monday -
24 - Tuesday -
25 - Wednesday -
26 - Thursday -
27 - Friday -
28 - Saturday -
29 - Sunday -
30 - Monday -
31 - Tuesday -
To JFK and Vietnam
We are up before dawn for the ride to the Asian Market, in Cherry Hill, where we will meet the bus to JFK. The bus arrives and we are off. As we ride the sun tries to make an appearance but it is only partially successful. The sky is grey all the way to JFK. It is early and as I get off the bus and enter Terminal 1 I meet the man from DaLat who has been here each trip for many years.
It is a very leisurely process checking in but once the bags are taken care of it gets even more relaxed. Through security and into the waiting area for our flight.
The plane is here and boarding time arrives.
As we are pushed back from the gate a light rain is falling on the windows. We taxi for quite a while and finally the engines rev and we are rolling. We lift off and as we climb we are through the clouds and the sun us shining.
30 August JFK
Alaska - Siberia - Vladivostok - Japan - Vietnam
Today occurred somewhere between The Beaufort Sea and Siberia. It is a little difficult to know when you travel at the same nearly the same speed as the earth is turning. Going West time will pass twice as fast and coming back it will almost stand still.
There is a good movie and then I fall asleep wake and watch another good movie and they feed us.
There is a wonderful feature on EVA Air called a Sky Compass that shows us the route and where we are on it, It tells us how far we are from the Departure Point and how Far to the Arrival Point. It tells us the air speed and outside temperature. As we approach landing we see the heads up display showing the seed, altitude and the angle of the wings as we turn. We also see the ground ahead but it comes on and off. I remember the Air Vietnam had a camera in the nose that we could look at during take off and landing. I really liked that.
We are on the ground in Taipei. Through Security and up to connecting departures. I am always fascinated by the shops in airports. Do many people who are traveling need something from Victoria’s Secret? How many people need aa Rolex Watch or perfume at $200 a bottle. I guess someone needs these things because the shops are at all airports and have been for a long time.
I keep some Taipei currency to be able to pay in the local currency. I have a $20 (TPE) Coke and a $50 (TPE) ham and cheese roll and I know it is not too expensive because I had $100 (USD) changed to over $3,000 (TPE) years ago and I still have over $2500 left.
Our flight boards and we are off to the last leg of the trip. While waiting I meet some of the people who started with us in Cherry Hill.
I liked the movie “Cherry Returns” so much that I watch it again. Breakfast is served and next thing you know we are landing in Saigon. Customs is a breeze and I am out into the heat and humidity for the first time in a year Graham Green was right about Saigon when he wrote the Quiet American. The first thing that hits you are the smells, promising you everything in exchange for your soul. I am met by Minh Ha, May and Tung. I wish I could speak Vietnamese. Tung is one of the people I would really like to talk to more. He is an Architect and a very nice person.
Minh Ha and I drive through the city and I love all the sights and sounds. So many familiar places and at last we are home.
I would like to write more and unpack but Minh Ha and I talk and I am dozing off so I am off to bed.
31 August JFK
Miss Oanh - Dinner at home
Everyone I know in Vietnam likes things made in the USA. Miss Oanh is no exception. A full suitcase was her things. Perfume, eye makeup, and this year a pasta maker. Also things sent by a friend in the USA. I got in late last night and got to sleep later. This morning I woke and went down and had some cucumbers for breakfast. I went back upstairs and fell asleep again. I felt jet lag a little last trip but more this year. At 12.00 I was awakened by Minh Ha at the door with a call from Miss Oanh. She wanted me to hurry and bring the things from the USA. I got up and May called Uber. I got the suitcases with all Miss Oanh’s things and I am off to the top of District 1. I arrive to find her and her lady friends waiting. She is so excited. She opens each thing and looks at it, passes it around so everyone can look at it and smell each perfume. She loves the pasta maker but I do not know what she will do with it. She wants to know what this does and what that does and I keep referring her to the instruction manual since I have never used one before. As she and her friends look over everything I fall asleep again. When I wake I excuse myself and she is so happy with everything that she tells her Nephew to take me back home.
We arrive home and I give her Nephew the things I forgot to take in the morning. Each year I bring her 2 pounds of Ballpark all Beef Hotdogs. I include something extra. One year it was relish another it was baked beans. This year I took Chili. It is a lot of fun.
Back home I fall asleep again but only for a little while. I unpacked things I had brought for Minh Ha. There were Oregon canned Cherries which she loevs and Chocolate chip Granola bars. A box of dark chocolate from Stutts. Everyone I know in Vietnam loves dark chocolate. May had ordered some things and was so excited to get them.
After dinner May related how Minh Ha’s dog was stolen in June. Minh Ha took her out and she stays real close. A man on a motorbike came by and grabbed the dog. As he drove off Minh Ha screamed and this woke May who came down but the man was gone. May went to district 10 where she thought the dog would be taken and sold and began to show people a photo of the dog. Finally a man said he would help her for a price. She finally met the people who had the dog and agreed on a price equivalent to $75 USD. She came home and Minh Ha was so happy. She has had the dog for 13 years and is very fond of her.
May is an exceptional young lady. College educated, intelligent and a teacher until she went to work in the corporate world. Beautiful and so animated when she talks. She is a joy to chat with.
And so to bed and I hope to be caught up on my sleep cycle so I can go out tomorrow without falling asleep during the day.
The Tax Store at Nguyen Hue and Le Loi is now gone. Another piece of history has given way so a big box of an office building can be built.
National Day Program
A program of Music to celebrate their National Day
Minh Ha has a balcony garden that grows about 4 feet out above the street. There are all manner of flowers, Ferns and even trees including a 12 foot banana tree and a willow that she grew from cuttings from our yard in Pipersville. This morning a vase and flowers appeared on my desk in front of the window.
First on my list today was to go swimming in the pool which is a part of what was the Cercle Sportif Saigon which was a very exclusive club of the wealthy French Colonialists of the Indochine era. Now it is part of the Peoples Labor Cultural Palace. I had heard that they wanted to tear it down and as fast as landmarks here are being torn down and replaced by big ugly box buildings that utilize every square inch of the allowable footprint. I was very happy to find that the pool survives at least another year. The pool was a lot of fun and I met three young men Dac, Dung and Quan who had recently graduated from high school and were in their first year of university. Dack is studying international business. We had fun talking about language and their futures.
Before entering the pool area we noticed singing on the front steps so we sat and listened for a while. Today is National Day in Vietnam, their 4th of July. There were many groups dressed in Traditional wear and singing traditional songs. Others sang more modern songs. At one point several groups were on stage and a girl with a flag of Vietnam ran out on stage waiving it back and forth. It reminded me of being young students, half a century ago, when we would wave flags, and sing patriotic songs. Three man in Olive Drab came out and sang a powerful song. Their pride was evident. I liked the song and was not all that surprised when Minh Ha told me the men were singing about the long battle to defeat the Americans. One of the men came past me and was looking a little apprehensive. I smiled and gave him a nod and he also smiled. After all, the war is over, pretty much.
After the music program and the swim we go to lunch at a restaurant near the center of the city. The center of old SaiGon is the intersection of Nguyen Hue which runs from City Hall down to the river and Le Loi which runs from the Opera House out past Ben Thanh Market. We had a lovely lunch and after that I had wanted to meet a Niece whose family sells soda, water and coffee near the Eden Building. Unfortunately since it is National Day the people who work nearby ate off from work today and she is not there.
However across the street the Tax Store is also not there. After years of debate focusing on the old façade and the main entrance with it’s ornate stairs, escalator and the fountain the building is now gone. I read that he staircase and fountain were removed and will be incorporated in the new building but I will have to see that. It is sad when the beautiful old buildings must go to build the big boxes of office buildings.
While I wander May has agreed to purchase our tickets to Tay Ninh. As it turns out Phuong Trang does not go to Tay Ninh but the city bus does. May, at her very best always seeing to every detail has a schedule and transfer information at Cu Chi and even the fares. May is my hero.
I wander along Pham Ngu Lao but see no one I know. Then I turn down the alley which Hotel Thuan Duc is on. And there, just as I left him last year is Peter a British expat who is sitting here just as he was last year watching TV in the little shop across from Hotel Thuan Duc. An obvious change is the building directly across from Thuan Duc is gone and there is smoke and heat damage on the neighboring walls. Peter says there was a fire. Lucky that it was the only wooden building left nearby so the fire was easily contained by the fire company which had to run a hose all the way from the end of the alley since a fire truck could not fit in. We talked for a while and I went to see anyone else who may be around.
Going home I get the 46 bus. This had been a small truck with an entrance in the back and a bench down each side. Now it is a nice midsize bus with seats and the fare is 5000 VND instead of 6000 VND. I arrive home and we have dinner. It is so much fun to sit across the table and talk. I ask May to guess who I saw in the alley and she immediately said “Peter”. What a memory.
Tomorrow I will go to see my Niece Hoa and then we have been invited to dinner at the Bitexco Tower with Chau. The end to a very nice day.
The family grows
Left to right are Ma Chia Chin (Chau's Fiance), Chau, Myself, Tram and Thu and Minh Ha
Today we were up early and off to Tay Ninh. It was May, My hero, who made all the arraignments and told us which buses to take and where to transfer. The Phuong Trang Busses do not go to Tay Ninh so we took city busses. May told us to take the city bus from Ben Thanh to Cu Chi then the 171 bus from Cu Chi to Tay Ninh. The total fare for the 2 hour 45 minute trip was just under $1.00 USD. The negative was it made many stops but the fare made up or it and also there was a chance to meet many locals and not have to put up with any tourists.
I have used city busses and only got off course twice where upon I simply got off when I knew I was going the wrong direction, walked across the street and waited for the same number going back until I knew where I was and adjusting the course.
We had been invited by my Granddaughter Chau to meet her fiancé. He is from Taiwan and is an engineer with a Taiwanese company working in Vietnam. I hope they will both be very happy.
Chau is now Mộc Bài in Tay Ninh Province. Also here are Chau’s Sister, Tram her husband and their daughter Thu. Thu is a very happy child and smiles constantly like her mother.
We had a nice time getting to talk and meet everyone. The trip had been long and exhausting so we went to the hotel to relax before visiting the Cao Dai Temple. It has been many years since I had been here and each trip the visitors have become more and more ignorant, refusing to take off their shoes and going where they were asked not to go and disrupting the service. I am hoping things are better but I worry they are not.
Dinner was at a small place down the street from the hotel. We had a dozen grilled shrimp, a dozen spring rolls and a great salad over rice noodles plus 4 bottles of spring water so we would have plenty at the hotel. The bill came to just around $7.00 USD. It was late3 so we returned to the hotel.
The hotel was picked out by Chau and is near their house. It is not in a central location to everything and I was surprised that it is very clean and looks rather new. Minh Ha looked at photos of the rooms and picked rooms for us that were under $14 USD per room. I am now doing today’s journal and I will get to the last two days tomorrow.
Cao Dai Temple - Nui Ba Den
Cao Dai Temple
Front of Temple
Cao Dai Temple Ceiling
Cao Dai Temple
Interior of main Hall
Cao Dai Temple
Nui Ba Den (Black Lady Mountain)
Hotel Coffee Shop Front
There are no doors, no way of closing the coffee Shop. It may rain outside and the front will get wet but who cares. Also no snow load to consider on the cloth roof.
We had agreed to get up early, have breakfast, call Chau and see if they wanted to go to the Cao Dai Temple. Minh Ha came over and I was ready and about to see if she was. We called Chau and found her on her way to SaiGon.
Minh Ha and I went down and had breakfast in the hotel coffee bar. I had eggs and rolls and Minh Ha had Pho. I like Pho but I cannot eat it everyday and every meal. After, I had a glass of coffee in ice. The Coffee is stirred and sipped here. It is rich and delicious but I am afraid there is quite bit of sugar.
Our hotel is convenient to Tram’s House but 35 miles East of the Cao Dai temple. We are lucky to be on the main road so even though the taxi would cost around $20 the city bus is less than a dollar and the terminal is just behind the Cao Dai temple.
We went to the corner and took the bus in. The Temple is large but the grounds in the Temple complex probably covers 50 blocks. I will have to Google Earth it when I get to a computer with Google Earth. We arrive between services and the Temple is quiet except the tower gong. It is a beautiful building and very large. We remove our shoes and of course do not wear shorts into a Temple. Shorts are not proper for men in Vietnam and many Temples and Pagodas have signs asking people to not enter with shorts or shoes. Most westerners ignore this and Vietnamese are very accepting of this impropriety and excuse the ignorance of westerners concerning these local customs however it is nice to work at understanding the customs of the country and culture we are guests in. As you enter you see a very large room with pillars running down each side. Each pillar has a dragon wrapped around it. Everything is so brightly colored. The center area is reserved for worshipers and parts are reserved for the Pope and Priests. The pope has been absent since the mid 1930’s but I did not find out why.
At the far end under a dome is a very large sphere with the Divine Eye. Sometimes referred to as the Holy See but I am not sure if this is correct or a miss translation.
Later I walked around some of the grounds. A few buildings are fallen into disrepair and do not look like they are being used. Most of the buildings are very well maintained and painted brightly. Some large areas are groves of rubber trees. In among them are concrete structures. One is a large sliding board with stairs up and 7 slides coming down in different directions. Others are swing sets. Next year I think I will spend a whole day in the Cao Dai Temple complex and a day at Nui Ba Den, Black Lady Mountain.
Our next stop was Nui Ba Den. We were told it was 2 hours from our hotel and since I did not think it would be of much interest to Minh Ha so I had thought we would skip it this trip. Then at the Cao Dai Temple I find we are only 5 Kilometers from it. Minh Ha is interested in it and of few go. In 1967 the US was on top and around the bottom but the VC had the mountain riddled with tunnels and we are told hospitals, barracks and arsenals. There is a cable car that goes up the mountain to a Pagoda and also a guest house and restaurants. There is a second cable car that is older and does not look to be in operation but then this is the off season. From this point there is a stairway presumably to the top which does not look all that far but Minh Ha is losing interest and energy. Next trip I will see the top. There is also a roller coaster down but we did not see any cars on it. We did see men working on it so maybe it will be back in service. The mountain and the view are impressive from the South. The top 1/3 is mostly sheer cliff.
After ice cream at the Pagoda we head back for a rest and dinner in a nice little restaurant down the street from the hotel. The hotel offers breakfast free but does not serve other meals. The hotel and staff are so nice and it is convenient to Tram but not to Tay Ninh City. The meal down the street is too much but now that I have been living and traveling with friends they all worry that if I lose weight I will not be healthy. I have given up trying to convince them but I have given up Coke even Diet Coke and I am walking a lot so we will see.
City busses are wonderful. The whole trip back, on two busses, and not a single tourist. The city busses have a conductor who collects fares and also helps children and elderly on and off since many have a load. One little girl was holding on for dear life as the bus approached her stop. The mother got off and the conductor set the little girl on the street. She had a mask and hat and all you could see were her eyes but they were definitely smiling at the conductor and he set her down on terra firms.
It is easy to tell when you are being talked about by the way people glance over while they are talking I have learned enough to answer some questions with some degree of accuracy and an occasional straight on reply will often get applause, it is really fun. Once, on a trip to DaLat, on a bus frequented only by Vietnamese, I polled the group and no one understood English. This was 10 or 15 years ago. There was a Vietnamese minister so I started singing Church songs and soon I hit one he knew and we were singing together in separate languages. After the half way rest stop everyone wanted to share what they had gotten as a snack and it was also one of those memorable trips.
Back in SaiGon I get a shower and feel alive again. As Graham Green said in the Quiet American, “Your shirt is straight away a rag”, I find this to be true.
I am waiting now to tell May about this and ask her about Tay Ninh and the day will be complete.
I am back in touch with Enrique Diaz who is a Geologist for an oil company and we will meet tomorrow. Enrique is another of the really interesting people I meet her who is not from here.
I am almost caught up on my Journal so I may get it done tonight.
Hoa Mom Them - Dinner at Club 50
Hoa Mom Them
Hoa, My Niece, Mom and Miss Them.
Hue - Tombs of the Emperors - Purple City
inside the Purple City
Inside the restored theater
This was a wonderful day. It started out with plans to take a tour that would take us up the Perfume River and visit the tombs of several Emperors.
I had plenty of sleep and we were all ready to go. We walked to the landing in the center of town and got our Dragon Boat. Going up the river we stopped at an ancient home and then a Pagoda before getting on the bus that would take us to Minh Mang’s Tomb. Between the last two stops on the boat a lunch was cooked and served. All in the $10 cost of the tour.
It is said that when Minh Mang saw the site for his tomb he said “Now I can die”. He thought he had found the most beautiful place on earth and it is a beautiful place. Then he began to build all the things he would need. A Pagoda and buildings for his staff and family when they come to visit and also since he would use it as a getaway place before he died.
Next was a stop at Khai Dinh’s Tomb. Khai Dinh was the Father of Bao Dai the last Emperor. Khai Dinh had no sons so he adopted Bao Dai and this gave Bao Dai the throne when Khai Dinh Died. This is a much more recent tomb, somewhere in the 1920’s It is very fancy but in a more modern was.
Our last tomb and my favorite was Thu Duc’s tomb. It is laid out a little differently than the other tombs. Instead of being in a straight line from entrance to tomb it wanders. There is a lake with a pavilion and a house that was open in the front and could be opened in the back to allow a nice breeze. Also the tomb of the Emperor and his wife are outside the Pagoda area.
Each tomb was an additional $5 but well worth the money. We had 35 to 45 minutes in each and a good view of each.
Upon return to Hue someone asked about the Citadel. This is a large block of a building that sits on the river in front of the Purple City. The tour guide took us to the Purple City instead so we followed along.
15 years ago much of the Purple was in ruin. Many buildings were severely damaged by the war and some had just fallen into disrepair. At the time we were told that the remaining buildings would be maintained but the buildings that were gone would not be replaces. Since then the Purple City was put on the UNESCO list of World Historic Treasures. Now much work is being done to rebuild lost structures and to restore old buildings.
A tour guide inside took us around to show us much of the Western side of the city. Even though we were tired from much walking we stayed after the tour and explored the Eastern side of the complex. This is where much was closed 15 years ago however now much is coming back to life. Much is dark hardwoods and it is being kept in such good repair. We stayed until we ended up in the very back as the sun was setting. Each half of this day would have been great but together it was just fascinating. I think I could spend 3 or 4 days just in the Purple “Forbidden” City. I am hoping more will be done in the future.
