EVERY HOUR IS HAPPY HOUR IN SAIGON
Every hour is happy hour in Saigon. In the middle of Ho Chi Minh City is the Saigon Brewery, and I found this great bar right across the street, on the corner. We had some chicken wings, peanuts, rice crackers, and hard-boiled quail eggs. Quail egg!! You gotta try that! Yang and Son were fun to drink with, and I was the ONLY female and non-Vietnamese in the place. Great hosts, and we had a great time…. 6 jugs of beer and snacks were only about $20 TOTAL at this local, friendly hangout!!
HAPPY SINGLE LADY
We met this lovely 85 yr old lady in her home in Da Nang, and she welcomed us into her home for tea, bananas, and jack fruit, and a chat. I asked her what makes her the most happy in her life and was surprised at her answer. These are the things that happen that you never expect, but part of the excitement of meeting the local people along the way.
HANOI & HOI AN MORNING ADVENTURES
Each morning, by the lake in Hanoi, people of all ages come to stretch, work out, dance, and catch up with each other. In the cool of the early morning, you will see people playing badminton, massaging each other, and enjoying their morning ritual with the community. It’s such a peaceful, reflective time, and it shows how this town has such a great sense of community and peace.
HALONG BAY TO SAIGON
I wake up to the sun shining in my small yet comfortable and air-conditioned cabin on a ‘junk’, which is the word for an old sailing ship that they’ve converted to a 10-room ship for tourists to enjoy the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay. The bay is peaceful and full of tall limestone rock formations, and we navigated the Pearl Dragon through the rocks. There are fishermen all around us enjoying the plentiful waters, so they can make their living selling these fish to the villagers and local communities.
Today we visited a man named Mr. Viet in a small village. He invited all 8 of us into his home, played music for us, and served us his homemade rice wine, and hot tea, accompanied by fresh fruit. His wife helps earn money for the home by making rice paper that’s used for spring rolls, and she has to make 100 rice papers to sell to restaurants for about $5 USD. I made a few today, and it’s hot and takes a long time, but that’s life here. They work hard and are very content with a simple life.
In Hanoi, I walked alone on the street to find a great bowl of pho. One can smell lime, broth, and noodle combinations that tempt you to stop along any of the many small restaurants on the streets to get some of this delicious soup. Some Vietnamese eat pho for 2-3 meals a day. I found the one place recommended by the hotel, and they don’t mess around and ‘dine’ like we do in the States. There’s a list of pho choices on each table, you point to one, and it’s there in under 3 minutes on the table, along with the fish sauce, fresh limes, red chili peppers, and a red spicy sauce. You eat… you leave. They turn those tables 3 times in 30 minutes. A bowl of handmade noodles, fresh beef, scallions, onions, and lime is under $2.
Walking on the streets at 10 pm is not a problem, no one bothers you, the streets are clean, and people are friendly when you smile and make contact. I came across a bar that said “cheap and cheerful,” so I went in for a local beer, which costs under $1, and met 2 European people who were staying at a hostel. We share stories of travel and talk about the differences between us; a Swedish person, a German, and an American. Traveling is such an incredible eye-opening education, and one is never the same if you’re open to all you can learn and absorb.
VIETNAM, 2ND TIME AROUND
It’s my 2nd time here in 10 years, and I’m excited about what has changed and what I will be seeing for the first time. On my journey, we passed through Korea en route to Hanoi, and I learned from the people sitting next to me about the country, how it’s split, and their opinions and way of life. Before even landing in Hanoi, I got an understanding of Korea, and I’d like to return someday soon to experience their culture for myself.
The ride to the hotel at night was peaceful, and the streets were all very clean. Even at 11:30 at night, there are teenagers all around various corners of buildings sitting on small stools, eating ‘street food’ and laughing together, sharing the light from one corner streetlight and one other floodlight that is shining above the woman cooking pho, or sweet noodle soup, or whatever delicious mixture she’s created. It’s safe here, and the streets are quiet, lined with scooters parked on the sidewalk in good order, showing that they care about cleanliness, they have a sense of pride for their city, and they work together.
7 ELEVEN GANGNAM STYLE SEOUL, KOREA
7 ELEVEN Pit stop in Seoul, Korea. I found out that Gangnam means the southern part of South Korea and that Gangnam is the home of PSY, the famous pop singer. Interesting to see the items in the aisles of Korea’s 7-Eleven.
You mean I booked an old traditional room, where you sleep on the floor and wear traditional Japanese robes?? Arriving by bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, I had to ask several friendly Japanese how to find my ryokan (traditional small hotel) and was greeted by the owner with a yukata, and slept on a tatami mat… It was December, so it was cold… but I felt very authentic. After my party time in wild Tokyo, a quiet stay in this ryokan and a visit to Nara was a peaceful change. People are so polite in Japan, but they LOVE to party!!
After landing in the small airport island of Male in the Maldives, I await my flight to the Hilton Rangali, a ‘hotel island’ in the Maldives, off the coast of Sri Lanka. The Maldives are a series of atolls of land, only approximately 80 of which are large enough to hold hotels on them. On to the dock walks a young guy with no shoes on and his shirt untucked, wearing a pilot’s shirt, and says, “You ready to go?” Am I ready to go? Where?? With YOU?? Are you sure you can fly that floating thing? Off to our seaplane, and we coast along the water and take off to soar over the crystal blue water, over the dots of islands and patches of land until we’re ready to land at the Hilton Rangali Dock… We’ve made it, and I’ve never seen anything like this place. The lobby has a sand floor, and we’re met with a tropical cocktail and cold towel. The rooms are over the water, and all have stairs that lead to the clearest warm water you’ve ever seen. This is paradise!!
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
In Papua New Guinea, I got to know the tribe called the Asmat. They are still very rich in their traditions and live with no running water or electricity. They live off of nature and use every part of the sago tree. The trunk is hollowed out and used for boats for travel across the rivers, the inside is made of tarot root and used to make a thick paste, which fills them up, and the worms that live in the sago tree are rich in protein. They have many different ceremonies and beliefs, and as we are here reading things on computers and can just walk to the fridge, they must hunt and prepare everything with no power… Amazing!