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Vietnam

Sapa Vietnam-Tuff Muddin and Tuff Sunnin in the Bush

The past few days I have been on a Trek to Northern Vietnam to explore the north, with the Hmong minority community.
A bus picked myself, and two others from the hostel up at 9:00 pm, and brought us to another bus about 20 minutes away, which was full with backpackers. This was a "sleeper bus" with bus on covering both sides of the bus; upper and lower beds. We got on for the 6 hour ride to the northern part of Vietnam. The bus ride went over a lot of bumbs, and I slept sort of intermittently.

We actually arrived in Sapa at 4:00 am, and I woke up groggily-but the bus driver let everyone sleep for 2 hours on the bus since there isn't much you can do in Sapa that early. At 6:00 am we got off the bus- The air back in Hanoi was hot and stuffy, here it was crisp and cool, probably in the upper 60's to low 70's-we we're all petty disoriented. We we're all going separate places, and most of us didn't know where to go.

A man came up with a sign with the three of our names on it from the hostel-he was to drop us off at the homestay-where we would have breakfast and stay that night. We climbed into his Toyota SUV with an Ed Sheeren playing, and rode up and down the hills, past rice terraces, along the side of a cliff, and after an hour or so-we reached the Homestay-which was down a small path. I carried one of the girls suitcases, and it feel and slipped down a small hill into the mud. It was muddy, but it was closed tightly so none of the inner contents got muddy.

The homestay was a very rustic two story building. We found beds on the second floor, which was really at attack surrounded by beds. After putting our stuff down, we sat down at the table to a big breakfast, of toast, eggs, vegetables, and other stuff. We sat with some folks who we're there for the previous day and hiked, and asked them what they thought. They said the hike wasn't that bad. We asked if we should rent boots-they said yes.

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After breakfast and showering, our guide for the 15 KM hike (and 7 KM hike the next day) came along. Our guide was a women, approximately 5'2" tall, and dressed in traditional clothes. Later we learned that like most people in her tribe, she only went to school through age 14 or 15, got married at 17, and has 2 children.

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The weather was overcast, and Bau led us up a hill for the beginning of the hike, and the 4 of us on the hike (a newly married couple was part of the group, and one of the three from the hostel decided to stay in since she was in pain from a previous hike). We learned real quickly that renting the boots was a good idea. The trail was muddy. So we continued going up the mountain with muddy boots, and we continued climbing past sweeping vistas of rice fields. Bau explained that rice is grown in the summer and potatoes in the winter. Bau and others assisted us. Some of the others maneuvered up the train with slippers-while we had trouble wearing boots with the mud. We walked and walked until we arrived at a smooth path. We we're on the path for a while-until Bau, and some other guides from the community, met and decided that we needed to turn off the smooth path, and walk up another muddy path, which was difficult to walk on. After a while, we came to a clearing, walked down the hill for a few kilometers, and stopped for lunch, which was rice, tofu, and some type of meat, which we have been carrying with us.

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We continued on the walk after the approximately 20 minutes of lunch, and walked down hills, slid through more mud, and walked across clearly marked path. By the time we returned, it was approximately 3:30, and we all just crashed at the homestay, and relaxed on the porch, until dinner time. Dinner was really good-we had vegetables, meat, some tofu, rice, and other foods. After dinner was all sat silently, too tired to get up and walk away from the table. After a few minutes, we just went to the porch. We we're all in bed by 9:00 pm.

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The next day, I woke around 6:00 am to watch the sunrise on the porch. It was a nice peaceful, crisp morning once again in the low 70's. Today the sun was out. We had a nice breakfast once again,

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Bau came to pick us up, and we went hiking once again. This time, we went up another hill. We didn't have to wear boots today, because the mud had dried. But instead of the mud it was very very sunny. So hot and sunny. So we we're baking going up the hill. But the sights we're fantastic, wonderful fields basking in the sun.

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Bau and some helpers thought I needed extra attention-probably because I was 20+ years older than everyone else. One asked how old I was?I told her and she said "Wow you are strong". That doesn't sound like a complement. It's just like finding out someone is 100 years old and saying they look good-which you really don't mean. At one point, I did fall down a slight hill-but I was fine. They thought I was injured-but I was fine.

A liittle while longer we reached a waterfall, and some of us, including myself, went swimming in the waterfall. The water felt great after hiking for a few hours. We splashed around, although the rocks hurt under my feet.

After the swim, we walked down a path down the mountain. Bau showed us a traditional water pump, and a machine for turning thread into clothes that is foot operated. A little while longer, we reached a road about 45 minutes later, where a van picked us up and drove us to the homestay. We enjoyed a lunch of meat, rice, and pumpkin. We said out goodbyes, and a van took us back to Sapa, where we waited just 20 minutes, and took the 6 hour ride back to Hanoi. I went out to dinner for something in a bun, and then went back and went to sleep.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 19:33 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi-Rainy Day and meeting my Vietnamese Namesake

Today, I set out to go to the museum. But it was raining. I didn't feel like walking all of the way. So I sat under a ledge and watched the traffic go by for a while. It was an endless parade of motorbike after motorbike, some with big loads, going in every direction. I really enjoy watching that. i even took a short nap near the ledge, as I usually do.

