Ninh Bình, Vietnam - the missing post


Ninh Bình, Vietnam

"The missing post"

November 2013



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This was a really good trip and I am not sure why it fell through the cracks in getting posted.  Ninh Bình is a city in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam and has some amazing scenery.  It is about a two-hour drive from Hanoi.  D had a business trip to Hanoi and while we were there we took the weekend to explore Ninh Bình.  We were not expecting the area to be so picturesque.



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Ninh Binh is much less touristy than its nearby "big brother" Hạ Long Bay.  We found it to be as beautiful with equally impressive views of the Karst Mountain formations.  But to really see the Karst Mountains properly at Ha Long Bay, you have to take a two-to-four day cruise.  Ninh Binh can be done via a car or motorbike with a few short trips in a small boat. 



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In fact, Ninh Binh has been referred to as “Ha Long Bay on Land.”   And along with the Karst Mountain views, you experience winding rivers, rice paddies, ancient settlements, and everyday life in the countryside.  



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We visited in November, which is the tail end of their cold & rainy season.  And yes, it was rainy and cold.  But this did not stop us.  We had planned a two-day motorcycle ride, but it was too rainy the first day so we had our driver bring a car.  The next day, even though it was very cold, we bundled up and rode on the bikes!



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In all of our travels we have never seen a raincoat for a calf.  Adorable!



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Our guide needed to stop by the father's house of his best friend, and he asked us if we wanted to go along.  The older gentleman's wife had passed a few months earlier and our guide had not been able to visit to give his condolences.  What a unique opportunity.  Other than our guide, no English was spoken.



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Moments like these make me realize why I love traveling.  They were as interested in us as we were in them. 



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They offered us tea.  I always do my "pretend tea drinking" when we are offered tea in an area that I feel the water might be questionable.  It would be rude to say no, but I also can't risk getting sick.  So I just put the cup up to my mouth and act like I am taking a sip.  



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 It is always fascinating to me to see how hospitable they are to complete strangers.



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The inside of the house was very simple.  It was one large room with fabric hung to separate the rooms.  It's hard to tell from this picture, but the wall directly behind us is the family shrine.  Every Vietnamese house has a prominent family shrine with photos of all their relatives.  The owner was very proud to tell us stories about notable people in his family. 



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Next, a boat ride at Tam Coc to see the Karst Mountains...

I have to say that I think Karst topography is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world.  We have seen them in Vietnam and China, but there are many countries around the world where you can experience them.  The mountains are formed from soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite and gypsum.  They have unique underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.



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D steering our boat.



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... an interesting hay stack.



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In this area they have a very unique way of rowing... look closely at how the locals use their feet on the oars to row.   Interestingly, most are older women rowing, especially on the tourist boats.



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As I mentioned, it was very cold, so I had on two pairs of pants and four layers of tops.  



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A great Pho stand near our hotel.  We ate here a few times as there were very few restaurants.



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 And we had to sample local Banh Mi.


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With the local salted lemon mineral water.


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The next day...

The rain stopped so we decided to hop on the motorcycles with our fabulous guide Toan.  It was still very cold, especially riding bikes!  D wore three pairs of pants (really) and five layers of shirts/sweaters. He basically had on his entire wardrobe at once. 

We stayed at the charming Vancouver Hotel in Ninh Binh.  Many guides will tell you to stay in Tam Coc, but since this is not a touristy area good hotels are scarce.  We highly recommend this hotel but book early, because David (the owner) only has two rooms.  He was hoping to expand and may have done so since we stayed.



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I have shared with our readers that I am not a fan of motorcycles, but I do love riding them in Vietnam!  Okay, technically these were only motorbikes.



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I was enamored the poinsettia trees (Trang Nguyen flowers) that grew wild in this area.  All in full bloom.






As of 2014, Tràng An, a scenic area known for it's boat cave tours near Ninh Bình, was included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.  



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This time we were in a boat steered by a shoe-less woman.  It was a bit cold so she had socks on.



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Get ready - we are going in.... there are about ten different caves on this two-hour boat ride.



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 It was an amazing view when you exited the cave.



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Below - a packed boat of friendly visitors.  We were very lucky because this time of year is a low travel period so there were very few boats on the water.  At peak season the waters are full of boats with locals trying to sell you soda and souvenirs.   We did not experience any of this so it was a very pleasant experience for us and we highly recommend it.



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Back to our bikes for more rice fields and local characters...



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Always a favorite of ours, visiting the local market. 



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 And a few photos of the local people.

This might be my favorite photo - notice how the girls are all bundled up with coats, leggings, and hats but still have on their flip flops!



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I thought this was a parade but our guide told me it was a funeral.  But he said it was a time to be happy and to celebrate the life of the deceased.



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The local barber...





Ear cleaning is an art in Vietnam.  I think I would be afraid to let someone dig in my ear like that!



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We went to a very old amusement park.  It was closed for the winter; at least we think it was just for the winter.


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Can you image and old rusty ride like this in the US?



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Bái Dính Temple and Cultural Complex is a series of Buddhist temples on Bái Dính Mountain.


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The compound consists of the original old temple and a new larger temple. It is considered the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam and has become a popular site for Buddhist pilgrimages.



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We really enjoyed our three days in Ninh Binh - we would love to go back when the rice fields are green.



Mekong Delta, Vietnam - Christmas & New Year 2014


Saigon & the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Christmas & New Year 2014



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This was a last minute trip.  We realized D had a week of vacation left along with the Christmas/New Year holidays, so we wanted to go somewhere.  Especially because this is our last Christmas in Asia! 

We pulled up fights to see what country was the cheapest, and Vietnam popped up.  The Mekong Delta was on our list of "places we wanted to visit" so we found a match.  What we were NOT expecting was that Vietnam would be so festive for a country that does not celebrate Christmas!



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Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a large, busy city.  I actually enjoyed it more this time than last, maybe because it was extra festive during the holidays.   



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We flew out on Christmas Day and spent the first night in Saigon.  That evening the streets were packed with families riding around the city on their motorcycles.  We were told this was the big thing to do on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 



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Many of the children were wearing Santa suits and hats - so adorable!



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Christmas decorations paired with the communist hammer and sickle symbol...  an interesting contrast.



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Look closely at this motorcycle - it has a little wicker seat attached to the front for a child as well as a stuffed animal shaped pillow for emergency padding, the motorcycle version of a car seat and "air" bags.  And we saw them both in use all over the city. Like we always say - safety first!







