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Lanterns, lanterns everywhere!

semi-overcast 24 °C
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February 15
On the go again.... Off to the airport for my 9:40 am flight to Da Nang. Got there and was told my flight was delayed 2 hours. I managed to get on the 8:45 am flight instead. The flight took a bit over an hour. Hopped into a taxi for the 30 km ride to Hoi An.

The central city of Danang has a mountain of marble and limestone rock group known as The Marble Mountains. This group of 5 mountains, whose names represent the 5 elements, stands very close to the line of coast of Danang, in the center of Vietnam. It's a popular place for spiritual retreat and pilgrimage, has several pagodas, and caves inside the mountains, natural caves formed by erosion, water and the passage of time.

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Hoi An was once a major port, it boasts the architecture and riverside setting that befits its heritage. The town was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999 and now there are very strict rules in place to safeguard the Old Town's unique heritage. Much of the old town looks as it did several centuries ago.

Driving into Hoi An one notices lanterns.... Beautiful, colourful lanterns everywhere. Once I settled into my luxurious...I mean luxurious! I headed out to explore the town.
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Getting something tailor made is a popular thing to do. There are hundreds of tailors here in Hoi An. I ordered two dresses for $40, first fitting is tomorrow at 3 pm and the dresses will be ready for pick up at 6 pm. Now that is service!!!
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You can rent bicycles, scooters, or motorbikes. Cars are not allowed in the Old Town, only scooters, motorbikes, and bicycles. I strolled along the river, the fish and vegetable market, and the food stall market.
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Had lunch at a quaint restaurant with chairs set up on the sidewalk.
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Hoi An is known for its wonderful alleyways. The locals believe that the alleyways are the souls of their hometown. A system of alleyways gradually evolved to link roads. They are often so narrow they can only fit two or three people walking beside each other and their sides are the sides of houses or garden walls. The alleyways are long and covered with moss. I've only begun to find them.
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The beautiful little Japanese Covered Bridge was first constructed in the 1500s by the Japanese community in order to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The entrances of the bride are guarded a pair of monkeys on one side and a pair of dogs on the other. There is also a small temple built into the northern side.
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Evenings are a special time in Hoi An, when the town really comes to life. Everyone seems to come out to play once the sun goes down and the lanterns are lit, with lots of activities to be had.
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People are out checking out the local performances, having get-togethers, munching on some street food or buy a floating lantern for luck (to send down the river). My dinner cost me $3.50!
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Posted by Samchow58 15:35 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

History day in Ho Chi Min

29 °C

February 14
Up and out by 9:30 am. Today is HCMC history day. We went to the War Remnants Musuem. Few museums anywhere convey the brutality of war and its civilian victims. Many of the atrocities documented here were well-publicized but rarely do people hear the victims of US military action tell their own stories. While some displays are one-sided, many of the most disturbing photographs illustrating US atrocities are from US sources, including those of the infamous My Lai Massacre. US armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons are on display outside. The photos of children affected by US bombing and napalming were disturbing to see.
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We then walked over to the Reunification Palace only to find out the were closed for lunch. So we walked to Notre Dame Catherdal only to find out they were closed till 3 pm! Can't see the inside, so here's a picture of the outside.
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Right across the way from Notre Dame Cathedral is the striking French post office. It was built between 1886 and 1891. Painted on the walls of its grand concourse are fascinating historic maps of South Vietnam, Saigon and Cholon.
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We headed back to the Reunification Palace for a gander. The first Communist tanks to arrive in Saigon rumbled here on 30 April, 1975. The building is associated with the fall of the city in 1975.
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In 1868, a residence was built on this site for the French governor-general. When the French departed, the palace became home to the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem was so unpopular that his own air force bombed the palace in 1962 in an unsuccessful attempt to kill him. The president ordered a new residence to be built on the same site, this time with a sizeable bomb shelter in the basement. Work was completed in 1966, but Diem did not get to see his dream house as he was killed by his own troops in 1963.
Pictures of the bunker
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The new building was named Independence Palace and was home to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, until his hasty departure in 1975.
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The Reunification Palace is still used for meetings.

