A Travellerspoint blog

Hoi An

....feels like I am home.


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

I had a wonderful day here in Hoi An. I slept in, for the first time on my trip I slept after 8am! Had a leisurely walk simply taking in the sights. I stopped for breakfast and coffee at a cafe facing the street and enjoyed about two hours just watching the people pass by and the workers open the shops across the street.

After breakfast, I wandered around some more. Not really knowing where I was going...just walking. I meandered into a local coffee shop where I watched the Vietnamese men and boys alike, play round after round of chinese checkers (i think). I picked up a book prior to this at one of the bookstores I passed along the way and read while I people watched (actually didn't get much reading done).

Wandering around some more, Hoi An is a beautiful town and has a wonderfully relaxing feel to it. I took some pics of the local fishing boats anchored at the dock and some young local boys took my picture with them (not sure why).

I made my way to a place to grab a bit to eat and started chatting with another lone diner. Brynt from England. He is traveling north to south and we shared recommendations, a few beers and great conversation. It seems that the topic of conversation, whether with the Vietnamese or the other travelers, always turns to politics. Obama, apparently is not only the American choice but also the choice of most of those that I have met. I find it interesting some of the comments regarding McCain and Palin. Most seem to agree with my opinion that Palin is much of a joke and they are equally glad that she is not going to be in office. My impression is that everyone seems to think that Obama will actually do some good for America. I guess that time will tell. I also found it interesting that Vietnamese, UK, and Australians that I have talked to have all followed the American presidential race. I dont know of any Americans that follow politics in other countries (although I am certain that there are some).

While chatting with my newly introduced UK friend, the table next to us joined in conversation. A very nice couple from Australia. I didn't catch their names but they too are traveling North from here only leaving tomorrow. I am planning to stay 2 more nights here as it is very relaxing and enjoyable.

I wandered around a bit more and found a place that stated it had wi-fi and wanting to try to connect with home, I stopped in and ordered dinner. As I was attempting to connect to the internet, one man from the table next to me walked over and invited me to join them for dinner. I joined them and had a wonderful conversation over dinner and drinks. Rob, and two others whose names I cant remember are from Holland. They have all traveled to many places. I felt very jealous and embarrassed that this is my first travel out of North America. It's sad how little emphasis Americans put on travel. So many other countries are much better traveled and in turn, better educated and (in my opinion) less prejudiced than American's.

Last night I spent some time reflecting on my trip (feeling very home-sick) and asked myself again, 'what am I doing and what do I hope to accomplish/prove by doing this'? I still dont know the answer to that question. I feel like I have seen so much yet so little in comparison to what is out there.

Vietnamese Diet:
Croissant with jam for breakfast
Vegetarian spring rolls for lunch. (remind me not to order vegetarian next time as they were LOADED with mushrooms and I hate mushrooms). Still made myself eat about 4 of them.
Spicy chicken and white rice for dinner (fabulous)!

Two days and no cheating but I can feel a craving for some potato chips!

Life is good.....

Posted by Khandilee 11:07 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

I've Arrived

....Day 6 with Easy Rider


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

My final day on the road and I couldn't be happier. It's been a great trip in many instances and yet miserable at times. I have to say that I am glad that I decided to take the trip, although I dont know that I would recommend 7 days to anyone. I think in retrospect, 3-4 days would have been plenty.

Today was not so exciting and we really didn't see much as we were headed the 'not good' route to Hoi An. We did stop in several small towns/villages along the way and had some rewarding interactions with the local people. I still find it interesting that many of these people rarely see tourists. In one instance, we were only 12km from Hoi An and I still felt like I was a novelty. Surprising that many of these people haven't even traveled the 12km to the tourist area of Hoi An.

I received two more marriage proposals today, an offer to take one woman's children (she has three and I can choose any of them), and one offer to borrow another woman's husband!! I don't know how serious any of these offers are, but it's a little scary!!

I am happy to report that I am still single....only have two children...and have not 'borrowed' anyone's husband!!!