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Bonus points if we capture a family of five on a bike!  We saw many this time.



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How about a puppy?



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The next day we hired a car to drive us to our hotel in Cai Be, situated in the Mekong Delta region.  Our hotel had individual huts that looked right out onto the Mekong River. 



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The Mekong River is the world’s 10th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia.  It covers an area of approximately 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers).

We loved sitting on our back porch watching the daily activity on the river.  These men came every morning to check their traps.  



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 They were so close I almost felt like we were peering into their homes.  Well, really we were.



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We enjoyed a foot massage in the outdoor spa.  D finally learned to enjoy one!  He loves full body massages but hates having his feet done.  Not me - I will sit for hours if you massage my feet.






We had never seen open boats full of rice like the ones below.  This area is often referred to as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam due its huge production of rice crop.



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I am not sure I could squat like this on a regular floor without falling over, let alone off the back of a boat!






Bouquets and notes placed on our pillow each night.  How cleaver to write the note on the leaf.  We really enjoyed this hotel and found the area to be extremely relaxing.



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Can Tho


We stayed at the lovely Boutique hotel Nam Bo in Can Tho.  It was our 26th wedding anniversary!  They left us a sweet treat and a heart of roses on the bed.  Awe...



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 D in front of the Ho Chi Minh statue while wearing his Ho Chi Minh T-shirt.




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The biggest and best floating market in the Mekong Delta is Phung Hiep. The market opens at 4.00 am and closes around 11.00 am, so you need arrive early.  It gets pretty packed with tourist, but still worth a visit.  



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Farmers from the region bring their fruits and vegetables to the floating markets on the larger boats and sell them to local dealers (in the small boats). These dealers in turn sell the products at local markets, or to shops in the neighboring towns. 



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Vendors hang the product they sell from the top of a pole attached to their boat so the buyer can see from far away.



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Our boat driver/guide bought a jackfruit - he must have gotten a good deal as he was very happy.



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 D saving us from a collision!



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Food and eating is a big part of the market.  There are small boats selling coffee and soup and other items to eat. They are for the locals, but some tourists come for breakfast.



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We had a cup of coffee from this woman.  Her big smile was infectious! 



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A few snapshots of everyday life on the water...



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Our guide was so much fun.  He spoke very little English, but we had a great time with him.  And he was quite talented in making things from the reed and flowers found along the water.



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Our lovely hotel was only available for two nights so we decided to stay the last night in a home stay. Not a typical choice for us, but we decided to give this one a try.  It was very sweet, but one night was enough!   :  )



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They were simple walls of grass tied together.  You had to be very quiet or you neighbor could hear everything.  The owners were a young couple.  She had just finished university and he was a policeman.



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We had to sleep in a mosquito net.  And they were not to just make the room look pretty!



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There was a relaxing area next to the huts with hammocks. 



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A jackfruit tree, where the fruit can get as big as 80 pounds each.  Jackfruit has a very strong smell (not as bad as the durian) but taste quite nice.  Described as a cross between an apple, pineapple, mango, and banana.



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This is a good shot that shows a banana leaf.  Banana leaf salad is very popular in Vietnam.



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  banana flower



The home stay also had small boats we could take out on our own.



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Yes, I actually took a boat out and rowed on my own.  Not that I went very far  :   )    The scenery was beautiful.



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We did a boat tour here too.   It gave us a very different perspective then the others we had taken.



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It was very junglesque.  We even saw Tarzan!

We have no idea what he was doing. 


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Our guide was one of the helpers at the home stay.  He only spoke one word of English, "hello".  When he wanted to get our attention to show us something he would say hello.  hello.  He was quite ornery and had us laughing a lot.




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D loves to cross rickety old bridges.  I use the word "bridge" loosely.



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 A mini bridge for me to cross.  Isn't the green moss on the water a beautiful color?



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Local life on the river....



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We saw several people cleaning vegetables and fish (above) as well as bathing and brushing their teeth (below) with the river water.



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And we visited a crocodile farm!  This place was bizarre.  It was not for tourists.  In fact, I thought it was very dangerous as no one was around to see if we were going to climb into the pen.  There were hundreds of crocodiles.  There were close to 15 large pens, each holding the same size and age from babies to huge adult crocodiles.  I read that this was a farm for skin and meat and their main market for selling the skin is China.



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As I mentioned, there were lots of fun activities at the home stay.  We even went bicycling with the chef/housekeeper.  The entire staff was really good, helping out wherever they are needed.



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Of course we had to stop for a scoop of ice cream when I saw this vendor.  Forgetting that this probably was not the safest thing to eat!






Our guide had to run an errand so we tagged along. 

She spoke around 5 words of English.  Can you guess what she bought?



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Below is the bag she walked away with. 

Here is a hint; they are warm and fuzzy...



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Baby ducks! 

We asked if they were to eat by running our finger across our neck.....

they were not!



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We stopped by a local temple and met the older woman who lives there and takes care of it.  From what we could gather she was around 88 and her husband is still alive, but was in town drinking. 



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We shared our drinks with her and she gave us cookies.



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She showed us the graves of her parents and grandparents.  Three generations having lived in the temple.



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This was a sweet little scene - a neighborhood of children and adults playing bingo outside.



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We toured a rice noodle factory.



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We both tried our hand at making them.



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I am going to share my moment with you... when I fell of my bike.  The tire caught on the edge of the sidewalk and I went down.  Fortunately no injuries, but it really scared our guide!



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Another snack we tried... Banh Bong Lan - translates to sponge cake.  





Back to Saigon to celebrate New Year's Eve. 



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Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was "officially" renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However the old Saigon name is still used by both Vietnamese and tourists.  I like calling it Saigon as I think it sounds exotic!



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A visit to the market.



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A crazy old man (more likely a drunk old man) posing for me to take his photo.



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Check out this guys pet...



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Sweet children, always happy to pose for the camera.



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The little guy is holding hands with one girl and is waving to the other.  Priceless!



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And then he turns around waves to me!  Quite the little flirt.



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Usually I get the bride, but this groom was just too cute.



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We found these mangers very interesting.  It looked like a nativity cave for the little Christ figures.  We saw many of them on people's porches - some small, some large.  The catholic population in Vietnam is less than 7%. 



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Nap time!


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I will end this long blog with New Year's Eve!  This is the view from our window around 11 PM.  The road was completely blocked with motorcycles and people.  Fortunately our hotel was in a fantastic location.



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Me in the middle of the crowd.



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And the fireworks! 