We decided to walk back to the hotel after lunch. On the way back we met up with two very friendly vendors, who let Brad carry their wares.
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Detoured to the Ben Tahn Market again for the third time....looking for a bag for Brad. Mr. Consumer has bought too much! Walked and walked and walked and he bought nothing, Our feet were tired so we went back to the hotel to rest. An hour later, we headed back to the market. Only this time, I made sure he bought something!

Brad leaves for home tonight. It's been a great trip with him.... Loads of memories, laughs and fun!
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Safe travels son!!

I head out tomorrow to Hoi An via Da Nang for the next few days.

Posted by Samchow58 08:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Ho Chi Min City.... Big city and the Mekong Delta

sunny 35 °C
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February 12
It was an early morning for us today. Arrived at the airport to a very long line up for our flight to Ho Chi Min City. My flight information didn't match with the airport's information. Off I go to get things straightened out only to be told they can't find our names on any of the flight rosters. Not sitting well with me.....people are butting in and the person behind the counter is ignoring me..... After a few dirty looks, nods, and stern talking ....Hooray, we have seats on the plane!

Once we checked in and unpacked, we ventured out to Ben Thanh Market. Everything that’s commonly eaten, worn or used by the Saigonese is piled high, and souvenir items can be found. It was so busy and stuffy. The vendors were grabbing our hands trying to get us to stop at their booth. So many stalls, so many things to looks, so many people..... So overwhelming.

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We walked around for about 40 minutes and then had to get out of there! We were both grumpy! We walked around the area and checked out the shops. Came back to the hotel to rest.... Brad had to sleep!

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We walked to The Bitexco Financial Tower. This is what the building looks like in the day time.
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It stands 262 meters, 68 floors tall. The tower is Vietnam's first and only International Class A building. Inspired by the lotus, Vietnam's national flower. The Saigon Skydeck is located on the 49th floor. It offers stunning 360 degree views of the city and it's surroundings. We watched the sun set and stayed long enough to see the evening lights of the city.

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On the way home, we picked up rice and noodles from a street vendor and ate in the hotel room.
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February 13
Our driver picked us up for our day on the Mekong Delta. Nguyen was our English speaking leader. He explained that we were going to the My Tho and Ben Trem provinces. We stopped at the Mekong Reststop to visit the "Happy House" (aka the bathroom).
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We then headed over to a pagoda called Vinh Trang. There were so many buddas....smiling, sleeping, standing.
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Nguyen explained "Me" means Mother and "Kong" means River. We visited two provinces... My Tho and Ben Tre.
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The motorboat took us to Unicorn Island, it's known for it's fruit and traditional singing. We ate papayas, guava, loongan (like lychee nuts), pineapples, and jack fruit while the ladies sang to us. After that we headed out on the sampans along the shady and windy canal. The canal was so busy with sampans, you had to keep your hands inside so you wouldn't get them crushed when the boats banged together.
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We then boarded another motorboat to Ben Tre province where we tasted honey tea and leaned to make coconut candy. While drinking honey tea. Nguyen brought over a honeycomb frame full of bees to show us. He later came over with a bee in his hand telling us that the bee doesn't sting. Brad then asked to hold the frame..... Found out later that they were two different bees. The ones on the frame are stinging bees!
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Brad and I ran when this guy came out!
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We headed back to the boat dock by horse and carriage.
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Then boarded a motorboat to go back to the dock.
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Loaded up in the van for the ride home. As we turned onto the main road, we were greeted with this.... It's the end of TET week and everyone is going home.
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We've been seeing lots of this this week.... Wonder how this would fly back in Canada?
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Went to the night market....very lively and busy. Tomorrow is Brads last full day before he flies home on Monday? Going to miss him!

