China, Vietnam · 21 Days · 122 Moments · November 2017

Kali & David in Vietnam Nov 1-24th, 2017

23 November 2017

Finally home! Adorable ballerinas at the airport waiting area in HCMC; scary looking dude from Quarantine Service in a hazmat suit. When it was announced that we were to stay seated due to an inspection by the quarantine people, a number of passengers jumped up to hustle down the aisle. They probably guessed the plane was to be quarantined and wanted off. Forbidding security fencing in Shanghai airport. The rectangular things are sandwiches from the China Eastern Airline - I nominate these for Best Portrayal of Airline Food. And walking off the plane at Terminal 3!
Final moments in Hoi An then it’s goodbye and car ride to Da Nang airport.
More photos!
My version of the same last morning. We are taking a cab at 3pm for Da Nang. We are lucky, no rain!
Last morning in Hoi An. Some sights along the road. Lunch at the little restaurant way down the alley. When we left the homestay it was drizzling and then on and off rain. No rain in the last hour, maybe we’ll be lucky and it will hold until we leave for Da Nang.

22 November 2017

For a brief moment there was a let up in the rain but then it started back in earnest. Stopped in to the Silk Village - if you want the tour you need to buy a ticket even if you buy products from the store. The motorbikes keep moving with no issues other than putting on rain ponchos. Most ponchos are cheap thin plastic that will last a few rides at most. For a country that has a distinct rain season, why isn’t there a good rain gear shop? The tourists would be all over that.
New fashion accessories for David....

21 November 2017

It’s the last full day in Hoi An. On our first day there wasn’t any rain. On the second day it started after midnight and kept raining until early evening. Today it was a bright and sunny morning and by eleven the rain had started. We donned the rain gear and set off for the Silk Village. To be clear, the gateway and the deities are from something before the silk place.
Earlier in the day we had lunch at Vy’s Market and after a full day of wandering we found ourselves again at the same place. This was after doing the Cho Dem (night market) circuit and passing all the rice pancakes and banana crepes. A fortunate discovery, they have a buffet so you can go around the whole place and sample everything. This was such a good idea. Of particular note was a soup that was a tamarind and lime leaf broth. So good!
Old Hoi An city is full of ancient interest & charm. Here is the cute Buddha series....
There’s temples, historic buildings, museums, all requiring a ticket to get in. Hoi An is a world heritage site; it’s certainly not clear what draws the tourists more, the heritage aspect or the shopping. A lot of groups parade through on guided tours. Our homestay host, Nicola, says five years ago there was only a handful of tourist shops, it’s exploded since then. Compared to Da Nang, this is a small town. But in this town you can get a variety of custom made things, from shoes, bags, tailored suits and garments to jewelry. In some shops you can see the weaving fabrics and mats. You design it, they will make it. That photo of the woman with a lot of leaves is the food for silkworms, mulberry leaves. They spin silk and weave fabric for tailored clothing. I don’t know if they really weave silk here but say they do.
Did I mention there’s a lot of tourists here? Selfies galore! Unusual sale item, a bamboo bicycle that sells for $350-700 US. We don’t know what those reddish gourd like things are. One thing of note is that everything is negotiable. Even the fruit! As tourists they will give you an inflated price that’s 3 to 4 times what the final price will be, unless you haggle.
Soggy weather does not deter us. We head out with ponchos and a teeny umbrella. I’m not sure why the guy is bailing water in the rain. Then we go looking for lunch - we pass the first two places and Kali is drawn to this place that turns out to be both restaurant and cooking school. Best banh mi sandwiches yet. My tofu one uses a rolled tofu skin. Mmmm! There’s a really large vegetarian menu.