What a great way to end 2014 and to welcome 2015!



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Sapa, Vietnam - with Erin!


October 2014 - Sapa, Vietnam


Sapa is a charming mountain town, surrounded by picturesque mountains and rice terraces and the most colorful ethnic minority hill tribes.  Our niece, Erin visit from New York and we took her to Vietnam as her side trip.



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Sapa is located in the Lao Cai province of Vietnam, close to the border of China.  The easiest and most popular way to get there is by overnight train from Hanoi (there are no flights). 



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What an adventure it was!  There are four beds in each car and you have to pay for each individually.  We wanted the car to ourselves so we purchased all four beds.  It was cozy enough with family... I can't imagine it with a stranger.  It was a rough ride and very little sleep took place!



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Day one:  A walk in the rice fields


The journey was worth it as the area is stunning.  The terraced rice fields are often ranked as some of the world's most beautiful.



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Before the 1990s, the town's economy was mainly based on growing rice.   Now, they rely heavily on tourism.  Sapa’s entire population is less than 36,000 people but is visited by over 200,000 tourists.


Erin's first encounter with a water buffalo!


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Most of the people who live in Sapa are of ethnic minority groups.   There are mainly 5 ethnic groups: Hmong, Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.  Most live in nearby villages around Sapa, coming to town mainly to shop or to sell their products.

Mee, our guide for the day, is from the Black Hmong tribe.  The Black Hmong are famous for their dark bluish-black indigo fabrics and embellished embroidery.



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In the photo below, it shows Mee preparing thread for dying and weaving.  She did this non-stop as she walked and told us about the area.  Now that is multitasking!



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Erin is tall US standards, but she is VERY tall by Asian standards.  Wait a minute..... I am tall by Asian standards - all 5'3" of me!



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The three ladies on the right followed us the entire day.  They spoke very little English.  You can try to shoo them away, but they hang on.  It is unspoken that you just adopt them for the journey and buy small tokens from them at the end.  It is a gentle way of begging.



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They created little presents for us along the way, which were quite creative and resourceful using natural supplies.



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The indigo plant is native to the Sapa region and is still used today to dye the deep blue fabric of their costume.  Her hands are dyed from the green grass she used to create out little gifts.



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The Children


Unfortunately, many of the children do not get formal education in Sapa, their families are too poor to send them to school.  They learn to speak English from the tourists.  Gotta love that crazy outfit he has on!


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These boys look like little men going off to work for the day.  Such a determined look on their faces.

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"Geez - he is trying to eat my food again"



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Look closely at the photos below, where the little girls are swinging on the vines on the side of a hill...  the one has a baby strapped to her back.


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Happy little girls!  



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Always fun to share photos with the children.



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This was an interesting event we came upon.  It was almost like a little educational camp.  They were playing with fire and knifes, but not an adult in sight.  Was it for tourist?  We did not think so as they never asked for money. 



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Below is a young girl sewing a traditional fabric pattern.  From a young age, Hmong girls are taught how to sew from their mothers and grandmothers.  The better a young woman can sew, the more attractive they are for marriage.




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Erin and Mee are the same age. 



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Day two:  The Bac Ha local market


Bac Ha Market is held every Sunday and is the biggest minority market in Northwest Vietnam.  It is a 2.5 hour drive from Sapa, but we felt worth the drive as the colors of the costumes were spectacular.




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In Bac Ha, you will see the Flower Hmong minority group.  Alive with the bright colors and extravagant costumes, they come from all over to buy and sell a wide variety of goods, including livestock.  Although many tourists visit this market, it really is for the local people.  Especially the sale of the livestock.



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Erin bargaining for a purse for her mom.






Women and children


Hmong households traditionally consist of large extended families, with the parents, children and grown children (son with their wives) all living under the same roof.  Households of twenty-plus family members are not uncommon.

Women are responsible for all household chores, cooking, child care, and farming tasks such as feeding and cleaning the animals.



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I am in love with the colorful fabrics and outfits they wear.  They do not dress for tourists, this is their everyday attire.



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Erin with her new friends.



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A cock fight (not for the fainthearted)

This was the first real cock fight we have seen.  In many countries it is illegal, but I think it is only illegal to place a bet in Vietnam.  We did not see any money being passed at this fight.



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They did not let them fight til death. 


Onto the horse sales....

The livestock sales and trade is the most authentic part of the market because a tourist obviously can't take one home.



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Our guide for the market and the rest of the day was Zee.  She was very witty and funny.  What is the big red circle on her head?  It was for her headache.  They place the end of a burning buffalo horn on it to help it go away.  What was her headache from?  Drinking too much moonshine!

The bell Zee is holding is from a buffalo - Erin bought it.  A fun souvenir!



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We missed the peak harvest season, but we still saw some beautiful golden colors from the rice fields.



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One of the things on Erin's "to do" list was a boat ride, so we squeezed in a short ride along the Chay River.  



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We also visited Trung Do village where the Tay people live. It was a very touristy town but still interesting as they were making moonshine.   



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Oh yeah, and a little hooka (flavored tobacco) for Erin, shared with our guide and our driver!



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Enjoying the specialties of Sapa...



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Day three

The Motorcycle ride


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Those of you who follow me know that my new found passion is touring random Asian countries via the back of a motorcycle.  I thought it would be a fun adventure for Erin!  And fun it was - we would rate it up there as one of our best!

The photo above is the sweet little B&B where we stayed.  Our guides met us there to begin our ride.  They assigned, the teeny tiny Hmong woman to me.  What?  That little thing is going to hold me up on a motorcycle???  She did an excellent job!



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Erin looking very cool in her helmet.



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The route was amazing.....



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... with some of the most scenic areas in Northern Vietnam.  At one point we could see the border of China.  We contemplated hoping over to give Erin another country to add to here list, but it was not that simple.



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An advantage of taking a motorcycle tour is they can get you to remote areas.   This means no other tourists!  We got to visit the home of a Lu family. 



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It was a very sparse, simple home built on stilts.  The guides are trying to establish a relationship with this family to help them sell their handwoven pieces at the market.



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 We enjoyed playing with the children.



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Below, one of the young women showed us how they weave the intricate fabrics. 



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We purchased the black and white one - made by the woman holding it up.



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Of course I was drawn to the woman with the black teeth.  Blackened teeth are considered beautiful.   The old tradition is based on the belief that that only wild animals and demons have white teeth. The blackening of the teeth, was an assurance that one would not be mistaken for an evil spirit. 

