The Daily – 9/26

Word of the Day: Cake

Notable / Highlight of the Day: we had another slow day and the family was going to head off to see grandma so I spent the morning catching up on my blog and watching some bad movies. 

It’s strange, I never turn the TV on, but if it’s on I’m totally sucked in (maybe that’s why I don’t turn it on). The same thing normally happens with books, but I’ve been reading the same one for more than a month now and it’s just not gripping me. I’m almost done, so if anyone has any good book recommendations, let me know! I have some blistful beach time ahead of me. 

The family got back around 12:30 and I hadn’t moved from my nest. I threw on something and rushed to the lobby to meet up for lunch. Afterwards, we came back and napped a bit more until it was time to meet up with Cho. We both put on our elephant pants to lounge in but decided theycwere pretty great streetwear too. 

We started at a shoe shop because I needed aome hiking boots, but since we were dressed like backpackers, the woman wanted us out of the store and had no interest in helping us. I’m sure Cho didn’t translate to shield me, but she quoted me more than $100 for a pair of shoes…normally would have started around $40 – $50. 

We left and went to Ginkgo to buy a super cute Saigon tshirt for Jade. Ginkgo is a concept by a Vietnamese guy that Vietnam can produce quality goods made with fair labor. The clothes a slightly cheaper than US prices, but really well made and of very soft cotton. The stores feel posh and the staff is friendly. 

They also had these tempting chocolate bars made by a company called Marou. Turns out, they had a shop right around the corner so we stopped by for some hot chocolate and cake to celebrate the first half of Jason’s birthday. 

The chocolate shop was a wonderful, sugar-filled treat. We sat so we could watch them making the chocolate bars, and embarrased ourselves maybe once or twice. Jade touched the glass as one of the chocolate makers was turning around and he made a silly face, throwing us all into a fit of giggles. 

We were talking about how we needed to thank the owners and had looked them up to hear their story, only to discover they were sitting right behind us having a business meeting with an American guy. I kind of wanted to hug them all for the good work they were doing :). 

We enjoyed our hot cocoas and picked up cake for Jason and or course one for Jackie too as he has a sweet tooth that competes with mine!

We got back and enjoyed the cake before meeting up with Bobby and Huey for one last dinner at Taka Plaza. We all said goodbye and headed back to finish packing up and get a good night of sleep. 

Current Location: Saigon

Cost of Coffee: included

Miles Traveled: 0

Dollars Spent Today: $30 on sneakers, $3 on an amazing hot cocoa

Mood Emoji: 🍫🍰

The Daily – 9/25

Word of the Day: Nap

Notable / Highlight of the Day: we were all beat, especially Jade who saw Mike off at 4am. I slept in until 7:35 when I got a call letting me know everyone was up at breakfast. 

I blearily made my way up to meet up with Jackie, Jason, and Trang. Jade was still waking up and would be up shortly. Today was agenda-less and Mike-less. Jackie and I decided to head down to the riverfront to fly the drone and shoot some pictures of Saigon’s skyline. 

Someone at Heineken got duped because you can only see these billboards from the river.

On the walk through the city he told me about staying with his aunt when he was a kid, riding bikes in the streets of Saigon with his brothers, and playing the the fountains. 

We got a few good city shots and managed to not get taken out by any mopeds while crossing streets that bafflingly had four lanes of one way traffic and crosswalks. 

We went back to the hotel and then all went out to stock the Nguyen’s up on some gifts and souvenirs to bring home. We got 10 pounds of cashews, some jerky, tshirts and more. 

Jade, Jackie and I opted for Burger King while Jason and Trang got Pho (or something really similar. I then opted for an afternoon nap. Walking all over the city in the heat and humidity (with a cab ride or two mixed in) and the non-stop schedule we had kept really took it out of me. 

I was just wrapping up my shower and crawling into bed when Jade got home. Her and her mum had checked out a dress shop we all had been eyeing but it turned out to be very pricey so they only spent a few minutes inside. 

And then we both napped and napped and napped. We woke up around 6:30 in the evening and lazed around a bit longer before getting ready for dinner. 

We headed down first to pick up those amazing Banh Mi’s we had the day we got back from Hue and then Bobbie brought us to this place where they brought all the fixings to the table and we wrapped them in rice paper. It was nearly a competition to see who could stack the most plates in frontbof them, nearly because Huey’s a 13 year old boy and none of us had a chance. I did however work on my chopstick dexterity. 