We want dinner but I especially need a cold shower and a dry shirt. The heat and humidity are rather intense yet Minh Ha will often wear a long sleeve sweatshirt with the hood up in the 80’s and into the 90’s. I notice that many here do this.
Refreshed we are off. Minh Ha wants Bun Bo Hue. Not my favorite but I can always find something on the menu that I like. We arrive and May finds it amusing that there is only Bun Bo Hue on the menu. I think of May as aMAYsing May. She has organized this whole trip and purchased the airline tickets and made the hotel reservations.
After dinner we walk to the river and find the night market. We stroll for a while till we see a small Dragon Boat that will take us in a half hour tour of the river at night. It is only $12 so we are off. For a rime we sit alongside a larger boat that has musicians and singers singing traditional music. Minh Ha really enjoys this and I just love seeing her happy.
Back at the guest house we are planning tomorrow. We agree to have the buffet breakfast at the SaiGon Morin Hotel. Then May and I want to go back to the Purple City but Minh Ha does not want to pay a second time so we agree to go to breakfast then get a taxi and tell Minh Ha that we are going somewhere but tell the taxi to go to the Purple City and forcibly drag Minh Ha in. May and I are having fun with this and Minh Ha is acting grumpy but I hope May and I will get our way or maybe just find another place. I told May that anywhere she wanted to go would be good with me since I have not found anything in Hue I have seen too much of.
Now I am almost caught up and I will keep up on the Journal and try to fix a minor problem with the site.
It is already tomorrow so I am off to bed.
The Emperor's Personal Theater
We are front row center for a performance of the Musicians, Dancers and Singers of the Emperor's personal theater company, within the Purple City.
We had intended this to be a quiet day to relax. Yesterday we did 3 days of sightseeing so we decided to take it easy today. I had wanted to have the buffet at the Saigon Morin. I liked it so much last time we were here. However that was 11 years ago and they do not have it anymore. They do have a breakfast buffet so we went this morning and had a really nice, relaxed breakfast with eggs, fruit, lots of really fresh fruit, pastries, crepes, juices, even a little bacon and sausage and some bread that was almost like cake. We took our time for about 2 hours enjoying the park like setting of the Saigon Morin courtyard. We talked a lot and had fun.
One of our planned activities was a trip to the big market. The market was hot and crowded, which we knew it would be and we returned to the house to rest for our main adventure today. Yesterday, while exploring n the Purple City we looked at a part of the city that was blocked off 11 years ago. We found the Emperor’s Theater. It is beautifully restored and they are programs there now. We missed the afternoon program yesterday so after our rest we went early. The program is only put on if at least 5 people want to see it. So since it was only 200,000 VND we went and I was determined to buy 5 tickets, thus assuring a performance.
It makes me feel wealthy to buy the performance for 1,000,000 VND even though it is only around $46 USD though it does sounds like more. At 2:55 there were still only the three of us so I went and asked to buy 5 tickets. The lady explained there were only 3 of us and I assured her that we wanted 5 tickets. She was a little perplexed but conferred with her cohorts and sold me the 5 tickets. Almost as she handed me the tickets there was a large drum beating. We went in and took the 3 front center seats.
A lady came out in a really formal dress and introduced the show. 7 musicians in costume played traditional instruments. They were joined by 12 dancers who sang. Their costumes were beautiful. There was a play in which two dragons came out met and tastefully had a baby who went to it’s Mother to nurse and it’s Father for care.
In one act the dancers were all holding lighted Lotus candles, danced and built a human tower. I asked and May verified that the song was one with lines about “the Lotus grows in the mud but it does not smell like the mud”. I remember hearing it before.
The excitement of the performance was that we were in the Emperor’s personal theater seeing a performance that he would have seen. Vietnamese do not applaud much but we did. If you are ever here know that you can have a performance simply by buying 5 tickets and it was well worth it.
After the performance I asked Minh Ha if she was glad that she came and she said “yes”. Minh Ha is thrifty and did not want to pay to enter the Purple City again and then buy 5 tickets to assure the show. I told her May and I were going and we would have to buy the 5 tickets anyway and they would be wasted. That got her, she also hates waste.
We still had a lot of time so we went through the Eastern side of the compound which we had seen yesterday but now we were early enough that much was still open. We took many of the same photos that we took yesterday but now the light was brighter so we will see some differences. There is the Emperors reading and relaxing building and a number of others that are restored or on their way to restoration. After hours we noticed that we were the only ones there and finally someone came and told us the place was closed, which explained the absence of people. We left just before sunset.
May found us a Hue Specialty for lunch which was a little late but no one noticed. It is called Che with a diacritical going down on the “e”. The lady serving had a cart with 6 rows of 5 pans. Each had a different ingredient. May bought me the mixed fruit one and it is definitely my favorite. The lady ddips out ice then the mixed fruit and a few other things with something crunchy on top. It was delicious and cold which was nice after a long hot day.
May called a cab and we arrived back at our house just after dark. I had coffee and Minh Ha is almost asleep while May is packing so neatly. I am finished and tomorrow we are off to the train station for our journey to DaNang then on to Hoi An to see another UNESCO World Heritage Place, the old city.
On the train from Hue to DaNang
Beautiful countryside, 9 tunnels, a little over two hours, $2.50 USD, and a relaxing ride
I was up early and got my shower before anyone was up. I got my packing done while they showered and then watched them pack. As they fold each thing it ends up being just the right size to fit in some place of their suitcase. It is fascinating.
We had intended to have breakfast and head for the bus but no one is particularly hungry and all I want is coffee which will be available at the station so we are off to the station. May calls a Taxi because there is no Uber in Hue.
Arriving at the station I walked down a side street. In 2003 when Tom and I came to Vietnam we met Alina Ton in the Airport in Inchon as we changed planes. She had been a US Citizen for 10 years and was escorting her mother home to Hue. I asked her if she would show us her beautiful city and she said she would. When Tom and I arrived in Hue she came and met us at the station and took us to find the best tours and a nice hotel.
I thought it would be a real coincidence if she was there but I could say hello to the family and let her know I was there. The street was wider, the sidewalk was wider and all the vegetation was gone from the other side and you could see the canal easily. Most important, The house was not there, gone to development.
Going back to the station I stopped to get an iced coffee. We were early so we waited in the terminal as the platform was locked. Who knows why? About 5 minutes before the train arrived the door was opened and we were allowed out. I was able to get some photos of our train arriving.
We boarded and found seats. It has been a long time since I have ridden a train. The last time was when Tom and I were invited by Miss Hue who had been invited to give a paper to a Pan Asian Conference on Chemistry. Miss Hue taught chemistry at the University of Science in Saigon. Tom and I had taken the train to Lao Cai and a bus to SaPa and the train back to HaNoi and down to Hue. We had a compartment which is shared by 6 and has 6 bunks. You can also go with the soft seats but on this trip we went with the hard seats which were very comfortable despite the name.
The main job of the crew seemed to be selling things like snacks and a meal. They came through the train cars with carts like on the airline but less sanitary. One attendant used a small plate to scoop out rice on to a dinner plate. Then he looked at the dinner plate, picked something off it, threw it to the floor and handed it to the attendant who added whatever you asked for,
We passed some wonderful scenery. Beautiful crystal clear away from cities. Pristine beaches and some coast where the rock went down the mountainside and into the surf. I got some photos of our train on the long curves when I could see all 14 cars and the locomotive. I was surprised how fast we moved in DaNang as we went through the city with only a small fence to separate us from the citizens and vice versa.
By the time the train stopped and we were off May had already found us the closest bus stop for the bus to Hoi An. We walked the 500 meters to the stop and I had a dixie cup. I walk so much here and it is so much good exercise.
After a short ride we are in Hoi An and May has an Uber lined up. He place we are staying is a homestay which is much like a guest house but also much like a hotel. We unpack and rest up a little then go out to lunch. There are several nice restaurants very close. We pick one and we all have noodles of one kind or another. Much to my surprise it is decided that we all need a nap again. While they nap I attempt to get caught up on my journal and getting my photos to Smugmug. I had a small problem but the Smugmug people are so wonderful getting things fixed even if it is something I did wrong on my end.
I am ready to go to see the old town but everyone is sleeping so I make a little noise and mention that it is getting near dark if we are to see the old city.
We are3 just 3 or 4 blocks from the Japanese Bridge so we start there. The bridge was a gift to the city of Hoi An long ago when it was part of an important trading route. The bridge is beautiful and in the middle of the bridge, off one side is a Temple.
There are so many old buildings that are so beautiful.
There are places here that are famous throughout Vietnam. We stopped in one called Banh Mi Phuong. We got their famous Vietnamese Hoagies and sat there enjoying them under a photo of Anthony Bourdain who is also enjoying one of the same.
Back at the room I am trying to straighten out my website but I fear my provider has been hacked and I am lost.
Tomorrow is another day
The bridge was a gift from Japan to Hoi An when it was an important trading center
Japanese Bridge interior
On the North side is a Temple. The other side is open.
Today I was up and out while everyone slept. I had wanted some photos of the old town and especially the Japanese Bridge before it was covered with tourists. It worked, the Japanese Bridge was empty and the morning light gav me a lot of really good photos. I came back in an hour or so and everyone was ready to go out.
A beautiful day for the beach. We have our breakfast of bread and water. This is the way Minh Ha saves money. It is ok because I do not like breakfast anyway.
We take a taxi to the beach. !0 years ago when I came with my grandson Dylan we were the only two on the beach. There were no buildings, no stairs down to the beach, no police boats just off the buoys that mark the swimming area, No police men playing with their jet skis often in the swimming area. Things are different now. There is a row of restaurants and umbrellas stretching half a mile up and down the beach. You can rent a chaise, under an umbrella for $2 USD per hour. The beach is still very clean and the water is like a cool swimming pool. There are not many people here at the beach in the off season. At the buoys the water is 10 feet deep. 10 years ago Dylan and I swam out to the fishing boats which were in about 20 feet of water and still it was so clear.
Back at the room we shower and change and we walk towards some of the old buildings here in Hoi An. Along the way we stop for some iced coffee at a small stand by a shop that sells souvenirs. I have an iced coffee and May says she likes it so we order another while Minh Ha shops for some things to take home.
If I were to write about the happiest times I can recall most could begin with the same sentence. “There was a girl.” Today as we sat sipping our iced coffee three girls sat at the next table. One looked over and smiled I was also smiling and so she smiled more. She was wearing a sweatshirt with a hood and she had such a pretty smile. She was paying attention to her meal but looked up from time to time. We would both smile. I had been telling May that a smile makes anyone look beautiful. “Look at her eyes and see how happy she is.” I told May that Shakespeare said that “eyes are the mirror of the soul”, “Look at her eyes and you can see that her soul is happy.” I held up my camera and she was shy and put her face back towards her meal. I kept looking and finally put my camera up again and waited for the yes or no. She looked away for a minute then stood up and put her hand out to stop. I waited and she pulled her hood off and took her hair down. Then she put her hand out again and I waited while she took her sweat shirt off. She posed and I got up and got closer. She smiled and I took the photo. I showed her the photo and she smiled. Then as her friends sat finishing their meal she put her hair up, put on her sweatshirt, put the hood up and ran off into a shop across the street. Her friends laughed. She only looked back once as she closed the door of the shop but she was smiling.
Minh Ha and May came back to rest and I bought a ticket which allowed me to see 5 of the sites in the historic area. There was a Communal Living House and an Assembly Hall which were both Temples now. There was a museum of porcelain sponsored by the Government of Japan that had exhibits from excavations in Hoi An and other sites. There were exhibits from the Hoi An Shipwreck and I noticed two bowls identical to the four I had bought from the auction of the Hoi An Hoard excess pieces.
Back at the room I arrive just as Minh Ha is going out. May had not slept. She said the coffee she had today kept her awake.
Tomorrow it is off to DaNang.
Hoi An - Cham Island - DaNang
My Khe Hotel
The Hotel is older and small but it is one of my favorites.
Another great day thanks to aMAYzing May. May had asked, last night, if we wanted to go to DaNang or stay here another day. I said it did not matter to me and she said she would book a tour of Cham Island. I have heard it is beautiful and it would be a nice day.
We were up early and went down to have our breakfast and pack. Since we are going to DaNang after this we leave our luggage at the desk and are off to meet the bus that will take us on the tour. The bus arrives and after collecting other people we are off the marina where our boat is waiting.
Boarding the boat we begin the 40 ride to Cham Island. The island is pretty and we have a short tour of a temple and we also see a man tying a net. Ay the landing is a small museum with some history and some bowls from the Cham Island Shipwreck.
Our boat takes us to one of the smaller islands and we are allowed to snorkel for an hour. As we enter the water we are met by the most beautiful assortment of coral and fish. The bottom is covered with large boulders and each is covered by coral of all shapes, textures and colors. Some looks like fans, some like brains. One rock is covered with a delicate green coral that looks like forest on a mountain ridge. Another had a tan coral that looked like fluffy pine trees in winter covered with snow. A blue starfish was on another. There was a small school of 2 inch long fish that had dark blue vertical stripes separated by iridescent stripes that were either yellow or silver depending on the angle. This hour or so was worth the trip by itself.
Scuba diving was also available but we stayed together snorkeling and there was so much to see there.
Back at the main island we had a lunch on the beach. It was a feast with such a large variety of food. Fish, snails, greens, shrimp, pork, noodles and pork and rice.
We had 2 ours to eat and swim on a sandy beach that is pristine. Time up and we are off to the main land and Hoi An. As we leave Cham Island we stop back at the original landing site to pick up some students. We are the last boat to leave for the day and perhaps for a few days since a storm is coming and the tours will be canceled till it passes.
Back in Hoi An we pick up our bags and are off to the bus depot for the trip to DaNang. Arriving in DaNang we go directly to the My Khe Hotel on My Khe Beach. We have stayed here before and it was here that Dylan, our grandson, turned 13 and became a teenager on what was earlier China Beach. This hotel is small and not so new but I have liked it every time we were here. We are directly across from the ocean which is so beautiful. The beach is still clean and the water is also like a pool. We have a nice time swimming after checking in.
After a rest we are off to dinner at a restaurant where you pick what you like as it swims in large bowls and it is cooked and brought your table.
A beautiful day.
DaNang - Swimming in the storm stirred ocean
There was a Typhoon at sea and the surf was up with waves as high as 3 feet. In Vietnam this is big and the beach was all but deserted.
It rained last night, through the night and it is just drizzling in the morning. The benefit to this is that there are waves this morning. Only about 3 feet but waves none the less. There are seldom waves here except when there is a storm. I suggest that we go swimming but Minh Ha is against it because of the undertow which is dangerous. I convince her that it is not so bad and she can go in a little or a little more or a little more. She laughs and agrees. It was only last year that I convinced her to swim in the ocean. It was at Con Dao Island and there was a curved beach that was crystal clear and as smooth as glass. She was afraid that she would get out over her head. I pointed out to her that if she did all she would have to do is turn around and swim back. I went out a ways and she swam between me and the beach. She loves swimming and stayed in the safe area. Soon she was swimming back and forth parallel to the beach.
Today we were out about 40 feet in the breakers. May took to it immediately. She was diving under the waves and jumping over them. She is so graceful and appeared to be dancing in the waves. They would knock her down and she was back up. The waves would push her in and pull her out. Minh Ha would watch her float out and look worried as if she was watching her daughter being washed to California.
The beach was all but deserted. In half a kilometer in either direction there were less than a dozen people in the water. One group was 6 boys who were out a little farther than us and up the beach. A man and woman who were probably the parents of at least some of the boys walked behind us as the boys passed in front of us. The woman was so concerned. You could see it in her face. The man went out with the boys but it did not calm the lady. She was dressed nicely and was so beautiful with the look of concern. At one point the waves went out for a moment and she walked towards the water. Just then a wave came in and splashed over her feet and legs and she retreated but never stopped looking at the boys and now the man.
I had convinced them to come swim for just 15 minutes. After an hour or so we finally went back to the hotel, washed and rested. For lunch May had found a place that served what she liked and we were off. It was across the bay in town and it was very good. It was one of the dishes that comes with rice paper and everything you need to make Banh Trang Cuon Thit Heo Luoc. We take the rice paper and place the lettuce, cucumber, green banana, bean sprouts and roll it tight then dip it in sauce. It is very good.
The rain began again in earnest so we returned to the Hotel and rested. When we got up it was pouring and May ordered in. She went to the restaurant here at the hotel. It was closed but the staff was still there and they gave her bowls, chopsticks and spoons. Our dinner arrived the way most take out arrives here in plastic bags. Broth and meat are in three one serving bags, noodles in three one serving bags and a bag of lettuce and sprouts. There were also small bags of sauce and spice. Another great meal in the dry comfort of our room, very cozy.
There was not much to do in the rain so we relaxed and went to bed.
DaNang - Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills Cathedral
The Cathedral in the newly constructed French Medieval Village
Ba Na Hills Pool
indoors and heated with two whirlpools this is a very relaxing place
We were up and thought we might go to the Pagoda in the mountain that we missed yesterday because of the rain. It was still raining as we went to breakfast. We took our time and had a leisurely breakfast, got packed and went to the office while May contacted Ba Na to find the best transportation to get to Ba Na. The people at Ba Na told May that the wind was too strong for the lift to operate. She also said they told her there were no refunds for cancelations for any reason.
I told May to order an Uber and we would go to Ba Na and when we arrive she will tell them that if the lift cannot work then they have a fleet of small shuttles and they can drive us up the mountain and tell them we know they can do this because we have been here before and seen their vehicles deliver supplies to the top and if they cannot do this we want a refund because we do not accept cancelations for any reason. May laughed and agreed. This was so funny because in Vietnam to question the police, government or even a business is not done and most here do not want to even think about it. The younger you are though the more likely you are to try it.
We arrive and May is talking to the lady at the desk, who is smiling, but I do not understand anything so I am anxious about our stay. Finally May said that the lady agreed to have us go up on the lift but there was a warning that the wind would sway the car and it was dangerous. We are on our way. I have been here and seen it but May has not so I really want to stay here.
On the way up the car does sway a few inches but nothing serious.