What is the black made from?  Stick lac, a natural resin obtained from an insect.



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Several of the younger girls had two gold teeth, also a sign of beauty and wealth.



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Back to our ride...



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This fishing net/contraption was fascinating - I have never seen one like it.



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The back roads were busy with kids...



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and water buffalo!



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The road you see in the photo below is the route we took. 

Never say never... I never thought I would be traveling around the world on the back of a motorcycle.



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Sapa, although touristy, is an amazing place to visit!  We are glad Erin was there to share this adventure with us.



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Hanoi with Erin!


Erin's Asian Adventure

Part two - Hanoi



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When traveling with us, it's all about the food!  Our first stop with Erin was our favorite little hole in the wall.... REALLY!  Here is the kitchen:



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Where the specialty is .... pigeon!



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Erin gave it a try.  Tastes like chicken  :  )



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 Chop sticks and little chairs - just like a local!



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This guy stood up to get out of the photo for us.  We told him no, don't leave, just give us a big smile... and he did!



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Another one of our favorites and a Hanoi specialty... Bun Cha. 



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It is basically a noodle soup with pork.  You are served a bowl of broth with grilled pork along with rice noodles and fresh herbs.  Rice noodles and fresh herbs are common in Vietnamese foods.  The side dish with the carrots is the yummy vinegar, fish-sauce sauce to add for flavoring.

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Another one of our favorites and also a Hanoi specialty, egg coffee.  Does it really have egg in it?  Yes.  A raw egg yolk is mixed with sweetened condensed milk, whisked into a froth, and added to the specially brewed coffee.

Does it really have egg in it?  Yes.  A raw egg yolk is mixed with sweetened condensed milk, whisked into a froth, and added to the specially brewed coffee. - See more at:



Egg coffee



 A pile of chickens next to our table.  Welcome to Asian dining!



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We hired Hanoi Kids who we highly recommend as tour guides.  It is an English speaking club for college students.  The tour is free, you just pay for any entrance fees and food/drinks for the students/guides.  It was a great tour and the two girls we had as guides were fun and spoke really good English.


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They took us to the restaurant Xoi Yen, which would have been very difficult for us to navigate as nothing was in English.  The dish does not look appetizing - but we all loved it!  It is basically sticky rice (often called sweet rice or glutinous rice), topped with things like boiled chicken, pate, egg, sausage, pork, corn, fried shallots or seafood.


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Erin menu


Oh and a new find... soft frozen yogurt chunks.  I wish I wrote down the name to share... sorry!



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Another photo with our guides from Hanoi Kids.



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 The Morning market

We are used to the markets in Asia but for Erin it was a new (and eye opening) experience.



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We didn't only show Erin food!  We visited the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first and oldest university.  The temple was built in 1070 and is  dedicated to Confucius, scholars, and sages (those having wisdom).




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I have visited here many times as I find it to be a very peaceful place.  Every time I have been, there are students in their graduation gowns.  Kids from all over go to take photos at the temple - it is said that it will bring them good luck in their future studies.



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little ducks



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Always adorable!



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It is a tradition and omen of good luck, to touch the head of all turtles at the temple.




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We also did a little shopping.  Erin had an Ao Dai (traditional dress of Vietnam) custom made.



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It turned out beautifully!


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D was extra excited about having two women to shop with!


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Erin needing more money to shop!



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And I can't do a post on Hanoi without a few crazy motorcycle/traffic shots.  Check out her side pose, so relaxed.



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This is a great - a designer cover up.  The Vietnamese women cover to protect themselves from the sun.


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We ran into a a funeral procession.  A family will hire extra mourners to walk in the procession to indicate that the deceased was well thought of.  They hire a band and people carry banners with statements written about the deceased, for all to read.  






The city at night


It was interesting to see that they had Christmas decorations up and lit in October!  Like Singapore, they have extravagant lights for a country that does not celebrate Christmas.




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Here's to Hanoi! 

We were happy to show Erin one of our favorite cities.



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Erin hanoi 47




Vietnam: Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi



May/June 2013

Where do I begin.... with our buffalo ride? 


Hoi An 1



Or the motorcycle ride?



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The people?



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The temples?



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The beach?



Baby on the beach



Or the beautiful scenery?


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This was a real vacation... meaning D did not have to work!  We started in the ancient town of Hoi An, 30 km south of Da Nang, one of the major trading centers of Southeast Asia in the 16th century.  Many of the old houses in Hoi An reflect a blend of both Chinese and Japanese architecture.  Today they are known for their silk lanterns and...


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the Japanese bridge, said to be one of the most famous bridges in Vietnam.   It was constructed in the early 1600s, to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter.  Today the old town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World heritage Site.


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Our hotel was a few miles away from the main part of town, in a rice field.  We loved it!  This is where we got to ride the  water buffalo.  I have now ridden an elephant, a camel, and a  water buffalo.  What next?    


  Hoi An 2


What we liked about our hotel was just a few steps out the door we were able to see the daily life of the local community.  We were there at the end of a rice harvest and the fields had just been cut.  The farmers were preparing the land for the next crop.  They can get three crops in per year.  This farmer was using his buffalo to till the land.  Funny how he holds the tail.


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This one will go into my "Haystacks Around the World" book!



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And you think walking the dog each morning is a chore!



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Planting seed for the next crop.


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Grocery shopping at the duck farm.



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With free delivery!




I have to show you the bathtub/shower in our hotel room, it was completely outside!  It was very relaxing to take a bath at night, under the full moon.


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The Full Moon Lantern Festival


We timed this trip so we would be there for the full moon lantern festival.



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On the 14th day of every lunar month, the old town of Hoi An celebrates the Full Moon Lantern Festival.  They streets are closed to cars and motorcycles.  Street lights are off as well as the front lights of the shops.  People bring out candles and lanterns to light up the streets.  It is magical.


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For the locals the night of the full moon is the time to honor their ancestors by setting up altars and offering fruit, flowers, candles and incense to the deceased.  


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I thought this was a big event for tourists, but the Vietnamese are the main participants.  They come from miles around to join in the festivities.  The streets were insane!  I do no know where all the people came from.  At 6:00 we were pretty much the only ones on the street.  By nightfall, you could barely walk on the street, it was so crowded.



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Locals were everywhere selling cardboard lotus-flower-shaped lanterns, with tiny candles.  They had the young children approach us with their “cute face” to encourage us to buy from them.  It worked…


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Once purchased, you release your candle into the river to bring happiness, luck, and love.