We went back home and fell asleep with full bellies and Banh Mi’s waiting for us for breakfast. 

Current Location: Saigon

Cost of Coffee: included

Miles Traveled: 0

Miles Walked: not sure, but I promise it was 115 percent humidity

Number of Dogs Seen / Dog of the Day: omg, this adorable marshmellow who wanted all the love and was very willing to exchange for paw shakes, kisses, and smiles. 

People Met: 

Mood Emoji: 🐾😎🍔🥖

Food/Beverage Highlights: those Banh Mi at Huynh Hoa were simply incredible. 

The Daily – 9/24

Word of the Day: Emperor

Notable / Highlight of the Day: The day had come. It was time to fly back to Saigon after a whirlwind trip through central Vietnam. 

We first spent the morning checking out a couple of tombs. Jimmy was being his normal obtuse self and not being clear in both Vietnamese and English how long it would take to get to the tombs and how far apart they were. We were prepared to only head to one because he said they were about an hour away. 

We arrived at the tomb of Khai Dinh, a famously gay emperor who spent years and tons of money on his tomb. He was not very popular and was also viewed as a puppet for the French, which looking at the style of his tomb, is not a surprising accusation. It was seated in a beautiful plot of land with sweeping views. The grounds were filled with intricate stone sculptures and carvings  and neoclassically influenced structures. 

The ceiling painted ‘by foot’

I would also like to point out that I learned this information about the King from Jason. The only tidbit I ‘learned’ from Jimmy was that the ceiling was painted by foot (extremely unlikely and also just stupid). 

We decided it was worth heading to the next tomb even though Jimmy warned it was a long drive. After nine minutes in the car we arrived at Tu Duc’s tomb and palace. Jade and I wanted to wander a bit and check out some of the less-explored areas, and after some back and forth with Jimmy, Trang told Jimmy to just leave us and that we’d catch up and not get lost. 

The tomb felt entirely different and Jimmy fittingly described it as romantic. There was a small pond in the middle of the grounds and several structures throughout. The grounds and structures had served as a retreat for Tu Duc and he eventually retreated full time to the palace/tomb until his death because of an uprising over taxes to pay for his retreat/tomb. 

The body of Tu Duc was actually buried in secret in Hue and all 200 laborers who built  the real tomb iwere beheaded when the secret project was complete so no one would know where the emperor was buried. Classy 

We decided that we’d seen enough and needed to head along to the airport as we weren’t entirely sure how long it would take Jimmy offered to bring us to KFC and then remembered that is was no longer open but wanted to know if we wanted to go anywhere else for lunch. We decided to risk it and just hope the airport had facilites so we could get a bite. 

Jade still wasn’t feeling gread from our dinner in Da Nang two days before, so decided to shop a bit instead and zeroed in on an adorable dino stuffed animal with a zesty floral pattern but her mum didn’t want tocspend the $10 on it because it was a waste. 

Once we were finally able to check into our flight, we entered the gate area and found they also had dinos that she zeroed in on. I handed mike enough cash and told him to pick one out for her. 

Meet Jimmy the Brontosaurus

During the flight a few names were thrown around and, you guessed it, Jimmy stuck. 

We got back into Saigon in time to settle in and grab some dinner.  The kids all decided to head out to celebrate Mike’s last day by going out for a few drinks. 

We ended up at what looked to be a really fun outdoor bar thatcwas nearly empty except for us. We had a few drinks chatting and joking about our time in central Vietnam before calling it a night. 

Current Location: Hue to Saigon

Cost of Coffee: Included

Miles Traveled: 600

Mood Emoji: 