We had hoped to stay at the hotel L’Indochine. It was being built when we were here on a trip 5 years ago. What was built was like a Pagoda roof and a lot of natural wood. The artist conception was beautiful but we could find nothing about it online. When we looked where the buildings that were complete had been we found only the concrete slabs. Apparently it was decided on, designed and the building was begun then plans changed. May made reservations at Hotel de Paris. It is truly beautiful and we love our room but there is a problem. We were supposed to have a family room with a bunk bed. As we enter we find one double bed. Although we are all very close this would be a breach of propriety that is not acceptable. The person showing us in tells us that we also have the adjoining room but since we are early it is not yet available. Problem solved and I ask if anyone wants lunch.
Everyone does and we are off to find a restaurant. Five years ago there was the Hotel Morin and two others farther down the mountain. There were three small, old French hotels on top that were closed and I hoped they would be restored and we could use them in the future. Sadly they were bulldozed and the entire area is now a village that looks like it is right from France. Ancient Church and many beautiful stone buildings all Steel with a covering of concrete carefully sculpted to look old. It is so beautiful and I wish we had more time to wander and look at the shops. Many restaurants.
The restaurant at the other end of our hotel has a buffet for 225,000 VND which is about $10 USD. We enter and see a buffet that runs on and on. It begins with a wonderful white fish in a sauce that includes onion and peanuts. There are soups and of course Pho made to order. Brazed Duck, several varieties of Pork, salads with Eastern and Western ingredients. Rolls, donuts, pastries, ice cream, fruit, yogurt made on site, a variety of drinks several coffees, including Vietnamese. We take about an hour to eat, sit and talk and snack some more.
After that we walk around the village. So many shops and restaurants and where there was once a small Pagoda there are several new ones, a tea room and other buildings. The buildings are 4 to 6 stories above ground and some go well below ground since the sides are on the sides of the mountain. Below the castle is the amusement park and above the once empty buildings are filled with shops, restaurants and hotel space. Three cable cars now service the top however only one is running today. The ride up was beautiful as we could look down on the jungle and often see water cascading down waterfalls and into pools. The amount of water tells of the rain that had been there the day before.
After a rest in the room it is Minh Ha who suggests that we go to the pool. We look at the map and find the pool pictured but we do not know if it is indoor or outdoor. It seems reasonable that it would be inside due to the altitude and temperature. The front desk tells us that the pool is indoors and heated. It is a short walk from our building but May and Minh Ha find it cold outside in a bathing suit. They are surprised that I do not however this is a nice cool day in summer back in Pennsylvania. It is what you are used to.
The building the pool is in is a huge building. The ceiling is three stories up. The entire pool is four feet deep, and warm. There are two hot tubs with water jets and seating. Through an opening we can see another room with pillars and it looks like a pool also. When I go to check it out the life guard says it is a children’s pool. There is a stairs on our side and a slide goes into the other pool which is about 18 inches deep in the center. There is a changing room so you do not have to go out wet. Towels are provided. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. While we were walking around we stopped to look at something and a lady asked if we needed a map or could she help us find something. She did not seem to have a uniform but did have an ID badge to tell that she was with the hotel.
After the swim we decided to have dinner and May picked a restaurant that we passed going to the pool. It was a good choice. There was rice and chicken for May and Minh Ha and a hamburger for me. There was a salad bar for all of us and it had some nice things that we all enjoyed.
We walked back to our rooms and ended the day there. We leave the adjoining doors open and close them only if we need privacy since the shower and toilet are only separated from the bedroom by a wall without a door. A beautiful place. But I am afraid our time here is limited and we will not have time for any massages or mud baths. The massage the caught my attention was the “Food Massage”. I also found the “four hand massage” intriguing.
We will have a little time in the morning so it is a good time to get some sleep.
Ba Na Hills to Cam Ranh Bay
Returning to Childhood Home
Church at Cam Ranh Bay
The Church of Minh Ha's childhood. All those beautiful voices and Vietnamese is a musical language. So Beautiful.
The plan for this morning had been to swim, breakfast and se3e the large Buddha down the mountain a short distance from Ba Na Hills summit. However Minh Ha, who worries for the group thought we should leave earlier for the airport so we skipped swimming. We moved on the buffet breakfast which was in our hotel in the restaurant which had the buffet lunch yesterday. In Vietnam meals do not change just becaus3e the time of day. Our hotel is western so there is a selection of cereal and there are eggs, pancaked and sausage but also the same pastry assortment that was here at lunch and that really good potato salad with carrot cubes and green beans. There are sautéed squid with vegetables and dozens of other items including the coffee assortment from yesterday.
After a relaxing hour of breakfast and coffee we wander around. May wants to go to the Buddha but Minh Ha is sure we must get to the airport.
We return to our rooms and pack then check out. Our bags are carried to the cable car, then down to the first stop and transferred to the second cable3 car. What service.
We get Uber to the airport and we are not late. In fact we are two hours early. Still better too early than too late.
Our flight to Cam Ranh Bay is only 50 minutes however there is no Uber in Cam Ranh Bay so we go with the Mai Linh Taxi rep at the airport and are in a Taxi and to the hotel.
We rest a short while then to our purpose in Cam Ranh Bay. For a year Minh Ha lived during the age of 8 and 9. She wants to see her old home and whoever may be there. We take a taxi to the church that she remembers was close to her house. The neighborhood has changed much and she does not remember exactly where the house is.
Behind the church Minh Ha meets a lady and chats for a while. The lady directs her to a barber shop 3 blocks away where Minh Ha meets a man who was a boy whose family shared the house with her family. His name is Tuat and they talk for a while as he is finishing a haircut on another man who seems happy to hear about Minh Ha’s return. May suggests that since I need a haircut I should get it here. It is a haircut like I remember from Mr Ruggiero in Southampton, when I was young. A lot of scissor and comb work, looking in the mirror from time to see how it is progressing and all the time talking to customers. He finishes and I have a really nice haircut and Minh Ha has had a wonderful chat
After the haircut we all walk to her old house. Minh Ha and Tuat talk as they walk. May and I follow taking photos and videos. Tuat is pointing out many things and Minh Ha is very happy chatting. We come to the house and Tuat is pointing out neighboring housesw and whatever they are discussing is beyond me but I am sure that it is about neighbors and events and where everyone has gone or who is still here. We walk a while to her old school. It looks like it has not been painted since she was there almost half a century ago. Some of the shutters hang loose on their hinges. As we walk around we find it is still a school and is very well maintained from the front and Minh Ha is happy. I suggest that we go in and she is all too eager. We take many photos as she looks around. School is out for the day but it is easy to see it still sees many children and teachers each day.
Continuing on we meet another man. He is Nam and he is Tuat’s brother. He has a store in front and a house behind. We go in and sit and chat. We are joined by an elderly lady who is Chuong. She is the Mother of Tuat and Nam. Minh Ha is very interested in Chuong and wants her photo taken with her.
Time is passing and I still have no idea what is being discussed. Every once in while May will tell me something that they discussed. The sun has gone down and dinner is served. We have rice, chicken, duck, soup, rolls and the usual greens that accompany a Vietnamese meal.
May tells me that we are going to church at 7:30. Time arrives and we are back at the church where we started hours ago. The church is quite full but there are seats left. We go in and sit down. It is a Catholic Church and the service is much like our Lutheran service. At times I know what they are saying. The lessons are read and they end with “The word of our Lord”. Minh Ha, who always takes Communion at our church in Pipersville is hesitant but with a little coaxing we take Communion. At the end of the service I ask May what the last words the priest spoke were and she said “Go in peace”. I was pretty sure.
It is late and dark and we go back to pay the barber for my haircut. Of course Tuat refuses to take money. Minh Ha and Tuat talk a while and we are off. We say good bye and I thank the man for the very nice haircut. He smiles and is very happy as Minh Ha translates. We shake hands and leave. May calls a Taxi and we are back at the hotel and I am caught up on my journal.
Minh Ha is so Happy, May and I are happy and I think everyone we talked to today is also happy.
Day at the Beach
Cam Ranh Bay Beach
This is not the beach for the Carriage Trade but it is very nice and we meet the most interesting people
We had nothing planned for today except to go to the beach. With an influx of tourists even in the off season many beaches now have trash wash up on the beach and floating in the water. Most make a real effort to clean up but especially after a storm there is debris and trash. It is worse in larger cities where everything washes down storm sewers and into the ocean.
We had breakfast across the street and May called a taxi. The driver took us to a beach in the Southwest corner of the very large cove Northwest of the Airport. We pass many roads that go down to the ocean but we continue on. We turn on to a bumpy gravel road and follow it to the beach. There are shanties of tin roof buildings that stretch for probably half a kilometer. Once inside it looks like one long building. Wooden platforms tier down to the sand under the tin roof that is supported by a forest of metal and wooden posts.
Down in front we find a table we like with beach chairs facing the ocean. There are changing rooms that are not up to Western standards but are up to our needs. After all the only people you meet in the more Western places are Western tourists.
And it is here that we meet Jimmy Vo who is vacationing here from his home in North Carolina. Jimmy was a Huey pilot with the 259th Helicopter Squadron VNAF (Vietnam Air Force). He was there till the end when he flew out and landed his Huey on the USS Midway. Jimmy is history.
You do meet interesting people everywhere
Back at the hotel we plan to rest have a small dinner. We must be up for the 5:00 AM flight back to Saigon.
Cam Ranh Bay to SaiGon
We are up at 3:00AM and off to the airport. We arrive early and have time for a coffee unfortunately none of the shops are open. At 5:00 AM the shops begin to open and I get my coffee. It is canned but it is good. I really like coffee in the morning.
Every half hour an Airbus 321 takes off for Saigon. It seems that a lot of people are traveling by air early.
As we take off we can see much evidence of the massive US Base that was here however Huge development is taking over.
Arriving in Saigon we get an Uber and go home. I am a little tired from running for most of the time we have been away and I spend the day unpacking and napping. Minh Ha also except that she has to clean house and cook 3 meals. May on the other hand is off to work for a full day. Ah to be 26 again. I am almost half a century older than she is.
Minh Ha and I have Lunch and dinner together which is really nice. May joins us for dinner and says she is tired so she goes to bed early.
And mow I am still tired so I am off to bed.
Maybe it is a combination of the hear, humidity and have been on the run for 9 days but it was hard to get going today so except for going to the market and some emails I really did not do much of anything today.
I will work on getting up and ut tomorrow.
The sign - tickets - Visit to Mom
I wish Ihad taken a photo of the sign as I first saw it then as I came backand it was spelled correctly.
This morning I had arraigned to go to my Nieces Mothers house to learn how she makes the coffee that she sells on the street along with soda, tea and water. Hoa said she would come after work and take me there.
I had to go to the railroad station with Oanh to buy our tickets for Tuy Hoa. I took the 46 bus up to Pham Ngu Lao just to see if anyone was around. From PNL I can get the 20 bus up to Oanh’s house on 3/2 street easily and spend less than a dollar for the trip. Public transportation is really great. People on the bus are usually so nice.
Since I can get the 20 bus anywhere up to 3/2 street I walk for a while. In the 23 September Park men are putting up a sign for an upcoming event. The bottom line of the sign says “THAN HPHO HO CHI MINH”. I immediately notice the spelling error and point to the second H and motion to push it over. A man smiles and basically ignores me until another talks to him in Vietnamese and the man looks at the signs and realizes that the sign has misspelled the word THANH PHO as THAN HPHO. He is rather surprised that a westerner has noticed the misspelling and is very happy about it. Someone supervising comes over and they pull the second H off and place it where it belongs. They are all poking fun at the first man and he is smiling and giving me a thumbs up sign. Then they are all giving me a thumbs up and I leave very happy at the whole incident.
There are many tents set up and I am wondering if this is the international food event that we have gone to in years past. The chefs from the international restaurants gather to cook dishes from their culture. In years past Thanh and I have gone and she dragged me away from the grilled mouse and even the Ostrich and Crocodile Kabobs. A friend and I have the frog porridge but Thanh stuck to the rice.
Along the way to Oanh’s house I stop at a store that is exclusively Hello Kitty. I bought some Hello Kitty Chopsticks but I do not know who they are for yet.
It is getting hot and humid so I get the 20 bus to Oanh’s house. As I get on the bus a man in a blue uniform also gets on. He is a bus inspector. He looks at the conductor’s ticket book and then asks each passenger to see their ticket. Each ticket must be close to the conductor’s book or he will find it suspicious. He has never asked for mine but I find if I hold it out for him to check it always makes him happy. This inspector gets off at the next stop to board another bus.
Oanh had told me to bring my passport but I did not and I told her I did not need it to take the train from Hue down to DaNang. This, unfortunately was not true since May bought the tickets and Minh Ha was holding my passport since she did not want me to lose it. Sometimes she is such a Mom.
Oanh sometimes talks more than listens and in this case she is so busy chiding me for not bringing it that she is missing that the lady selling tickets is asking for my passport and I tell her I do not know it. Then she asks for my name and birthday and I give it to her. She then looks at the computer screen and has my passport information. Oanh is happy but does not say Thank You to the lady. So I say Thank You and the lady smiles. Oanh is a little embarrassed and translates but the lady understood.
I stop at Oanh’s house and she gets out the pasta maker I brought her. Each year she asks for me to bring things from America for and she used to pay me when I arrived but one year all she wanted was an Igloo Cooler so I told her it was not to little to be worth paying me. Since then she gives me $300 USD before I leave Vietnam and then pays me for what she is over in purchases. It is a lot of fun and she is like a child at Christmas opening each thing I bring. This year she had friends over to help share her happiness at the things I brought. This year one thing I brought her was the pasta maker and she had questions about how to use it. I showed her the manual and told her to read it. She was insistent that I tell her how to use it so I looked at the manual and we ran several magazines through the roller and cutter one page at a time. After a few magazines and my telling her to read the manual we had it down pretty well and the manual also had a recipe for the dough. I told her that the dough had to be right or if it was too sticky she would have a mess to cleanup. We will see how this one goes. I told her she could add different spices and have different flavors. She could give some to friends and soon she would have a business selling gourmet pasta. She laughed and said “From this little machine”. I told her that others had started with less and had businesses. She looked at the machine with a new enthusiasm and smiled.
The ticket issue settled I got the 29 bus back to PNL and had a chocolate milkshake and then the 46 back home.
Minh Ha was happy to see me since I had skipped breakfast and was very late for lunch. I had some wonderful Bac Choi and mushrooms. She is so thrilled that I like her cooking. It is a Traditional Vietnamese thing eating together and cooking for family. She says she is so hppy that I like her cooking and I tell her she is such a good cook and I like everything she cooks except the bitter melon. However I point out that I have eaten it 3 times even thought I still cannot eat it without register some expression of how bitter it is. And it is bitter.
Hoa calls and she is done work and coming by to get me and take me to Moms to learn how to make the coffee. We drive down the street I am on which is near to Mom but then we make about 30 turns from alley to alley to alley and finally are in an alley that is only the width of two motorbikes we arrive at Moms house. She is beginning to make coffee for the next day. It is amazingly simple. There are coffee makers in restaurants that hold one serving and it drips through into the cup. She has two of these which are very large. She says to put 250g of coffee in each and run water through it filling it 3 times.
Mom is not feeling well. Since she was in a motorbike accident a few months ago she has been having bad headaches and cannot work selling anymore so she makes the coffee each night that her daughters sell. She smiles but I can see she feels bad so we leave. I ask Hoa to think if there is anything we can do for Mom like a mattress that will make her rest any better. We will talk after I get back from Tuy Hoa. Mom is getting help from a doctor and is taking medicine but it worries me that she has headaches after a head injury.
Back at the house May is home from work and we have dinner. Along with the mushrooms and Bac Choi we have fish. Fried and boiled each dish is delicious.
Caught up I am off to bed.
Saigon - Tuy Hoa
I wake up to find Minh Ha and May packing. After our 9 day trip around Vietnam May is off to Singapore. I only found out about this trip last night. I told May that I have Niece that lives and works there and she says it is beautiful. May had heard that it was and wanted to go but not alone so she is going with a co-worker. May is very sensible. We have breakfast and Minh Ha packs two fried egg sandwiches for the trip. We say our goodbyes and Minh Ha and May are off to the airport. Minh has a look of concern for May. She does tend to worry about her even though May can take care of herself and is not one to be looking for things that will cause her trouble.
I packed, had lunch with Minh Ha and went up to Oanh’s house. On the way I stopped and got some things for the train. It is a 9 hour trip.
We go to the railroad station to get our ticket for the return trip. We bought it 2 days early and could only get a soft seat which is much like an airline seat. It is much better than a hard seat which is like a park bench. Two days ahead was not enough to get a sleeper going up. Since it is the off season I am a little surprised but the off season is having less and less to do with things here. Four days is enough and we have a sleeper coming back.
An interesting thing about railroad tickets is that they are more expensive for foreigners than Vietnamese. Oanh’s ticket is $13,00 and mine for the seat next to her is $15.00. Which is not all that bad for a trip of is over 500 miles.
The day ended somewhere between SaiGon and Nha Trang.
Tuy Hoa - Around the hotel
Tuy Hoa - Fishing Boats
Fishing Boats tied up along the Saawall along the river.
I had never been to Tuy Hoa. It was the place I was assigned in my orders when I was sent to Vietnam in September of 1967. Oanh said she had wanted to go to the beach so I asked where and she had chosen Tuy Hoa. It was perfect, the beach, an old Cathedral, Pagoda and temples and a chance to see what was left of our presence.
The train pulls into the Tuy Hoa station on time to the minute at 7:30 AM. It is not easy to sleep on the seats but it also was not so bad and we have traveled during the night and not wasted a day traveling. On the way back we will travel during the day and see some beautiful country side.
On the train we met a beautiful little girl walking up and down the aisle. She smilled continually. Her mother was just as beautiful and her smile brightened the train trip. She had no English but her smile transcended language. Leaving the station we said goodbye and were off to find a taxi to the hotel.
The hotel is nice. The room clean and nothing is broken. To me this is a 4 star just for that. To everyone else it is a 2.3. We have a view of the ocean but the beach is a good wak away.
After registering we go to the rooms and unpack. After a short rest we go for a walk to the beach. We walk through a little village and ask where we can get Banh Xeo. It is a rice soup cooked with several ingredients like sprouts, shrimp and spices. It cooks in a small pot about 6 inches in diameter over a charcoal fire. Almost done it is folded in half and finished. It is a crescent shaped and served hot with a sauce of Fish Sauce and peppers.