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I woke up towards the afternoon, and took a walk to the other side of the lake to the museum. The museum was closed for lunch (many places are open in the morning and once again in the afternoon. I was there early-but there was a Hilton hotel next door. I went in there and soaked up the AC for a while-I figured this was the real Hanoi Hilton. It didn't use the name Hanoi Hilton-it was the Opera Hilton-or something like that. I walked around the area, and then looked inside a Toyota dealer, where all the salespeople seemed to be sleeping.
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I Went to the museum and spent about an hour there. The museum was pretty empty, and wasn't really interesting. A lot of old ceramics-not much in the way of description of the history. I did learn that parts of Vietnam used to be predominantly Hindu-so Hindu in addition to Buddhist. There we're so scale models, but otherwise the museum wasn't really worth it.
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I then went to another Buddhist temple on the lake to look around.

After the museum, I took a walk around the lake. I wanted to find the coffee place that Bob took us to the other day on the free walking tour from the hostel. I thought I remembered the block it was on, and how it was on the 2nd floor of a building, up a small, creepy staircase. I was sure I found the building, I asked a lady at the restaurant downstairs if coffee was upstairs. She said yes. So I went up a small creepy staircase-it did look familiar. And I found a coffee house. But it wasn't the same one as the other day. It was a different 2nd floor coffee house in a different building. And the prices we're higher. (It was roughly like $2.00 for a cup of egg coffee vs $1.50 in the place before). IT was good though.

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I left and I was hungry. I already ate several times before today, (breakfast as the hostel, some bean thing before, bread, and chicken pho for lunch). I found a woman selling a lot of shelled peanuts for around $1.00-so I bought the bag and sat on a bench overlooking the lake. As I sat there, a Vietnamese guy in his 20's started talking to me. His name is David Pham-so another David P. He is in his senior year studying finance at college in Hanoi, and lives in a two 1 1/2 south. He isn't sure about his English-but it is actually very good. He asked if I watch the news while away. I said I look at CNN. He said "Fake News. Donald Trump doesn't like that". He mentioned that although I was American, I wasn't fat. He said he likes white girls. We had a nice conversation.

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Eventually, I had to make it back to the hostel. I am doing a trip to Sapa, where a bus picks me up at 9:00 pm (it is roughly a 7 hour drive and I sleep on the bus-and then go on a homestay. There is supposed to be beautiful scenery, and I will meet some Vietnamese Minorities. So I wanted to pack up some stuff before getting going.

Posted by DavidPearlman 06:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi Vietnam-Long Biên Bridge to the Fallen Kingdom

Yesterday, I left the hostel a little later to cross the Long Bien Bridge. I didn't know much about the bridge-just that it was historic (According to a map from the hostel). The bridge was opened in 1903, and is more then 1 mile in length. I learned that the bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel, and was heavily bombed by us during the war, although the bombing didn't do as my damage to the bridge as expected.

The bridge doesn't carry any cars-just motorbikes, standard bikes, pedestrians, and the railroad, which run in the middle of the bridge. The walk across the bridge was nice and peace. I witnessed slums on the other side,along with lots of tropical greenery and the muddy river, and on the bridge the scores and scores of motorbikes and bicycles running by. Some tourists we'e walking along the railroad tracks in the middle of the bridge, and had to move when the train came. The trains in Vietnam don't move very fast, and are diesel powered which are noisy, so if one is coming-there is generally plenty of time to get out of the way. Sellers in the middle of the bridge we're selling bananas and other tropical fruit.

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I walked along-which seems like it took a few hours to make the mile walk.(Maybe it was just an hour).

When I finally reached the other end, I took a rest in park, and bought three tangerines. I then found high rise with a modern shopping mall, with a food court and a movie theater. I had lunch in the food court for about $5.00 of some noodle soup, which probably would be around $2-$3.00 elsewhere, and then I saw in the movie theater, Jurassic World-The Fallen Kingdom was playing. I usually don't like big-name big $ pictures, but I liked Jurassic Park and the original Jurassic World, so I plopped down the 50000 Vietnamese Dong to see the movie (roughly $2.50) to see the movie.

I had to wait a little bit to get into the theater, and then sat in my assigned seats (also seats are pre-assigned in Vietnam, and many other countries). I sat through the film, which was in English with Vietnamese subtitles , and thought it was horrible. Some rich mofos used Clair and Owen to bring the Mofos on land, by telling them they had a new island for them, after the original Jurrasic World land was about to be destroyed by volcano. Clair and the black guy we're trapped in a gyrosphere (same trick as in the first Jurassic World). This time Owen was able to breathe and see underwater and helped saved them. They helped save a little girl at the estate of the investor, and the girl pressed a button to let the dinosaurs on the outside world. Just a bad flick.

After them movie, I walked back across the bridge on the other side. This time I saw a path from the bridge, which I took through greenery. I walked back on to the bridge, and saw farms with pigs, and further along, pineapples being distributed amongst different sellers.

