Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Solar Year's Eve

A New Year is coming. Although a new solar year in Vietnam is not celeberated as much as a new lunar year, people still look forward to it. It is a public holiday and time for everybody to relax and enjoy being with family and friends or just enjoy the atmostphere.
In Hanoi, a flower festival is being held around Hoan Kiem Lake from 30th Dec 2009 until 3rd Jan 2010 and traffic is being banned there. (I plan to have a look at it tomorrow). And now I think it must be very beautiful there with neon lights and crowds of young people strolling and waiting for the new year coming and maybe there are live music performances.
I cannot remember exactly when the last time I had a new year's eve out was. It must be 9 or 10 years ago. Partly because it is usually cold and drizzling/raining then, if you have little children you do not dare to bring them out in the evening and walk in a crowded place. Partly because my husband hardly ever wants to go out like that (not romantic). I can not go out in the evening alone (my friends are busy with their children and their family). Partly because ... I can give so many excuses for not going out tonight. ;-). I regard tonight as other ordinary nights. Nothing special.
Anyhow, HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Second holiday week ended

My first 'holiday' week ended. A week was full of parties. I think I have put on some weight. Joking, still 49 kilos or so. My friend said that I was not on a diet but I ate as if I were on diet. So funny comment. Of these parties today's wedding party was the most memorable. It was an assistant's wedding. He gave the party in his hometown, Lim town (Bac Ninh province), about 20 kilometres from Hanoi. That place is the cradle of quan ho (famous folk songs). Luckily, he rented a bus for us (about 28 people from our university). We set off at 9 am and came back to Hanoi at noon. Why was it memorable? Well, because of two reasons. The first reason was that they did not serve us mineral water or soft drinks during the meal, only a bottle of rice wine (we 6 ladies could not drink wine). I and Mai felt so thirsty. Poor me, I brought a bottle of mineral water on board but I left it on bus. We could not leave the room because there were so many people. I finished soon and ate small 'oranges' to reduce my thirst. Then when the meal was over, we were served hot tea. The other reason was that we had a chance to listen to quan ho (some singers performed in the party room). Interesting. When we were on the bus to leave for Hanoi, I shared water with Mai but we still felt thirsty and a bit carsick and sleepy. We got off at noon at the gate of our univeristy. Soon after that, Mai, Van and I went to a cafe to drink juice and have some pear to make us alert to continue another task, visiting our colleague in hospital.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Housewarming" Party

We have lived here for more than 8 months but until today did my 3 colleagues/friends visit me and my home. We were all really busy with work and family, hardly find free time for all. We decided to have lunch at home rather than in restaurants. As a host, I went shopping in the early morning after taking Bob to school. We chose to have hot pot with chicken, so I had to prepare (not cook) ingredients in advance.
At 9.45 they came. They all had good comments on my home. I told them they could do like me, but the most important factor was courage. I showed them around a bit (just because the flat is small) and they joined me to make Russian salad and chop chicken. So funny. Doing together, chatting and laughing. Before lunch we went to explore the peninsula, admiring villas around the high rise buildings. We stopped at a corner shop to buy some soft drink: 3 different drinks for 4 people.
We started lunch with a good speech "Thanks to Mrs. Quyen's courage we have a wonderful lunch today!". We had lunch or dinner together many times but not in our living places, because we were living with family-in-law, it would not be comfortable and fun entertaining friends at home. Lunch lasted until 1.30pm. Then we sat in the living room watching a funny film together. At 3 pm, they left. And they suggested meeting here again this Tet holiday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Visit to Museum of Vietnamese History

Last Saturday I paid a visit to the Museum of Vietnamese History (one more destination in the list of places in Hanoi I should visit completed :-)). It is located on the corner of Trang Tien Street and Tran Quang Khai Street, just behind the Opera House. The building has a colonial architecture, very impressive, and it is in a large and nice garden.
The museum tells us about the Vietnamese history by objects and pictures and articles from prehistoric to 1945, when Vietnam declared it to be an independent country. The exhibits were displayed chronologically, easy to follow.
The museum was not crowded, just some visitors, two or three foreigners and some Vietnamese people (I guessed they were students). It took me less than an hour to go around downstairs and upstairs. No guides. Visitors have to explore the museum themselves, the same situation as in other museums I visited.
I forgot to take photos, so this entry has no image. Pity.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sister-in-law