I've arrived in Hoi An safe and sound and soon to be done with my depressed driver. He is taking me to My Son on Friday and in the meantime wants me to recommend him to any travelers I meet.....I think you know my answer on that one!

Life is good.....

Vietnamese Diet:
- Bread (plain due to sick stomach) for breakfast.
- Noodle soup (for lunch), I only ate the broth.
- Crab soup (out of this world), and grilled fish in banana leaf for dinner. I am getting pretty good at eating fish that is cooked whole, and it's actually not that difficult once you know how to do it. I can even eat it with chopsticks!! ha ha !!

Posted by Khandilee 07:46 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 5 on the Road with Easy Rider

.....too much Rice Wine.


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

Last night at dinner I had an argument with my driver, Stephane. I have decided that although it's been a good trip that I am beat and just want to get to Hoi An. He seems to be a fair man and didn't want to cut the trip short. I dont know if it's because he thought that I would cut him one day pay or what but we finally came to an agreement. We were supposed to stay one more night after tonight prior to reaching Hoi An. Instead, tomorrow we are going to take the less scenic route and go straight to Hoi An, and he is going to take me to My Son. I already knew that I wanted to visit My Son so this works out great for me as I wont have to hire yet another driver in Hoi An to go see it.

Although I am exhausted and my driver a bit disappointed, Today was an amazing day. Our first stop of the day was at a local school. The children were wonderful and completely intrigued by the 'westerner' in their midst. The school administrator and most of the teachers sat over tea and talked with me. Only one of them speaks any English, and her and I discussed the classes, schedules, and the community in general. She was lovely to talk to. I had discussed with Stephane prior to going if we could give/take something to the children (not candy). He and I decided on a donation of $200,000 dong each to give to the school. This is only about $12.50 usd and it was very well spent money for me.

When we arrived at the school, the children all gathered around and the excitement could be felt. Most of them could at least say 'hello' and 'what's your name' in English. Stephane arranged the donation with the administer and while the rest of us sipped tea, one of the teachers drove off on her moto-bike and brought back bottled iced tea (for the adults) and several stacks of writing books and pens.

After the adults finished chatting, I was allowed into one of the upper classes (I think the children were around 9-12 y/o). I passed out the pens and writing books and there were smiles all around. The excitement in the eyes of the children at the simple gift of a pen and book was astounding. It really broke my heart that $12.50 usd could bring so much happiness and encouragement to the children. With the help of the English teacher, I talked a little about my job as a nurse (basically,that I am a nurse and that I try to help sick people get better), the fact that my job requires a university education and that they should all study very hard. Thank you's and good wishes were passed between me, the students, and the teachers and we were back on the road.

I obtained the mailing address of the school and hope to send them some children's books that I have at home that are gathering dust. Talking with the English teacher about this, she was very excited. She stated that it is very difficult to teach the children English because they don't have the funding for any books and the ability to practice with the children is limited. I am very excited to have had the opportunity to see first hand the struggles and hardships and hopefully a means to help them if only a little.

In comparison to American schools, the schools here are very primitive. There is no bus system and the children walk up to 4km to and from school in all sorts of weather. The school has three sessions (if I understood correctly) and some of the children go home in between and make the walk several times a day. About 2/3rds of the children don't return for the afternoon/evening classes as they stay at home and help their families in the fields or at home. From what i understood, it is only required that they attend basic education (morning classes) and they have an option to return or help their families. I didn't really notice any major segregation in the number of boys vs girls going to school. It was pretty equally divided between the sexes.

Our next stop was at a minority village just a few kilometers north. This is a different village than those that attended the school we visited. Upon arrival into the local 'store' we were nearly immediately swarmed by the villagers. They all stayed back a bit and simply stared at me as I interacted with the store owner.

