Vietnam - North to South

Old Dec 17th, 2011, 01:12 PM
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Not sure I would bother. We ended up having dog in Hoi An and I thought it was a bit leathery and tough. No real flavor either. But hey, to each his own right!?
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Old Dec 17th, 2011, 01:44 PM
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Day Nine:
Amazingly we weren't waked up by construction noise this morning. Not only do the people in Vietnam work hard, they get to work early! Had a slight panic when I couldn't find one of my credit cards. The hotel helped me call Citibank and I put a hold on it - ended up finding it later in the day in a very safe place. I love it when I hide things from myself!

We were picked up at 8:15 by the Indochina Junk Company to head to Halong Bay. I had done a lot of research on this part because I wanted a 2 night cruise that went to the "less traveled" parts of the bay. I also wanted a true two night cruise, not two one night ones put together - to many of them it looked like you went to the same place twice.

On the way out we stopped at a workshop for people with disabilities who make some amazing art - lacquer products, clothing, and embroidery. We bought some gifts for people at home. Then back in the bus and back to the traffic heading to Halong Bay. We got there about noon and met with our guide and the one other woman on our boat. We were on the Prince III and I highly recommend it. The cabins were small but comfy and the bathrooms were better than some of the hotels. Plus the staff was wonderful and the food was amazing.

There were only five of us on the boat - the four of us and a single woman from Singapore. Turned out she is a journalist in Bangkok and was doing an article on Halong Bay since it had just been voted to be one of the 7 wonders of the natural world. We headed out from the port and had lunch as we motored through the gorgeous rock formations. During the three days we kept trying to come up with words to describe the area. Amazing and breathtaking just didn't seem to be enough.

In the afternoon we anchored in a little harbor are and went kayaking. We went into a cave where we saw anemones, oysters, barnacles, and some weird green stuff that was definitely alive, but not like anything I had ever seen before. When we got back to the boat we went for a quick swim before dinner. I couldn't believe that I was actually swimming in the waters of Halong Bay! While we were eating dinner we watched the captain catch several squid - maybe lunch for tomorrow?! Then we sat around talking politics, travel, etc. We got to know our traveling companion (Simi) more - a very bright and interesting young woman.

Day Ten:
We slept in a bit this morning which was wonderful. I had tea up on the upper deck and gazed out at the islands of the bay. Breakfast was pho followed by eggs and toast. we are definitely eating well!

Our first stop this morning was a fishing village. The village we went to is called Cong Dam and has about 35 families for a total of about 150 people living there. Their life is very hard. Their diet consists mainly of fish, clams, oysters, etc. They trade for rice and a few veggies. Plus they also have to trade for or buy water and gas. During the typhoons their houses can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Some of them are able to have a generator and a TV - we saw some antennas on the roofs. One of the places we visited in the village was the school. It was a Saturday so there were no kids there, but typically there are two classrooms and three teachers. The teachers volunteer their service for 2-3 years and then they are able to get a government job (those are hard to come by so teaching is their way in). The kids go to school from age 6-12. If they continue on to secondary school at that point they have to go to land so most don't. Many of the people in the village live their entire life without every setting foot on land. And when they die they are buried on the islands. It's amazing to see the life and meet the people. The sounds of the community are just like any suburb at home. Kids laughing and dogs barking.

For lunch we went to a beautiful beach and had a BBQ. Lunch was followed by swimming and soccer. We then went to another cove and went for a kayak to a different fishing village. Our guide was fighting a cold so we went on our own. We paddled by a group of boats all rafted together, people on shore digging clams, and fishing boats coming home after a day of fishing. Then back to the boat and a little rest before dinner.

Day Eleven:
Our final day on the boat ! We got up a bit earlier and had a smaller breakfast since we will have an early lunch. We went to a small island for swimming, relaxing, and visiting a cave. The cave was up a huge amount of steps. DH climbed all the way up and then discovered that there were more (and steeper) stairs to get into the cave so he went back down. We heard the myth of how Halong Bay was formed. it was something along the lines of the people being under atack and calling on the dragon to help them. She came down (Halong means "descending dragon") and spit out gold, silver, and gems which formed the islands. She then called all of her babies down who did the same. We were in the section called Bai Tu Long which means Bay of the Baby Dragons.

The cave was beautiful. It had been used for many years by the fishermen of the area and it was being damaged in the process. Indochina Junk came to an agreement with the people living there to re-locate them from the cave and in exchange they hire them to provide much of the food for their boats. I was very impressed with everything the company is doing to preserve the bay for future generations. After the cave we went for a swim and then back to the boat to check out of our rooms and head up to the deck for lunch as we cruised back through the islands to the port.

