News and Views

From my kids accomplishments, to my heretical perspective of the world

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North Vietnam

February 26th, 2014 · 4 Comments

It really doesn’t seem fair, that here I am half way around the world in an exotic foreign country, and Dale down in southern Arizona has a more interesting blog. He must be a better writer.

Today we passed over the 17th parallel of latitude that used to divide North and South Vietnam. It is now a national monument. Nothing is really different north of the line, at least not any more. The countryside has been getting steadily more mountainous and it seems like we see more rice paddies and water buffalos, but that could just be an impression.

Yesterday we drove by the airport in Phu Bai where Richard was stationed for a couple of months in (?) 1969. After spending some time in the area I’m almost surprised that Richard didn’t re-up. I certainly want to come back and spend more time without the hassle of a tour guide waking us up at 5:30 or 6:00 each morning to hit the road.

It is turning out to be one of those tours, where each day is a struggle to fit all the sites in, going at it from 6 or 7 in the morning and finally only getting into a new hotel at 8 or 9 in the evening. Several of us wish things could be a little more leisurely, but I guess it can’t be changed now. Reservations have been made and tickets bought.

My earlier impression about the food has turned out to be a one-time thing. Since that first night with somewhat unusual items that I probably wouldn’t have ordered from a menu, the food has been excellent. That is to say, Don and Mom would probably enjoy it as much as me, though my other siblings would probably starve. In central and northern Vietnam the food is getting more like Chinese but done in different ways with unique seasonings, sauces and spices. Really delicious.

Speaking of food, there’s one thing I had to make clear from the start. It’s considered polite at a Chinese meal to put food in someone elses dish, especially for the host to do so for a guest. I remember one dinner in Taiwan where I had been invited into a home. As soon as I sat down, the hostess plopped a big spoonful of fatty pork into my bowl. I really wanted to eat some of the other dishes that looked a lot more edible, but I gritted my teeth and forced them through the fat. As I was finally finishing the last bite, I thought “Now I can eat some of that good looking chicken and snow peas” or whatever the other dish was. Just then, the hostess said, “I see you really like the pork since you ate it all up. Here’s some more.” And with that I had another spoonful of the disgusting stuff plopped into my bowl.

Since then I’ve learned some tactics to avoid this situation, but the most straightforward, and diplomatically touchy, is to cover my bowl with my hand when I see something coming and plead, “Please don’t put food in my bowl.”

On the first night of the trip Gisele explained to the table that Americans like to dish out their own food, and since tastes differ, what is a treat to them may not be to us. I haven’t had any problems since.

Today we went into one cave of the largest cave system in the world (over 150 km long), at the Thien Duong cave. That particular cave is not a record holder, and the walkways only go about 1 km (.62 miles) but it has only been open to the public since 2009 and is pristine and spectacular. There were only a few other people in there with us, and I was able to walk alone for several minutes enjoying the quiet and beauty.

By the way, we have confirmed that we are going to go into Cambodia after the Vietnam tour is finished next Monday. Angela has a friend who lives in Cambodia and has made some reservations for us. Our destination is Angkor Watt, one of the 10 man-made wonders of the world (according to Touropia). I will have seen half of them at that point (The Collesium in Rome, Teotihuacan in Mexico City, Macchu Pichu in Peru, the Great Wall of China, and now Ankgor Watt. I’m not sure I will ever get to all of them, considering the political problems in Egypt (Great Pyramid) and the unpleasantness of traveling in India (Taj Mahal). Easter Island might be neat, but it’s a long way to travel to see a few heads.

Of course, it’s an arbitrary list that doesn’t always include Angkor Watt. Some lists include Stonehenge (been there) and the leaning tower of Pisa (also). But Angkor Watt makes a lot of the lists.

Tags: Family Updates

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Richard // Feb 26, 2014 at 9:02 am

    As you can imagine, the closest I got to North Vietnam was the towns of Dong Ha and Quang Tri which were just a short distance south of the DMZ. I’m sure the whole area is much more scenic now than when many large areas were defoliated with agent orange.

    I’m enjoying both yours and Dale’s blogs. It sounds like both of you are involved in endurance trials.

  • 2 Dale // Feb 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I only wish I could write as well as you! They just tune onto mine to see if a lion or rattlesnake has got me yet!

  • 3 Donna // Feb 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    You could always spice it up with talk about zombies. Oh, wait, never mind…

    Great entry! Very fascinating. I envy you all the world travel you have gotten to do, but I admit I don’t envy the food you are eating this time around. Good call on the hands over the bowl trick!

  • 4 Don // Feb 26, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I think you both write very well. Both blogs are interesting and engaging. And you certainly update much more often than your oldest brother. He must not do anything interesting. 😉

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