20 November 2017

Ah what to say...yawning, nap anywhere, any time. The Buddha in this one has a neon light display for halo-effects!
More photos as we walk. There are a lot of tourists! Note the photo of the three dudes - are these some reference to the three wise men and if it is, that’s kind of odd.
The Davo in Hoi An short series....
From our homestay it’s a short walk to the downtown and the old section of town. It seems like you’re walking on small town streets until you start to get to the old section and then it’s a lot of criss-crossing of Tourist shops, a lot of them! There is a charm to the area even with the heavy commerce.
First impressions of Hoi An. Once we get to the old city, our minds are blown - holding you in suspense....
Goodbye Da Nang - hello Hoi An! I for one am happy to leave Da Nang. I don’t know why anyone comes here unless it’s for business reasons or a jumping point to somewhere else. There are far too many hotels and resorts, probably for hanging around the beach. And that would be it - lying on the sand and soak in the grey clouds. The drive to Hoi An is about 45 to 55 minutes. The homestay place is off the main road - our host is Italian and has been here for 8 years. Nicola speaks English, Vietnamese, French and of course, Italian. We are off to explore the town!

19 November 2017

More beach strolling - the rain is very light. The benches with the odd ceiling over is a mud spa place. When we check reviews online, the majority opinion is particularly negative, one goes as far as to say the place should be demolished! A coffee and pee stop gets us to a spot that has 3 vintage scooters - nice!
We went in search of beach. There is a 20 kilometre stretch of beach in Da Nang and we were determined to walk to it, the rain forecast not withstanding. It was about a 45 minute walk away. The road we were on was chock full of hotels on either side, how they survive with so many places packed together is a mystery. The wind was blowing at a nice clip so the air was cool. A lot of rolling waves; Kali says it’s not good for swimming. Nothing outstanding to say about the beach; it looks like a lot of beaches in other parts of the world. The best dish for our lunch was the salad. That’s me squeezing the famous Lady Buddha statue; I had no idea there was a ‘lady’ Buddha, this will require some research. There are quite a few pigeon condos in one area.

18 November 2017

Just walking around in Da Nẵng - what’s interesting when you do a search online for things to do and see in Da Nẵng, most of them are about places away from the city. The top things cited are the Fine Arts Museum, the Han Market, the Dragon Bridge and not much else. We’re going to keep trying tomorrow.
Walking the 1st day in Da Nẵng and happen upon an Art Cafe. Of course!
Took a right turn from the house this time. As we walked along there’s a yoga studio called Nadi Yoga. After a brief chat with a teacher we tell her we’ll come back for the evening class. Stopped for lunch at Art Cafe and Hotel. Then strolled up the big street from the bridge over the Han River. It’s cooler because of a light breeze so it’s not as humid.

17 November 2017

Left the apartment and went walking towards the older part of town; we’re looking for a place called Cho Han. We take a side trip to this giant mall and it doesn’t disappoint, they all look the same. Sunset happens as we cross the bridge. Dinner is at a tourist-centric restaurant and it’s really quite fine, I particularly like the parmesan polenta fries. Crossing back we peer down to see an amusement area for kids - it’s the first we’ve seen in Vietnam. I should mention that it seems fresher here in Da Nang; there isn’t the pronounced smell of exhaust and it feels a little cooler. We’ll see if that holds true tomorrow in the day.
Our flight is 2:25pm so we thought if we got there before 1pm we should be fine, it’s a domestic flight. When we finally get to the check-in we find out our flight has been cancelled and we are booked for an earlier flight leaving at 1:45. Seems like a good idea but unfortunately we need to go through security and the lineups are enormous - Kali quickly got us to a different check-in for last minute boarding. If we had arrived with only one hour of wait time we would have missed it. It ends well, we board, we fly, we land, we get a Grab taxi and finally get to our place. That pool is on the rooftop of the place we’re staying in - we’ll check that out later! Just before leaving we walked around - don’t know what these vegetables are and find the rare tofu vendor. One other note, the guy at the Airport Saigon Hotel called a Grab taxi for us instead of whatever the hotel usually calls, nice gesture!
Last day in HCMC. Our flight to Da Nang leaves at 2:30. Something about these pics - the beauty and toil that goes with accomplishment. I am in awe of the spirit of the Vietnamese peoples! Ps. That guy is painting the wall, with a roller... Ps. Those flowers are real! On another note, we are in district 11, and I say to David “we are the only white people here.” He laughs, “speak for yourself.”
A last stroll out on the streets - you forget how humid and hot it is in HCMC. At the corner is a shoe repair man and it happens that I need my sandal fixed. A metal ring broke on a new sandal and he has no problems fixing it, we didn’t ask him to replace the one on the unbroken one, he just replaced it so it would match. He charged the equivalent of $.50 and wouldn’t take extra money. The flowers are not real, go figure. Another fat Buddha, man up high painting a whole wall with a roller, giant pomelos that we don’t get in TO and a fitness gym. The signage shows white people body builders - another example of western culture that is so out of place here. We did go see a movie but in this big place there are only two movies, one Hollywood import and one made here. It was 3-d with moving seats and water sprayed in your face at key moments. The 3-d effect was good but all the other stuff was really cheesy.