We were transported back to Hanoi and went back to the Diamond Elegance (I love that they welcome us "home" each time we return). We relaxed and then had dinner at the hotel (we were going to venture out but everyone was pretty beat and the restaurant in the hotel is so good). After dinner the other three went to bed and I met our friend from Singapore and went to the night market. We wandered the whole market and mostly saw covers for cell phones and clothes. But we finally found some refrigerator magnets to bring home for gifts. It was not as impressive a market as I had thought it would be. But it was fun nonetheless. Tomorrow we fly out to the middle part of the country.
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Old Dec 18th, 2011, 07:23 PM
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Day Twelve (travel day):
We were flying today from Hanoi to Hue with Vietnam Airlines. On the way to the airport we got concerned about how slowly the driver was going (DH was in the front and said he thought the driver was stoned or hung over). We managed to get to the airport about an hour before our flight only to discover that it had been delayed by two hours. We'd been warned about this. What was interesting was that they apologized and gave us a coupon to get lunch. United never does that! Of course it was only a bowl of instant noodles, but it wasn't half bad and it was free.

When we got to Hue and checked into our hotel (the Huong Giang Hotel right on the Perfume River) we were very pleased with our view of the river and the boats going by. It is a big conference hotel with a pool and good location near restaurants and shopping. A little bit worn in spots, but comfortable. I found a place right across the street to take our laundry so all was good.

We discovered in reading the hotel literature that we could get a massage for $11. We called and they had availability right then so DH and I went down to see how a Vietnamese massage compared to a Thai one. Mine was quite nice (although I prefer the Thai style) and I was pleased although a bit offended when the girl demanded a larger tip. But no biggee since we were only talk a dollar or so. However, when we got back I discovered that DH's massage had a been a bit more "aggressive" shall we say. He could have paid quite a bit more for a little extra and the girl did not want to take no for an answer. Needless to say we did not get another one while there and our friends decided that she would get a massage but he took a pass.

That night we walked to a local restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet - the Tropical Garden. The ambiance was lovely and the service was terrific. The food was also quite good. A nice end to the day.

Day Thirteen:
The Huong Giang has a great buffet breakfast with made to order omelets, but the service was not what we had grown accustomed to at the Diamond Elegance. I think they spoiled us! We were then picked up for a day of touring Hue. We had arranged for a guide and driver through Tonkin. We started with the tomb of Khai Dinh and quickly discovered a problem that we were to have for the next few days - that of accessibility. The tomb was amazingly beautiful but it has A LOT of stairs. Unfortunately that made it hard for DH's knees.

Our guide took us to this one since it is very different from the style of the Citadel. It is in the "modern" style and was covered with lots of mosaics. There is also a painting on the ceiling that was done by an artist holding the brush in his foot! DH missed all of that because of the stairs, but he ended up surrounded by a bunch of kids on a school field trip, all of whom wanted their picture taken with "Happy Buddha" and wanted to practice their English with him.

Our next stop was the market which is very crowded and chaotic. I ended up buying a couple of beautiful silk tops and a pair of silk pants. This trip is quickly becoming my clothes shopping trip and we haven't even gotten to Hoi An and the tailors yet!

Next came the citadel - the original capitol. Again there were a lot of steps but the views were worth it. Much of the citadel has been destroyed by French bombs in the 1940s and American ones during the Tet Offensive. They are repairing it slowly but most of the forbidden city is gone.

After we left the citadel we went to the Thien Mu pagoda on the banks of the Perfume River. At the front is a tower with 7 levels to represent the 7 steps of Buddha. Next is the temple itself with the Happy Buddha inside. Behind that we three buddhas representing the past present and future. The bonsai gardens in the temple area were beautiful and behind those is the area in which the novice monks live and study. I think they were taking a break from studying as they seemed to be involved in playing a game with some sort of marbles.

The final part of our tour was a sampan ride on the Perfume River. It was very cool to see the different boats, including ones that people are living on. The ferry boat going across with multitudes of scooters, bicycles, and people was amusing.