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It was quite beautiful to see all the lanterns floating in the river.



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The next morning we signed up for a sunrise photography tour to a nearby fishing village.  It was well worth the time and money. 


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We were picked up at our hotel at 4:55 am!



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It is a busy fishing port.  The ladies are waiting for the daily catch to come in.



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They purchase the fish from the fishermen, clean them, and turn right around and sell them to people on the shore.


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They are weighing the fish and negotiating a price.



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 The fish look really good.



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Look  how beautifully the fish are laid out in the basket.



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Counting the profit from the day's catch, and using the special "toe bank."



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They look pretty happy.  Must be a good day for fishing.



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The people of the fishing village


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Just a few feet from where all the fish action takes place, there are a few restaurants and shops.  The people were very friendly and open to us taking their photos. 



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I chatted with these two ladies via our photographer-guide.  They wanted to know how old I was.  This is the number one question Asians ask.  We don't think they really care, it is just a line of Englsih they learn first.  They are also intrigued with our "white" skin and usually want to know where we are from.  I always say Singapore, which produces a puzzled look on their face and they usually say "you are not from Singapore!"



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The fitting...

Hoi An is famous for their tailors and custom-made clothes, shoes, and leather goods.  I have never seen so many tailors in one small town.  Donald has a tailor he really likes in Bangkok, so he was not interested.  I have never had custom clothes made so I gave it a try.



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I bought two dress, two pairs of pants, and the polka-dot top below.  We got the dress and the pants to fit, but were running out of time to get the top right, so she put me on the back of her motorcycle and took me to the seamstress - her cousin.



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That ride changed the rest of our vacation... (in a good way)!



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Next stop Hue

We took a three-hour train ride from Hoi An to Hue.  When we arrived, I told the hubby I had read that the best way to see Hue and all the temples was via motorcycle tour.  I asked, "Would you want to do this?"  With big eyes he says - are you kidding me - I would LOVE this.  So a quick email and we had a guide for the next day.  He claims it was my ride with the tailor that changed me.



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Our guides, Tim and Heui with Hue Adventures, were right on time to meet us at our hotel.  We selected them because they are #1 on Trip Adviser for motorcycle tours.  Poor Tim, when we first started I had my arms around his waist and squeezed him every time I was scared... which was all the time for the first 15 min.  And as you can see he is half the size of me!


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Love this photo - look how happy D is, and how focused Heui is.



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We were in city traffic for a short time.


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Then went off the beaten path through jungle like areas to visit temples.  I liked this better than the crazy city.  


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Vietnam is a beautiful country.  Officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, it is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.



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There are hundreds of old pagodas in Hue; Tu Hieu is one of the most famous.   The pagoda was originally a small hut built in 1843.  In 1848, the pagoda was restored and become a burial site.





Built in 1601, the Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest in Vietnam.   



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 Acres and acres of rice fields. 



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The Thanh Toan Bridge just outside of Hue is a beautiful old tiled bridge built in 1776 by a lady of the village who married a wealthy man.  She desperately wanted a son and as part of her prayers she built the bridge to help her neighbors.  So the story goes…



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The famous Mother Dieu, known as the “Love fortune-teller” sits inside the old bridge and will tell you a fortune for a small price.  But... she will only tell foreigners their fortune.



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This is my reaction when she told me D had a 17-year-old son - this was after she asked me if I had any children and I told her no!  She also told me I get mad at him because he works too much (laughing).


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This is the view coming back into the old section of Hue.  The lotus lights were put up that week to honor Buddha's Birthday.  They were even prettier at night.



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The next day we visited Hue Imperial City (The Citadel).


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The Citadel was constructed in 1805 under the Nguyen Dynasty.  Between 1802 and 1945, it was the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty and served as the house of the government.  



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The Citadel takes up a large part of the city.  It is walled-in on the north side of the Perfume River.  In ancient times, the inside of the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close to them could enter; the punishment for trespassing was death.  


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This colorful flower, which resembled an orchid, was in bloom all over the city.  It is called a Flame Tree.

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One of the guard's gates to the Imperial City.



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The Journey back from Hue to De Nang... via motorcycle!!

I let D talk me into bagging the train ride back and taking a 5-hour motorcycle ride.  He whined... "it is the same route they took on Top Gear!"  Click here to read all about this adventure - it warranted a post all on its own!



D on bike



We stayed one night in Da Nang.  It is about 45 minutes from Hoi An, but closer to the airport.  With an early morning flight to Hanoi, we though this would be easier.  Plus, De Nang is known for its beaches, with the most famous being China Beach (where thousands of American G.I.s spent their leave surfing and sunning during the Vietnam War).

The neighborhood was local, non-touristy; so we had fun exploring that afternoon.  There was an evening market going on.  I LOVE this photo - look closely, the woman is giving her friend a pedicure while selling fish.  OH MY!


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She must have negotiated a good price, as she is really happy.



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Many of the grandparents asked us to take photos of the children.  This guy looks like he is eating well.  He is almost as big as his grandfather!



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Beautiful big eyes!



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Just a gas pump, but you have to admit it is interesting!



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When we first arrived at the beach it was pretty quiet.



Boys with boat


But VERY quickly it became insane.  And this was at 5:30 at night.  What we learned is, the Vietnamese never go to the beach during the day, too much sun.  Instead, they go in the evening and take dinner.  They had all kinds of food cooking on the beach.  Surprisingly very little was for sale.


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They all seemed to cluster into one area on the beach.  If you looked in the other direction, hardly anyone was there.  It was also interesting to note that most of the women went swimming with clothes on, not bathing suits.



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There were also fishermen packing up their boat.


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Our last stop was Hanoi and it was all about shopping, food, and coffee.  Since we visited last year we did not take as many photos as usual, click here to read more about our earlier trip to Hanoi,


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Have you ever tasted egg coffee?  Click here to read more about this delicious drink... heaven in a glass!


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The kitchen of the restaurant where we ate twice.  Between eating here and the motorcycle ride... I must be getting crazy in my old age!



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And the dishwasher.  Sure, those dishes are clean.  I've mentioned it before, because we have iron Asia tummies, we never get sick (knock on wood).



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Loved this dish of beef and greens - isn't it pretty?


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Pigeon.  They probably caught it around the corner  :  )

You would pay top dollar for pigeon in a French restaurant!



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Someone is enjoying his meal.  Total cost for dinner with beer - $7.00 usd.