Everything here is served with a sauce that includes either fish sauce or Soya Sauce and peppers. It is also funny that if you have 3 things, each with a sauce, and you use the wrong sauce with one particular dish people will tell you which sauce goes with the dish and often laugh if you use the wrong sauce. It is like using ketchup on a hamburger when everyone knows that Ketchup is for hotdogs.
On the way back to the hotel we meet a group of school girls and the mother of one who has come to pick up her daughter. They all say hello and wave. They are all so happy and so beautiful. The mother is also very happy. So delightful.
Back at the hotel we take a dip in the pool. We are ethe only ones and it is nice and refreshing. It begins to rain and Oanh is concerned about lightning and I tell her we will get out if we hear thunder. The rain is cool and fun but I forgot and my moccasins get soaked.
It is getting near dinner and we cross the street and walk less than 100 feet and there is a lady making and selling Banh Xeo. We stop and have some and it is really good. Street food is really good and I like eating on the street and in small restaurants except the day before a long bus trip. I also watch the preparation and stop any ingredients like intestine or congealed blood.
Continuing our walk we go towards a larger part of town. No one is open except food places and one convenience store. Along the way Oanh sees a lady cooking ears of corn over charcoal. We stop in and Oanh talks to the lady as she cooks the corn. We each have an ear and it is good. Oanh buys an extra ear for later. Continuing our walk I manage to step on a sharp stone that comes through my flip flop and an inch long shard of glass which also comes through but miraculously does not penetrate my foot.
Things here are clean but nothing is sanitary. Dishes and glasses are usually rinsed in cold water without soap and returned to service.
Back at the I am off to a cold shower and bed. I think Oanh is probably doing the same.
Tuy Hoa - Da Dia Beach
Thuy Hoa - Da Dia Reef
Basalt formations at Da Dia Reef
Tuy Hoa - Wedding Photos
The Bride and Groom posing for wedding potos on Da Dia Reef
I did not expect to find much in Tuy Hoa. A beautiful coastline with a Basalt beach and a Cathedral from 1892 but they were 30 Kilometers north and I did not know if Oanh would want to see them. She had said that there were some things far away and we would have to rent a motorbike and ride there. As it turns our they were the two things that I wanted to see up the coast.
We were up early and went to the buffet breakfast which comes with our rooms. The selection was very Vietnamese but there were fried eggs and rolls and butter which were very nice. There were some other very nice things like the fresh fruit and coffee. The orange juice used to be fresh squeezed everywhere but now it is a mix, at least here.
The hotel is owned by the government and Oanh notices that many of the guests are from Hanoi. We noticed this last year when we stayed in a hotel in Phan Thiet that was owned by the Peoples Committee of Phan Thiet. Some of the other guests were friendly but most kept their distance. Perhaps it was only the language thing.
The Bus Girl is so pretty and every time we make eye contact she smiles so beautifully. Oanh tells me I should not look at her like that. I ask why and I am told she is working and people above her might think badly of her. I am a little surprised but she knows the culture and I try to limit the smiling.
After breakfast we get the motorbike. The girl who is renting it to us has just purchased it and it is in beautiful condition. She is concerned about renting it and takes photos of it from all sides in our presence. I understand her concern. We are paying less than $10 USD for her $2000 motorbike.
We are riding up the coast and we are close to the ocean but cannot see it. For a long distance there is major development. Huge complexes along the beach front. Like everywhere else the economy is not bad for everyone. The road narrows to a two lane road that winds through villages and along rice paddies and hills. The road is dotted by small restaurants selling all maner of street food. We top often along the way when there is a fork in the road to ask a friendly person for directions but mostly we rely on the markers that look like tomb stones but painted red on top of white that tell the mileage to our destination. We stop by one place and two nice ladies sell us water and give us ice. Along the way everyone is so friendly. As we drink our ice water we see students lining up at the other side if the little store. It is recess and everyone wants a snack.
We come to a saw mill with a very large band saw mounted on rails. It is freshly painted and being installed. The band is off and laying next to the saw. Oanh is thinking about building in the area and she and the man talk prices. I wander around taking photos. There are many cactus in the area growing wild. There are also many foundations of old houses in this area
From time to time the road is very bad. In one place the road is large rocks maybe 2 or 3 inches looking more like road bed than a topping. In another it is wet clay which is very slippery and I have not dropped a bike since 1966 and I really do not want to drop this brand new one.
We pass a garage that repairs the local trucks. There are two nose into the garage and some men are working on them. They think it is funny that I am there watching them work. We are all talking but not understanding much. I take some photos and the men walk across the street where one man is attempting to tilt the dump bod of one of the trucks and the others come to help. They are all looking at me and smiling so I help to lift it and a board is pushed under to hold it up. They all smile than one who is looking at the bed of the truck says something and we lift a little more and he moves the board back. This happens again and finally everyone looks at everyone else and gives the thumbs up and everyone is smiling. A few more photos and we are on the road again.
After 40 Kilometers we arrive at Da Dia Beacb. We park the motorbike in a lot and receive the ticket to redeem the bike. We have to do this everywhere the bike will be out of our site. At the entrance we pay a %1 USD fee and go in a path leads across a hill. Down the other side of the hill we see to a bay that has a long beach across the inside end of the bay. It is a beautiful beach. The sides of the bay are all Basalt columns running down into the water. Our path turns towards the sea and we go down to where the hill also turns to Basalt columns. The ad for this park told us the stones have tones when struck and people come to play them from time to time. The path back goes up and down to places where the rock goes out into the sea. A couple in wedding dress are on the rocks with their photographer. We stop and a young couple are standing next to us also taking photos. She is behind him and she puts her arms around them. I hold up the camera and they smile so I take the photo. I show it to them and they are happy with it. Oanh wants to go back on the smooth path and I continue on the up and down path.
Nearing the end of the path where it meets the entrance I meet a man from Germany. He asks if there is anything seeing down the path and I tell him there is much to see. He has a motorbike and has traveled from HaNoi down this far and will continue to Mui Ne. We talk about Vietnam and the beauty of the land, the culture and customs and the people. He has also found this. I wait for Oanh in the patio and have a cold water. Besides being better for me than soda I can pour some over my head to bring my temperature down and feel relaxed.
Leaving Da Dia Beach we are now looking for the Cathedral which should be 6 kilometers from the beach. I think we passed the cutoff soon after leaving the beach but we are relying on what we are told along the way and I think some are thinking of another church and accidentally steering us away. The church looked beautiful in photos and I had hoped to see it but that will wait for another trip.
Oanh wants to stop for lunch and sees a place along the road home. I go back and she orders something for both of us. We have fun talking photos and talking with the ladies who are making the food. Now the reason I mentioned smiling at the girl in the restaurant this morning is because of an incident here at the restaurant which is in the front of a house here in this small town. A lady comes across the street with two friends and is talking with the group. Oanh tells me that the lady wants to make love to you. I have been around this kind of humor before here and I know she is joking so I tell her and Oanh translates “ok, but later when she (pointing to Oanh) is asleep. The absurdity of acting sneaky and having the person I am being sneaky around translate this message is recognized and everyone laughs. Maybe it is because here the ladies all know one another and smiling at the bus girl while she works or maybe because the ladies here are older and the bus girl is young but this humor is sometimes ok and sometimes just a smile is not. I never instigate this humor and only speak when I see that the joking is ok. As we leave the lady who began this talks to me and Oanh says she wants a kiss. I hold out my hand and she takes it. Then as she takes her hand back I hold on for a moment and when she pulls hers away I look disappointed and everyone laughs.
Continuing our ride back to the hotel we have passed 4 wedding celebrations and 2 funeral celebrations. The big difference is that both funerals had tents and canopies of red and yellow while the wedding tents and canopies of red and white. Coming into the small town that our hotel is in we talk about how many large buildings are army. Block after block walled in but we see very few soldiers either through the gates or along the street and only 2 army vehicles.
Back at the hotel I put the motorbike in the garage and the security guard is trying to explain what I need to do but we are not connecting with our language. She gives me a ticket with the number 272 on it to reclaim the motorbike.
Up in my room I rest until Oanh comes and suggests we ride around and look at the beach and get dinner. I go to get the motorbike but I have lost the ticket. In the garage he security guard and I try to discuss the situation. She speaks into her cell phone and a translator prints out the message “The baby needs an uncle”. I have never seen a translator that can do Vietnamese and English translation. I convey to her what the word baby means and she smiles at the mistranslation. Finally she uses whiteout on the ticket 272 number in her book and writes in 165. She then writes 165 on the seat of the motorbike. Through this all she has such a pretty smile and a little mischievous. She leaves me with an admonishment that I should be more careful in the future. It seems that in dealing with anyone in a position of authority when you are rong an admonishment is a part of their duty. I even see this in the movies where a drug dealer admits to his crime to save the mother of his daughter. He names his boss and accomplices and is told by the officer that since he did the right thing the court will take it easy on him. They did, he only had to serve 20 years, sounds like a ot but his boss and accomplices were executed.
Riding down the beach street we find a large plaza at the beach in front of a park. There is no where to park so we ride on till we find a parking lot and drive to the end and look at the beach. A very nice young man points out that we2 are in the restaurant but tells us we can park in the secure lot and walk along the beach and even sit at a table to watch the ocean. We walk a while and then walk up to the street. We are at the plaza by the park. It is a long marble plaza that has dozens of battery bumping cars which can drive the length of the plaza. As they race around slamming into one another children are roller skating, skate boarding and riding other devices in and among the bumper cars. We sit and watch. A bumper car whizzes past with a little girl on skates is hanging to the back. We watch for half an hour and no one is hit in the confusion. Almost like it was choreographed.
Oanh talks to a young man who says we can find Banh Xeo down the street and to the right. We find it and the Banh Xeo is really good.
We ride around town for a while, stop and get yogurt to take back to our rooms. We ride out to the airport which was the Phu Yen Army Airfield long ago. Towards the airport it is very sparsely populated and much land is open. It was part of the US base and is probably owned by the government and is waiting to be developed. In this dark area we come upon a group of young girls sitting by the road drinking beer. Oanh is very upset and says many girls do not want to marry but want to find a man to take care of them. We are on a side road and it is unlit and only a few people here and there and Oanh says this is not a good area and we should turn around and leave.
We return to the hotel and are met by the security who has that same mischievous smile. She raises her hands and is holding the ticket 272. It was found by a lady and turned in. We are all happy. Now all we have to do is wait for the girl who rented us the bike to come and see that is in good shape then to be paid. Oanh wants to talk to the girl from the gift shop and the security guard so I go to my room to write all that has happened today.
Later Oanh stops by to say that the girl came and picked up her bike and was happy that it was un scratched and un dented.
Tuy Hoa - Eat Rest Eat Rest Eat Sleep
Thuy Hoa - Card Game
Men sitting in a small cafe by the street that euns along the seawall along the river.
Tuy Hoa - Squid Rolls
Ladyy making Squid Rolls, much like spring rolls with a small squid inside then fried.
It looked like today’s schedule was going to be, eat breakfast, rest, eat lunch, rest, eat dinner, go to sleep. Oanh was in a blah mood. Maybe the weather, since it had been cloudy most of the day and drizzled off and on till it poured.
We did go to breakfast which comes with the room and is a nice buffet. There are fried eggs which I like and rolls and there are all the fixings for Banh Beo. Banh Beo is a disk of steamed rice flower and water. On it are scallions, crispy fried onions and shrimp ground up. And of course coffee.
After that we did rest for a short while however Oanh wanted to go out and walk around. I was happy about this. We walked along the road along the river which is just behind the hotel.
Some men were playing a card game and when we stopped to watch they all invited us to sit and watch. I took photos and only one man got up and moved away quickly. The men were all having so much fun though I could only understand the occasional word. They were eating a snack that was a root that had been pealed and steamed. It did not have much flavor but was good. It was easy to see that one man was winning and another was losing.
We stopped at a carpenter shop and he invited us in. He had aa table saw, Band saw and a good supply of wood. There was a room to display furniture he had made. All very nice. There were parts of projects that he would work on when he had time. Oanh and the man talked at great length about the cost of furniture. Oanh had just sold a house that she had owned in SaiGon that was next to the house she lived in and has wanted to get a house away from city and all the city problems.
Continuing along the road by the river we came to the overpass of the bridge that goes out to the Airport. There we found a lady making what looked like spring rolls. These differed in that they had a little squid in each. Helping her as waitresses and bus girls were her two granddaughters. One of her Granddaughters had the most perfect face. I took a few photos and some candid just to catch her different moods as she listened to the ladies talking. It was interesting that as I took her photos and Oanh told her she was so beautiful the girl would put her hands together and bow. Like she was honored to have her photo taken and told she was beautiful. The happy news is that she and her sister go to school and live with their Father, Mother and Grandmother. Their Father joined us for lunch. He is a fisherman and was working on his boat which is tied up to the seawall near the Grandmother.
Walking a little farther Oanh finally decided we should go back to the hotel. Oanh had decided that we should go to the Grandmother for lunch again tomorrow. I think this is a good idea. Most children say hello even if tt is the only word they know. One little boy stood halfway hidden by a telephone and he would look at us then turn away. I said “Hello” and I guess he was not ready so he pulled back so we could not see his face. Other children would look after us and even if we were 500 feet away would wave if we turned around and we would wave back.
Back at the hotel we rested and discussed tomorrow. It is our last full day here and we have not been to the beach yet.
After a while we go to walk around the city but it begins to drizzle and we go back to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. The hotel was expensive by comparison to eating on the street but by comparison to eating at home a $9 meal for two is not what we can call expensive. The grilled shrimp were a little small but they were good. By now the rain was coming down hard and we were glad to be next to the hotel and only had a short walk back. Our wait staff gave us an umbrella and we were off.
The lady under the overpass who makes and cooks the Squid Rolls.
Today is our last full day here and I really want to get to the beach. It was so beautiful on Google Earth. We decided to get on our bathing suits this morning and go to breakfast and then the beach. After the usual wonderful breakfast buffet we are off to the beach. Two blocks East and then 3 blocks North and we have access to a beautiful beach. The beach is over a mile long and very deep. The first 100 feet of the beach is covered by vines with purple flowers that look a lot like morning glories. Another 100 feet of clean sand then it drops off at about a 25 degree angle to the water and then continues to drop off at that angle. Walking into the water we are knee deep in 5 feet then waist deep in 10 and up to my chest on 15. At 20 feet I am just able to touch and it then it slopes less. 100 feet out it is about 10 feet deep. The water is crystal clear and with my mask I can see small fish near the shore and out farther I see fish that are about 6 inches. All very colorful. I think my snorkel is somewhere around the house in Pipersville. I forgot to look for it. Everywhere in Vietnam there are wonderful things to see in the beautiful clear water.
In the Southern half mile of the beach we are the only two people. It is like a commercial where they want you to think you will have plenty of space and privacy when you come here. We are here for an hour or so then walk back to the hotel and have a rest before lunch.
For lunch we had planned to go back to the lady who made the Spring Rolls with the Squid in them. I did not know that Oanh had been talking to the lady about Fish Cakes yesterday and the lady said she would have them today. Oanh has been stockpiling seafood for days. Here it is fresh and cheap. She has been filling the hotel restaurant freezer and has purchased a Styrofoam cooler so we can fill it with ice and take it on the train to SaiGon.
At the bridge underpass we have our lunch. We split 15 of the squid rolls and the lady makes four of the large fish cakes for Oanh to take to SaiGon.
On the way back to the hotel many people say hello and wave. People we have met in the days before and new people. Everyone is so friendly.
We go back and rest for a while which ends up taking till dark. Oanh comes over and asks if I want to walk around. We walk towards the beach to find the Banh Xeo from last night. At the first corner I want to turn and Oanh wants to go straight. She remembers we went that way last night but forgot that after walking down there we came back up a block to the Banh Xeo. A lady comes by on a motorbike and tells Oanh that it is the way we were going. Oanh says the lady will drive Oanh then come back for me. We arrive near the spot but on the way the lady told Oanh that the Banh Xeo is not open during the week, only weekends. Oanh thanks the lady and offers to pay her but the lady says no and we say goodbye and she rides off.
Realizing that this is Monday we look around and very few people are out and about. There are a number of food carts all selling about the same thing. Close to the plaza near the beach we stop and eat. It is meat on a skewer with the ever present plate of greens. There is lettuce and cucumbers which I really like and something more bitter. We share about 20 skewers and at the end have tea which is also ever present. When I go to Highland Coffee and get a cup of coffee it comes with a cup of tea.
We walk around the park, by the plaza, the bumper cars are out but very few people driving them. I notice all the things other children were using were also rented there. Roller Skates, Inline Skates, things that look like a Segway with no upright and some with an 18 inch upright which you hold between your calves. There are small Cyclos for children to drive and ride in. Across the street are battery operated cars, trucks and motorbikes for the smaller children to drive.
We walk back to the hotel and notice we have walked about 7 blocks. We have also been noticing that there are many buildings that belong to the army but we see very few soldiers.
Oanh goes to the restaurant to talk about her seafood since we will get up early, have breakfast, get the seafood and head to the train.
Last night in Tuy Hoa.
Tuy Hoa - SaiGon
Sunrise on the South China Sea
Our last sunrise in Tuy Hoa and a beautiful one at that.
I am awake before 5:00 AM and get my shower. I am ready even before Oanh comes to tell me it is time to get start4ed. Oanh also likes to be early rather than late. We have plenty of time and go down with our luggage to the lobby. They keep it for us while we go to breakfast and to retrieve Oanh’s seafood which they have packed in the cooler she bought.
We find we are early for the buffet and check on Oanh’s seafood. While she is down in the kitchen the doors open and I go into the dining area. I sit and look at the corner of the room with the hot plate for the coffee pot. I hope they will bring that out first. If we have time for nothing else I hope for the coffee. And it appears with one of the waitresses. As I sip my coffee other food appears. I have the string beans that have been fried and some pork which is the cut that would be bacon thought it is sliced an eighth of an inch and then cut in 3/8 inch pieces and cooked in it’s fat and spices. Really good but I am sure I did not lose any weight in Tuy Hoa these last few days.