After the boat ride (which dropped us at our hotel) we walked with our guide to a very local restaurant (Hang Me - seriously that was the name!) to try food unique to Hue. I have no idea what it all was but it was fabulous! The only thing we passed on was the raw pork. Most of the dishes had some sort of shrimp or shrimp paste in them. Some were made with rice powder or casava powder and all was wonderful. The rest of the day was spent camera shopping (our friends needed a new one as theirs had died) or relaxing by the pool. I discovered once again that service at the hotel is not that great when I had to wait 20 minutes for a glass of wine to be brought to my room (I finally had to go get it).

Dinner that night was a departure from Vietnamese - we went to Little Italy which was recommended in Lonely Planet and it was wonderful. The pizza was excellent and the gnocchi would be fabulous in Chicago or in the North End of Boston.
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Old Dec 19th, 2011, 03:18 PM
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great reporting... i was interested in your hue visit as we had to miss that because of the non-flying planes.. i would have stepped aside because of the stairs too..
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Old Dec 19th, 2011, 08:34 PM
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We characterized each city's energy at the end. Hanoi had a very strong and gritty energy, HCMC had an energy that was lively and enthusiastic, and Hue was laid back and calm. It was a nice break from the chaos of Hanoi. And the food was wonderful!

BTW - I agreed with you about Hoi An. It was a wonderful little town and the beach was beautiful even if it was a bit windy and cool so no swimming. The tailors were fabulous. Checked out Lala but ended up using Blue for most of my clothes.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:43 PM
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Day Fourteen:
Not sure if anyone is still hanging in (especially since I took a few days break - lots of holiday stuff!). Anyhow, this is partly for my own documentation so I will keep going.

We were picked up at 8:30 for our drive across the mountains to Hoi An. It rained last night, but now it's just cloudy and cool. So far we have not needed our rain jackets. We stopped briefly in Lang Co where they farm raise oysters on bamboo sticks in the lagoon. They also grow eucalyptus for the oil and we saw lots of stands selling it along the road.

We drove up over the high pass where we could see down to the sea on both sides. It was beautiful! There is a tunnel now that goes through, so the only people who go up over the pass are tourists and trucks carrying hazardous materials. We drove down out of the mountains into Danang but took the coastal road so we could stop at China Beach. it was totally empty and beautiful. They have very weird dinghies here that are round and made out of bamboo. It looks like they propel them by basically sculling. I think I would go in circles!

Our next stop was at the Marble Mountains. First at a place where they carve the marble (absolutely magnificent work that I wish I had the money for and the use for!). Then we went up many stairs (there was an elevator for DH) to a cave and temple. Not nearly as pretty as the one in Halong Bay, but still nice.

We drove on in to Hoi An and stopped at a local restaurant for two local dishes: Ming Quan and Lao Co. Both were delicious! After lunch we stopped at a small tailor shop that our guide recommended. I ended up ordering two dresses (one more dressy and one somewhat casual). I almost didn't get them as I thought they were expensive until I realized that one was fully lined and they were both custom made. The two only cost $95 USD which is more than I usually spend, but for what I am getting it is a bargain.

Our next stop was the ancient town of Hoi An to see the Japanese bridge and one of the traditional houses. We also stopped at a Chinese temple. Then we just wandered the streets a but. It seemed like an Asian Bar Harbor for those of you who have been to Maine. We finished with a boat ride on the river watching fishermen and the setting sun.

Our final stop was our hotel - the Hoi An Beach resort. This was our splurge for the trip as we got the Riverview Villa. We almost got a Seaview Villa until we discovered that there is a road in between the resort and the sea. So the Riverview is the way to go. It was an amazing room with a fabulous view. We were on the first floor which meant we had a patio right outside with a couple of chairs and a table. We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant which was OK and a bit pricey. I would not do it again. But we were all pretty tired and didn't want to go anywhere. It was nice watching them light floating lanterns in the river and listening to two women playing traditional Vietnamese instruments (even if they were playing Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells!). After dinner I found a place to do laundry and we found a grocery store for wine and snacks.

Day Fifteen:
This was a down day - no plans other than getting our clothes that we had ordered. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was wonderful - excellent local dumplings and made to order omelets. After breakfast, Lynne and I took the shuttle in to town and went to another tailor (Be Be) that she had been told about. She ordered several items there and I ordered a skirt. Then we went to Blue (the tailor from yesterday) to have a fitting. They needed to do a few alterations on mine but I was amazed at how good they were in such a short time.