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D food

This is my favorite Vietnamese dish, bun thit nuong.  My mom and I get this very dish in the Vietnamese restaurant near her house - she loves it.  Pretty sure she would not eat at the restaurant where we had this one.


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This man was interesting.  He asked if he could sit with us - all with hand-language, as he did not speak ONE WORD of English.  He talked to us for 30 minutes IN Vietnamese.


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He was very intrigued with D's age spots.  Pointing to them and touching his skin, then touching his own arm.  He was also interested in my nose.  He would point to my nose then push on his.  We are pretty sure he was telling me I had a big honker!  The whole thing was bizarre.


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 We had an absolute BLAST in Vietnam!!  And if the 100 plus photos I shared aren't enough, I have a slide show with the extra ones!  Enjoy.












The five-hour motorcycle ride - Hue to De Nang, Vietnam


Hue to De Nang

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On my previous post, I mentioned the motorcycle tour around Hue. Well, I let D and the motorcycle guys (Tim and Heui) talk me into scrapping the train ride back to De Nang and instead taking a 5-hour, fun-filled, exciting ride on the back of a motorcycle.  D said it was on his bucket list.  really?  This was the first I had heard of it.  But how could I deny him a bucket list wish?

Let's start off with the video so you can have a better feel for our adventure.




The new me... riding a motorcycle!  I love this photo - me looking so, "I am women, hear me roar". 


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Vietnam mc ride 1


At the next break, I put on the cute pink jacket I bought at the market for $10.  The girls at the hotel said I should have only paid $5.  I bought it for protection from the sun.  ALL of the girls wear them in Vietnam.  Notice how it covers my hands.  Vietnamese girls cover every bit of skin by wearing the hood under the helmet, wearing a mask, AND socks (with flip-flops).  They do not want to get any sun.



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 D spent most of the ride photographing me!






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Our first stop was a little fishing village that was off the beaten path.   A stunning scene.



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It was quiet and peaceful.  No other tourists.



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Such a hard way of life.



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Back on the road to continue our journey.



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Every turn had a beautiful view.


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It was interesting to see that these rice fields were at a very different stage than the ones by our hotel in Hoi An, only a few hours away. 



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We could not have asked for a more perfect day, puffy white clouds and all.


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D kept trying to get me to "lean" into the turns.  I told him I would lean the other way so we would not topple over.  Yes, I know that is the wrong way... you need to go with the flow.


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What are those relaxing in the water?



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Water buffalo!  With a face only a mother could love.  We never get tired of animal sightings!



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Wait - look at me... I am the pretty one!



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We took a break at the Elephant Falls.  It was a delightful little stop out in nowhere.  They say hundreds of elephants used to live here.  Sadly, they are now gone.


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The water was very clear and a nice place to swim.  Can you spot D?  He said the water was very cold.




Tim, having a good time.  But what a tough job, they go back the same night and it takes around 5 hours due to traffic.  They are basically on the bike 10 hours and they turnaround and do it again the next day.  During the busy season, they take the route everyday of the week. 


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No, we were not going the wrong way on a one-way street!



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Now that is a proper lean by D!



D bike


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Lunch time!



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The most awesome mussels we have ever eaten!  I have been craving them ever since.



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Us with Tim and Heui - they were really easygoing, fun guys.  They made the trip for us!



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If you look closely in the photo below, you can see a train on the mountain, it was the train we were supposed to take back to Da Nang.  The tickets were only $3 each way so not a big loss.



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You can see De Nang in the distance.  I was not sure I wanted the ride to be over!


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A cool shot of D.  I like the arrows on the road - that was totally by chance. 


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And I'll end with a group shot.  Thank you Tim and Heui - you made a memory for us that we would never forget!



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Saigon Vietnam


The sights, sounds, and colors of Saigon 


Saigon lantern


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Bike scratch


Now known as Ho Chi Minh City, it is the largest city in Vietnam with more than 7 million people living there.  Many still call it Saigon, which I prefer - it sounds so exotic.   This was a quick trip, only two and a half days, so I did not take as many photos as I normally do.    


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It was a more modern city then we expected, and more people spoke English then we anticipated.  When walking through local streets, people went out of their way to say hello.  They especially liked to have their small children practice English with us.  They would bring them up to us in stores, outside their homes, on the sidewalks, etc to have them say a few words.  And, the teenagers would wave to us, smile, then take photos of us with their cell phones.   It was very sweet and fun.



Saigon building


HCM City was originally known as Prey Nokor, and was part of Cambodia.  In the 17th century, the Vietnamese conquered the city and named it Saigon.  After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City, named after the Communist leader who led Vietnam's independence from France.  The official name is Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh.

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Despite the fact that modern high-rise buildings have begun to dominate the skyline, there are still many examples of French colonial architecture such as the Notre Dame Cathedral.  French colonists built the Cathedral  between 1863 and 1880.



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Neighborhoods and apartments



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In Cho Lon, HCM City’s Chinatown, almost every building has a shop or workshop on the ground floor and the shop owner has their house on top. 



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There was a very large park close to our hotel.  One morning we took a walk through it and were surprised to see hundreds of kids having school lessons outside.  Some were exercising, some were being lectured to, and some were reading.  I asked at our hotel and they said that as long as the weather is nice, they hold classes outside.



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We also saw a group of children having an exercise class outside on the sidewalk.  They were having so much fun.



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Donald with the little street gypsy... her mother had her ask us to buy little bracelets.  M, who was with us, couldn't resist her sweet smile and bought a few. 


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Street Food

Like most of the Asian countries we have visited, street food is very popular in HCM City.  This is efficient, selling homemade noodles off the back of a scooter.



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Now that is a bowl of soup!  I would struggle cooking a bowl this big on a regular stove, how she is managing this on the street is impressive!  


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Love this one, he is cooking away in the middle of the road, traffic whizzing by.


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A pack of cigarettes with your lunch?



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We love Bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich you can buy on the streets.  Bánh mì really is a term for all kinds of bread - more specifically, the baguette, introduced to Saigon by the French during its colonial period. 


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The sandwiches are made with meat such as roasted pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, or grilled chicken.  They usually start by spreading a layer of pork liver pâté and a layer mayonnaise.  Then a few vegetables like fresh cucumber slices, cilantro leaves, and pickled carrots.  Common condiments include spicy chili sauce and sliced chili.


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How much did the beer cost?  Most bottles were 10,000 Dong (50 cents USD).  In Singapore, they average $10 (USD) a bottle!  