16 November 2017

Cham village. They are allowed up to 4 wives - what a deal!
Back to the boat and then back to the car for the return to HCMC. Driving back we need to cross by ferry. There’s a lot of waiting time to get on the ferry and several vendors approach to sell us things. In one photo you see a woman on a scooter driving with one hand and the other hand is holding a plate of food for delivery - we saw that a lot in HCMC. The round ball is a puffed up rice ball mostly air with a sticky rice at the bottom. It takes 6 to 7 hours to get back to HCMC even though it’s only 300 km - average driving speed is about 50 to 60 kmh and slower when there’s congestion. Finally the hotel - really inexpensive for one night, $29 US!
After a short boat ride we cross a footbridge to a Cham village. They are an ethnic minority that is Islamic. The houses are all on stilts to deal with the changing water levels in the seasons. One of the photos shows our guide pointing to a post marked with the yearly high water mark. Apparently since the Chinese dammed the river farther up the Mekong, the water levels have fallen drastically. You would think that would be a good thing but it also affected the richness of the soil. We didn’t have proper clothing on to go into the mosque. That odd spider-like tangle of pipes is the cold water supply to the stilt houses.
Just love this photo
These are all fish farms!
Last day of our Mekong trip - we go to the Cham village - Muslim - along the way we stop to visit small fish farms.
We are going to a fish farm operation. It’s not what we know - they are small privately owned little buildings on the water and directly under the floating structure is the farm. They make the feed themselves and feed them little pellets. When they’ve grown to a certain size a buyer comes in and takes it all away.
Breakfast at 7! Eggs sunny side up and a salted duck egg as well. The baguettes are really good. We are leaving the Châu Pho for our last day of the Mekong Delta tour.