I met the village Elder and his wife and the 'patio' was cleared and made way for a wonderful feast with rice wine all around. The villagers became much more friendly and interactive as the rice wine and food was passed around. I felt like a visiting queen!! The rice wine tastes something like I would guess turpentine would taste, although i have never tasted turpentine! The food was actually very good (if you like your pork with huge amounts of rind and fat). Fresh green beans with pork, grilled fish, and rice. One of the women that was sitting next to me kept filling up a shot glass and handing it too me for a toast! How can you refuse when your being treated like royalty? As the hour passed, the sun started to bear down on my shoulders and the women of the group all moved and insisted that I move out of the sun.... I guess that I wasn't eating enough, because several times as I turned my head chopsticks full of beans and pork were stuffed in my mouth by one of the women! There is no way to be sanitary here and I hope that the rice wine killed any possible germs that I might have consumed! Chopsticks and shot glasses alike were used by many....

In this particular village, if a man and woman like each other, they can request to the Elder fo the village, to spend a night at the Rong (communal) house to 'talk'. I am told that if someone gets pregnant after a night at the Rong house, that the couple is married and a fine of 3 pigs is paid to the Village Elder! Upon hearing that I am single, one single gentleman promptly asked the village Elder if he could share the Rong house with ME tonight....I kindly explained that I was not looking for a husband and that there are many beautiful women here in the village for him to choose from!! Whew.....I think I saved myself! There was a good sense of humor around the situation and lots of laughter. The young gentleman decided that I needed to eat lots of food and persistently kept adding to my rice bowl and stated at one point that if I didn't finish it, I would have to spend the night with him....I finished the rice!

Upon request, I was ushered to the toilet by the shop owners wife (whom tirelessly worked while we were there cooking and making sure that everyone was comfortable). I wish I had thought to take a picture as I was taken to the back of the house where the pigs are penned and right next to them, there was a downslope and drain out of the pens. She pointed to the hole and fetched me a pail of water (to 'flush' and wipe)! I'm sure that I looked like a fool and wonder how many of the children were sneaking around back to watch the 'western girl' pee!! I was horribly uncomfortable....but 'when in Rome...'

I have tons of pictures and even a video (if it turned out), but you will have to wait as internet is a thing long gone for now.....

We were blessed with partly overcast skys with only one downpour during the last 20km of our trip today. My clothes have been washed and are hanging under the fan to dry. I feel like I feel like I stink terribly (although I shower every day) and my clothes are all musty smelling due to not drying properly before putting them into the backpack in the mornings.... I can't wait to get to Hoi An and have my laundry done properly!!

Life is good....

Edited to Add:

I think I indulged in too much rice wine. At dinner, I took about two bites of great tasting venison meat over rice with vegetables and I suddenly felt very sick. I quickly found out where the bathroom or 'toilet' was and hoped that I would make it. I did....and nothing happened. I went back to the table and told Stephane that I was sorry, but I had to leave as I was feeling sick. He was pretty much a jerk and told me to 'eat'. I dont know if he didn't understand or what the problem was but I simply walked out and started back to the hotel.

Thank god it was raining as the umbrella served as a great hiding spot as I proceeded to vomit along the side of the road! I was so embarrassed! I don't really think that anyone noticed and my being sick certainly didn't stop Stephane from finishing dinner. In fact, the next day he told me several times that it was a shame that he had to EAT ALONE!! WTF? What about me NOT eating at all and being sick? I guess I am starting to understand why he is single....

Anyway...don't worry. I am feeling much better (although still a little peeked). I have been able to keep food and water down today (day 6).

Posted by Khandilee 04:16 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Day 4 on the Road with Easy Rider

....Flat Tires and unexpected opportunities.


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

Today was a good day. The weather cooperated and we had slightly overcast sky's all day. No sunburn and not drenching wet from the rain. A great day to be on the moto-bike. The route today started from Pleiku through Kon Tom and Dak To and to a small town just north of there. The mileage wasn't much today but we still arrived around 5:30pm to our hotel.

I was late this morning due to making some phone calls. Had to talk to my baby girl and check in on Aco. Both seem to be doing fine and I miss them both terribly! Haven't heard anything from Corey, I'll try to get in touch with him on Thursday or Friday when I next have internet.

