My Trip to Vietnam
30 August
30 October 2017
     

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Journal of my trip
- 30 August -
30 October 2017

*****

 

Journal of My Vietnam Trip.
This is the journal of my 2017 trip to Vietnam.




 


Journal Contents


August

29 - Tuesday - To JFK and Vietnam
30 - Wednesday - JFK - Alaska - Siberia - Vladivostok - Japan - Vietnam
31 - Thursday - Miss Oanh - Dinner at home September

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 -
23 - Saturday -
24 - Sunday -
25 - Monday -
26 - Tuesday -
27 - Thurday -
28 - ---day -
29 - Sunday -
30 - Monday -
31 - Tuesday -

October

01 - Wednesday -
22 - Thursday -
23 - Friday -
24 - Saturday -
25 - Sunday -
26 - Monday -
27 - Tuesday -
28 - Wednesday -
29 - Tuesday -
30 - Friday -


Wednesday
30 August
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.



Wednesday
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.



Thursday
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.



Friday
1 September










Saturday
2 September

National Day



Tax Store
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.



Sunday
3 September
Tay Ninh



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.



Monday
4 September
Cao Dai Temple - Nui Ba Den



Cao Dai Temple
Front of Temple



Cao Dai Temple Ceiling
Represents Heaven



Cao Dai Temple
Interior of main Hall



Cao Dai Temple
Devine Eye



Tay Ninh
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.



Tuesday
5 September










Wednesday
6 September










Thursday
7 September
Hoa Mom Them - Dinner at Club 50



Hoa Mom Them
Hoa, My Niece, Mom and Miss Them.





Friday
8 September










Saturday
9 September
Hue - Tombs of the Emperors - Purple City



Emperors Theater
inside the Purple City

Emperors Theater
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.



Sunday
10 September
Emperor's Theater



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.



Monday
11 September
Hoi An



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



Tuesday
12 September
Hoi An



Japanese Bridge
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.



Wednesday
13 September
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.



Thursday
14 September
DaNang - Swimming in the storm stirred ocean



DaNang Surf
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.



Friday
15 September
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.



Saturday
16 September
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.



Sunday
17 September
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.



Monday
18 September
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.



Tuesday
19 September
Saigon



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.



Wednesday
20 September
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.



Thursday
21 September
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.



Friday
22 September










Saturday
23 September










Sunday
24 September










Monday
25 September










Tuesday
26 September










Wednesday
27 September










Thursday
28 September










Friday
29 September










Saturday
30 September










Sunday
1 October










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2 October










Tuesday
3 October










Wednesday
4 October










Thursday
5 October










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6 October










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7 September










Sunday
8 October










Monday
9 October










Tuesday
10 October










Wednesday
11 October










Thursday
12 October










Friday
13 October










Saturday
14 September










Sunday
15 October










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16 October










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17 October










Wednesday
18 October










Thursday
19 October










Friday
20 October










Saturday
21 September










Sunday
22 October










Monday
23 October










Tuesday
24 October










Wednesday
25 October










Thursday
26 October










Friday
27 October










Saturday
28 September










Sunday
29 September










Sunday
30 September