15 November 2017

Another random walk in the frontier town which leads up to fresh food!
After the bike trip, we hop in the car 🚗 and drive another 65km along the river to the Cambodian border. 2nd hotel, Chau Pho is pretty shmancy.
On Tiger Island there’s a ‘tomb’ for a famous tiger. The monk tells us that years ago a couple came upon a tiger cub struggling in the river and rescued it. They raised this ‘white’ tiger and after they got old and passed away the tiger would come and leave a food offering on the anniversary of their deaths. The female deity is the Goddess of Mercy. I’m relieved there’s no fat Buddha. After checking into the Châu Pho Hotel we take a stroll to look for a dinner place. Yumm!
After lunch we hop on bikes and go to Tiger island with our guide and another local. More than 3 incredible hours of going through villages - all the kids yell “hello”. We learned about incense making; visited a carpentry shop where they are all volunteers who make things for poor people; went to the Tiger’s pagoda and had tea with the monk who takes care of the place. He told us stories. Then we bike through tiny lanes linking rice paddies. Everyone bathes in the river. Not so sure about that!
On our bike ride we stop at a woodwork shop where volunteers make things for people who can’t afford to buy the items. Things like dressers, beds, coffins, and such. A little further on there’s an incense operation - things have gotten faster since they bought a machine that compresses the incense onto the sticks. I can’t imagine how it would have been done by hand! These are not the fragrant ones we are used to. They are burned at altars and during ceremonies. A note on the bicycles: we are riding single speed pseudo clunker bikes and yet as we ride we go quickly by the sights I think of the cycling groups that we have seen and wonder how they can see Vietnam when they are keeping to a tight schedule. They are also on fancy touring bikes, whizzing by at a much faster clip than we were.
Here’s more photos from the crocodile farm and the ferry to Tiger Island. We were wondering why the crocodiles all piled up on each other when they napped.
Okay BEST day ever! We go to a noodle making place (David will post pics shortly), then we went to a crocodile farm. Apparently ALL crocs in the Mekong Delta are extinct - only the farmed crocodiles live on -until they become bags or dinner. I admit it - I couldn’t eat the mouse or frog, but did try the grilled crocodile - I would have guessed pork.
The fruit garden where we see guava, papaya, pomelo, jack fruit, pineapple, banana - that’s the short list. Then we walk through the little ‘restaurant’ and there is a guy grilling frog and mouse! Exhale, they live in the rice fields.
Here’s the final packaged noodles - I think they make a version with eggs. More photos from the fruit garden and riding back on the river.
Amazing process of making rice noodles! The ‘dough’ is made in a mixer, it’s more like a pancake consistency and then ladled onto a cloth surface much like making crepes. A tubular woven device is used to roll it off once they’re cooked. Then it’s transferred to woven mats to cool and dry. Once dried they get fed into a cutter and then packaged. Tada! Noodles!
After a 45 kilometre ride we get in a boat to go to the floating market. There’s two kinds of selling and buying here. For the tourists you could get a breakfast prepared for you complete with hot tea and probably coffee. Or you could buy cold drinks and various fruit. The other commerce happens when the small boat vendors buy from the wholesalers. Most of the activity happens in the morning. As we pass through we see boats that people live in and housing by the river edge.
Random shots as we go down the river to the floating market. The women are colourful and even the old people are agile and full of life.

14 November 2017

We were so stuffed from lunch so dinner just didn’t seem like a good idea. Can Tho seems like a mini version of HCMC only not so congested and polluted. The Night Market is small with distinctly cheap tourist goods. There’s a snack they make using a round rice paper topped with fried dried onions and a pinch of dried shrimp then a quail egg is mixed in it and it’s cooked over charcoal and then folded over - mmm good! On checking out of Ninh Kieu 2, they wanted to charge us for the bottled water from the fridge. They give you 2 free ones when you check in but we had not used those. Rule no. 1 in hotels, you always pay for what comes out of the minibar. I forgot to add that they drizzle a mayo and a chili sauce over the rounds after grilling.
More pics from our Mekong Delta trip. We go from the bigger boat to a little one that can get through the estuaries. Today we went to Ben Tre, and Can Tho, where we are staying in the 4 **** hotel that runs $50ish a night.
A quick trip to another boat. I love these vehicles that are motorcycle front ends with a small flatbed backend. Our guide tells us that the best ones are the old Italian ones made by Lambretta - the government banned the importation of them and the Chinese stepped in with their cheaper versions. The boat we are on is similar to the gondolas from Venice, just a lot plainer.
I have no idea what that fruit is in the first and second photo. In the next is a comparison of oranges and pomelo. The oranges are green on the outside and very orange on the inside. We have lunch and are visited by this little dog. Aloe grows wild and the big leaf plant is papaya.
Going up a branch of the Mekong, stopping off to a mat weaving place. Along the way there’s a stand for cacao that apparently is grown in Vietnam. Who knew? Have you ever had a guava? They’re farmed here and grow wild. I liked drinking the juice when I was a kid but I’m discovering that it’s really not that good as fruit. The fruits are sometimes eaten before they are ripe - they give you a packet of salt and chili to eat with the fruit; I didn’t find it helped with the taste.
Coconut processing plant! From the fibrous outer shell that’s used for mats and cleaning products to the coconut water, the shredded coconut is used for the candy and possibly soap. The liquid from the mature coconut is boiled with sugar cane juice, either mixed with padan leaf for colour or not, formed into long strips and then cut into small bite sized pieces. It was very tasty!
Okay here are the brick place photos. The kilns are interesting and are quite large. They use rice husks for fuel to do the firing. There’s a contraption used to form the bricks, a different mould for each kind of brick. Then they air dry them in stacks before the firing - super labour intensive.
We say goodbye to our place in HCMC as we get set to head off for the Mekong Delta. Our driver and guide take us to a pee stop at a hotel and then we get into a long boat. This is out in the country side near Ben Tre. First up is a brick making place - the standard brick has vents in it.

