Saturday, February 15, 2014
On Friday, we took a bike tour around Hoi An. We had two local guides who grew up in the area. One was from a farming family and the other family was fishermen. We started on the mainland, but quickly took a boat to an island made from the delta.
We biked through rice paddies (where you defiantly didn’t want to fall), small villages, open fields, and along the river. The tour should have been called “Hello Tour” because all the families would yell from inside, “Hello! Hello!” Some kids would even come to the gate at the edge of their property to see us bike by.
We ate at a local family’s house and learned about their culture. Traditional houses have three doors, the right one for women, the left for men, and the center is for their gods and ancestors. EVERY house has an altar. They place food for their ancestors around the altar, and when the insense burns out, the ancestors are done eating and the family can now finish the food. When someone dies, the family burns all of their belongings from iPhones to houses. Though, they don’t burn the actual material item but life-size items made out of paper. This is so the deceased can bring all their possessions into the next world. As you can see, the Vietnamese are VERY superstitious. For tet, they will also burn fake money outside of their shop because it supposedly brings prosperity for the next year. The deceased are buried under cylindrical mounds and it is very bad luck if you ever disrupt the grave. Hoi An is also the city of lanterns. These lanterns are supposed to bring the people longevity and happiness.
On Saturday we biked to the beach to have some fun in the sun! Tomorrow we fly to Siam Reap! Ta Ta Viet Nam!
You want shirt? You want suit? You want bag, purse, shoes? We make it for you! You pick color and design! Custom, custom!
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d own the whole city! Hoi An is a quant, touristy town burrowed in a delta on the central coast of Vietnam. The people are very friendly and nice, especially if you’re at their shop. Hoi An’s claim to fame is their custom shops. There’s leather stores and fabric stores. You pick everything from the design and color to the pickup time, and they will make anything for you! The price though, that is definantly negotiated.
Viet Nam, like many other countries, is based around bartering. Though, Hoi An is another kind of animal. They will fight until the end over 2,000 VND (about $0.10). They love Tet because then they can say “it’s a happy new year price, no negotiation”. As you walk though the market people shout at you “Buy something, please” or “come in, look around, best price in town”. We spoke with traveler coming from India who said the bartering here was the most intense and exhausting they’ve ever seen.
Suzie and I had the opportunity to have coffee with a local. This is when we found out most all the clothing is made by the same “big tailor”/factory no matter where you’re shopping. So, pick the shop on the price because they are all the same quality. It is funny knowing this while shopping because the sellers say they are the tailor or their mother or father makes the clothes. At one shop a women told me she made the clothes and the next day she mentioned her mother would make the clothes. Ha! Yaa right!! Shoes though, are a different story. The shops make them individually so be careful where you buy them!
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Crossing the street in Vietnam is a feat in its own. Cars, motorbikes, and bicycles zoom past you. The rule of the thumb is the bigger vehicle is responsible. For example, if a car and a motorbike get in an accident, no matter what, it’s the car’s fault. If a bicycle and a motorbike get in an accident, it’s the motorbike’s fault, and so on. So, as a pedestrian, even if you cross the street when it’s a green light for the cars, it is never your fault. I don’t suggest it, but if you shut your eyes and walked at a constant rate, you will most likely get across the street safely.
Most all cars stop at red lights, but only some motorbikes and bicycles. Instead, they honk their horn and proceed through the intersection as if it were a green light. The intersections look like schools of fish intersecting, each fish swerves a different way and somehow they all continue on their journey without hitting one another.
On the highway, the direction on the lanes don’t mean much. Some cars drive half way in two different lanes, sometimes you’re on the left side of the road (this is a right-side-driving country), and most of the time you’re grabbing the oh-shit-bar and hoping for the best. It is like the roads that have a center lane with a green arrow or a red X depending on which direction is the busiest during rush hour. Though, here there are no signs and both directions assume the center lane is their lane.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Person 1: To Hue (pronounced “way”)?
Person 2: No, no, only one way! We go to Hue!
Person 1: Yes, to Hue.
Person 2: No way!! We find other way to Hue.
Yes, yes as sad as it may be, this conversation did occur. Hue, pronounced “way” was the border between the old North and South Viet Nam. The first night we were in the city, we stumbled upon a roof-top restaurant. At the Moonlight Hotel, we ate a delicious meal with the best view in town! We not only overlooked the city, but also the Perfume River.
On day two, we took the time to discover the Forbidden City!
A lot of the Forbidden City had to be renovated/put back together after the war. So it was pretty rare to find original walls, tile work, and roofs.
On our walk home we found a hole-in-the-wall salon. They gave us full body massages, including walking on our backs, for only $6 each. Before it was my turn I needed to use the lady’s room. One of the workers was so enthusiastic about taking me she stopped massaging my mom mid-stoke and grabbed my hand. To find a restroom we had to go across the street to the preschool. I’ve never seen a local be so careful crossing the street. She was more careful than I would have been on my own! I guess she figured she didn’t want to kill a paying customer! The owner of the preschool, an older gentleman, was very inviting, and he showed me (and the masseuse still holding my hand) upstairs to the bathroom. Thankfully the masseuse didn’t feel obligate to escort me all the way to the toilet. Not to my surprise, there was no toilet paper so I did the 1-2 shake. As we descended the stairs, the older gentleman was running up the stairs holding a roll of toilet paper saying “wait, wait”. I explained I had already gone, and we laughed it off. I don’t know if it was my blonde hair or what, but I’ve never had people so excited to help me to the lady’s room. It was quite the experience!
Tomorrow we leave bright and early for Hoi An!
We hopped on a bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay. In less than 3.5 hours we were on a boat headed to one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. Halong Bay was filled with moss covered cliffs.
We started the adventure with a small hike through a cave. For millions of years water and wind wore at the yellowstone to form house-sized caves. The caves started at water level, and the waves smoothed the interior walls. Then, as time continued, the cave rose above the water level and stalagmites and stalactites formed. Now, the caves have smooth ceilings and ruff walls.
Next on our itinerary was kayaking! We paddled around from island to island. After another hike and a short splash in the water we headed back on the boat. Though, the goofy British boys wouldn’t hop on the boat until they all split a jellyfish they found beached on shore. Ewww! They throw it back with a disgusted face and in a swallow it was gone!
On the boat we learned how to make the “labor-intensive”, Vietnamese spring rolls. We sat at large tables and ate family-style with many dishes passed around. Our meals consisted of BBQ chicken, fried fish, fried potatoes, fried chicken, fried spring rolls, salads, rice, noodles, and the traditional new year’s cake. Boy, do they love their fried foods!
The rest of our evening was spent playing drink games and sneaking beers on the boat. At night, women will row next to your boat trying to sell drinks and food. The boat crew does not want you to buy from these women because they will not get commission. Well, money talks and the women’s beer was half the price!