We then wandered the town as we had time to kill before the shuttle back to the hotel. I bought a good fortune charm from a young woman and told her that I was going to hang it in our 1968 VW Bus that has peace signs all over it as a charm for bringing peace between enemies. It seemed fitting given our history with Vietnam. We found a great bakery/restaurant and bought sandwiches to take back to the hotel (we also committed to coming back there for desert!). It is called Tam Tam and I highly recommend it - especially for desert.

In the afternoon I took a walk on the beach, picked up our laundry and read. DH read the whole day and relaxed by the river. For dinner we went into town and went to a restaurant across the pedestrian bridge from the old town that our guide had told us about. DH and I had the Hoi An set menu and we are pretty sure one of the dishes had dog in it. The name included the word "Chien" and they never would say what the meat was. It was a bit tough and leathery. Hard to tell the taste since there was so much else in the dish. I guess when in Rome.....

After dinner we went to Tam Tam and had fabulous deserts and then took the shuttle back to the hotel. This was after having Hoi An cake for desert which are basically cream puffs - but they were small ! Tomorrow we have a bit more time to relax and then we will head south to HCMC. More on that later.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2011, 01:33 PM
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I'm still here
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Old Dec 23rd, 2011, 03:05 PM
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I'm still following u too.
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Old Dec 24th, 2011, 03:38 AM
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Enjoying your trip report, we leave June2 for Vietnam!! This is helpful information.
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Old Dec 24th, 2011, 10:14 AM
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Glad to hear it. I seem to be stuck in Boston right now as my flight to Bangor has a delay. Merry Christmas!

Day Sixteen:
Our flight to HCMC got changed so we don't leave until about 8. We arranged to stay in our rooms until 1:30 which helps. After breakfast we made a quick trip back to town to pick up the final clothes. I wasn't as pleased with the skirt as I was with the dresses, but that may have been my fault in the design. I headed back to the hotel and relaxed by the river and read until it was time to check out. The we walked down the beach and found a restaurant for lunch. Had a lengthy conversation with a woman selling trinkets. We ought a few bookmarks and then had a relaxing lunch. Unfortunately the day was pretty chilly and windy but no rain. I was shocked since I had fully expected rain in Hoi An.

We hung out at the bar and had a very expensive cup of tea and then I picked up a top that I had altered at a local tailor. Then we had a driver take us to Danang to the airport. We got there very early, but that was fine. After an uneventful flight to HCMC we found a cab and headed to our hotel - the Sanouva. We had a lovely deluxe double but unfortunately it was on the 2nd floor and our view was of a tree. But it was very nice. We ate a snack bar and headed to bed since it was about 10pm by that point.

Day Seventeen:
We had arranged for a private guide and driver for two days through Tonkin Tours. As with all of them, they were punctual and very nice. We started with the Reunification Palace. It was very interesting to me as a US History teacher for several years to see the palace where the helicopters took off in 1975. It is pretty much a museum now with some very interesting exhibits in the basement. I took pictures of a lot of the signs next to the various pictures as the wording was SO interesting. Not surprising, of course, since it is all from the point of view of the Communist Party. A lot of discussion of both French and American aggression. They seem to dislike the French more than Americans, though.

After we left the palace we drove through town and went to Notre Dame cathedral. HCMC is a very pretty city with a lot of parks all over the place. We all decided that it was a much more liveable city than Hanoi. It has a great energy about it and feels very cosmopolitan. There were several couples taking wedding photos by the cathedral and a wedding actually taking place. The cathedral itself it beautiful both inside and out.

Our next stop was the post office which seemed strange,but it is an amazing building. It was designed by the guy who did the Eiffel Tower and it is very pretty architecture. Plus the inside is very unique. Imagine a huge post office with counters for everything (including the US post office). There is also a gift shop in the middle.

Well, they are finally calling my flight to board so I will finish this later.
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Old Dec 24th, 2011, 06:03 PM
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Finally made it to Maine. Relaxing now with a glass of wine after a nice Christmas Eve dinner with my parents.

Day Seventeen (cont.):
After the post office we drove by the Opera House and City Hall. Then we went for a cyclo ride through Chinatown. It was pretty wild! At times we were crossing four lane highways with scooters coming at us from the side. I figure the guy can't lose too many tourists and stay in business. The streets of the market area were narrow and crowded with scooters, bicycles, people, and wagons. We went through several streets that seemed to be the automotive store. You could buy anything and everything for your scooter, including some pretty fancy wheels.

For lunch we went to a pretty touristy place. The food was good, but there were no locals eating there. We missed our local places from Hue and Hoi An. After lunch we went back to the hotel to rest. As usual when we get somewhere where we will stay put for a day or so, I found a place to have our laundry done.