13 November 2017

Christmas in a Buddhist country; everyone loves Santa 🎅
Why is it that stores that are found in malls of different cities/countries look exactly the same? The obvious answer of course is the strict adherence to the ‘brand’. Make the client feel reassured by familiarity and loyalty follows. Is there a brand that’s identified enough to step outside the box and present a more novel experience? The first photo shows a baker making these odd sponge cake tubes which will be cut into rounds and then frosted. After our massage (same place as last time - heaven!) we stopped in for a coffee and tried the frozen yogurt, mmm!
Getting a Grab taxi is pretty much impossible in this downpour. We wait for one but after a while he cancels and the second one seems to be far away. The kind store clerk gets the parking guys to hail us a cab to Saigon Square. Because of the rain we need to be inside. It’s sort of like Ben Thanh without the high pressure selling. Across the street is Takashimaya, a Japanese department store. Sushi in the basement food area.
The rain is a deluge! We are safely out of the rain in a phone/tablet/laptop store. A guy was washing down a scooter just before the rain hit. All the bikers have rain ponchos and continue riding. Some drivers park and take shelter but most keep driving.
Temples! We pop into two of them - the front of the spaces are scooter parking lots. The second photo leads me to believe this temple is for female deities. The gold figure is the first not-fat Buddha.
Red dragonfruit! We only get the white ones in TO so we buy one to eat later. The cost for the big .75 kilo one is .70 cents! A bag of longans at 1 kilo is $1! There’s a vendor selling fish but one pan looks like larvae - she tries to move it away when I try to take a picture.
We next wander in to a market, where vendors are packing up already - they must have been here since early morning. David buys a dragon fruit that is purple inside. Snack for later. We buy a bag of longans that we munch on the way.
Next we wander in to a coffee shop where we have breakfast - $6; cheaper than 2 coffees back home. Minutes later, the place is full- clearly a local favourite. Orlan, that orchid is REAL. Booyah!
Last day in HCMC. We decide to wander, and just happened on a place that has YOGA. Class is at 7:30 tonight.
Our last holiday day in HCMC. The food place downstairs has a very curious dish pictured on the wall. Across the way is a food shop that always has a lineup; Kali speculates it’s sort of ‘soup kitchen’ like because the menu lists a single 2,000 dong for meals, that’s $1.15 CDN. For tourists, crossing the street is a challenge - you need to go slow and step into the flow. As long as they see you they will swerve to avoid you. It made me wonder how a blind person would navigate the street. Just then a blind man starts to walk across and as he crosses he blows on a loud whistle as warning.

12 November 2017

Last night we end up in a Korean, all-you-can-eat BBQ ($13 pp). An experience for sure. Music blaring while you eat. I am the only white person in the restaurant.
Some night time photos and others as we wander around. It’s Sunday and earlier in the day there seemed to be fewer scooters on the road; not that they weren’t there, the enormous mass of them seemed reduced. We came across these Japanese stores that had products like an upscale Dollarama. That reference sort of cheapens it but it’s the pricing that’s interesting. Good products, low prices. We could do with one in TO. I don’t have a photo of the store - the FAKE reference in the pic is for a beauty products place carrying Korean made goods.
On the way back to Ben Thạnh market for a few more treasures. Met a new tea business on the way - very celebratory. So many flowers we couldn’t get in for the free tea! David says he is sorry!
It seems that when a new business opens there’s a to-do made with flowers and lots of people milling about. Kali is posing with a mascot for a tea association. Further along is a man with an iguana. There are a lot of dogs but not very many cats. The other notable thing is the lack of biting insects. Could it be the air pollution?
Had my nails done, shellac - orange fingers, grey toes, $30. The guy who owns the shop has a new machine that prints patterns on fingers. He asked me if I wanted to be a distributor for Toronto. Haha - I’d have to quit my day job! He did one for free.