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Traffic and Scooters


Like Hanoi, there were thousands of scooters.  I took this photo from our taxi.


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Check out this confused lady going the wrong way on the road... note that she is not wearing shoes.



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Rush hour.



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How about a flower delivery on a scooter?  A very large flower delivery!





Fun to see how he is actually carrying the arrangement.  How on earth can he see?  As always, safety first!


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The coffee


We LOVE Vietnamese coffee.... hot or cold.  The taste is very different from regular beans.  One reason is they add chicory to the bean.  Another reason, once brewed, they add sweetened condensed milk.  Our favorite brand is Trung Nguyen - Gourmet Brew and Creative 5. 





You can buy Creative 1 - 5, but we like 5 the best.  It is fragrant, smooth, and has a distinct taste from the pea berries.  It is also the most expensive.  We bought 5 boxes and 4 bags to carry home.  We can only get it at one store here in Singapore and it is 3x the cost.



Coffee (1)

We were in a sweet little cafe, "iCafe" (25 Trinh Va Can Q.1), and decided to try the siphon coffee.  We have read about it and were curious.   Most places it is fairly expensive, but in Vietnam it was only $2 a cup.  Deal.  What’s so special about it?  It's supposed to provide a much gentler, less bitter, flavor to consumers.


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They brought it to our table for us to watch it being brewed.  To make coffee using this method you fill the lower carafe of the siphon with water and the top with your ground coffee and a filter.  


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The burner heats the water and it "magically" travels into the top chamber.  She then let it sit 5 minutes and before adding condensed milk and ice, and she shook it hard in a silver martini mixer.  


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I have to say - this was THE BEST cup of iced coffee we had ever drank.  Seriously!  If you are in Saigon and are a coffee fan - it is worth going out of your way to have a cup.  Did I mention it was only $2 USD? 


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The Hotel


We were there during the rainy season, which lasts May through October, but lucked out with beautiful weather.  Our hotel said it had been raining for 4 days straight before we arrived.  We loved our hotel.  A sweet B&B, Ma Maison, a French Colonial home in a very local neighborhood.  We highly recommend it if you are visiting Saigon.


Saigon b&b



We really enjoyed Saigon.  The people were very friendly.  We were told by one of the expats living there that south Vietnamese like Americans, as we fought alongside them in the war.  You could really feel the friendliness when going off the beaten path and walking through the local neighborhoods.



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Vietnam: Hanoi - chaotic charm


Hanoi - Vietnam

This was our first visit to Vietnam.  Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city.  Each new country we go to we are amazed at how different and unique it is from the last. 


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We arrived around 8:00 in the evening and were very hungry so out to the street we went.  It was pure chaos in the streets!  With more motor scooters than we have ever seen in any country.  Between the overflow of the shops into the streets and the hundreds of scooters, it was difficult to even walk.  But rest assured - the constant honking of the horns made us aware that we were in the way!


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Of course D could not wait to get street food.  So we stopped at this little cafe.  How about these teeny tiny chairs?  They were the norm for the street cafes.

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We had a delicious beef and mango salad at Cafe Quang Minh (51 Dinh Tien Hoang) - two plates for $2.50 USD.


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The two girls below were quite amused that we were eating there.  It was a very local place so not sure how many tourists actually eat there - plus D was taking photos of me.


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D was still hungry so he picked up this little tidbit - grilled meat and puffy rolls - we think.


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Our hotel was located in the old quarter a perfect location.  We stayed at the Hanoi Essence Hotel.  It was a fabulous hotel and we highly recommend it.  The staff was exceptionally good.  Splurge on the suite – it is not that much more than a regular room and the extra space is really nice. 


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Me cruising the street on a scooter!



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The next morning we ventured out into the crazy streets.  The streets are the heart of the city - and are used as a big part of the people's living space.


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 More teeny tiny chairs........


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Little cafes filled the streets.  Hanoi is a coffee culture, not alcohol.


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This is a very common scene - large groups of young people eating and having fun.  


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We were mesmerized by the traffic.   We would just pick a spot out of the way and watch the traffic for an hour.  To see our post on all the scooters click here.



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There was an art to crossing the street.  Just go!  Don't run, just walk directly into the traffic and keep an even pace.  Don't hesitate or turn around.  Amazingly, it works.  The drivers work around the pedestrians.



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You can buy just about everything in the street.


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 You can even "buy" a photo of yourself carrying pineapples.


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Ancestor worship (the burning of paper) is a religious practice based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. 


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Inquisitive boys asking her about the ritual.


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A nice break for a fresh coconut drink.


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And later, more coconut in the form of a pina colada   :  )


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Don't you love how this man is not wearing his shirt at dinner - and this was a nice restaurant!  I think this photo looks like a scene from a movie - robbers plotting their next gig.

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Early Sunday morning (6 am!) we met up with Anh from awesome travel, for a 3-hour walking tour of the city.  He only charges $1 – really!  We were the only ones who showed up so it was a private tour.  It was very interesting and we would recommend Anh for this tour or other tours he offers.  And we did tip him more than $1  :  )


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The city is located on the right bank of the Red River.  The site of present-day Hanoi has been populated for at least 10,000 years.  Most Americans associate Hanoi with the Vietnam War and the tremendous conflict between the two countries. Following the war and during the ensuing U.S.-led embargo, life in Vietnam was extremely difficult.   After the U.S. lifted the embargo in 1993, the Vietnamese have come to love Americans and American products.

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Hồ Hoàn Kiếm Lake:  this historic lake is the site of a foundational legend for Vietnam: Hồ Hoàn Kiếm means "Lake of the Returned Sword", alluding to the legend that a future emperor received a sword from a magic turtle at the lake's edge. The emperor later used the sword to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam.


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We were struck by the amount of construction going on all over the city and just outside of the city.  It did not appear to be as poor of a city as we thought.  But keep in mind the average income is only about $1000 per year.  We saw many large houses like the one below.  Most were very colorful.

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This woman is selling phone numbers.  Anh told us this is big business in Vietnam and a good number can sell for a high amount of money.  The same goes for license plates.  What is a good number?  Ones that are considered lucky -  1, 5, and 9.  More importantly, the string of numbers must be ascending... indicating your fortune and health will ascend as well.

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Anh took us through the early morning food market.


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Many of them just sell the goods out of the lower floor of their house.  If you look below, you can see the stairs off to the left leading to the main part of the house.


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 Fish section


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Making fresh noodles


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Anh got us both to taste balut.  What is this you ask? 

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Balut is a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein.  Street vendors mostly sell balut.