The Daily – 9/23

Word of the Day: Perfume
Notable / Highlight of the Day: We left yet another stunning hotel and pristine pool to head off to Hue.  Our first sightseeing tour was a marble factory followed by Marble Mountain just outside of Da Nang.
The marble factory was mostly a shop, but everything inside was handmade and there was a worker busy sculpting a large figurine.  They had sculptures, furniture, jewelry, and figurines.  The best part, as we walked in, Jason overheard the staff say in Vietnamese “Americans are here!” We asked for prices on a few things but they were all prohibitively expensive so we all left empty-handed.
Across the street was a mountain that was part of five oddly formed mountains in the area named for the elements.  Marble Mountain contained a large pagoda and a series of sleepy shrines nested within the caves.  We took the elevator to the top (and back down) instead of the stairs because of the heat and humidity.  Jimmy herded us through making sure we saw the hidden Buddha statue and the chess game and explaining where we could go see heaven.
We then made our way to Hue, passing Da Nang’s dragon bridge and crossing the Duong Nguyen Van Cu pass, a 22-kilometer twisty-turvy mountain pass that was cut through the jungle more than 100 years ago.  It’s now well-traveled but was a feat for the country when it was built.  It also has some stunning views of Da Nang and the beach below.
We got to the other side and had a bathroom stop at a pearl factory, we were trapped again.  Jimmy was also trying to convince all to head to the beach.  He first told Jackie, Jason, and Mike that Trang, Jade and I wanted to go.  When I hopped in the van and said we’d been held captive again (cornered into going to the pearl shop), Jason asked about the beach thing and we realized what happened.  We let Jimmy know that we all didn’t want to go to the beach but wanted instead to make it to Hue to check out the citadel.  Maybe he just enjoyed seeing Jade and me in swimsuits or something.
We got into town and stopped for lunch at this beautiful restaurant that was clearly a tourist trap with strong AC and traditional architecture.
The food was good and the tea was hot so no complaints from me.  Trang also told us how she grew up in a house like the one we were dining in, walls around the garden enclosing a beautiful house with a couple wings and perfect patio space.
The Emperor always receives guests under the yellow section.  The guards and court would wait in the green areas

We then headed over to wander around the Citadel visiting what as the main seat of power for Vietnam for hundreds of years.  At one point the sun hit us all and we truly felt the tropical heat. The Vietnam war did a number on the outlying areas of the Citadel, but the main palace and other areas are still intact.
The Citadel is starting to be updated, but it hasn’t been in years and shows its age. Coming from Russia and seeing the work the Russian’s have done to restore everything, it was such an experience to view these grounds before the restoration work had taken hold.  It felt like a found treasure and I wish I had more time to wander around the area.
Jimmy kept marching us through but hadn’t let us know that we needed to wear something to cover our shoulders/knees for the main palace.  I had brought my rain jacket, Jade, however, wasn’t admitted because her shorts were too short and her shoulders were uncovered.
We met up on the other side and continued to try and wander away from Jimmy, mostly successfully.  There were spots around that were in complete ruins and Jade and I even did a short yoga photo shoot (she’s the talent, I’m just the photog).  I was also obsessed with the windows they had and took maybe a million pictures of them.
We wrapped up our tour and headed into Hue to check into our hotel and get ready for dinner.  Our hotel was on the perfume river, but thank goodness the river no longer smelled. We had a few hours between check-in and dinner so I took a shower and wandered around downtown for an hour.
It was a small, bustling little city full of life and had some tourists too, but not a ton.
We went to dinner on the river on the top deck of a lotus-shaped boat restaurant, and as usual, we drastically overfed.  just as they were about to serve dessert the sky opened up and the staff quickly shuffled us downstairs for our final course.  Jimmy had excused himself 1/2 way through dinner for a personal matter, so our adorable driver showed us home.  We had a couple beers leftover from the night before, so we all watched a terrible Vietnamese dating show over beers before calling it a night.
Current Location: Da Nang to Hue
Cost of Coffee: Included
Miles Traveled: 75Mood Emoji: 👑

The Daily – 9/22

Word of the Day: Island Hopping

Notable / Highlight of the Day: We packed up and piled back into the van to head over to a little island, Cu Lau Cham. Jimmy, our guide, was starting to read the room better or so we thought.

We were going on another ‘canoe ride’ which also turned out to be another speedboat ride. At least this time we were prepared to expect the right kind of boat. When we got to the docks we saw a huge group in coordinating hats and shirts getting onto a large ferry and tons of speed boats heading out.

We boarded our speed boat with a couple other groups and first headed to the main town to check out the museum which we immediately nixed, the pagoda which Jimmy described as ‘old’ so we nixed it, and then he took us to the well and told us it was the oldest one in Vietnam and was supposed to help you get pregnant if you drank from it (not a chance in hell was I drinking from that nastiness). It was also completely surrounded by the large group we had seen going out earlier. It was about as interesting as the poet’s tomb had been but a bit dirtier. I also though I had snapped a picture, but I guess not. 

Since we were sharing our boat with 2-3 other groups we had to wait until everyone was ready to leave. We hung about people-watching and chatting for a bit until everyone was ready to head to the beach. We all hopped aboard, still a little confused as to why we stopped at our first stop.