11 November 2017

Looking on the map we thought we were headed for the Institute of Traditional Medicine but instead when we finally locate it, it’s the Institute of Traditional Massage. We try it out after learning that the masseuse is blind. My guy talked incessantly to his fellow masseuse and I felt like a dough ball being strenuously kneaded. So much for the idea of a blind person with sensitive touch. Downstairs is a great stall that makes juices. Kali got pineapple and carrot and I got soursop and strawberry. Right beside is a doughnut guy.
I got a haircut at this place - it was probably his easiest cut of all time, no close cut on the sides and back leading to long hair on top, no hipster look. He got a chuckle doing this tourist. Cost: $2.25 CDN Just off to the side, an old tv is wrestled off a wheelchair delivery vehicle. A roadside woman makes fresh drinks with sugarcane, delicious!
Although I didn’t bring my gi, we look for an aikido dojo that seems to be down an alley, behind a restaurant. David’s sense of direction gets us there. No sensei, no class.
We continue left from our Airbnb and end up in a little alley way where people actually live - much quieter! Then we stop for lunch, and realize later that almost everything on the menu has ‘frog’ in it. We end up with the seafood soup...did we dodge a bullet, or miss an opportunity?
So far we’ve gone to the right when we leave the apartment, this time we try going left. Some steps away we come to an alley leading off the main road. There are a lot of these, comprising of shops and homes. We stopped at a restaurant and realized from the menu that the featured food of this place is frog! It’s in appetizers and mains and sides! We choose with care.

10 November 2017

A brief visit to a temple and then we Grab taxi back to our Airbnb spot.
The ride back was the first one where our drivers seemed to be a little lost. We were on some super congested roads mere inches from the next bike. No one seems to get bumped ever or touch a car. Even though in a situation with other vehicles, scooters don’t stand much of a chance. Yet, in this traffic flow on Ho Chi Minh streets, cars seem to have the shorter end - they are constantly jostling with a mass of scooters just inches from them, just frustrating and maddening. It’s sort of like a giant beetle being overrun by an army of little ants. Notice in one of the photos, the scooters are driving on the sidewalk.
One of the consultants at Saigon Tourist suggested we go to Tan Đình Market after we told him we had already seen Ben Thạnh Market. After getting there by moto-taxi, looking around and feeling perplexed, we couldn’t fathom why he sent us there.
Cutie pie in the sky
Walking, walking and more of that - right to the filthy Saigon River - where they fish! David is refusing to eat sushi 🍣 - smart guy. He did get to sample a Vietnamese veggie sandwich however. The bread is way way better than Toronto.
We walked a lot today. I sampled my first banh mi and it was a veggie version - the bun was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, unlike our Toronto version. Right next door is another fat Buddha. As we head towards the river there’s a crazy example of the amazing skill of the scooter drivers. There are long beams attached to the bike for his delivery - insane! Not a lot to say about the river that isn’t evident in the photos - this little bit of the river joins the Saigon River.