For dinner we went to a place that our guide had pointed out. Turns out it is a sister place to our lunch spot with the Hanoi Kids - Quan An Ngoc. It was very crowded with a mixture of locals and tourists. The meal that Tom and I had was pretty good, but Lynne and Bill weren't as pleased with theirs. After dinner we walked over to the Sheraton and went to the bar on the 23rd floor. It is open air and looks out over the city. The drinks were pricey, but good and the view was worth it. It is right next to the Opera House which is all lit up at night and is gorgeous. Kind of reminded us of the Opera House.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and a Happy and healthy New Year. Not sure when I will get back to this since my Internet is limited here. Coming up are the Cu Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta.
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Old Dec 24th, 2011, 07:01 PM
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Glad u made it to Maine.
Continuing to love reading about your trip. U said, " The two only cost $95 USD" So it was $95 for BOTH dresses???
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Old Dec 25th, 2011, 06:51 PM
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i'm reading too... is the dessert place in hoi an on the right on the main street after you cross the bridge into old town??
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Old Dec 30th, 2011, 10:43 AM
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I love the details you took the time to write in your report, much appreciated.

Enjoy a happy New Year with your family, and we'll wait for you to continue.
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Old Dec 30th, 2011, 03:35 PM
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Hi, I'm finally back online. I love Maine, but I end up very disconnected. Yes, the two dresses were a total of $95 USD. I don't normally spend much on clothes (I think I am lacking that "girl gene") so initially I was a bit shocked until I realized that it was less than $50 per dress. Quite a bargain. And as for the desert place, it is jus across the bridge in the old part of Hoi An just down from the little triangle where they do traditional music performances. I head home tomorrow so will try to get the rest of this written up. Then if you have any interest in Hong Kong you can check there as well since we spent 5 days in Hong Kong on the way back. That was quite a change from Vietnam!

BTW - apparently we are woefully trendy and tragically hip. This month's Playboy has an article on why you should go to Vietnam! Who knew we were all trendsetters!?
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Old Dec 30th, 2011, 06:49 PM
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Jcasale, we also spent a few days (4) in Hong Kong on our way back from Vietnam. Looking forward to reading about it.
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Old Dec 30th, 2011, 07:04 PM
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Day Eighteen:
Today was an early morning so we could beat the crowds at the tunnels. It's about an hour and a half to get there from HCMC and I am guessing we saw at least a dozen weddings (by the end of the we lost count at about 30). We also saw a group of scouts setting up tents in one of the parks in HCMC. Across the street was a group of kids learning karate.

The countryside going out to the tunnels was beautiful. Not as spectacular as up north, but beautiful in its own serene way. Small towns and houses with lots of lowers in bloom. As you get closer to the tunnels there are huge forests of rubber trees all in rows planted and owned by the government.

The Cu Chi tunnels were fascinating. The first stop in the complex was a 20 minute propaganda film produced by the communist government in 1967. "The peaceful people of the Cu Chi hamlet had to become guerrillas to protect themselves against the aggressors from America who had no business being there." Our guide warned us that some people get very upset by the film, but it is no different than wartime films of any government. Change Vietnam to Iraq and some would argue that the same film could be made today. Anyway, it was interesting to see the communist spin.

We went through the restored tunnels and the models. I tried going down into one of the "spider holes" - it was tight but I was able to do it. When I pulled the lid down over my head it was so dark I couldn't see a thing. We also went through one of the tunnels they created for tourists. It was bigger, but still pretty tight. We also saw the exhibits of the homemade weapons and traps. They were pretty brutal. I had shown pictures of them to my students when I taught US History, but to see them up close like that was pretty wild. We also watched a guy making sandals out of old tires. I was tempted to buy some to use as water shoes for boating. I suspect they would work really well.

At the end of the tunnels you can spend a few dollars and fire an actual weapon from the war. We decided to shoot the AK 47. If memory serves me correctly, this was the first time I had ever shot anything other than a BB gun - and I start with an AK 47! It had alot less recoil than I thought it would. It was pretty cool!

After the tunnels we shifted from war to peace and went to see the Cao Dai temple. I knew nothing about this religion and it is really fascinating. It is the third largest religion in Vietnam (behind Buddhism and Catholicism) and is basically a combination of Buddhism, Catholicism, Taoism, and Confucianism. In a way it reminded us of Baha'i. The goal seems to be to bring the world together in unity. Very laudable goal. The temple itself is absolutely stunning. It is probably the most decorative temple we had seen in Vietnam. We got there just as they were going in for the noon prayer and got to stand in the back and take it all in.