It was interesting watching the boat driver because he drove the boat like one would ride a horse. It was also helpful because it gave you a good sense of rhythm and when we were about to hit some chop. 

We motored over to the beach area where we had the oportunity to change. Jade’s parents and Jason stayed on the beach and Mike, Jade, and I headed out with some others to snorkle and check out some coral reefs.

We went out with a Vietnamese group who didn’t know how to swim so they were snorkelling with their life vests on. We were told we were required to wear life vests unless we promised we knew how to swim, so I jumped off the boat.

And off Mike and I went in while Jade hung out on the boat. And she probably made the less depressing choice because nearly the entire reef had died. There were some beautiful fish, and one or two sections of coral, but 95 percent of it was grey and white.

We went back to the beach to meet up with everyone just as it started raining. Mike and I rinsed off and joined everyone and then Jimmy let us know that lunch wasn’t starting for another half an hour and that we should go sit on the beach.

We felt a bit like captives, getting cross information from our guide. The day before I was looking at google maps and noticed we were off-course on our trip to hoi an only to be told that Jimmy was taking a ‘shortcut’. When we got off the boat he told us to join for lunch and then once we had cleaned up he said that we had to sit on the beach.

So, we sat on the beach in off and on drizzle and bought a couple of beers and some mango until lunch was ready. It was another huge meal and I was pretty stuffed.  Jimmy then let us know our boat wouldn’t be back for another hour and we should go sit on the beach again…in the drizzle again.  It’s probably obvious that I was less-than-amused at this point.  Jason said he felt like Jimmy kept trapping us places.

Our boat finally came back and we all piled on for a bit of a bumpy ride back.  Our next stop was the Monkey Mountain!  We drove over with all the fruits from our rooms in Hoi An to give to the monkeys, but it wasn’t enough!  The monkeys were shy at first, but once Jimmy threw a few bananas near them, they came down the edge of the slope into the nearby trees.

Shortly after we got there, about four little doggies came up to check out what we were doing.  Jimmy mentioned the dogs are the “police” keeping the monkeys in the trees and away from the offerings and statues. It turns out, right behind where we were checking the monkeys out there’s a lovely monastery that you can wander.  

My favorite bonsai, complete with corgi-esque cuteness who heroically save the monastery and its offerings from the monkeys 😉

And wander we did.  It was a bit rushed as Jimmy had an agenda and was trying to keep us all together, but it was so beautiful and interesting to explore.  There were also great views of Da Nang, making us excited to check out the city and our hotel.

We arrived at the hotel to check in and Trang, Jade’s mom, gave Jimmy and the driver the night off as they were in their home town.  We all got changed again and headed up to the pool to relax and catch the sun set.  The pool bar was also offering happy hour with two for one drinks which we took full advantage of.

Jade, Mike and I even had a race in the pool that Jason officiated and posted to his snapchat story for posterity as we looked rediculous. We had a family dinner across the street and then came back to our rooms to sleep.

This place reminded me of a communist Miami Beach

Current Location: Hoi An to Da Nang

Cost of Coffee: included with breakfast

Miles Traveled: 30 

Number of Dogs Seen / Dog of the Day: The cutest monastery doggos!!!

Mood Emoji:

They Daily – 9/21

Word of the Day: Transit

Notable / Highlight of the Day: we packed up, said our goodbyes to our beautiful resort and piled in the van. Our next stop, Hoi An, was five to six hours away. 

We stopped quickly at the twin towers for a short photo shoot before getting on the road. And then we drove and drove, coming to a town after about three hours for lunch. The restaurant was all open air, but had little air conditioned rooms. It was probably my worst bathroom experience so far, and mainly only because the bathroom didn’t have toilet paper, much light, or air conditioning. I would have given anything for this bathroom while camping over the summer.  

We were all very excited for Hoi An, but tired, so everyone napped off and on throughout the ride. We turned onto a very major road, but since the city was repacing, we enjoyed the bumpy, dusty authentic feeling dirt road. 

We stayed at the edge of Hoi An in a beautiful hotel with an alley full of lanterns. Mine and Jason’s room overlooked the city, while everyone else had windows full of lanterns in the back. 

We decided to walk into town instead of taking the shuttle. Our first stop was the Japanese bridge. Group map reading skills were a bit of a struggle to start, but we soon made our way into the ancient city and were awed by the beautiful lanters everywhere. 