9 November 2017

After a remarkable massage, I think I know what tenderized meat feels like after the pummeling. As we wander around in a daze there’s a ‘pop up’ market closing off a street to car traffic. There’s a large restaurant setup under awnings with a lot of people dining. Of course we did the same.
OMG 😮 we went to a foot massage place and I think we both died and went to heaven.
Little girls & boys at school - I’ve worked them in to a frenzy of happiness shouting ‘hi Canada’ 🇨🇦
Le Cong Kieu is a street full of antiques, a few minutes walking from Ben Thành market. Although I wouldn’t dare buy anything given the artisans here are masters of faking Prada; I bet they’d have no trouble making stuff look old. Buyer beware, just saying...
Rise and shine! After another home brew coffee, we decided to try a motorcycle taxi. The Grab app works for us - it works like Uber and as such takes the guesswork out of what a fare will cost. Off to the Binh Tay Market in Cholon. Just as an aside, there’s a thrill to riding in the pack of scooters. It reminds me of the scooter outings back in TO but x 100!
Binh Tay Market or the Cholon Market (Cholon means Chinatown). Our host had told us it was being rebuilt but it slipped our minds. As we wandered it was clear that this is not like the other markets, it’s mega wholesale and not really for tourists. Mostly we’re ignored. I don’t think you can truly grasp the scope, density and busyness of it all. This is commerce on steroids.
It’s early morning. The previous evening was spent sorting out our travel plans for the rest of the trip. We booked one week in HCMC and thought we would connect with our friend’s travel advisor. After the Ben Thanh Market adventure, we looked for Saigon Tourist the agency. A sort of fruitful meeting - but we needed to get more info for Hoi An. Typhoon Damrey hit the area and it might not be a good idea to go there. Some research, some planning and some booking of hotel, Airbnb, airplane tickets and such. Then around 11 pm the area got hit by a power blackout. No power means no internet! Luckily we got it done just before!

8 November 2017

There was a heavy downpour when we left the travel agent. By chance we stopped at Fairy Coffee and waited for it to subside. This area we were in is distinctly upscale compared to our part of District 1. It didn’t take long for the rain to start again so ducked for cover. Traffic is double the usual congestion as we are at an intersection where two big streets merge. Getting a cab was not possible so we walked, found cheap (flimsy) ponchos. Found a massage place for our tired feet and stopped for dinner. For me, both the massage and meal were mediocre.
Now we are sitting in Fairy Coffee - the rain started pouring full on.... I have a video that shows the force of the rain. Lightening just hit with a HUGE bang; we might we here a while!
Lunch at the market. Yummy Vietnamese sandwich and David has seafood soup. Even the rats 🐀 running around the next stall look well fed! Ps. Top that with a mango smoothie. The last picture is a ‘find the rat in the photo’ game.
David and I walked to Ben Thánh market today. Another bustle/hustle place. We got some crazy 😜 tea that looks like small balls. Bought a knock off Mont Blanc pen for $12. More than 1/2 what the guy wanted. I thought I was a hard bargainer - these guys put me to shame! Haggle, haggle, I get the price I figure is fair and then find out the vender 3 aisles over has an even lower price. Sigh.
Another fat Buddha!
After drinking our home brewed Vietnamese coffee we headed out for Ben Thanh Market. The massing of scooters and cars is astonishing - no accidents of any kind, no hitting pedestrians or vehicles. Amazing how it works here. There’s a bakery en route called Tous les jours, good croissants!

7 November 2017

We head back out to look for a massage place. I get a foot massage and Kali gets a hot oil one. It’s ridiculously inexpensive! Then we trundle off for dinner someplace. Once we finish, it’s time to get back and sleep!
Oops - here is the rain
Some random photos: Best tacos in Saigon - true if it’s the only one in town Above street level are residential spaces, just like what we’re staying in (ours is nice!) Typical scooter rider setup, small child with adult Can you imagine being a hydro repair guy tracing a problem? Burlesque? and yoga - a whole new meaning to assana! Fat Buddha! What’s with these figures anyway? It’s a conceptual oxymoron - being fat connotes riches meaning you have enough money to eat (overeat) and not do any physical labour. How did this perversion of a spiritual practice get symbolized with corpulence? Disgusting!
We are in the knock off, 😜market. Overwhelming and cheap. Worth it! The interesting thing about a lot of the stuff here is a distinct feeling of quality, unlike the kind of cheap knockoffs we see in TO. For instance, the running shoes seem like the real deal but priced around $20! I’m tempted by the North Face backpacks! The tag that says 299 is the Vietnamese dong and that translates to $17!
As we walked from our lunch place we pass a bakery. It’s intriguing to see what they have. We only get a ‘danish’ as we’ve just eaten. When we take a break at the knock off place, we ate it but it’s not really outstanding. Any guesses to what ‘flossy’ chicken is?
The entrance to the apartment is majorly sketchy. Some older women are hanging out when we arrive and our host greets us to show us the place. It’s compact but very tidy. He reassures us that if there’s anything we need just to text him.
Ho Chi Minh city - arrived this morning. Got the ‘Grab’ app which is like UBER - driver couldn’t find us and cancelled. No biggie, took a regular cab. Our Airbnb place is right in district 1, beside the backbacker’s area, called Pham Ngu Lao, but not on top of it. We walked for around 5 hrs. Went to a random little shop for lunch -$5.25 for 2, included drinks. Then we went to a serious knock off market. Insane. Then came the RAIN. Big time. Funny that David and I got totally lost wandering around, not concerned AT ALL - then ended up, by chance back at our place!