Oanh called a taxi and we picked up the seafood and were off to the train station. We are an hour early and I tease her that we could have had friend eggs and we could have had Banh Beo. She knows that I am teasing but reminds me that it is good to be early. While we wait at the station we meet one of the girls that works at the hotel. She is off to Nha Trang. We are waiting and the time is past for our train. Oanh talks to the people who work at the station and they tell her there was trouble with the North bound train that we just watched pick up passengers for HaNoi. When it is fixed our train will get through. Most of the way the railroad is one track and trains can only pass in railroad stations where the tracks split to be on one side or the other of the platform.
The train is 2 hours late so our arrival will be 2 hours late in SaiGon. Right now I am sitting on my bed, typing and looking out the window as Vietnam passes by. The only thing better is to be on a motorbike traveling and stopping when and where I want.
I look out on city, town and farm field. Farmers with water buffalo plowing their paddies. Other farmers are high tech with a gas engine plow that does not so much plow and paddles churn up the mud and flatten it to ready it for planting. Freight yards with box cars on sidings and, in Nha Trang, a maintenance yard full of engines and cars and a large shop. Green mountains and some that have little vegetation owing to their rocky nature. Quarries and in the flats some sand pits. Canals everywhere it is flat. Water buffalo, goats and cattle. Every so often a telephone tower. Everyone here has a smartphone. The underpaid girls at the hotel who are also on Facebook looking for a better life and probably heading for trouble.
We go through many railroad crossings all manned by guards. In large cities they roll a barricade across the street then stand in front with a red flag. Standing at attention and looking rather officious.
At rural crossings the guard pulls dawn a bar and stands in front, also looking officious. I remember coming down from Lao Cai a few years ago, traveling at night. In the middle of nowhere a small light over a small building and a man with a red lantern standing in the road to stop any traffic that may have come in the night. I thought it a rather lonely job.
We are sometimes inland but not far and often we are along the beautiful coast. Water so blue, fishing boats here and there, often many at anchor and large ships going up and down the coast.
Power plants with 20 story smoke stacks and a forest of towers branching out carrying transmission lines across the country.
Very large cemeteries filled with beautifully colored tombs and the occasional tomb sitting alone in a rice paddy or in a grove of coconut palms. Perhaps a former owner, a revered ancestor.
Most of my friends will talk to anyone. Oanh has been talking to our conductor who came in and sat with us for the last few hours of the trip. I do wish I understood the language. They talk and talk and once in a while they will look over at me and smile. I ask what but Oanh just says e are not talking about you”. Then they go back to talking and glancing over.
We are an hour from SaiGon and we have been passing rubber trees for two hours. Many are having sap taken all are in straight rows. Some are not being cared for and others have the underbrush cleared and we can see between the neat rows, sometimes we see up a hill and the rows disappear over it and go on.
We arrive in SaiGon and get from the train to the taxi. Arriving at Oanh’s house I go to see that she gets in and puts the seafood from Tuy Hoa in the freezer. She has been very happy about her purchases.
While waiting at Oanh’s house we are visited by an old friend we have not seen for a while. The lady who made the little hot sandwiches in front of Oanh’s house a few years. She is so nice and very hard working. She and her sister and mother saved enough money to buy a house and moved but she is back and I am not sure what happened. She has no English and My Vietnamese is not so good but we can communicate. The thing we say to each other mostly is “Khong hieu”, “Not understand”. She is so gentle and shy that all I have to do is look at her for a moment and she will smile so big that her teeth show and she covers her mouth and turns her head to one side. She now works at the market.
Oanh calls a “Grab” which is an Uber rival here and I am off to District 4. When the train arrived I called and told Minh Ha that I was in SaiGon and would be home soon. I arrive and she has a meal waiting. We eat and talk and I go to finish my journal for today. While writing May has returned from her trip to Singapore. She said the trip was good but her friends argued too much. She has brought me a bottle of Oil of wintergreen. It is used here to cure most anything but this one is special. It is the brand her Grandmother used and she remembers it with much happiness. It is special to her which is appropriate because she is so special.
My arrival in SaiGon was delayed due to train problems up the line from Tuy Hoa, delaying our train to SalGon and I was farther delayed once in SalGon due to meeting old friends so this morning I spent time unpacking. I was going to go up to town to see who was around but it began to rain. Then it began to pour so we had a quiet lunch and dinner And I went to bed early. And that was the day.
SaiGon - DaLat
Minh Ha and Flowers
At least once a day Minh Ha is out on the Balcony Garden tending to her flowers and plants. Today she has cut flowers for the alter of her parents.
This morning packed for DaLat. Once again it was overcast all morning so I did not get up to town.
We spent the day looking at photos of our trip to Hue, Hoi An, DaNang, Ba Na Hills and Cam Ranh Bay. We agreed that each stop could have been a day or two longer. However we did see quite a lot.
The day went fast and it was soon time to go to DeTham street to get the Phuong Trang bus to DaLat. 15 years ago the buses to DaLat were like the old small school busses. The trip took 9 hours and there were seldom tourists and often no one who spoke English. We all sat in seats that did not recline and rest stops happened when someone would call out something to the driver, in Vietnmese and he would stop the bus and anyone who needed would exit the bus and use the road, Men on the right and women on the left. Now the Phuong Trang buses are $250,000 Korean made buses. Quite big with air and they take up all of one land on a wide road and a little more on the mountain roads up near DaLat. The drivers drive fast and often pass forcing oncoming traffic off to the shoulder. I like to be in the front row to have more leg room. This time I was I the bottom seat just behind the driver which gave me an unobstructed view of the road. I managed to sleep none the less. The view is not for the faint of heart.
The rest stop on this trip is one we have used for years and it is very large. Two huge restrooms downstairs and upstairs is a large restaurant, capable of serving a number of busses at once. There is a gift shop that sells cookies that are called Cat Tongues. They are oblong but other than the shape they look and taste much like brown edge wafers. I like to get a few each trip. A taste of home, the old home.
Another 3 hours and we will be there.
Huong and Easel
Huong and the Easel that she made from scratch.
I had forgotten the time the trip takes and arrived at 2 AM instead of 5 AM. The city is dark and almost deserted. I cannot find the hotel Huong found for me. The street numbers are often very confusing here. I go to her house and call her but no answer. Later we find she typed her phone number wrong when she told me. I had tried to call the hotel to ask where they were but she also typed their number wrong. She had insisted that I put the numbers in my phone so we looked up the message she sent and I said nothing but she said “OH! That is wrong”. She is a poet and artist so it is ok.
In the interim there are 3 stones in front of her house that I sat on last year so once again I sat on them. After a while the restaurant next to her house becomes awake and I am invited in to sit. The young man who speaks English asked if I was cold and I said that I was not. He brought me a hot tea with lemon and ginger and I waited a while for Huong to wake come out. It was then that the young man offered to take me on his motorbike to find the elusive hotel and find it he did. The hotel had a phone number on the sign so he called and in a moment the steel security door was coming up. I thanked the young man and he was off. I did not get much sleep on the bus. It was not such a long trip and there was a halfway stop and then the bus made stops from time to time along the last half of the trip. The driver also drove with one hand on the wheel and one on the very loud horn.
Huong had picked the hotel since she knew the owner who was also a teacher and spoke English. He showed me two rooms, one $9 and one $11. The $9 was on the first floor up and the second in the basement. To me a hotel is where you sleep so if it is clean, secure and comfortable I am happy. To my surprise though I am in the basement my room is the second story up on the back side of the hotel. DaLat is built on hills.
I was tired and just fell into the bed and slept for a few hours. I was unpacking when Huong arrived. We talked for a while then went for dinner at the restaurant she likes that is near her home. We stop at her house and she shows me the easel that she made. It is a thing she made with her two beautiful artist hands and I love everything she makes or paints or writes. She will sometimes write a Zen poem then paint the poem. My favorite is Lilies under water.
After dinner she is tired so we are off tour respective homes and beds.
DaLat - Big C
Big C Fish Tank
Many places in Vietnam we see these fish tanks. The Mother has paid for 15 minutes so her son and daughter can put their feet in and the fish nibble dead skin off their feet.
Today Huong showed up with her son Louie and the three of us went to breakfast. It was a small restaurant on a side street. We have a dish of rice noodles, onions, chopped shrimp and fish sauce. I am amazed how similar some dishes are yet they have a separate name and only a slightly different taste and look.
After breakfast we walkthrough the town and up towards the theater. On the way we pass a pharmacy where I bought a scalpel last year. Then I had to cut out a new Martin Luther to take his photo in faraway places so the photo could be used at Church. This year the man who understood English was not there but between the three ladies who were there we were able to find one again. Just a splinter.
We walked around the theater and Huong showed me where her friend has started a food shop. Huong will work there starting next week. Her friend wanted her to work with her because Huong has perfect French and many French live in DaLat. Huong’s first language was French and she sill has a strong French accent when speaking English. The first time I met her she took me o her home and her Mother and Sisters were playing cards and all talking French. When she was born her Father was very allied with the French. French was common in DaLat. Sometimes we qre out in DaLat and people tell her that her Vietnamese is very good. She tells them she has always lived in DaLat and never been to France and people often do not believe her and think she is teasing them.
Going towards the hotel we walk back down the same long hill that we walked up. I want to walk down the other side of the street to see the shops we did not see well coming up but Huong wants to walk down the same side we walked up and so she does all the way to the bottom of the hill. Several people I know in Vietnam have a very stubborn streak in them.
At the hotel Huong wants to sleep so she goes home and says she will be back. I go back into town to walk around the lake and stop at Big C. Big C is a western type supermarket and they have a few things I need. When Mom showed me how to make the coffee her daughters sell it was rather simple the same way the cafes serve coffee with a small cup on top of your coffee with coffee and hot water in it except Mom uses a very large coffee percolator on a large jar and fills it with coffee and hot water. The hot water is filled three times. I found the large percolator at Big C. Also a little cheese and a few other things Big C has so much like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Heinz Ketchup and M&M’s.
Back in the center of town there are men constructing an arch in front of the movie theater. A celebration is coming. Behind the movie theater is a gallery where we saw the beautiful paintings of grade school children last year. This year there is a display of what I think are a safety photos showing traffic accidents. Many with bodies that suffered violent accidents. A man whose head was run over by a very large truck. It reminds me of seeing Signal 30 in high school which was supposed to help us drive safer.
I have lunch at Lottoria which is an Asian McDonalds. I had a hamburger and fries. They do not have Coke which is ok since I am doing well and not drinking it. They have Pepsi and I ask for Tea. I go to the patio and wait for my order. It arrives and I get Hamburger, fries and Pepsi. It reminds me of Saturday Night Live “No Coke Pepsi”.
Finally get back to the hotel and in a while Huong arrives and we go to dinner which is Banh Beo at the small market on this side of town. The lady who makes it is still there. I said “It has been a long time”. In Vietnamese she replies Mot nam, One year. I am surprised she remembered but I should not be many do remember. The Banh Beo is tied with first place with the lady in Qui Nhon where I first had it years ago. The lady is so happy and comes around the counter to ask Ngon, Khong, Delicious, no? I tell her Ngon Qua, Delicious, very.
We walk to the night market but it is drizzling and not much is happening so we call it a day and go home.
DaLat - Ngoc Bich
Ngoc Bich's Family
Ngoc Bich, Grandmother Father and Mother
A wonderful day today. Years ago I was riding down a side street in DaLat when I saw a boyand girl having lunch in a small shop with their Mother. As I stopped and got out my camera the girl ran out and waived and smiled. I held my camera and she put up her hand, ran back inside and I imagine tidied up and came back and smiled while I took her photo. A year later I came back and gave her the photo and took a new one. When I returned a year later the shop was gone, leveled. The entire block was gone. Down the street I stopped where I had taken another photo and the family showed me where the lady who owned the shop lived. Since then I stop in when I am in DaLat and we have dinner and a nice time talking.
Yesterday I emailed and told her I was in DaLat and she asked if I would come over today since she was off from school. We agreed on 1:00 PM and today at 12:30 I was there. I had trouble finding the address she said last year and I was a little late so this year I was early. As I approached the house I saw her Grandmother who invited me in. Ngoc Bich had asked me if I would send her Grandmother a postcard from France since her Grandmother loved France. I told her I have been in France, lived in the USA and that was that. I had looked for a good book with a lot of photos and found one at a year sale. I brought it and took it today. Her Grandmother loved the book and was happy and of course I was also happy, everyone was happy. She wanted me to write something in the book since it was a gift so I thought about it and wrote “For Loan, Enjoy France, Henry. She thought it was just right. We talked a while and were joined by Ngoc Bich and later her Grandfather, then Father and Mother. Finally we were all there.
Ngoc Bich wants to be a singer but her family all want her to be a Doctor. I pointed out that if she becomes a Doctor she can always sing and it is a good profession. She agrees but she is concerned it will be too difficult. Her family is very encouraging.
Today she sang a few songs and she does have a lovely voice. I asked if I could put one on Facebook and she said Maybe. Later she said it was ok. We started listening to songs. There are some I really like and I would do the la la la la and they would figure the song, it was a lot of fun. We talked a lot about Trinh Cong Son a singer and songwriter who is a national hero here.
After a few hours they asked if I would like to stay for dinner or go back to the hotel and rest then come back at 6:00 for dinner. I came back to catch my journal up and recharge the camera battery and went back at 6:00
Leaving an hour early for a 10 minute Taxi ride I thought I had plenty of time to be early. On the way it began to rain. The taxis were all full because when it rains everyone wants a taxi. I walked all the way and was half an hour late. Dinner had started and I felt like a drown rat. Still the meal was very good and we had a wonderful time talking.
Ngoc Bich’s Brother is learning English but is shy about using it in front of an English speaking person. At one point I wonder if Grandmother is Mother of Mother or Father. While Ngoc Bich was sorting the question out her Brother blurted out “Father’s Mother”. Everyone stopped talking an looked at him. Now he was self conscious so I said “very good, I knew you could do it”. He was happy.
Dinner was delicious and it was really nice to be sitting in the midst of family whom I never would have known except for a chance encounter on a side street years ago.
At 8:00 Ngoc Bich calls a taxi and walks me to the top of the hill and the taxi arrives. In 10 minutes I am back at the hotel Another great day.
DaLat - Lunch with Hoa, Ha and Quan
The shop where we bought the Vietnamese Hoagies called Banh Mi.
I plan my trips to be here during the off season. Hotels, Trains and Busses are less booked up and prices are down. The weather here does not change a lot since Saigon is 10 degrees from the equator however it is the rainy season. It has never rained so much though. They tell me it is raining every day in SaiGon and we are seeing the same in DaLat.
Huong arrived around 19:00 and we talked and watched TV for an hour then she said we have been invited to lunch at her sister Hoa and her husband Ha’s house. A few years ago it was Ha who made the sandals that I am wearing. We arrive and it is fun to watch the making of lunch. The little differences between here and home. How here everyone peals by cutting away from their thumb and at home everyone peals by cutting away from their thumb. They work cutting lettuce and other leafy things, mixing rice flower and water to make a crepe that they will fill with yummy things.
We are joined by their son Quan who is home from school where he is working on his masters in Physics. We finish lunch and Huong and Hoa take a nap while Quan and I talk and look at photos. Quan has not traveled much and we talk about many beautiful places in Vietnam and in DaLat is particular. We make plans to take a walk around the lake the next chance we get.
On the way from lunch Huong and I stop and get a hoagie for my dinner and she gets a small cake. Huong goes to her house and I go to the hotel. I have been wanting to go to the night market but it has rained every night. I really hope to get there one night before I leave.
The hotel is dry and relatively warm. There is no heat though even Vietnamese from lower elevations find it cold up here. My room has two beds so I use both quilts and I am quite warm.
DaLat Night Market
A Food Cart in the night Market. One of so many.
As usual I woke to rain. Will it ever run out. Huong did not come till 11:00 when the rain had subsided. She asked about breakfast and I said Whatever you want. She suggested rice so off we went to restaurant around the corner from my hotel. We had rice and chicken that had been roasted over charcoal. It was served with cucumber and tomato slices. There was also some pickled cabbage which was a lot like kimchee.
After breakfast walk to market. I do not often wear shoes here and do not have sox. For the first time since I arrived a month ago I am chilly. The hotel has no heat and the floor is quite cool. Outside the market was a man selling sox. Fairly heavy and 3 for $1 so I bought 3. Later to find out that a size 13 in Vietnam was probably an 8 in the US. Still they cover my feet enough that I am not cold in the room.
I found something I have wanted for Grand Niece for a long time and the trip to the market was a success.
Now to pamper ourselves. Along a hill that parallels the main street from the lake up to the main market is a row of buildings, built by the French, that have been there forever. I have an old photo of the little valley that shows rice paddies where the road used to be and even where the market now stands. In the photo the little buildings are there. Each has a room about 20 by 30 and a small room behind. A stairs goes up to the second floor which must be fairly small. Each of these buildings has been a small café for at least 12 years and now one is taking over. Len’s Café was in one of the buildings. Now it has taken over two more. The center of his 3 was converted long ago but the two on the sides are much as they were long, long ago. Len has added a roof along the front that makes all three connected. The roof is lattice and the lattice closes to keep out much of the sun when it is bright. Above the lattice is glass so even on rainy days we are dry and relatively warm.
Huong has Chocolate Ice Cream and I have a coffee with cream and ice. Huong also orders a Coke and remembers my effort to stay away and it is a diet coke, or as they say here a Coke Light. It is now pouring so we take over an hour to enjoy and just watch the rain falling. No one seems to care since there are very few people here.
We walk back to near the hotel where Huong goes home for a rest and I walk to a shop and get some bread and orange juice and go back to the hotel.
The sun sets and it is not raining so I have my first chance to go to the night market. The night market is along the entire road from the lake up to the central market. Booths line both sides of the street selling mostly clothing but also some art and wood burning items. A lot of small carts and even little tables with a charcoal grill at the canter cooking one dish or another. There are a number of carts with many different foods on skewers. You pick put which you want and they are grilled while you wait, Usually there are many tables with stools but it has been drizzling and many are put away. Also the Police have not made their nightly raid on the illegal food carts. The raid is something to see. The Police truck arrives and they hit the first stand they find but the group has already been alerted to the Police truck as it entered the circle. Legal vendors will move a table aside and a food cart will disappear then the table is returned. It is a well rehearsed ritual and it has the appearance of being choreographed.
Three girls are standing under an umbrella eating next to one of the stands. I take a picture and one looks up, smiles and makes a Peace sign so I take another. The girls are from China. I would love to see China one day, the Terra Cotta Army, Tiananmen Square and the great wall. We chat then they are off.