Normally about here I’d tell you to just look at the photos, but they all came out like shit so you’ll have to google images of Hoi An instead, it’s magical. But like every great gem of a city, it was full of tourists and souvenir shops. 

It was really really pretty though and felt like a fairy tale. I’m so glad we went but I don’t think I need to go back, unless I missed something? 

We ate dinner in an outdoor courtyard with a little pond fulls of frogs serenading us.  Afterwards, we wandered the night market and made our way back to the hotel. We let mike walk about 10 feet ahead of us to watch him get attacked by all sorts of offers. 

Jade, Mike, and I went for a late swim and I called it a night after watching the Japanese girls swim with life preservers and float rings!

Current Location: Quy Nhon to Hoi An

Cost of Coffee: 0

Mood Emoji: 🏮🏮🏮🏮🏮

The Daily – 9/20

Word of the Day: Moving

Notable / Highlight of the Day: Woof, early flight means early start means early packing, means early shower, means foggy brain!

See you next week, Saigon!

Off to the airport we went, with Mike and I instantly outing the Nguyen family as foreigners. As we waited to check our bags, the family in front of us let their toddler relieve his bladder on the floor. Everyone, including the ticket agents, was confused and horrified. Thank goodness they had someone clean it up as we were checking in, but we had to dance around it for a few minutes. 

Going through security the agents were really friendly to me. I didn’t realize who until I looked down and saw my shirt was very low…at least now I know how to sneak through security without issue.  Once through, we got some food and waited for our flight. Everyone got something different: Burger King, Panda Express, and Pho. 

The flight was an easy 50 minutes and Jason and I talked about his Cuba trip nearly the entire time. When we stepped off the airplane we were hit with a wall of humidity and heat. 

We collected our bags, were cleared through and found our tour guide, Jimmy. We piled into our blistfully airconditioned van and headed to Qui Nhon. 

Our first stop was Khu Du Lich Ghenh Rang, the gravesite of a Vietnamese poet. Our tour guide asked us five minutes into the uphill walk if we needed to take a break. We all chuckled and kept going up the underwhelming gravesite. 

Our tour guide instructed ‘you take picture now.’  We ignored the direction, and then he explained the gravesite was of a very famous poet/leper who died in the 1940’s. The city had in recent years built a monument for him, exhumed his body, moved his gravesite into the monument for tourists where he lays today. My feeling is that if you have the opportunity to go,you should instead let the man rest in peace. 

Right around the corner though, there was a really fun rocky outcropping that overlooked downtown Quy Nhon and was fun to scramble around. And this was also where I was introduced to Jackie’s drone!  He has a drone with a camera mounted to it and can control it with his phone. It takes amazing shots and videos of areas, I’m so excited to see the final result from this trip!

Afterwards, we headed to a little fishing village for lunch and to canoe out to an island. Lunch was tasty except the jelly fish, which was flavorless and was possibly the worst texture. My motto of you don’t have to like it but you do have to try it failed me. Never.Ever.Again. 

We hung out in hammocks, explored the area, napped and read until our 2pm canoe advenure. Except, it wasn’t a canoe, it was a motor boat. Something had been lost in translation. And the boat dropped us on the island and went away. We swam and played in the water for about and hour then and Jackie and I snuck onto the boarded up boardwalk and discovered a very fancy 1/2 built house tucked into the cove. There was even an old backhoe, sitting and rusting on the beach. 

We waited for our boat to arrive back and were eager to head to our resort as it had already been a long day, but first our guide wanted to take us to ‘the windy place.’  After getting lost in a small village, we called off the windy place and told him to please take us to our hotel. He prosed to take us to the windy place first thing the next morning.

We got a little tirned around in the resorts massive maze, but found our way and instantly regretted our little island adventure. Jimmy told is they’d be back in 30 minute to drive us to dinner, which was 45 minutes away….we convinced Trang to cancel dinner so we could enjoy an evening at one of the loveliest resorts I’ve ever been to. The beach was gorgeous, the pool was stunning, and the facilities were abundant. 

We enjoyed a commical dinner after getting some griping out and then snuggled in our amazing soft beds with the most amazing pillows I’ve ever slept on. Seriously, best pillows ever. 

Current Location: Saigon to Quy Nhon. 

Cost of Coffee: none

Miles Traveled: 400

People Met: Jimmy, our somewhat fumbling tourguide who is still learning to read groups and our bus driver

Mood Emoji: 🛫🛬🚐🏝🎯