6 November 2017

Beach 🏖 day at Bai Bien. Swim, swim and more swim and then a massage on the beach for an hour and a half for $26 - pricey for Vietnam. I remain in heaven. Ps. That other beach pic is a sand 🦀

5 November 2017

Night Market - entirely over-rated as an outing. Cheap stuff and pushy sellers!
Spontaneous adventure. We thought it was going to rain today, it didn’t. Life is what happens when you stop making plans. We started walking left, from our homestay, and the 1st scooter rental place was sold out. We end up walking in a circle, of course, and end up at our friend Mia’s shop. She rents us her scooter - 24hrs, 6 dollars, 0 insurance. One broken brake, one broken mirror and we are all set. David just reads to me, later, that there has been a massive typhoon in south Vietnam. Thank god, we are not there - yet. We might change our travel plans, depends on the weather. Okay back to our trip. We head north, trucks honking past me. I have my running shoes on, and a dress - perfect for scooter attire. We drive for about 1/2 hr, to the northern tip of the island. We are in a fishing village. Comedy of errors. We can’t figure out how to open the storage under the seat and in fiddling with the key, we lock ourselves completely out of the scooter. Not too funny
It’s breakfast time at Spring Garden. I think only when we are traveling do we have breakfast.

4 November 2017

Night Market - risking our lives going in to Duong Dong on the scooter -now that was a crazy ride - and we arrived safely! Market is over-rated and pushy for sales. Fun just driving around in the screaming flow of traffic...
On another note, there is the hustle bustle of commerce .....
So, the sad truth about garbage is that it’s everywhere. Seems like people just dump their garbage ‘wherever’. Very sad.
We went will John’s tours, trip #2 to the south of the Island, where we boarded a boat, to Fingerland Island for fishing and snorkeling. The coral was the deepest colour green, violet and blue-grey.
Boat trip. Various pics of Davo on the way to the boat. Ps. Not the Algarve. 1st stop fishing and then off to snorkel for a couple of hours.
Breakfast at our homestay, homemade and yummy.5 star and included in our $37 per night lux cottage! That’s Xuan who made the food - a sweetheart with a pile of local connections. On a day trip today with John’s tours - snorkeling, fishing

3 November 2017

Okay. Birthday Dinner: grilled octopus, calamari, grilled eggplant, cucumber salad with shrimp and seafood soup - less than $13. And to make things even BETTER a cutie pie feral ate the leftovers!
On the way to Ong Lang Beach, and the beach at sunset.
Mai Jo Fusion. Speaks for itself. Right near our homestay. Birthday lunch
Phu Quoc Island - coming in for a landing!
Happens to be David’s birthday in Vietnam 🇻🇳 however in Toronto 🇨🇦 it’s not happening yet. What is time anyhow - except a construct. Jet lagged and getting sillysophical. 😘

2 November 2017

In Shanghai airport waiting for flight to Ho Chi Minh. Our Vietnam adventure begins in China. David hasn’t been here since he was five!
Bathrooms in China ARE both an event and an activity.