At Huong’s Sisters house, yesterday, she had some dried cherries and I had hoped to find some since there are so many dried fruits up at the market but I could not find Cherries. So it is back to the hotel for the night.
DaLat - Walk around the lake
I had met Quan, who is the nephew of Huong at his parents’ house and he said he would like to walk around the lake one day. Today is the day. Huong came with us to the market where we walked around the shops. I had some really great dried Cherries at Quan’s house the other day and I had hoped to take some home. They had a lot of flavor but did not seen to have too much sugar. I had looked all over the market yesterday but no one had them. Since we were all there I asked Quan if they were cherries at his Mother’s house the other day. He said they were and I said I could not find them in the market where did she get them. He said she got them from her sister in California. A global market
Huong left us and Quan and I went to walk around the lake. We talked about many things. Quan had not been out of DaLat much in his life. He was surprised that I had been to so many places.
As we approached the area of the Golf Course he told me the Lake is dangerous place at night and he never goes there at night. It was not something I wanted to hear while we were there but there were no incidents so all was well.
As we start down the East side Quan points towards the lake and says horses. There are horse drawn carriages at two places on the lake and at night the owners leave the hourses roam on this isolated place where the bank is not too steep. In one spots the horses wander on to the road and cars and motorbikes slow for them but they are not so easy to see.
As we came down the East side of the lake I mentioned to Quan that I would like to stay at the hotel there. It is very old, very French very beautiful. I told Quan that it used to be a hospital where women went to give birth and it was run by a French Doctor. Quan said his Mother had just recently told him that he was born there.
Almost complete we pass the Big C. It was originally to be a Football (Soccer) Stadium with one side open to the lake. There is a new large stadium so it is only used at night for children to gather and roller skate, use their Segway like devices and fly kites. Tonight there are dragons there. We can hear the drums and symbols.
Now our walk is complete and we are back at the bottom of the Night Market. We walk around the market and I get sox, ones that are big enough this time. On the way back to the hotel I stop at a bakery/restaurant and pick up a few things. They have a Jello Cake. It is only in minimal refrigeration and there is none on the way home but it is chilly here now. It is like when mom made orange Jello with Pineapple in it then a layer of lemon Jello with shredded carrots in it. This is a lot like that except there are Asian fruits in it. I was happy to see that they had slices so I could try it. They also have Flan which is very good, not for my diet, but good for once in a while.
It is late and Quan and I walk to my hotel. I thank him for a nice time walking and talking. I pick up a Coke Light at the restaurant next door and I am in for the night.
DaLat - Tiger Temple
Anh selling her Father's paintings in the Night Market
The rain may be coming to an end. The sky was clear this morning and I went for a walk to Big C. Since I finished Huong’s cream cheese and she does like it so much I went to buy her a new package. Cheese is not popular in Vietnam. There is a section about 3 feet long with some Gouda, Edam and Cheddar on one shelf about 2 feet long. There was some Cream Cheese, one shelf space with two packages so I was happy to get that.
I walked back up to the Main Market and just looked around. At Len’s I stopped and had some French Fries and a coffee and just sat and watched life go by.
Back at the hotel Huong stopped in and said we have to go. I asked and she said to the Temple. I do not know where or why. We get a taxi and pick up Huong’s Brother-in-Law.
He has good English and we can communicate. We ride towards the cable car that goes over to the huge monastery across from Elephant Mountain. We are nearing the cable car when we turn off and there is a temple. We enter to find Huong’s Sister putting the final touches on a two sided stone that is about 5 foot high and 6 feet wide. On one side she has painted a large Tiger and on the other there is a relief of a Tiger which she has also painted. Her Sister gets a document out and writs Henry and Kin Huong. I ask if this means we are married. Huong’s brother laughs but Huong has a way of paying attention to one thing at a time and being oblivious to everything around her. She is looking at the painting of the Tiger and just responds to me by saying yes. Her brother and I both laugh and her brother brings her attention to what was just said. She also pays little attention to this. However she has comments to the painting that her Sister has just finished and being the older sister her comments bring a few brush strokes till she smiles.
I believe that the document is an invitation to a ceremony dedicating the Temple. It looks very new. There are statues of Tigers all around and I think it has something to do with the theme of the Temple. There is a date of 9 October on the paper so I think that will be the date.
Back between her house and the hotel we have lunch at a restaurant she likes. After she says she needs to lay down for a while so she goes to her house and I to the hotel. I told her that if it did not rain I would go to the Night Market.
There is a young lady I had hoped to see there. For years the girl, Loan, who with her Sister, Anh, walk the Night Market selling pictures that their Father paints. For years she has said she would take me to meet her Father and see him painting. I ran into Anh tonight but could not find Loan. I told Anh that I wanted to see Loan but she said she was elsewhere selling tonight.
Shortly after leaving Anh I passed one of the bigger open air restaurants and a lady from the restaurant and another lady were in the street yelling at one another. A crowd was gathering and the ladies continued. I was standing next to a Vietnamese lady and she was also watching. She looked at me and smiled. I shrugged my shoulders and she laughed. Anh came by and I asked her what it was all about. She only said that it was not a nice family. I said I recognized a few words that were not nice but I did not understand more. Anh said it was just as well.
Other than that it was a good but quiet day and if the rain is finally over I will be getting a motorbike on Monday and Tuesday to see some of the places that I want to go.
Dalat - Truc Lam Monastery
Truc Lam Monastery
Front of the main Temple
There are several places I always like to visit when I am here in DaLat. One is Truc Lam Monastery to the South of DaLat City. The easiest and most fun way to get there is to take the cable car. I get a taxi to the cable car at this end then it is a $4 ride above the forest to Tuyen Lam Lake. There is a great view of the South side of DaLat City however the center near the market is over a hill. At the end of the cable car is the entrance of Truc Lam Monastery.
Walking into the Monastery is a walk up a long gentle stairway. On each side are gardens. Climbing we begin to see buildings until we are in the square in front of the main temple. It is a very large building with a large alter. A priest is standing by the alter and as he sees worshipers end their prayer he sounds a gong on the alter three times. All of the buildings are very well maintained and painted regularly. The woodwork is so beautiful much is carved or inlaid.
There are many beautiful buildings in the monastery and at a point there is a wall that separates the area we are in from a restricted area which houses among other things the personal quarters of the Master, Thich Thanh Tu. There is a beautiful temple in this area but we can only get a glimpse through the gate. Gardens are everywhere.
One can always find a monk with a good understanding of English. A few years ago I was speaking to one and noticed his English was so good that I had to ask about it and it turns out he grew up, went to school and college in Virginia then returned to Vietnam to join the Truc Lam Monastery. I met another this year in the bookstore. We talked about the swastika built into the building and I knew it was an old symbol in Buddhism however it turns out that when Buddha first used the symbol 2500 years ago it was already at least 2500 years old. The symbol is believed to show the motion of the sun. It meant Good Fortune or Happiness. There are many sects of Buddhism just as in Christianity and they all have their different beliefs. In Vietnamese Zen Buddhism the swastika means Million which are the million things Buddha sees. He pointed to a book on the shelf, written in English. It is Keys to Buddhism and it was written by the master of Truc Lam Monastery. It is an explanation of Buddhism to the non Buddhist to help understand. I looked on the back and there was a price tag of 22,000. As I reached for my money the Monk put his hand out and said No, it is a gift. We talked on and I still wanted to know which of the Gong and Drum was Creation and which is Destruction however in this sect there is not such an association. I thanked him for the book and his time.
The cable car takes a break from 11:30 till 1:00 and I did not want to rush so I wandered the grounds and read some of my book. In front of one gate is a round rock about 2 feet in diameter that sits and spins on a cushion of water. It began to rain so I sat under the roof of the gate to the temple and read some of my book. It was very peaceful in the gentle rain by the gate and the rock with the lake in the background through the trees, reading. The rain picked up a little and I put on my raincoat and leather shoes so my moccasins would not get soaked again. I moved to a housing of the Gong. There was a group of girls hiding under the roof and the surrounding trees. A young man had gone down the pathway and procured a large umbrella from someplace where it was apparently unused. I was first aware of the commotion if the girls then saw the umbrella. The girls all came out from where they had sought refuge and huddled under the umbrella which then walked off down the stairs looking much like a mother hen and her brood. As I got my camera out one of the girls waived and off they went. This young man was in good with the girls.
The rain let up and I was also off to walk down to the entrance to get a hot dog from a street vendor. Then in to the café that was on top of the cable car entrance and had a coffee.
The ride back was just as nice and I looked around at the buffet that was there and went for a taxi. I carry a map to show the driver where I want to go. One time feeling overly confident with my Vietnamese I said the address and ended up a mile from where I wanted to go. He dropped me at the theater and I got a purple rice which I had not had since arriving. The lady is only there for a while in the afternoon and I had not been there in her time yet. I got a piece of jello cake and went home to the hotel.
Everywhere there are Banh Mi stands. Banh Mi is the Vietnamese hoagie. One stand near the hotel had a slab of bacon that was crispy on the top and juicy on the bottom. Cut in half inch strips it is then cut in half inch chunks. I would not want my cardiologist to know about this but it was very good with a lot of greens on it and I did remove the little red peppers.
A filling dinner and I am off to sleep.
DaLat - Market
Many varieties of fish, snail, squid, Octopus, cuttlefish and shellfish.
The sun was bright and only a few clouds. I am cautiously optimistic and do not take my raincoat and Shoes that can get wet. Walking away from the hotel I pass the shop out front where I get Coke Light from time to time and I hear a voice calling. I look and it is the nice young man from the Shop holding the bag I carry my raincoat in. I must have left it there last night. I had not intended to take it with me today but I think this must be a reminder that I may need it. I thank him, take the raincoat and I am on my way.
I go to the coffee shop near the central market. I order and the breakfast comes, two eggs, a roll and coffee. I like these small coffee shops on the hill because they were here before the Market and the street to the market were here. I have an old photo that shows them and the place where the market sits is a rice patty. The food is good and I can sit and relax while watching the world go by.
I walked through the market. The section with the meat, poultry and fish is especially interesting. There is very little refrigeration. Meat arrives sometimes as a side of beef or a whole hog or even live such as chickens, ducks and quail. Eggs are of all kinds, white, brown, duck, fertile duck eggs quail eggs and some I cannot identify. Ladies are shaving pork parts like ears and legs. In the seafood section there are large pans with water and air running into them. Fish and shrimp are swimming. Bowls are filled with a variety of snails. A bowl covered with net contains frogs. In the aisle a fish and a snail have escaped. I attempt to pick up the fish but it squirms and is not easy to hold. The ladies are laughing and one comes over with a pan and pushes the fish in. She returns it to the bowl. There is also a snail which has escaped. I resist the urge to yell run, run, run and instead pick it up and return it to its bowl. I point at it proudly and the ladies laugh again. There are many varieties of snail, a fish steak 12 inches across, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, skate, and several booths with nothing but dried shrimp of so many varieties.
In the meat section many stalls have a meat grinder that looks like they are very strong. They sit on the floor in the aisle where they are less sanitary and where they are in easy reach of children. One of the things that make wonder. At some stalls are internal organs, intestine and congealed blood.
Outside two girls are giving samples of a dried noodle product. One hands a sample out and the other takes a photo of the first and the consumer. The consumers seem indifferent. I take a photo of the two girls and the consumer. The girls are unaware until I show them my photo then they laugh.
A girl is selling Lottery Tickets. Her legs are deformed below the knee and her hands are also very deformed but still she has such a happy smile.
In the afternoon the groceries disappear and the area around the Market is filled with flowers. In several shops they are making arraignments for funerals, weddings, graduations or other celebrations.
Coming back to the hotel to wait for Huong to stop by I first stop at the café out front of the hotel to get a Coke Light and ice. There is a Frenchman named Guy. A very interesting man who is a Professor of Economics at a university in Africa. He has traveled extensively and likes Cambodia and Vietnam. I really enjoyed talking to him. He had a ot of insight into to the fact that the French knew the Vietnamese culture and people and the Americans did not. I think it is true. I do not think the Americans really wanted to understand the people.
After a rest I go back to the Night Market. On the way two little girls are on the sidewalk playing Badminton. The little brother of one is watching a little too close. The shuttlecock comes and the girl swings hard. Unfortunately she misses the shuttlecock but fortunately she misses her brother head, just barely.
At the Night Market the larger carts with the skewer things are not around. I suspect the police are out. The small carts can pick up and move away but not the larger carts. No one has an exact reason the police chase people but it is agreed that the enforcement is selective.
I found one skewer place and while waiting for my skewers to cook I met Loc and Phuc on vacation from Saigon. We had anice time talking and the lady told Loc that she remembered seeing me here before. I had not eaten here this year yet and I am surprised she remembered.
After eating and saying good bye to Loc and Phuc I found the rest of the skewer carts at bottom of market near lake. There were a few things the first lady did not have so I tried them here and talked to the ladies about some of the skewers and what is in them.
I notice the motorbikes are all being walked the must have stopped people from riding through the crowd. Some ride much too fast while people with children are walking. Some ride without headlights. One street over where no one is walking motorbikes are not allowed, go figure.
It is late so I go back to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep.
Emperors DaLat Palace Number 1
Palace number 2 and 3 are nice but modern. This is much more beautiful to my way of thinking
The sun was shining and there was not a cloud so I felt very good about getting a motorbike and seeing the places I wanted to see. There is a man renting just a few doors down from the hotel and yesterday he told me he wanted 130,000 (7 UDS) for a day. I got up and went down. He had a bike and I was off. First I decided to go to the farthest place which is over in Nam Ban which is about 20 km in a circuitous route. On the way the scenery was so beautiful. Mountains up one side of the road and deep valleys down the other. At one point there is water cascading down the mountain side. Some places there is dense foliage up the mountain and I think of 50 years ago when soldiers were climbing and not knowing what they would find. Now it all looks so peaceful.
A motorbike passes with a young man driving and a girl on the back holding a selfie stick out in front of the driver making a video of the trip.
Getting close to the places I want to see I begin to notice coffee growing along both sides of the road.
Arriving in Nam Ban I stop at the Silk Factory and I do enjoy stopping in there. All was the same as in the past except this time I did try the roasted silkworm larva, which were really quite good. They have a nice nutty taste but unfortunately they did not have any packaged for sale so everyone back home will have to wait till next year to try them.
Next is the mushroom farm and this like so many places is a place where you just pull in and ask to look around and you wander. People are happy to show you everything. In the front yard is a pile of wood which is ground into sawdust then packed into plastic bags the size and shape of 2 liter soda bottles. They are cooked to kill anything that may have been growing then the spores are added and the bags are placed in a dark building and the mushrooms will grow, be harvested and grow again.
Coming back towards DaLat the next stop is the Weasel Coffee farm. I am not sure why it is called Weasel Coffee it is the Civet that is used and Civets are Viverridae while Weasels are Mustelidae. None the less someone figured that the Civets though they eat the coffee beans do not chew them and pass them though their bodies. It is said that after the Civets are done with the beans you can wash them, roast them and get a really excellent tasting coffee. This one I am still not sure of and maybe next trip I will get some.
The weasel farm is surrounded by walls. Many things in Vietnam are. I am told that if you do not wall or fence your property some neighbor can move in to your property little by little and take over inch by inch. You enter a building that is 40 by 100 feet of gift shop then behind it is a large deck where you may sample the Weasel Coffee or have many other drinks, a meal and look out over the farm from an elevation since the shop and deck are on a hill. The seating that faces out towards a lake is very popular and now they have added a long deck out to the side with a large pavilion at the end. They have added a place to order food which is entered into a computer and delivered to you at your seat. Under the deck are Civet cages where you can see the Civets and the result of their handiwork. It I an interesting stop and I will try the Weasel Coffee next trip.
Next is the village of the Ethnic Minorities. The people here came from small villages and are now, after much persecution, being helped by the government. They now live in a small section of parallel streets and equal size lots in homes that are a little different in that many are raised as they were in the old villages. This trip I find the children much better clothed and many homes have motor bikes. Many homes have some coffee bushes for extra income.
On the way back it begins to rain. I have gotten used to carrying shoes that can get wet and a rain coat. Alongside the road there is a roof on 8 columns that will someday be the entrance to a resort or high end housing project. People are waiting there for the rain to pass. I pull in and park. Sitting there I look out across the valley and hope the rain will pass. Then I notice we are looking down a valley and the clouds are above us raining and also there are clouds below us moving through the valley. It is very beautiful.
Coming back towards DaLat I pass the Cam Ly Army Airfield Control Tower. During my time in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 I had nothing to do with Aviation or airfields but I do like to stop here. To ride up and down the long abandoned runway and go up in the tower which is now a restricted area but the family that lives in it always let me go up. I hope on some future trip I will be able to sleep one night in the tower, after a little cleaning. So I visit the tower and ride down the runway. Maybe I like Cam Ly Tower so much because we are both old and should have taken better care of ourselves.
As I come through town I stop for lunch and wait out the rain which had stopped long enough for me to see Cam Ly Airfield but then was starting again. Lunch finished and the rain finished I go towards some houses I have been watching for years. Old French Mansions. Most have been acquired by the wealthy or converted to hotels but a few in a small strip were left untouched and uncared for. I asked why this was and I was told that they were haunted. In their day they were beautiful. These were big and had out buildings behind for automobiles, kitchen and staff housing. The fact they were haunted stopped development but did not deter people coming and removing all the windows, doors, sinks, toilets, stairways and even floors. There was a little girl who would appear from around the corner and look at me then I would go to the corner and look and she was not there. She would come and go and as I left she came out and I took her picture. It was fun to refer to her as the Little Ghost Girl. Fun to everyone except one friend who was just a little superstitious and if I left the photo out she would say “cover it up”. Now the houses were gone and the properties surrounded by a corrugated steel fence. The Little Ghost Girl was also gone.
I have been watching an old Franciscan Monastery for years. It was deteriorating and I hoped it would be fixed up and used for something before it collapsed and was lost. A few years a young man who lived in a part of the monastery said the plan was to recondition the buildings in the original methods and materials and use the building as additional classrooms for the school next door. For years it showed no evidence of being saved. I talked to a brother of the order in the USA who said the Monastery had been ceased at the end of the war and he was not sure if the order would get it back. This year there is a wall all around the 6 buildings with new large gates and a new Gate house so I hope work will begin on the buildings now. We will see.