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Once again, I took a nap at the hostel and then went out to dinner, at a couple (I had two dinners) of traditional places, with small plastic tables and stools for chairs.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 18:51 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi Vietnam-Walking Long and Going High

Yesterday, I left the hostel a little later and decided to take a walk to the tallest building in Hanoi, which is called the Lotte Tower, which has an observation deck. The walk was a little over 4 Kilometers, or 2 or 3 miles.

I followed the directions using Google maps, and walked through the immense heat past the usual small shops, restaurants consisting of just small footstools as seats and wooden planks as tables, and crowds of motorcyclists and rickshaws asking me for a ride. After what seemed like two hours in the extreme heat. I finally reached the tower. it is a large complex called Lotte Center, which is based on Lotte's Department store. I had some fast food, and some dried mangos from the underground supermarket-called Lotte Mart, and took an elevator to the top of the observation deck, 65 stories up. Unlike other observation decks around the world, there we're no doormen in the elevators-I just had to press the button and go up. There was nobody else in the elevator either-just me. I got to the observation deck, and once again, there we're few people up there wandering around.3558b1e0-78e1-11e8-850e-e112a32b1e39.JPG0e1545d0-78e1-11e8-b80b-75cd099cb044.JPG08941fa0-78e1-11e8-8b39-cfc78c2064a2.JPG

The views we're nice as expected, mostly of small ramshackle sections of town. I continued walking around. There we're plenty of places to sit-so I sat on a large chair and took a nap. I napped for a long time it seems, then continued to walk around the tower, and then took the elevator to the ground floor to walk back. First I bought some stuff for the trek back at the supermarket, some tropical fruit and bottled water, and I walked back. I took a short detour, and actually went past the area with Ho Chi Manh's tomb as I did before. i wanted to go to the Military Museum this time-but I was there too late, and it just closed (at 4:30 pm). So I continued to walk along. I walked along the railroad tracks with some girl who had the same shirt I had. i then kept walking along, until I made it back to hostel around 5:30 or so. It was hot still, so I went and took a nap.

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After the nap, i went out for dinner. I stopped at a place with the normal footstools as seats and a crates or longboards as tables, and has some po/or thick soup. i then continued walking along. I walked past all of the brightly lit shops on the way to the lake, and past a shop selling belts in it with a cat. I admired the cat, and started talking to the woman working in the shop, who's name is Dau. She told me the shop was her parent's and she has been working there for 2 years, and since it was slow season, sales we're down. She also mentioned she has a brother in the US, who missed Vietnam and wanted to come home.

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After speaking to her for a while, I stopped and looked at the shops, found the church we visited the day before, and took some pictures. Then I kept wandering around and went to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 18:32 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi-Vietnam-The Hanoi Hilton & Water Puppets

Yesterday, I went on a walking tour of the old quarter of Hanoi from the hostel. I don't have much hope for hostel walking tours, as the guides generally don't seem to know that much. But Bob really did know a lot and I learned a lot yesterday.

I learned that there is a alley with all sorts of folks cutting meat and serving food, right across the street from the hostel. So right across the street, and we don't even know it.

Bob took us to his old church, which is a beautiful cathedral called St Joseph's Church. While the outside looks sort of dark and stained by coal-the inside is majestic and shines like most European ones. He showed us his dad, who was working outside the cathedral watching the motorbikes parked there. Bob mentioned there was one church service on Sundays that we're conducted in French.
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Bob took us for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, and showed us the temple in the middle of the lake that built in tribute to a leader who fought in the dynasty in the 13th century, and the turtle tower, which stands in the middle of the lake, and was homage to Kim Qui, who was given a sword to fight off the Chinese. When the battle was one-a turtle came to relcaim the sword, hence the named the turtle tower in the middle of the lake. We also saw ladies practice a dance routine, which was pretty good. They take a video and have it posted to Youtube.

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We went for Vietnamese egg coffee, to some place nobody could find-up some secret flight of stairs. The coffee was absolutely delicious-it was more like a desert then a coffee. i had that and a chocolate coffee, and I was highly caffeinated for the rest of the day

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We had a delicious mint ice cream as well. Bob also talked about what it was it was like to be gay in Vietnam. His parent's friends and neighbors always talk behind his back, and wonder what is wrong with him.

After the tour-I went to the Hỏa Lò Prison, which was built by the French to house Vietnamese revolutionaries. It later held the US Prisoner of War, like John Mccain. The entire prison was interesting, including stories of how the revolution was planned from the Vietnamese under French rule, even though it was forbidden by the French. The part on the POW's was very interesting. They we're humanely treated, according to signs on the exhibits. They played games like chess, and had outdoor activities like voleyball. They we're allowed to have church services and a Christmas dinner. it says the Vietnamese followed the Geneva convention, unlike the Americans who mistreated Vietnamese.

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I then walked back to the lake. I walked around. It was dark out, and there we're all sorts of entertainers. There was a street fair going on. I went to a water puppet show, with traditional Vietnamese music. It was quite nice, but sort of long. The show as entirely in Vietnamese.
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After that, there was a street fair which i went to, which was good, I ate all sorts of street food, and went back to the hostel after that.

Posted by DavidPearlman 18:20 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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