We were very fortunate that our guide was very knowledgable about the religion as his mother and grandmother are both followers of Cao Dai. The religion started in about 1925 in Vietnam. We found it interesting that two of the "saints" are Victor Hugo and Sun Yat Sen. They believe that Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and LaoTzu were all prophets. They pray to the "Holy See" which is the world with a left eye in the center. The eye is the all-seeing eye of the divine.

After lunch in a local restaurant we made the long drive back to HCMC. On the way we saw more weddings, but also several accidents. Including one where a scooter almost ran into us. Apparently if he had, it would have been considered our driver's fault even though it was clearly the driver of the scooter that was not driving safely. The driver of the larger vehicle is always at fault.

We had an interesting talk with our guide on the way back. We had been interested to hear how people felt about the country and the government. In the north it seemed that people supported the government and were very happy with the way things were being run. In the center, we felt that there was some discontent, but no one would say anything outright. At first our guide in the south didn't say much, but once we were in the privacy of the vehicle, he opened up more. His father was a South Vietnamese soldier who fought with the Americans and consequently there are jobs that he can't have. He is also not as free to leave the country as our guide in the north. He said that his fiancée is a communist party member (he can't be) because she is a teacher and she can get better jobs by being a party member. Only about 3 1/2 million Vietnamese are members of the party. We asked if people were free to complain about the government and he said no. He was very critical of taxes - he said they have to pay 10% in taxes, but don't get anything in return. They have to pay for school and health care in addition. No one seems to know what the taxes pay for. It seems that there is definitely some discontent and he seemed to have been watching what went on in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.

When we got back to our hotel we went to try to find ice cream but couldn't. We did find a great coffee house on the corner - Trang Nguyen Coffee. Their tea is also good. We decided to go for Italian food that night. Couldn't find the one we were looking for, but we ended up at a great place right near the Duxton Hotel. I'll have to find the name and post it later. It was great food and a lovely setting.
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Old Dec 31st, 2011, 07:11 AM
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Fascinating -- always interesting to hear the locals different points of view.

Funny u should mention ice cream. Being an ice cream fanatic, last night I was wondering what kind of ice cream we will find in SEAsia.
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Old Dec 31st, 2011, 08:01 AM
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We found an ice cream shop in Hanoi that was good called Fanny's. In Hue they advertised New Zealand ice cream, but it was made in Vietnam. Our friends are Kiwis so they were experts. It wasn't as good as New Zealand ice cream, but it hit the spot.
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Old Dec 31st, 2011, 08:29 AM
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I remembered the name of the restaurant in HCMC that we loved - it was Pendolasco. I highly recommend checking it out for a change of pace.

Day Nineteen:
We weren't sure what time our transport was coming to take us to the Delta so we were up and ready at 7:30. It ended up coming at 8:30 so we could have slept in. Oh well. Our friends were doing a one night cruise on the Mekong Eyes (they really liked it) and we were doing a 2 night on Le Cochinchine. We drove to Cai Be to meet our boat - about 2 hours, part of it on a four lane expressway!

We were greeted at the dock by two very enthusiastic young men (Thuy and Loi) who will be our guides. We also met the other guests in our English speaking group (there was alo a group from Germany with a different guide). We really enjoyed all of them - Anna fom Australia who was traveling solo and two other couples, one from Sweden and one from Spain.

A caveat for able bodied spouses with a significant other who has mobility issues: Vietnam is very challenging, especially the boats. We love boats and so I had thought that spending two nights aboard would be ideal. Unfortunately there is a lot of getting on and off, often in ver precarious situations. I had a bit of a meltdown when DH said he planned to stay on board the whole time. He assured me he was fine with that and wanted me to enjoy myself. With Anna traveling by herself it gave me someone to hang out with on the shore stops. And the crew was SO earnest about making sure we were happy that I snapped out of it. We had a fabulous lunch as we headed our into the river and got settled into our tiny cabin.

Le Cochinchine is lovely in many ways, but it is a bit more primitive than the boats in Halong Bay. The cabins are very tiny nd the shower is just in the middle of the tiny bathroom. The "stairs" are more ladders, but the whole boat is beautifully decorated and the staff couldn't be more accommodating. For someone looking for a true two night cruise that goes into some of the mallee cnls and tributaries, I would recommend it as an option.
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