Last stop for the day is the Emperors Palace Number 1. For many years the grounds have been open and we could walk around but the palace was closed. Looking through the windows we could see that it was empty but looked clean and in repair. This time it was all fixed up and open to wander and look at the rooms including the Emperors and Empresses bedrooms and a conferences room. In back and down a little hill, out of site was the Emperors Helicopter. On the property is another building that was falling apart and I hoped they would save it and now it is beautifully restored.
Returning to the hotel I drop off the motorbike and back to the hotel.
Huong had decided to have dinner with her sister so I went to the night market again to have some of those wonderful street foods. I wanted to try the skewer things that you pick out and they are grilled for you while you sit and wait. Oh, and there was a girl. As I was walking up the street of the night market I was aware of a girl walking alongside me and she was introducing herself. Her name is Quyen and she helped me pronounce it correctly. She wanted to practice her English. She was so delightful and I asked her if she was hungry. I bought some of the skewer things but she did not care for them so much. She bought what is called a DaLat Pizza. A young man had a charcoal fire with a grill over it. He placed a rice paper over the grill then put an egg and onion on it. As the egg cooked it softened the rice paper. As the egg cooked the rice paper softened and he added more toppings. When the egg was done he rolled it and cut it in half. It was good and we had a chance to talk while we ate. After that I asked if she liked coffee and she did so we went up to the coffee shop and she had a cappuccino, which she said she never had. I had Coffee milk and ice. We talked for a while and I asked about school. She said she was in 10th grade, Since Ngoc Bich is in 11th grade at 16 I asked if she was 15 and she said yes. She wants to study Business at the University. We talked about English and Vietnamese and places in Vietnam. It was now 8:00 and I sked if she needed to be home to get a good night sleep for school and she said she should. Just then her grandmother called and she said her grandmother wanted her home to get to sleep and be rested for school.
We walked out and it was just drizzling. She turned right and I said I must go the other way. We said good bye and agreed to keep in touch on Facebook. She ran off with that bouncy Vietnamese way about her. I walked back to the hotel. The rain increased and I was soaked by time I got back. But I was very happy.
Temple - Guy
Dedication of the Temple
Huong's Sister painted the Tiger on the front stone of the Temple and she invited us to the Dedication Ceremony.
A few days ago we went to see Huong’s sister at work in a temple over near the cable car. Huong and her sister are both artists and very good. Huong’s sister had painted the relief of a Tiger head on one side of the wall in front of the Temple and on the inside of the wall she painted the Tiger walking towards us. At the time she had given us a written invitation to the dedication which is today. I had thought that the ceremony was at 10:30 But Huong had not come by or called so I sent a text and she responded that she would come to the hotel and we will get a taxi. It was after 10 when she arrived looking very sheepish and she said she had overslept. We got a taxi and the ride was not so long and we arrived 8 minutes early.
First we made a donation and it was recorded in a ledger. Huong signed us both in. Inside the ceremony was just about to begin and I had some time to take photos. There were 8 or 10 priests present. One man sounded the gong and another the drum. A priest said prayers when he paused the gong would sound and then the drum. Then the priest would say more prayers. At one point a scroll was set on fire and placed in a pot. The fire burns the paper and the smoke rises and takes the prayers to heaven. On the alter is a meal for those who are no longer with us.
As the service ends we go to tables that are set with many delicious dishes, even the rolls are delicious and used to dip in the soup that is fantastic. There are flavors here that are unfamiliar to me. Cilantro is used a lot. Also lemon grass which is also known as Citronella Grass.
We came back to the hotel to plan the afternoon and Guy, the Frenchman I met yesterday was where I get my Coke and ice. I told Huong to come in and I introduced her to Guy. I told Guy that Huong’s first language was French. At first she just looked at him and did not say anything. Huong does not open up to strangers easily but Guy said something in French and she started talking like never before. When she speaks English to me she must think and translate in her mind but French is her language. They talked and talked and I was so happy to see her so happy. They would stop and tell me things they were talking about and at times we all talked about food and cheese in particular and cultures here, in the USA, in France and in Africa. It was a very enjoyable time. Then Guy had to go and we went our way.
In the afternoon we went to get Banh Beo then Huong went to nap and I just wandered around. It would have been a great day except that I lost5 my phone. It was a cheap phone but there are some people I am connected to only on the phone. Huong stopped by for a little while and phoned me. We both listened for the phone but it was not here. She tried it a few times but no luck. Then it was late and Huong went home. After she left I thought that the phone was in the pocket with my wallet so I may have pulled out my wallet an d accidentally the phone. I think I would have heard it drop anywhere, except the taxi. I would ask Huong to call the taxi company in the morning. Still it was a good day.
Ticket home to SaiGon
Spring Rolls with cucumber, tomato and rice paper to wrap them in
The day has just begun and already it is a great day. Huong arrives and as I am asking her to call the taxi company her phone rings. It is the driver who found my phone and called the last missed incoming call which was Huong while we were looking for the phone. The lady says she will drop the phone off at the hotel at 10:30. We wait in the lobby and a girl on a motor scooter pulls up. She gives me the phone and I thank her so much and tell her now my friends can call me. I offer her 500,000 ($25) it is worth it to be in contact again. The girl says no and smiles. So nice of her. She is off, Huong goes home for a while and I go to the café to use the internet since I cannot get it at the hotel Yesterday and today.
I go to the café and have breakfast and a coffee. Huong goes home for a while since she does not like the café.
After breakfast I go to buy my ticket to SaiGon tomorrow. Buying early assures a good seat. Stopping at Big C to pick up a few things and then back through town. Huong does not come in the afternoon. Her niece is visiting from SaiGon and they spend the day doing Karaoke at her house.
In the evening I go to the Night Market for dinner. The lady with the skewers points out the pork but I like the okra and Shrimp which are not really shrimp but something vegetarian. While I am eating she puts a pork skewer on my plate and I thank her. A man from Hong Kong stops to get some skewers and we talk for a while. I have met some really nice people in DaLat.
DaLat - Lunch with family
Myself, Huong's Sisters and the Mother of a brother-in-law
After a nice family meal
Huong stopped by and the day started with Breakfast. She came a little late today so breakfast was brunch. I would have skipped it altogether since I do not usually have breakfast and if I had known what was in store. Huong had said that her sister wanted us to stop over before I go back to SaiGon. What I did not know was that the family was all gathered there at Ha’s house and there was much food and some wine which was very strong. I am afraid that I do not like anything alcoholic except Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine. My friends who like wine say I really like grape juice. It is Communion Wine.
Once again I find myself in a family setting and only one person speaks English. One brother-in-law translates any questions and comments on the conversation. He and Ha were in the RSVN Airforce and the other man was in the ARVN. The two in the Airforce tease him and say he was really a VC. They have fun teasing him.
Ha made my shoes a few years ago. One of his sons is a math teacher who is working on his Masters and the other is a physicist. At one point someone asks me a question and the one who has English translates. I was asked if I was happy. I said I was. I cannot anything that is being discusses but everyone is so happy that I feel happy. Huong and the rest of the women spend most of the time in the kitchen but do come in for a while. It is a really nice experience.
After lunch we go back to Huong’s house and rest a while. The van is set to pick me up at the hotel at 9:15 but the hotel closes at 9 so Huong calls Phuong Trang and asks them to switch the pick up to their old terminal which is across the street from Huong’s home.
The old terminal held 3 buses in front and 6 could park across the street, 3 in back and 3 in front. Now at any time I use the new terminal there are always 80 to 100 busses parked. Tourism has increased exponentially. In some places it has changed the area so much that the beauty of the place is lost. We used to walk around SaPa but now I am told that the streets are clogged with busses and cars. Hotels now show free parking as a benefit to their place.
As we wait it is very quiet. It has been a good stay and I really enjoy Huong’s company even though she does have a tendency to get upset about small things sometimes. She was also raised Vietnamese which makes girls and women tend to live for men in their life. I think she does not like this and fights it even though I know this and try real hard to not accidentally take advantage but even that creates problems.
The van arrives and I am off to the terminal. As we wait for the bus hot tea is served. The day ended somewhere South of DaLat.
DaLat to SaiGon
The day began somewhere South of DaLat. We stop at the rest stop half way to SaiGon and I go in to buy a big jar of the cookies that look and taste like Brown Edge Wafers. Minh Ha likes them.
As we arrive in Saigon and drive right up De Tham street. The buses all use to load and unload here but now they stop outside center city. Maybe it is because the time is 4 AM and the streets are deserted.
I get a taxi down to District 4 and call to tell Minh Ha that I am home. She is waiting and I go in and fall asleep fast. The Sleeper Bus is misnamed. I could sleep better on the bus in a seat rather than a metal ox that is being thrown about on bumpy roads. This driver was good but on the way up our driver drove with on hand on the wheel and the other on the horn.
I slept till 8:45 and had to leave at 9:00 to meet Andreas. Andreas and I meet 8 years ago in Saigon. Since then we have been in Vietnam at different times. This year we are here at the same time. Anderas is a newspaper writer from Germany and loves history. I always learn something new from him. He is near Highland Coffee across from Railroad Headquarters. As we sit talking he mentions that right across the street in front of Railroad Headquarters executions were carried out during the war. People were tied to stakes and shot by firing squads.
We discuss the fact that I really do not trust the media and he says it is better trusted in Germany. He mentions he is not told to go easy on stories however some are not given the press that they should get.
We exchange contact information and we are off in different directions. I hope we will meet again for some new exploring
I am Back in time for dinner and wonderful conversation. May planned our trip to Cu Chi to see tunnels, visit granddaughter Thao Ly have dinner and visit new friend.
Day is done.
SaiGon Meeting Andreas, Hoa and Thanh
7 - Eleven is here
I don't know why I am surprised everyone else is here.
One of the things I had to do today was take Huong’s Tablet to be repaired. She had given me the address in SaiGon of three locations that said they could repair it. One was a bus ride to enter city and a short taxi ride to the address. I did not know why she had not had it fixed in DaLat until I arrived at the address. The building had at least 3 floors of ASUS which is the manufacturer of her tablet. I was surprised but happy. I went in and took a number. A nice lady took the computer and scanned the information on the back and said they would call in 3 days. There was no charge today and I am hoping it is still under warrantee.
Next I took a taxi back to center city to see my Niece, Hoa, whom I have known for 17 years since she was a little girl selling postcards in the park. While she sold postcards her mother sold coffee, tea, water and sodas in the park. She is grown now and she, her sister and mother sold drinks until her mother was in a bad motorbike accident. Now her and her sister sell and take care of Mom. Since the accident her mother has had bad headaches so we discussed things we might do to help her. First we will get her hot water in her house and I took the money for that today. Second we will get her a mattress. I am sure she is used to sleeping on the floor but this may help her to relax better
As we talked Hoa’s sister stopped and it is amazing how much she looks like Mom. Hoa and her sister are such nice people. The place where Hoa and her sister sell is by a wall that surrounds the site of the Metro which is being built in from SaiGon. People come out to buy drinks. Sometimes a hand comes out from a separation of the wall with a bill in it and she will take it and pass a drink through the wall.
After this I walk to McDonalds where I hope to meet Thanh. We have not seen each other for a long time. She arrives and we share a late, lite lunch. We talk and share photos. We will go to see Xuan Hai next weekend. Xuan Hai is someone I met at the Seminary in Saigon while I was wandering around a few years ago. He was a student and is now a Priest in My Tho.
Thanh has always liked Xuan Hai although she is Buddhist and she reminds me of that often. She sometimes asked me why I want her to become Catholic and I told her I did not and that I am not Catholic but we can learn from other religions. While waiting to meet Xuan Hai, one year, we sat in the Seminary by a pool. I put my hand in the water and made the sign of the cross on her forehead and said “In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti” then I said “Now you are Catholic. She looked surprised then realized I was teasing and she laughed. Just a footnote I read a book by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Buddhist Monk living in France. It was called “Living Buddha, Living Christ” wherein he tells us one can be a good Buddhist and a good Christian and there is no conflict since Buddha is not worshiped as a God but rather revered as an enlightened one.
We even take a few selfies and Thanh relaxes and is more at ease. Thanh looks up the bus schedule and finds us a bus to My Tho Saturday after she finishes and we will see Xuan Hai at Mass on Sunday next.
A lot done and I am home early for dinner. There is a joke around the house that I like everything Minh Ha cooks except Bitter Melon. Bitter Melon is aptly named and it has a taste like nothing in our everyday diet. I open a pan and say “there is only one left, I will be polite and not take the last one”. May opens another dish and there are more. I pretend to be unhappy. In fact I have been eating the Bitter Melon and I am getting used to it. Also I find that if I can keep it off the back of my tongue it is not so bitter. Minh Ha also says it is bitter but we eat it because it is good for us. Minh Ha and May sometimes watch to see if I can eat it without flinching.
End of a good day
Cu Chi and Thao Ly
Friend of Thao Ly, Granddaughter Thao Ly and Minh Ha
Having a nice dinner with my Granddaughter, Thao Ly, her friend and Minh Ha.
Today we were up early and off to the bus to Cu Chi. May had gotten us a hotel near the tunnels which was nice but it was very far from Thao Ly and Quyen. Still in all it was a good location. We took the bus to u Chi terminal then the 13 bus which stopped at the tunnels. When we arrived Minh Ha wanted lunch so we ate there. It has been a long time since I went to the tunnels and they had changed. The original Museum was still there but the brush behind had been cleared and you can now see a tributary of the SaiGon River. You can take a boat down to the tunnels for $80- USD per person or a bus tour for $25 USD or you can take the city buses for 75 cents US. We chose the latter which allowed us to pay for Mom’s water heater. The tunnels not have a large parking lot for all the buses and a beautiful restaurant. The restaurant is a large pavilion, open on all sides and is very nice with a varied menu.
After eating and looking around we went to the hotel. It was only 3 kilometers away and was a little bit of a surprise. We are at Tanja Resort. Resort implies more than a room but the room was clean and the bathroom was modern and very clean so I am happy. The lady of the house, Phuong, is very nice and helpful.
We rest and get ready for dinner with Granddaughter, Thao Ly and her friend. Phuong calls us a taxi. Then we find out ow big Cu Chi is. On the Southeast it borders Saigon and the ride feels like we are going back to SaiGon. I am a little worried about the fare since I only brought $100 which is a lot for me for an overnight but I was glad I did. When we arrived the fare was 14 dollars, a lot for Vietnam but nothing for a taxi ride of 30 minutes home in the USA. I was relieved. We went in and met Thao Ly and her friend Huong who works with her. They had ordered and we had some summer rolls which you roll yourself. On a rice paper you put the lettuce, greens, cucumber, banana flower and, in this case, veal and roll it up. We have a peanut sauce to dip and it is very good. I have not seen Thao Ly for a year and she is still working for the Korean clothing manufacturer in Cu Chi who makes all those designer clothes you pay extra for. Textiles is the largest employer in Vietnam.
We have a wonderful time talking the Viking River Cruise next spring.
On the way back to the hotel we get a Grab which is a competitor of UBER. The driver gets lost and we wander a little but return safe and sound. This fare is only $10 so it was ok. Dinner for 4 was $14. Your dollar really goes farther here.
We are both tired and fall asleep fast. Tomorrow starts early with a meeting at the Tunnels for our group.
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15 October Cu Chi - Quyen and friends
Quyen and Friends
Myself, Quyen, three of Quyen's friends and in the other red dress is Minh Ha.
Morning in Cu Chi. Today is rather confused. Last night I asked Minh Ha if she had called Quyen, the girl from online who we hoped to have lunch with today. I also asked if she had Quyen’s phone number and she said yes. I should know by now that yes sometimes means the affirmative and sometimes it means I do not understand. Last night Thao Ly said she would see me tomorrow. She had planned to see the tunnels with us at 8:30. Meanwhile we are to have lunch with Quyen and her friends at 10 back in town. I said did Quyen want to come to the tunnels at 8:30? Minh Ha said she did not know. I asked if she had talked to Quyen last night and she said she did not because she did not have Quyen’s phone number. However Thao Ly did call to cancel the tunnels today. So we were off to see Quyen and friends, after breakfast.
Breakfast was very good. It was cooked across the street in a restaurant which was nice since downstairs of the hotel had a bad smell from all the dogs that lived on the first floor and in the attached space which was a restaurant/coffee shop at one time before the dogs took over. I had egg and bread with some cheese and Minh Ha had Pho. We are becoming very predictable. We ate in the common room in front of the hotel rooms. Minh Ha opened all the windows since it was musty as our rooms were however the smell of the dogs did not get up this far.
We had packed while waiting for breakfast. And when it was over we called a taxi. We were to meet at the house number 242. When we got to the street we looked and did not find it. We tried the other direction but nothing. The driver suggested it may have been 24-2 and it was. We pulled up and Quyen was there, all excited. Dressed very nicely in her best clothes. We met her and her friends and had tea. We then went to a restaurant and had a really great meal. Then it was on to the photos. Group photos and photos with each friend. They were so excited and giggly. I think they really wanted to be taken out to lunch and had photos with a westerner.
While taking photos two little girls were watching so I held up the camera and one smiled while the other was happy but more reserved. They said goodbye and went off. Later as we were still taking photos they came back with 5 other girls. They were standing in a bunch ready for a photo and so I held up the camera, they smiled, made a peace sign and I took the photo. I noticed the dress and blouse of the reserved little girl matched an older girl and I asked if they were sisters. The older hugged the younger and said yes. The whole group was so delightful.
They wanted us to stay for dinner but we had a long ride back to SaiGon. We took a taxi back to the bus depot and dropped the girls off along the way. They waived and were all so bouncy and happy.
I am glad we got to meet Quyen and her friends.
Back in SaiGon we talked with May. May had spent the morning putting a new tire and inner tube on her motorbike. She is so resourceful and handy. We all talked and Minh Ha was being very serious with May. I asked if she was talking about the hotel. May said yes but she was also talking about the taxi ride home from Thao Ly last night. I noticed that Minh Ha had been nervous and I thought it was because she might have thought the driver was just riding around padding the bill. May tells me that Minh Ha was afraid that the man was taking us to an isolated place where friends of his would stab us and rob us. Apparently that happens a lot in rural areas and in the Rubber Plantations it is worse. The dark roads do not bother me but I had no idea that Minh Ha worried. I asked May why her mother did not tell me of her fears. She said that Minh Ha did not want to worry me. I pointed out that if my life is in danger I would like to have some warning. May smiles and tells her mother.