Breakfast was at a corner coffee 'shop'. Which was actually just part of the sidewalk with a tarp to protect from the weather and little tables and chairs all facing the road. It was a pleasant way to spend the morning. Watching the traffic, listening to the local men discuss whatever it is they were discussing (cant understand a word of Vietnamese...still)! I did feel a little like the town spectacle. First, I am the only 'white girl' around and EVERYONE notices! They all look and stare, somewhat like I suppose I do to them.... Then jI am sitting in a group of all men (women don't seem to get to sit around drinking coffee like the men), on these little chairs that are perfectly fit for someone 5ft or under with my knees in my chest! No problem, it was still enjoyable. My faith in Stephane was restored a bit this morning. He complains all the time about the 'rich and poor' and to be honest, I am getting pretty sick of it. During our morning coffee, a group of three blind people sat at a table in front of us and Stephane made some pleasant conversation with them and paid for their coffee. A nice gesture.

It seemed to take us forever to get out of town this morning. We stopped and had coffee, then we stopped and had the moto-bike washed, then we stopped and chatted with someone that Stephane knew...... While Stephane was getting his moto-bike cleaned, I tried to make friends with a local boy.....he was very shy (see pic). I gave him a sticker and tried to show him what it was and he must have thought that I was going to take it away so he ran and hid behind his mother! He did come up to me again before we left and warmed up a little bit.

So we are finally headed out of town and Stephane stops in the middle of no-where with two busses blazing up our rear....'GET OFF' he shouts! Damn....I'm off!! He scared the hell out of me as I tumbled off the bike on the curb side of the road as the busses rip past us with horns blaring...wtf? Flat tire..... I hadn't even noticed but we certainly did have a very flat back tire. Fortunatly, there were two moto-bike shops within about 500ft of us (coicidence?). The first one was closed and the other was up a small hill. So, I helped Stephane push the bike up the short enbankment to the bike shop. It only took a short while and we were back on the road again. School was out (they go in two sessions from what I understand. With a quite long break in the middle of the day). The bike shop owners daughters were delightful. I think that they enjoyed talking to me and practicing their english. The smaller one, Me was very shy but she warmed up after her sister Phe' talked to me a little while. They told me that they were both 10 years old but I am not sure how that can be....unless mom had them back to back or they are twins?

We passed by a wedding with the bride and groom in front of the reception tent and I snapped a couple of photos. Stephane thinks that the woman is beautiful and the man 'ugly'. I wonder if the happy couple will chat about the crazy white girl that sped by taking pictures when they discuss their wedding day?

Random things:

Sea Lake: very pretty
A quick picture of a woman cutting up the bark of some sort of tree to sell for medicinal purposes.
A ride through a small minority village and viewing of the Rong House in which the village gatherings take place.
Beautiful wooden church, built by the french.
Music Man
Traveled part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail along the highway.
Catholic and Buddhist graveyard
Charlie Hill and an old airstrip.

Highlight:

Talking with Me and Phe while the flat tire was being fixed.

Annoyance:

My driver and 'take picture, for my picture-book' Before agreeing on taking the trip, I was able to look through two different picture books that previous travelers had made and sent to Stephane. He asked me at the beginning of the trip if I could make one for him and send to him. He offered to pay for it. I dont mind at all making a book for him, but I am very tired of hearing 'take picture now'. It would be nice to determine my own pictures and in my opinion, would make a much better book than having the same pictures as the other two books....so, in my stubborn way I have not taken the pictures that he told me to take and instead, have determined my own pictures.

Tonights hotel is a true shit-hole. It's only $8usd/night but still not worth even that. I tried to feel pissed that I am staying in such a place but found that thoughts of what I have seen have shown me that there are much worse places that I could be staying so I am going to be content with my room for the night. I am getting some use from my sleep sheet that I bought because just sitting on the bed made me start to itch! Hopefully I will sleep well and wake refreshed in the morning. At least I have electricity so I can type on here and bitch! haha!