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It tasted like boiled chicken; not bad.  But I could not get over the idea of what I was actually eating, so I would say no - I did not like it!


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The seniors exercise in the park every morning.  Ho Chi Minh preached that all Vietnamese should exercise each and every day.  They tend to take a social outlook on it and exercise together.



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There was even an area in the park where you could learn how to dance.





I was surprised to see such a large traditional catholic church in Hanoi.  This is St Joseph's Cathedral built in 1886.  Of the population, 85 % are Buddhist, 7% are Catholic and 8% other.


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Anh took us to his favorite PHO restaurant, Pho Gia @ 49 Bat Dan.  At 8 am on a Sunday it was packed!  That is Anh in the blue T-shirt looking at the camera. 


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It was one busy "little" kitchen.



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We were really enjoying the soup when.......


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D bit into the biscuit below and broke his tooth!  We have been very fortunate in that all the traveling we do, we have never had a major mishap……after this trip, we can no longer say this.  They look soft - but they were very chewy.

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The tooth was “hanging on” but we were very concerned it was going to fall out or worse, was infected.  We had our hotel help us find a dentist that 1) was open on Sunday 2) spoke English 3) could take us immediately.  Our hotel manager called and made the appointment. 

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We hopped into a cab and 20 minutes later D was sitting in the dental chair.  They took x-rays and told him it was definitively broken but not infected.  If he ate soft foods he should be okay for the next 10 days.  We were very lucky in that there was a dental student in who spoke excellent English.  The dentist did not speak a word. 

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And believe it or not, they refused to take any money for the appointment.  We left them money on the desk and told them to buy lunch for the office.  His tooth hung in there and he lost 5 pounds as he could only eat soft foods – eggs and tofu!


Sights we visited


Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum 

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In the centre of Hanoi, a large area is devoted to Ho Chi Minh.  He is affectionally known as Uncle Ho in Vietnam.  The grandeur of the Mausoleum is a strange contrast to the simple house where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked.  They say he would not have been happy with the Mausoleum, in fact, he requested to be cremated.

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His embalmed body lies inside a glass case in the Mausoleum.   I had not read this before my visit so I was quite shocked when I entered and saw the body laying there - looking like he was asleep.  An interesting fact…..the embalming process was done by Russian experts and each year in early autumn, his body is flown to Moscow for three months for maintenance. 


 Hoa Lo Prison infamously known as Hanoi Hilton



There is not much left of the prison as it was demolished in the mid-1990s to build a hotel complex.   Regardless, it still has an eerie feel when you walk through it knowing that it held thousands of inmates over the years.   You can view the original cells and there are illustrations of life in the prison interestingly enough, showing the American prisoners having a grand old time playing cards, having parties, eating well, etc


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The prison is known as one of the most unjust and cruel prisons in Vietnam.   Previous prisoners included numerous American pilots including U.S Senator John McCain (see his uniform below).

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The Temple of Literature


The Temple of Literature is one of Hanoi's most popular landmarks.  Despite the “temple” in the name, it is not a religious site.  The temple was built in 1070.  It is one of several temples in Vietnam, which are dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars.  Shown below, Khuê Văn Các, the red tower at the Temple of Literature is the symbol of Hanoi.

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This young lady was posing for her friends.  So pretty in the traditional Vietnamese dress..



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We took a day trip to Duong Lam, an ancient village on the outskirts of Hanoi, home to many houses built three or four centuries ago. It is also the birth village of two Vietnamese kings.  Duong Lam was recognized as a national relic in 2005.


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Many centuries ago the Chinese dominated Vietnam and this is seen heavily in the architecture and the written words on older buildings.


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There are around 300 houses still standing in Duong Lam, 50 of which date back 300 years.   


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Our guide explained that when a person dies, they bury them in the rice fields for three years then there is a ceremony and the body is cremated.  We saw many gravesites in the rice fields.


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We visited several temples, pagodas, and shrines during our day tour.  We had both a driver and a guide.



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We ate lunch at a local house that was over 800 year old.  It is considered a National treasure in Vietnam.

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When D was done with his conference, we took a three-day trip to the beautiful Ha Long Bay, which is a four-hour drive from Hanoi.  To read all about this trip click here to visit this stunning place.


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On the way back to Hanoi we visited Yen Duc, an agricultural village producing primarily rice. 


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We walked around with a guide and learned about the environment and the rice fields.


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 We met friendly locals like the barber - with his outdoor shop.


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This gentleman was looking at the photo D took of him.


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This young lady stopped to show us what was in her little baskets - crabs.  They were so tiny and scooted so fast, it was impossible to get a photo of them.


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Last but not least, we were given a singing performance called Quan Ho. 


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This type of singing is  Vietnamese folk music with songs about love with young adults.


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The Quan Ho singing style originated was first recorded in the 13th century.  In 2009, Quan Ho singing was recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage.


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The tour was a little hokey - but it allowed us to see a local village outside of Hanoi.  And we did get to meet a few locals.  All who were very friendly and enjoyed having their photos taken click here to see more photos of the people. 


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We look forward to our next visit to Vietnam!


Vietnam: the scooters


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There are over 6 million people living in Hanoi and 4.5 million motor bikes.  Everyone has one.


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As soon as you step into the streets – the motor scooters start honking at you.  We have never seen so many scooters in our lives.  It is like a stream of water running through the city.  It is very difficult to cross the road in the old quarter. 


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We learned that you just step into the road and cross – do not run, do not turn back….just keep going and they work around you.   Seriously – this is how we crossed the road.  And fascinatingly enough – it works.



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They are used as the family car -


for three


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for four


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even 5 - yep count them - 5 on the one scooter!


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and very little regard for safety!  Helmets are required for adults only.  And not all of them follow this rule.



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grandma even gets a ride - while using her cell phone



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They are used as trucks



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for carrying ducks...


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 soda delivery


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nursery delivery


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 and everything else!


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Friends sharing a ride



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and for taking a nap - look closely, there is a hammock in the back of this one.



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Not a scooter - but impressive they were able to cross the street with this load.


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and a moving van - scooter!


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Vietnam: the people


The People of Vietnam



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We enjoyed meeting and talking to the locals.  Not all could speak english, some spoke very little, but it didn't matter because a photo can speak a million words! 

the old - with wisdom and beauty

and style!


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the young - such wonder in their eyes, not a care in the world



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and everything in between! 

so happy to have their photos taken


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The Vietnamese are friendly happy people.