On the ride to and from the tunnel, which is the only thing we did not see there were many rubber trees and some old buildings that I hope to explore on another trip.
Home at last and I run around the corner to get some yogurt, cheese and milk for coffee. I buy the milk that does not have sugar added.
We have a really nice dinner and good conversation and I am off to write my journal and sleep
SaiGon - Asus - Market
I woke and checked my email. The bad news was there. Huong’s computer cannot be fixed. Asus said it was the Mother Board and that is pretty much the computer.
We had breakfast and I was off to reclaim the dead computer. I did so and the people there were very nice. On the way home I stopped at the large market and got some coffee and a few other things. Walking down from the market I walk along Pham Ngu Lao to De Tham street. Just before De Tham there is an ABC Bakery and I stop to get a few things that are sweet and fluffy to share at home.
Continuing on I am hoping to meet a few people from the past but no one is there. At the bus stop I wait and a 46 bus comes by. As I get on I notice a pair of sandals that have sequins on them. As the conductor looks up it is the conductor from this morning. Same conductor, driver and bus. A coincidence. As we hear my stop I get up and move to the door. Sitting near the back door I see the man who came down with us this morning. We smile and I mention the bus is the same and the passengers are the same. It is a happy coincidence and he gets off at the same place and he says good Bye and I say Hen Gap Lai, See you later. Minh Ha has a late lunch ready. She always has something ready. It’s a societal thing. I work on my email and journal and it is dinner time. I love the dinners which have so much happy chat as we eat.
End of a very nice day.
SaiGon - Andreas and rain
Today after breakfast I went into town to look at computers for Huong since hers cannot be repaired. I was a little surprised to find the prices were rather steep here and little ever seems to go on sale.
After looking through a few of the bigger stores I walked over to Ham Ngai street to see if Andreas was in. I had thought of looking for an old rubber plantation with the original house, workers quarters and factory for processing rubber. After seeing Cu Chi I was reinterested in this. Andreas had no information about any remaining plantations however he suggested Google. There I found many rubber companies but all were modern. I wrote to several and we will see what happens.
Leaving Andreas hotel I went in the direction of the bus home. I stopped at Highland Coffee and as I walked in and ordered the rain began. I slowly sipped an ice coffee and about the time I finished the rain had stopped. I thought this to be a good omen and walked to the park and De Tham Street. Unfortunately the rain had not stopped but rather paused to get a second wind. On De Tham Street the rain was coming down by the bucket.
I waited but the clouds looked dark all around. The nice old lady in the park offered me a rain coat but I instead hailed a taxi and headed home.
Back at the house researched Rubber Plantations and caught up on my email and my journal. May’s motor bike needs an adjustment on the breaks so her friend brought her home. He stayed and we all sat around and had wonderful Summer Rolls and good conversation.
After dinner May and her friend Googled buses and found how Thanh and I will get to My Tho. I will go and get the tickets tomorrow. Also I will stop at Phuong Trang Bus company and pick up a package from Huong. She said she sent something for Julia. Huong is a very thoughtful person.
The day ends with the rain coming down but it is outside and I am inside. Having updated my journal I am ready for some Googling and sleep.
SaiGon - Lunch with Niece Ky's Family
Dinner with Family
Left to right May, Ha, Sister of Ky, Mother of Ky, Me, Minh Ha, and Tung
Not much happened today except one thing I really like. It is meeting people that I have known. Today Minh Ha, May, Tung and I had lunch with my Nephew, Trevor and his wife’s family in SaiGon. The restaurant we had hoped to have lunch in was closed so we went on to another.
The restaurant was huge. We walked into a place the size of a basketball court. Behind was a second. Off to the right was another room the same size and to the left another. There was an upstairs was more seating. There was an extensive menu and everyone chose. I chose Elephant Fish.
Here after everyone chooses the dishes come one at a time and everyone shares them. Really nice and everyone gets to try new things. Ha and her Mother do not have much English and so Minh Ha, May and Tung can talk and translate from time to time. Ha, her Mother and Sister-in-law make Moon Cakes which they sell during this season.
Lunch breaks as May, Tong and Ha must return to work. Tung drops me off on Pham Ngu Lao so I can pick up a package from Huong. She saw a hat that she wanted to buy for Julia. Now I have the package, stop at K mart, not our K Mart, to get some coffee and then to Phuong Trang to get a ticket to My Tho for Saturday evening. Phuong Trang has a bus that goes through My Tho and will stop and drop us off. However it is a different part of Phuong Trang and I must go to the Western Terminal to get it. The girls there are really nice and I have my ticket and detailed instructions of how and when to come to the terminal and then to be transported to yet another terminal for the bus.
Back down the street I stop and look for a replacement for Huong’s compute3r but it will have to wait. Prices here are much higher than at home.
It is beginning to rain and I go across the street to get the 46 bus. A young man is waiting under a tree and I take the other side of the tree and we wait. We realize that it is not sufficient so I go back to the building line and stand under an overhang. He soon joins me and we smile. Fascination that even without a common language when you are in the rain and getting wet you know what someone is saying to you. The bus comes and we are back in District 4 in no time.
Home for dinner and conversation with May and Minh Ha.
Oanh dinner with friends
Dinner with Friend
Oanh's friend Chi came with us to dinner. It was nice company and a great dinner.
After breakfast I went to the 46 bus to go up into town then after a short look around found a taxi to go up to Oanh’s house on 3/2 street. My taxi driver was a lady who was very happy and liked to hear English. It was a fun ride.
I arrived around 2:00 she had friends over and they were admiring her Perfume collection. We all talk for a while and they leave. After messing about with the computer for a time we decide on dinner and Oanh wants to invite her friend along. We met a few years ago. She owns the coffee shop next door. It seems like we drive forever going down one alley after another. One alley looks like it is made of Neon, so many lighted signs. Lucky we have a grab car so there is a set fee and he can wander all over without adversely affecting our fare. We arrive at a restaurant that is on a back street but it is large and has a staff of many uniformed wait staff and bus people.
We first have some really crunchy rolls of something, followed by a hot pot. A base is brought with a blob of paraffin and it is lighted. A pot is then placed on top.
The pot is full of hot broth. A plate then arrives with Squid, Shrimp, Clams, Tofu, Fish Balls and some thin sliced beef. The ladies place these into the broth and a plate of greens also arrives and after a time it is also added. It smells wonderful and in time we find it also tastes wonderful. We return to the street and await the Grab Car. While waiting I take photos of the scullery and the workers there. Most are so happy and full of smiles.
A short ride back and we are at Oanh’s house. A neighbor comes to visit. She is a very sweet young lady who used to make sandwiches by pouring batter into a mold, adding meat and cheese and heating it to cook the batter. She is so nice but has no English and does understand my attempt at Vietnamese but we do have fun talking. She had wanted a bottle of perfume and I bought an extra so I gave it to her. She does manage to understand a few things and if I teas her she will smile so much that she has to cover her mouth so her teeth do not show. She is so much fun. She said she wanted to have dinner with us and we agreed to all have dinner next trip. She is tired and must work tomorrow so we break up and I go to sleep.
Oanh and the man in the bushes
Man in the Bushes
As we approached the shrubbery we saw a hat laying in top. As it turned out this was the gardener weeding and pulling the trash out of the shrubbery.
I told Oanh I would come up and help her with her internet. We did not do that yesterday so we are getting to it now. She cannot get Facebook and some other applications. I have also had some trouble here. It seems that if an application takes too long to load it will stop trying. Usually it clears up in a while and everything is ok. We went to lunch and tried after and it was still bad.
For lunch Oanh led me to a large market which had a cafeteria much like Department stores in the USA used to have. We had rice with cabbage and I had Tofu while Oanh had fish with her rice. On the walk back we were by a 12 inch curb. On top were flowering shrubs about 18 inches high. On top of the shrubs there was a hat, which suddenly started to move. The hat raised and there was a man’s head under it. The gardener was squatting down in the bed pulling weeds and taking trash out. We stopped and Oanh talked to the man for a while. I got a great photo that I thought would have fit into something like Alice in Wonderland.
After looking at led light bulb carving knife ads I promised to look up prices and get back to Oanh.
Now I am on my way back down to Pham Ngu Lao Street to look around and get the 46 bus back to District 4. I find a long line of Mai Linh Taxi’s in front of the hospital around the corner. I should go to the first in line but one is just pulling in with a lady driving. I have never had a lady ride around to run up the meter so I waive and she stops. I get in and as we pull away another driver looks in the window and she points at me and smiles. She says he is a friend and I suspect that she was just showing off that she got a fare faster than he. She was so pleasant. We talked as we rode and finally we were at Pham Ngu Lao. I got out and walked around. There was a girl that had been selling little things for years an I asked her where Ba Hai was. She said she was ok but did not come around here anymore. I was hoping to see her again since her teeth were fixed. I did not see her last year either. Back to the bus stop and wait for the 46 which comes along in time and I am back in time for dinner unfortunately May is not with us this evening. Dinner is a little quieter.
It was a nice day today. It was international women’s day. There were a few signs up but not so much was made of it. It reminds me of some years back when we were in Can Tho taking a tour. It was women’s then also. We were going to see a rice processing plant but since it was Women’s Day the women were off and all the men did was supervise the women, who really did not need supervision. Then we were to see a plant which ground some of the rice into flower but since the women were off there would not be much to see since all the men did was stand around and supervise the women. Next was a factory where rice flour was mixed with water an rice paper was made but since it was Woman’s Day there was not much to see. Do you see a pattern emerging? They finally took us to see the Rice Mill so we could look at the machinery that ground the rice into flour when there were women working. Interesting, interesting.
Off to My Tho
Today is a day without much to write about. I got up late and was going to go to town for a while then have dinner and go off to My Tho to be there tomorrow morning. By time I got up and ready it was pouring outside and I took the easy, lazy way and stayed home and talked with Minh Ha and May, which was a very nice day.
Around 4:30 I got everything together and May called an Uber and I went up to the western bus station of Phuong Trang. Arriving there I was taken to the big bus terminal at the western end of Saigon. I am always amazed how SaiGon has grown. Places that were out of the city are now in downtown and places still farther are incorporated in the City.
The bus pulled in right on time. It is something you can count on with Phuong Trang. I have little experience with the others. It is a sleeper and I have A2 which is front center so I am happy. The bus does not really go to My Tho but rather a little farther on to Ben Tri. The bus passes the outskirts of My Tho and pulls over at their office there and lets you off. By time we arrive the office is closed and the place is dark. There are a few men on motorbikes so I pick one, tell him my hotel, agree on a price and I am off. I had not argued the price since I wanted to get there, have a shower and lay down on a bed.
The ride was quite long as the bus company office was not near the center of the city but the hotel was. I planned the hotel to be close to the Cathedral, which it was.
The young man was very nice and I arrived and checked in. I walked around the block and had a small dinner. I returned to the hotel, showered and watched the latest Star Wars movie for a while then fell asleep.
My Tho - Xuan Hai
Father Xuan Hai
Xuan Hai in his office at the My Tho Cathedral, he is one of three Priests there.
This was a beautiful day. The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky. I took a taxi for a 50 cent ride to the Cathedral. I arrived in time for the second mass. Xuan Hai later told me that the second was the Children’s Mass. If I had known that I would not have been so surprised when Communion came and the children flowed out of the pews like a river of blue and white.
The singing and responsive readings sounded so beautiful. The Vietnamese language lends itself to singing so well. The beautiful sound fills the Cathedral. I tried to record it but my camera does not pick up the sound well enough to appreciate it.
After the service I asked where Xuan Hai was. A Sister took me to his office. He greeted me and we had time to talk. It was then her told me that the Mass I had attended was the Children’s Mass. After that the children went out and played in the park like setting in the common area between the Cathedral, the Bishops residence and a building of offices and rooms for clergy and staff. After about 20 minutes the children return to the Cathedral for Sunday School. There are about 500 in the Sunday School and their singing is so beautiful. The Sisters keep order during Sunday School.
Xuan Hai took me on a tour of the church and then asked if I wanted to see My Tho. I did and he got out his motorbike and we were off. Into the street and the crazy traffic. I took reassurance that I had a Priest for a driver and what could be better than you’re a priest for a driver.
He took me to the river which was wide and beautiful with all manner of boats going up and down the river and many at anchor. He took me over the bridge which is high enough to allow the large ships that go up to docks upstream. I remember hearing that the bridge was a gift from Australia. On the other side is Ben Tri and a lot of Coconut trees. Xuan Hai was telling me how important the Coconuts were to the local economy and I mentioned the Coconut Religion. On several tours of the Delta we passed south of My Tho and were told the Coconut religion was there, and guide would point at a spit of land on the end of an island, but we never stopped. We were told nothing remained of it. The Coconut religion was started by a Frenchman long ago. He believed that his followers should eat and drink Coconuts and wear clothing made of Coconut fibers, which sounds very uncomfortable. After the fall of the Republic all religion was frowned upon and in many cases repressed but not actually banned. Buddhist and Catholic could practice but not go out into the community. Unfortunately one precept of the Coconut religion was that to worship you had to be unclothed. This went against the grain of the new regime.
The area of the church remains unrestored but still in relatively good shape but the towers were not safe to climb. One tower is the one we used to see from the boat on the tour. There are some platforms out over the water and a flight of metal steps go up to a small platform which goes to another tower and also to a second flight of stairs up to a small platform. The second tower has a larger platform with more steps leading up to it. Farther along was a third tower with steps up and up to a high platform. On the side is a 7 foot long rocket ship which has a cable to pull it up. The Frenchman thought it was possible to travel to the moon. One would enter the rocket at the base of the tower and be pulled up about 40 feet to a high platform. The guide tells us that the Frenchman combined the beliefs from many religions. I also think he added in a little science fiction.
It is Sunday and the place is packed with children. IN one area they are swimming in water that would not pass the Board of Health’s inspection anywhere in the USA. IN another area they are climbing chain ladders and riding on large swings. There are several ponds on the site. IN one children get inside a 6 foot ball and we see them going across the pond and tumbling around in the ball. In another they all have on what look like long T shirts and are in a pool about a foot deep that has a bottom of mud. They are digging it up and throwing it around and having a wonderful time. Another pool has many 6 foot Crocodiles and another pool has 2 12 foot Crocodiles. Hopefully the children do not get into the wrong pool.
Like all good tourist traps there are many souvenir shops, snack places and restaurants. To get to this place you must take a tour or come on motorbike. The road is too narrow for a taxi and it is about 2 km from the main road.
After this we go to lunch. It is a nice restaurant and Xuan Hai asks if I want Vietnamese or western food. Of course I take the Vietnamese. We start with Bean Curd which is fried crispy outside and creamy like custard inside. We move on to Frog and something nice and crunchy that Xuan Hai cannot translate. Xuan Hai remembered that I like Coke but I tell him I can no longer drink it so I have water and he does also.
Back at the church he asks if I would like to rest and I do feel full from the terrific lunch so he takes me to a guest room that they have which is very nice and even has it’s own bathroom and air conditioning.
After a rest I take my camera and photograph the beautiful compound which covers a full city block. A block over is a convent with it’s own church. Both Churches were built by the French. The Cathedral was started in 1906 and in 2006 it was restored and had additions on either side beyond the buttresses to give 2 more aisles of pews. There is a marker in the floor which tells of Father Tran Van Thien who died for his faith and who is buried beneath the sanctuary.
As we walked to Xuan Hai’s office a man passed us by and said something to Xuan Hai and he turned to me and said “He called me Father”. He seemed very happy with this. He has been a Priest for 3 months now and as we talked in his office I asked him if he was happy here. He said “I am happy here, I am very happy in my work”. To me he is perfect for his position. He has such a gentle manner and is non judgmental and caring. I have a friend who has been forced into situations in her life that are very unhappy. I took her to meet Xuan Hai when I first met him. She likes him and trusts him to translate for us although there are somethings she is not yet willing to share. He is so good with her which is what she needs. Years ago we were in Sister Cam Thuy’s office and there was a Crucifix hanging on the wall. She kept looking at it and when Sister Cam Thuy had to leave the office for a moment she pointed at the Crucifix. We just barely communicate with the language difficulty and she is Buddhist and I am Lutheran so to explain Christianity and Christ in a few moments was impossible. I told her “He died for you” It made her feel good, I think to know someone would care so much for her. Still from time to time I would send her to Xuan Hai for understanding about one thing or another and she would sometimes ask me “Why do you want to make me Catholic”. I would tell her I was not trying to make her Catholic, I am not Catholic but we can all learn from other religions.
I first met Xuan Hai when I was wandering around the seminary one day and he was out of class. That was in his first two years of Seminary. He had two years of study then one of practical experience in the Cathedral in My Tho then 4 years study and another year of practical experience and finally he is now a Priest. It pays to wander around, you meet the most interesting people. If they did not want me to come in they should not have left the gate open.
Xuan Hai invited me to the 4:00 Mass so I stayed. As the mass started there were so few people but in a matter of moments the church was full. The singing was so beautiful and the responsive readings. Some of them I recognized by knowing the point of the service we were in. When it came time to share the peace everyone stayed in their place and bowed ahead, to the rear and to each side. Another thing in common but with a slightly different twist. And of course the service ends with “Go in Peace to Serve the Lord”.
After the service it is time for me to get back to SaiGon. I ask Xuan Hai to point me at the bus station. He says we will get a taxi and he will go with me to see that I get a place on a bus. We go out to the street and there are no taxis but there is a parishioner with a car so we got in and off to the bus station. Xuan Hai talked to the lady at the desk there and finally cam to me and said she will get you on the next bus in 10 minutes. He said he had to get back for the next Mass. I thanked him for everything and also thanked the friend who drove us and they left. Within 10 minutes a bus came in and the ladies at the desks both pointed and came out. One took my suitcase and the other talked to the driver and I am off to SaiGon.
From the depot in SaiGon it is a short taxi ride to De Tham Street. I get a few things at ABC bakery and some canned coffee and get a taxi home. Dinner is waiting. After which May is pushing me to get to my journal and Minh Ha is reminding me we must get up early to go to Cu Chi to see the tunnels. And now my Journal is finished and all I have to do is brush my teeth and turn in.