Monday, January 29, 2007

Ho Chi Minh

I went to one of the big markets on Saturday and bargained my way into buying a dry-fit shirt. I used it that evening to play some ultimate - and as Christina can attest, dry fit is amazing! And it feels even better at a discount price. I threw around with Tuyet, who did an excellent job at catching and improved her forehand. We then played a game of hot box as we waited for our field to free up. We did 6 on 6 hot box which was probably the largest I've ever played. It was a lot of fun and shocking when Tuyet and I collided as we each went for the disc. It all happened in a flash but I basically ended up on the ground and felt like Tuyet somersaulted over me. At another point I ended up marking Aaron (sp?) who is quite tall. As much as I can play smart and cut or keep up defensively, when a 6 ft tall guy stands in the box with his hands up to receive there isn't much I can do about it. It's like a midget guarding Yao Ming. After a while we got onto the field and played 9 on 9 ultimate. This was a lot of fun, but a reminder to how out of shape I am as I tried to run a full field length. Tiring. The Saigon Ultimate team has come a long way since I saw them last December - there were a lot of friendly folks and I'm hoping I can meet up with them for tomorrow's practice.

Tino and Anne, at Le PubAfterwards, Tuyet and I had dinner and then met a bunch of ex-pats at Le Pub. I enjoyed some mango juice and pina coladas before everyone decided to go (gasp) dancing! Not my favorite activity, but I went along anyways and ended up having a good time. It's not the same without Fred, my favorite dance partner. He has a habit of letting loose and dancing without being self conscious that it rubs off on me. Plus combined with good music. We were on a floor devoted to hip hop but only about half the songs sounded good. Later another Wellesley alum showed up. We took a picture of us 3 sitting together and are wondering if it will make it into the alum magazine (imagine a non-wedding photo!).

We stayed up quite late doing travel research, which is why we ended up incredibly tired on Sunday for our day tour to the Cu Chi tunnels and the Cao Dai temple. We slept every leg of the bus ride. Our guide displayed his first signs of oddity as he introduced himself and highlighted the importance of peeing at the available stops. He told a 5 minute story about a previous customer who had to make multiple emergency stops, delaying the trip home, and having to fight off local children who were in awe of seeing a foreigner and not letting her pee. Luckily he returned to normalcy and told us some history about the Cao Dai religion. Before seeing the colorful temple laiden with left eyes and animal symbols, we stopped at a handicapped handicraft center, where the process of mother of pearl lacquerware and egg shell designs was explained and displayed in process. There was table after table of workers each doing their part in creating the art pieces. At the end there was a shop with additional items for sale. I noted the price of one carved wooden box at 176000 dong, which I had seen the previous day for 32000 dong at a high priced market. One would hope the extra money would go directly to the handicapped (victims of the war) but being a jaded tourist, I could only think it went mostly to the business owner. We left empty handed.

Lunch was highly disappointing. I complained enough to Tuyet that I won't repeat it here - suffice it to say you should pack your own lunch if you take a bus tour, considering how delicious most vietnamese food is. The highlight was seeing a local standing just outside the restaurant wearing a bright red sweatshirt with some english on it. You often wonder whether people know what their clothing says.

Afterwards we got to the Cu Chi tunnels, where communist fighters and townspeople had hid during war time. Before entering the wooded area we watched a video about the history - which felt awkward as the narrator continuously blasted Americans fas heartless killers. (This article has some of the more memorable quotes.) I first thought it ridiculous that the tunnels had been doubled in size for tourism's sake. After making my way through, I thought less so, as it was quite a struggle as it was (and even more so for the larger in our company) and gave an idea of just how amazing it all must have been at just half the size. There were displays on different traps and weaponry, as well as a sample kitchen and dining area (where they fed us tapioca with a peanut dipping sauce). There was one entrance into the tunnels left at original size. When we got there, there was a large man stuck in it who needed help out. Tuyet and I fit in easily though. We also fired a rifle - my first time shooting a gun. It was incredibly loud, and Tuyet hurt her shoulder from the recoil. I shot 2 bullets at once mistakenly (supposedly 3, but I think someone else must have done the same).

On the bus ride back, our tour guide gave us a historical count of Vietnam's time in war since the 1400's, including his own time fighting with the Americans, and then later going through re-education camp once the Communists had won. He had a good half hour's worth of information. Unfortunately he stepped back into strangeness when he shared that Vietnamese also watch "movies his boss wouldn't let him describe to us" and then proceeded to pant heavily into the microphone.

Tuyet and I were happy to get off the bus and to a Vietnamese BBQ restaurant (the best in town). We enjoyed a salad on shrimp chips, some beef with cheese, and then I cringed as they brought a plate of live skewered shrimp - the legs were still moving. I am 3 steps closer to becoming vegetarian. I watched them cook alive in front of me and probably overcooked a few because it always looked like they were still twitching. I tried 2 but made Tuyet eat the rest. Besides fish, I prefer my meat to look unrecognizable and not alive or skinned in front of me. Now that I like tofu and have learned some indian cooking, I think I will start leaning heavily towards vegetarianism whenever I get back to normal life (while traveling I like to open myself to all foods).

Today I slept in later than Tuyet (previously I had been waking up with the sun before 6 am) and got breakfast with her in the market around the corner. We also grabbed another dish I hadn't tried yet, and then she went to work (RMIT) for the last time (having quit and just needing to submit grades and clean out her desk). While she was there, I spent my time cleaning up and then walking through town (from district 3 to district 1) and then researching more for our future travel.

Once Tuyet met up with me, we grabbed lunch - I got some heavenly tasting fresh spring rolls and a surprisingly delicious mango salad (I was expecting ripe but it came green) and tried one of Tuyet's lotus flower appetizers. She enjoyed her comfort food on her own, eggs with rice.

We continued our travel planning and bought our ticket to Da Nang. We leave tomorrow night, so I will probably be out of contact until getting to Bangkok (Fri, Feb 9). I've decided to play in a hat tournament and am looking forward to seeing Angie and Tucker.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Hey Cuz, just a note to say hi. Seems like you're having a ball traveling, if not enjoying any meals...

Greetings from freezing Colorado!