Friday, January 31, 2014

The More, the Merrier!

Wow, can the Vietnamese fit any more on a moped! I’ve seen as many as four people on a single scooter! There are ten times more scooters than cars. Only the very wealthy have cars. Instead, parked mopeds line the sidewalks and the streets are filled with their honks. The driving is very chaotic with everyone is going every which way. No one uses turn signals, but EVERYONE uses the warning honk. I believe there are less accidents than you would suspect due to the slow speeds. No one goes faster than 35 mph in the city. Bicycles can easily keep up with traffic. From the airport to our hotel, we never went above 50 mph.

Crossing the street is quite a triumph. It is easiest to cross in a group. The walkers must stay close together and continue across at a constant pace. If you don’t make any sudden moves, the scooters will honk and go around you. Locals make it look easy which is very far from the truth.

The houses are often times very small here with stores in the front and homes in the back. After shops close, the families use the shopping area as a dining room or living room. They tend to keep the store doors open to get fresh air and people watch.

Many street venders have plastic table and chairs on the sidewalk. This child sized furniture means you are squatting to eat your food. This along with the mopeds and potholes make walking on the sidewalk a crazy maze!

Happy New Year's from Vietnam!

Yesterday the streets were bustling as people were buying flowers and gifts on their way to relatives’ houses. Chuc Mung Nam Moi!!! (Happy New Year!)

Today the streets were dead as everyone was inside celebrating Tet (Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s/4th of July). Restaurants and shops are closed. Transportation is limited. On New Year’s Day, we were lucky enough to find the Temple of Literature and the Hoa Lo Prison open. The Temple of Literature contains multiple shrines with the main two shrines for Confucius and Chu Van An, a famous Vietnamese teacher. Shrub animals, trees, and stone turtle statues filled the courtyards.

The Hoa Lo Prison was originally built by the French for uncooperative Vietnamese during the French colonization. The only known escapes were through the underground sewer system. Later, the North Vietnamese used the prison for South Vietnamese and Americans. This is where the nickname “The Hanoi Hilton” was coined. Most of the American prisoners were pilots including John McCain.

Later, us girls went out for afternoon tea. We bought pineapple with red chili spices and freshly peeled water chestnuts from street venders. Both were delicious! Suzie tried a Vietnamese coffee. This consisted of a miniature drip coffee device. The black coffee dripped into a cup with condensed milk sitting on the bottom. The drink is a very sweet with a syrup consistence. I would defiantly get it again for an after dinner sweet!

Tomorrow we are taking a tour to Halong Bay. Ta ta for now!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bangkok, the city of Toyota

As of now, I’m sitting in my hotel with no electricity. That means, no lights, no hot water, and no internet. As I stand here questioned, everyone goes on with life like nothing happened. Later, we found out that there was a fire close by and the electricity was shut off to the whole building. As we drove to the airport we saw the devastating site. A seen I hope to not see again.

Aside from the fire, so far things have been great! We got in to Bangkok around midnight so as soon as our head hit the pillow, we were out! It was actually nice to have a day flight because when it was night time in Thailand all we could do is surrender to sleep! Which meant wahooo! No jetlag!

We spent our first day aboard scrambling through the train system on our way to the Myanmar Embassy. After a few hours of frantically filling out forms, waiting in line, asking questions, and making sure we have enough cash, we walked out with visas until April!

The rest of the day was filled with coffee shops and a visit to a small monastery. A monk was kind enough to show us around the temple as long as we took our shoes off. As night approached, somehow we got sucked in to the biggest tourist market of all, Asiatique! We hopped out of there as quickly as we got there.

Dinner at the Shangri La Hotel was extravagant and delicious! I’ve never had service wait on me to such an extent! They did everything from put the napkin in your lap to wipe your ass..orted silverware! It was a beautiful way to celebrate my Dad’s birthday!
The only cars and trucks I've seen are Toyotas which makes since because Japan is so close. I can't wait until we take tuk tuk, the local taxis which look like motorized rickshaws!
Off to Vietnam! We'll see you in a couple of weeks Thailand!



After at 24 hour flight, we finally made it to Bangkok. We flew United Airlines expect for the leg from Seattle to Tokyo when we flew ANA. I’ve never been treated so well on a flight than on the ANA! The attendants LOVED Suzie and I! We were offered beer and wine left and right. We didn’t have to lift a finger for anything! The connection with our parents in Tokyo went as smooth as possible and then we were off to Bangkok!