Posted by Samchow58 08:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

Cooking class and mud baths.....so much fun!

sunny 27 °C

February 10
We had a very busy day today. Chef Dat picked us up at our hotel promptly at 9 am. We picked up another couple, Grace and Luke, from Australia and headed out to the market. We stopped in at a coffee shop to discuss what we wanted to learn to cook. This coffee shop is only for men, we sat at the back since Grace and I were there. Chef Dat explained that young men come to the coffee shop, they bring their pride bird, call a Bul Bul. These birds can cost up to $1,000 each. All the birds are hung in the middle of the coffee shop and the men sit around them, watching and listening to them sing while drinking coffee and relaxing.

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He showed us the bakery
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Took us to the market... Look what they sell...
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Brad got to cut his own coconut
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We visited the farms to see where they grew the vegetables and many other places.

Rice noodles drying in the sun
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Ice delivery
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Chef Dat and his students
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We really enjoyed the day with Chef Dat. He took us on a tour of Nha Trang and surrounding area, not only did he show us how to cook the food, he showed us how they grow it and make most of all, all the ingredients we used. Our day ended around the table eating the delishous food we cooked.
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Back at our hotel, we grabbed a ride to Thap Ba Hot Springs for a mud bath. It was so much fun, we couldn't stop laughing. My butt kept floating up, I had to hold on to the side of the tub.
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We then headed to the mineral pool to relax.
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We had so much fun today.... And exhausted!

February 11
Today is our last full day here in Nha Trang, we fly back to Ho Chi Min City tomorrow. We wanted to stay another day here but we couldn't change our flights because of TET week.

We spent a relaxing day on the beach and doing our last minute shopping (Mr. Consumer...aka Bradley). Had a nice dinner and a two hour massage! We are relaxed!

Posted by Samchow58 07:42 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Celebrating Luna New Years.....

sunny 23 °C
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We headed up to the top floor of the Signature Saigon Hotel for our buffet breakfast, only real expecting fresh fruit and coffee. We were surprised.... Rice, stew, Pho, and the usually breakfast items.

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One of the best I've ever had.

We then ventured out to find the Ben Thanh market only to find that all the shops and vendors were closed because of the Lunar New Years. We discovered that crosswalks here don't mean a thing. You take your life in your hands every time you venture out on the street. Brad reluctantly agreed to cross the street to the turnabout to get these two pictures.

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Back at the hotel, I asked the front desk what we could see. She directed us to the Nguyen Hue (Flower Street). We headed out there only to find a street party. Families all dressed in their traditional New Years outfits, laughing , and enjoying the flowers while celebrating the new year.

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Brad thinks he found a minion here!
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Walking around the city, I noticed differences. Old mixed with new.... Sky scrapers reaching into the heavens and at their feet lay the foundations of Vietnam.

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We sat outside our hotel and people watched. We saw scooters carrying mom and dad, a toddler, a new born and all their bags, Street vendors busy cooking, while their families all around them.

12 hours later, we find ourselves on a plane to the beach resort of Nha Trang. A 6km crescent beach that is the main attraction of this area. We spent the first morning on the beach. The surf was big.... I mean BIG!

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Nha Trang is busier than usual because of their New Years celebration (TET week). Many locals flood to the beaches with their families to celebrate. This being said, we found the beaches packed. We were on the beach soaking up the heat by 9:00 am. After a short relaxing sleep, we woke up to find ourselves surrounded by locals all frolicking in the surf with their clothes on.

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Before heading out to the beach, Brad and I were trying to find some beach towels. While waiting for the elevator, we found a towel cart. As Brad was looking feverishly for towels, the elevator opened up.... It was full of people, including hotel staff! I look up to see all these people staring are us.... Brad stops when he hears me say "busted". Never found towels but we're still laughing.

We've been busy visiting markets and eating. It's been hard to pass the street food vendors without trying their wares. We also had a massage for $10.

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Sugar cane juice....yum!
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Posted by Samchow58 05:49 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

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