Vietnamese Diet:

Bread and Laughing Cow cheese with coffee for breakfast.
Rice and some sort of spicy chicken for lunch.
Hot pot with noodles, shrimp, vegetables and two Tiger beer for dinner.
And the remainder of the cashews for a snack.

Life is good....

ps: my driver is certainly Depressed!

Posted by Khandilee 03:02 Comments (0)

Day 3 on the Road with Easy Rider

....cheating on my Vietnamese Diet


View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee's travel map.

Started early again today with a hotel buffet breakfast which, like all buffets was too expensive and poor quality of food. I dont think that the Vietnamese distinguish between breakfast foods and lunch or dinner foods like we do in the US. The breakfast buffet included noodle soup, bread (of course) and other assorted rices and noodles. There was also some sort of potato and carrot stew. The stew was wonderful (mostly because it reminded me of home). The only truly great thing about the buffet was ALL YOU CAN DRINK COFFEE!! I think I had 4 cups and would have had more if Stephane wasn't so eager to leave.

I have to say that my ass doesn't hurt even a little bit until the moment I sit on the moto-bike.

The day included:

more coffee-related sights
a catholic church (according to Stephane, the French introduced catholicism and it is progressively popular the further north you travel)
rain
a war memorial
rain
local market (just like the rest of the local markets)
A stop at the pharmacy and chat with the pharmacist. I guess in Vietnam (esp the smaller villages) you can 'buy' your license to sell medicine. The lady that I spoke to seemed very knowledgeable and states that although a prescription is needed to purchase medicine, she will many times give medicine to the minorities given the symptoms that they describe.
more Rain
An overly friendly bus driver (I thought he was going to break my neck for the picture)
A reprieve from the rain
A typical squat toilet experience (not my first but the first that I remembered to take a picture). Thank god for Charmin travel packs!!
A lovely coffee stop at a local pepper farmers. The 'house' bird became very friendly and sang for us.
Random photos of locals being locals as I tried very hard not to squirm in my seat.
Walk through a Rubber Tree orchard. The process of sap collection is quite unique. Hopefully, you can see in the pictures later.

We arrived at our hotel about 5:30pm and decided to meet for dinner at 8pm. I decided to venture out on my own for a little bit to find an internet cafe and instead found a computer store with a very nice Vietnamese girl named Sen. She let me connect to the wireless internet for free and I purchased a set of headphones for my Skype for a mere $50,000 dong (about $3 usd). She was very nice and though neither of us spoke the other's language, we managed to make a little small talk. I met a very nice Vietnamese woman from the US, here visiting family. I am horrible and can't remember her name. We chatted in the lobby a bit and she is here visiting her family that live here and own the hotel where we are staying. She lives in Beaumont, TX. I enjoyed talking with her until Stephane rudely interrupted us and stated 'I'm hungry lets eat', so in order to placate my driver I said my goodbye's and we went to dinner.

The Vietnamese Diet continues:
Hotel Buffet for breakfast
Noodle soup for lunch (some sort of celery soup with noodles)
Chicken BBQ for dinner. This was perhaps the skinniest chicken I have ever eaten. There was barely any meat on the thing and it was fried not bbq. Very greasy and nasty with pink rice....YES, pink! It too was pretty nasty. Stephane stated that he 'loves to eat here when he is in town' Ugggghhhh!!
Ok, I cheated! I'll be honest. When I was out earlier, I stopped at a small local store and bought some Pringles and some honey roasted cashews. I ate half of each!! It was so good to have some 'normal' food for a change.

The remainder of my night was spent online updating my blog and emailing. I wasn't supposed to have a connection at the hotel but I was able to get a signal from the hotel across the street!!

I ended my day with about 30 minutes of Yoga (thanks Kim). Had to stop because I was lost on what I was supposed to be doing while following the podcast that Kim saved for me.

Life is good.....

Posted by Khandilee 02:58 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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