Sinh Chao from Vietnam!

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Hello everyone! We are still here in Vietnam and having a great time.
We spent a few nights (including Rob's birthday) at a beach called Mui
Ne. I tried to order a birthday cake for him for dessert... I even
went to the restaurant that afternoon so I could order the cake... and
maybe have them be discreet so it would be a surprise. No such thing
at the Giggling Girl Restaurant! The waitresses are teenage sisters
and they couldn't take your order without giggling. The whole time.
So, throw in a cute foreigner's birthday and they could hardly contain
themselves. Plus, one of them has the same birthday as Rob... so we
saved her a piece of banana pancake (which is what the cake turned out
to be).

After 4 days at the beach we headed up into the mountains to Dalat.
Atop the very summit is where Dalat sits and we expected it to be a
small little place considering the long drive and curvy cliffside
roads... but no! Dalat is a large university town and Honeymoon
Headquarters. Apparently, most Vietnamese people spend their honeymoon
in this random little place. It is VERY apparent when you go and check
out the sites there. At the waterfall you can dress up like Indians
(for a photo shoot) and in the Valley Of Love (no joke) you can sit or
stand in little heart shaped trees and benches (for a photo shoot).
You can even rent little swan paddleboats or get guided tours by
Vietnames men dressed as American cowboys!

Our next stop was Nha Trang, another beach town on the South China Sea,
where we signed up for a boat trip to the nearby islands. Usually when
you sign up for local tours they are filled with Europeans, Australians
and the occasional North American. Except this tour! There were about
30 Vietnamese people and 10 foreigners, although most of the Vietnamese
people were actually Americans visiting their former homeland. I
suppose they are former refugees. One Vietnamese-American guy (a casino
worker hailing from Iowa who visits every year) was there with his
extended family of 10 people.

The "captain" of our boat also played songs for us on his guitar - one
song for every nationality represented on the boat. The Americans got
This Land Is Your Land... a song I haven't heard since the 2nd grade!
He also concocted a little floating bar for "happy hour". His beverage
of choice was mulberry wine from Dalat; a very eclectic brew! The day
was one hilarity after another - at one place the wind and current were
so strong that when people jumped in that they couldn't swim back to
the boat! We had to throw out ropes and buoys to get everyone back.
There were shouts and laughs half in English and half in Vietnamese.
It was great!

Immediately after our voyage at sea, we propelled ourselves onto an
overnight bus to Hoi An, a town boasting over 200 tailored clothing
shops. How we left there without buying anything is miraculous! This
place had lots of atmosphere to it in a Chinese-y sort of way. The
market had so much going on that we just sat and people watched for
hours one day. Another day we rented a moto and drove out to the Cham
holyland. It’s like the mini Ankgor Wat of Vietnam... lots of
temples in ruin!

This morning we arrived in Hanoi. We booked a 3 day boat trip to the
Cat Ba Islands and Halong Bay; you have heard of these if you have ever
watched a National Geographic special on Vietnam. By the time we get
back in a few days our Laos and Burma visas should be ready – and
that’s where we will be headed next! I also have lots of Fun Facts
about Vietnam to share, but I’ll save those for the next installment.

Love, Alison

PS. Happy 30th, Laura!
PPS. For those of you who asked – they speak Vietnamese in Vietnam,
not French. Lots of the older generation does speak French as well,
but anyone under 30 usually knows at least some English if they live in
a city.


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