Friday, April 23, 2010

April 18-21

Perhaps because my last trip allowed for weeks at a time to absorb a city, this 5 day tour of Vietnam seemed like a whirlwind. First of all, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is as developed as Seoul, as it seemed to us. The streets are incredibly clean, there are gorgeous buildings boh new and old. Despite it's socialist roots, Vietnam seems to be hurling itself at the market economy with breakneck speed. The streets are
completely dominated by endless throngs of motorbikes, some carrying entire families. Much like India, there is little regard for traffic signals, but the lack of errant bovine makes the ride a little more predictable, I'd assume. Walking around the city streets at night felt a little like New York City in the peak of summer. Much like in India, life happens on the street, from gambling to gossiping to slurping up their famous Pho soup on mini plastic stools.

Up north in UNESCO Heratage City of Hoi An, the unyielding temperature had us stopping for a zesty beverage about every hour or so. John got some shirts made at one of the tailoring shops. Hoi An mirrored a phenomenon I noticed in India: in each town, there are only three or four different kinds of souvenirs to buy, and every single shop carries them. In Hoi An, literally every third shop was a tailor with the exact same clothing in the display. Same fabric, same samples. So after a few blocks, the average shopper gets either gets bored, or is able to bargain down a new wardrobe to practically nothing. It seems the locals would be better served by adding some variety. Say a basket shop or something. To carry home all the newly sewn clothes. While hoi an was lovely and picturesque, it did appear to be expressly created for tourists.  

After we could take no more shopping we drove off to explore the marble mountains, these three lumps of marble jutting out of a flat expanse of nothingness. From the peak there is a lovely view of China beach. The hike to the top (more likely the raging heat) almost put me in a bad mood, but the Giant cave inside was one of the most serene and awe inspiring places I've been. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hoi An

Greetings from hoi an! Located half the way up the Vietnam coast from Ho Chi minh city. We were in HCM city for half the day yesterday and it was smolderingly hot. We stayed at the historic Majestic Hotel on the river. Last night we arrived  at our gorgeous hotel, on recommendation fro Lu and Tracey. The lush grounds sweep around a beautiful pool and line the oceanside. Every hotel here offers complementary breakfast buffet. The tropical fruits! The cheeses! The pastries! If there is anything good (anything at all) that can come out of Frech colonization it's a tradition of delicious breads and pastries. 

I have to say, though, that as we are swept down the absolutely crazy streets in our air conditioned SUV, dodging oncoming mo-peds, I keep looking longingly at the congregating locals on the side of the road. Backpacking on my previous trip, I seemed to be traveling in a different dimension. John and I are both looking for a little more "authentic" Vietnam and hopefully we'll find it in the historic city of Hoi An today! Get this, you can even work for a day at a local farm, and as excited as I was about his, John did not really consider that to be good use of our limited vacation time. I'm going to try to convince him to rent bikes today, but the madness of he mo-ped circus has him a little nervous. I say, if you want to live like the locals, you gotta be closer to the ground.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Away we go!

That's right kids, it's adventure time again! Vietnam & Cambodia, here we come. I'll be blogging along the way so stay tuned...