Sunday, August 26, 2007

There's not a chance this can top Jon's last day in Hanoi

But it has been obscenely long since we've updated you, and for that we are sorry. Hello public, please forgive us. Also I (Amy) am technologically challenged and can't upload my photos, so you will have to imagine two extremely attractive, evenly tanned, experienced travelers. And then look for two confused awkwardly burnt giggling Americans dodging motorbikes. That would be us. I'll be the one with the hot sauce never more than an arm's length away.

While Jon was sweating (typical) and riding motorbikes (yikes), Halliday and I were making our way to Hoi An. We flew from Hanoi to Danang airport, notable as the landing place of the US military when they entered Vietnam, and also notable because if you say it several times fast it sounds like a twanging rubber band. danaaaaaang. We took a short ride from Danang to Hoi An (not to be confused with Hanoi, or An Hoi, directly across the river from Hoi An), and found ourselves at a cute little guest house we would call home for 3 nights. Our room had a balcony that overlooked the deck below and rice paddies beyond that. We ate breakfast on the deck each morning, including vietnamese heaven coffee...think hot equivalent of coffee ice cream socially acceptable to consume at 7am.

Hoi An was a delightful little town, full of charm and thankfully not quite so full of motorbikes. In fact, there are signs all over the historic district downtown (probably a total of 4 blocks) noting that the area was open only to "pedestrians and primitive vehicles." We took the pedestrian route the first day to wander around and explore, but decided to step it up a notch on the second day. We rented some primitive bicycles for the day (10,000 dong and we were off), think huffy circa 1980 complete with flourescent spray paint job. Best 70 cents ever spent. We spent much of the next two days pedaling back and forth to the beach, about a 20 minute ride away. The ride was well worth it for the near empty stretch of perfect beach with warm water and street food to be had right in the vicinity. An exceptionally nice trip was the one we made at 6am on our final morning for one last dip in the sea. Many of you know how I feel about early mornings (um, they're sacred I love them), and that ranks near if not at the top of my list for best ways to kick off a day. Anyway, enough gloating. Point being once we had bicycles, we were basically locals. Except for the being white and the inability to stop and start without nearly toppling.

What am I forgetting? oh the food. Hoi An has two specialties we particularly enjoyed. The first is Cao Lau, a dish of noodles, roast pork, leafy greens, and often shrimp and/or little hard-boiled eggs of unknown origin. We sampled this on 6 inch stools at several different spots, and found each slightly different but all delicious. The second Hoi An dish is the white rose (I'm sure it has a vietnamese name, but after 10 days here I'm still not quite sure how to say "thank you," so we'll just stick with the english), a shrimp sort of dumpling surrounded by rice noodley dough in the shape of a rose. Cover with roasted garlic chips, dunk in hot sauce, and you've got yourself quite the snack.

After two days of beach-going, town exploring, and yes, occasional tailoring (naturally I selected black and brown items, take that beach), we decided to spend our final day getting some culture. We took a bus to see My Son, a nearby site of relics from the Champa Kingdom. This was billed as a sort of mini Angor Wat, and since we don't have time to make it to Cambodia, we thought this was a great substitute. As it turned out, the relics had been mostly destroyed by American bombing, and those that remained were a mini mini mini Angor Wat. Nonetheless, it was an interesting trip, both for the quick history lesson and for the pleasure of seeing a couple in matching tie-dyed blue ankle length skirts and white tank tops conducting some sort of amateur photo shoot.

We sadly said goodbye to our beach town and flew, after a short delay in Danaaaaaang, to Ho Chi Minh City on friday. We weren't quite sure what to expect here other than a large city no one seems to love, but figured if nothing else there would be some good food. Correct. We got in around 9:30pm and quickly headed out to a do-it-yourself beef barbeque place highly recommended by our guide books. It did not disappoint. They brought out a plate of raw beef marinating in garlic and garlic and also garlic, as well as an open barbeque. We have decided that interactive eating makes everything more fun (see, e.g., dipping, rolling, grilling on open flames), and this was no exception. Delicious.

We declared yesterday consumerism day and hit up the shopping near our hotel, and when the daily monsoon struck around 5pm, opted for a cocktail at the 23rd floor of the nearby sheraton. Though the day was a pleasure (of course, is there another kind here?), it didn't seem all that Vietnamese. Yes, I just accused Vietnam's largest city of not being Vietnamese enough. Luckily we remedied that assessment at dinner. After rejecting two perfectly clean and nice restaurants (snooze), we wandered past a place full of Vietnamese people, not a whitey in sight. Perfect, we thought.

We were then presented with menus. Curiously, these menus had english translations. Also curiously, the first page included various preparations of turtle blood. Hmm, no gracias. Next page? Snake heads. Boiled, grilled, in hot pots, with tamarind sauce, etc. Holy yikes. Other options included goat and god knows what else. We selected some seemingly benign options: fried rice (pretty good, prefer not to think about what might have been mixed in), chicken (sounds better than it looked), and soft shell crab (eek). What the meal lacked in style and taste it made up for in comedy. By the time our check arrived we both had our feet off the ground for fear some of the still-living snakes might slither out. Asia. First the yak, now this.

We're off to the airport shortly to fly to Bangkok, so today's recap will be a quick one. We got up early and went to the War Remnants Museum. This museum is one of the city's main tourist attractions, and is difficult to summarize in just a couple of sentences. However one-sided it may be (used to be called the museum of american war crimes, or something along those lines), it was sobering to say the least, and left us both a bit shell-shocked. And maybe it was our imagination, but it felt like many of the other visitors to the museum, particularly the children, were eyeing us with particular attention as Americans. Not quite sure how to feel about that yet. Anyway, we're glad we went, and won't soon forget the horrific images that fill up the exhibits.

For fear of leaving on a debbie downer note, I'll continue...We've loved our time in Vietnam, and can't wait to move on to Thailand. More from there as we round out the adventure. Sorry for the lack of pictures. And to Josh, EBs, and Jon, come back.


EB/Josh/Jon/Amy said...

Early morning beaching and biking sounds fabulous. I'm so jealous. Also about all the food, except the shrimp because I can't have shrimp. I'm deathly allergic. If I have even one bite of shrimp, I'm done. Completely and totally done.
Please keep having wonderful adventures but come home soon. I have 1000 law school questions that need to be answered right away and I haven't even started orientation yet. Yikes.

Jonathan said...

I agree with EB except:

1) I heart shrimp and am jealous

2) Don't come back soon. We miss you, but stay in Asia as long as they'll keep you. What I'd give for a tiny stool and some noodles right about now...

drcushing said...

I hope you aren't calling everyone Charlie

drcushing said...

drcushing is also me...robert

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