I have got 2 older brothers, so I have got two sisters-in-law, one was born in 1974 and the other in 1981. I call them 'chi' or 'bac' on behalf of my son, and they call me 'cô Quyên' instead of their children. In Vietnam, in general, the relationships between sisters and sisters-in-law as well as daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law are not good. But in my family, the concept of in-law does not exist. I regard my sisters-in-law as my sisters. Moreover, they are more or less the same age as mine, as a result, we get on quite well with each other. The special thing here is both of them have the same first name: Huong. Both of my sisters-in-law are beautiful, well-educated, hardworking, caring and responsible. I think my parents are lucky to have daughters-in-law like them and my brothers are lucky too to have them as wives. But life is not as what we want.
I read somewhere that happiness is the same but the unhappiness is different in each family/each person. I really feel so sorry for my first sister-in-law, the person was born in 1974. She is married to my first brother with a son and a daughter. Her husband (my brother) is an aggressive man. Outsiders will think they are a very happy family: they live near but not under the same roof with parents, they have a son and a cute daughter, a dream for other families. But...
I heard so many sad stories about their family life. All of the stories relate to my brother's bad behaviour, which can not be changed even we give him so much advice. He gambles: yes. He is lazy (can't do housework): yes. He curses so often (even when he is not angry): yes. He hits his wife: yes. He is mean: yes. He shouts at family members (even with my mum): yes. He shouts at his wife even when there is no reason. I can say he is the blacksheep in my family, so different from the rest 5 siblings. My sister-in-law has to suffer him. Once I told her to get divorced. She said she accepted to live like that for the sake of her children. Poor her.
My family always stands by her but we can not do much to help her.
We are women, why is she so unhappy?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Party with colleagues

As I mentioned in the previous entry, yesterday evening I had dinner with my colleagues. I am the person who keeps the group's money (fund), so I was assigned to do the booking for a party of around 20 people, at 5 pm.

I left home at 4.35 and got to the restaurant at 5.05. Some people arrived on time, standing in front of the restaurant. Actually, not many people are punctual (I claim that I am a bit punctual, maximum just 4 or 5 minutes late. Smile. It is acceptable, isn't it? But for the first date at noon, I was there just after noon, I had reputation for not punctuality). The dinner started at 6 pm. Long waiting for people to come and for the chefs to prepare food. We finished at about 7.25. Some colleagues wanted to sing karaoke. We decided to go to a karaoke parlour nearby. I and Mai (my colleague) had to wait to pay the bill. It took us 30 minutes. The cashier there must be very slow. My son waited with me. He played by the tree. I saw him so funny, then I opened my nokia camera and took this photo.

We came to the parlour around 8. Some colleagues chose the songs. When I came in, the first song started. It was a song by Trinh Cong Son (Ms. Lua selected). When she saw me, she said 'Ah, Khanh Ly, it was your song'. She gave me the microphone, and I was the first person to sing. I also selected a song I just learn to sing. Ms. Kim Anh selected another song for me, another Trinh Cong Son's song. When singing there we found that some of colleagues could sing very well. Some just sat and enjoyed and suffered their colleagues' voice. Smile. I decided to leave at 9.30, ealier than other people, because it was late for me to be outside alone (with the little boy). We got home before 10pm.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

End of semester 1

I do not have a class at university on Saturday, so from today I have a mid-schoolyear break/holiday until 7 Jan (not officially, my colleagues told me that). However, during the 'holiday' I have to mark students' papers and this job is really tiring and badly-paid (smile). Anyhow job done. It seems that I am a fast/effecient worker. Joking, because my colleagues often say my marking is sooooo slow. It is true. Poor me. I can not focus on this job without break. When I mark papers at home, I listen to the music in order to reduce stress.

Another thing I am going to do during the holiday is to have dinner with my colleagues in Group 1+2 (my department is divided into several groups, I am in Group 1+2) in a restaurant in Le Ngoc Han Street at 5 pm today. An end-of-semester party.

My colleagues make use of the holiday to get married. They must be fed up with their bachelor period. They decide to become grooms. Smile. I am invited to their weddings. One on Monday, Dec 21st and the other on Sunday, Dec 27th. How nice.

I and my best colleagues/friends plan to have lunch out together, but we haven't decided the date yet, because we have to wait for the exam admistration schedule. We have to choose a day when we are free.

They (my best colleagues/friends) also want to visit my place. In their eyes, it is a paradise. BIG SMILE. (What a pity that most of my colleagues live with their husband's family and most of them have big problems with in-laws. So sad.) I promise to give a house-warming party to them.

One more event during my break is that next Friday, 18th is one year that my father passed away. We gather at my mum's place to memorise him.

The last thing I will probably do in Dec is to wash my curtains. 7 months no wash. My friend thought that the dirty curtains caused my cough. (These days my health is not good. At the beginning of the week I had a terrible headache. The weather changed from cold to hot and windy. Now I cough quite a lot.) I made a promise to wash them before New Year (solar calendar).
Maybe there are other things I will do during the 3-week break...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things to do before you turn 40

I read on the Internet the following things some days ago. I would like to copy and paste them here ... for fun. And I also want to check how many things I have completed and how many more things I should do before I turn 40... for fun, too. Now I am in the mid 30s. Whoa, an old lady (but a lovely lady as my friend said). Of the 40 things here, there are some I don't understand. I will look them up later.
1. Write a novel.
2. Stop feeling guilty.
3. Change a diaper.
4. Have an affair.
5. Forgive.
6. Stand on your head.
7. Fall in love.
8. Get your heart broken.
9. Go to Paris.
10. Buy a car.
11. Buy incredibly expensive lingerie.
12. Buy a sex toy.
13. Get a president elected.
14. Learn how to ride a horse.
15. Try anal sex.
16. Stop trying to figure out if you’re a feminist or not.
17. Have a baby.
18. Start a blog.
19. Experience umami, try uni, and embrace wabi-sabi.
20. Drive over 100 mph.
21. Give ‘til it hurts.
22. Earn a degree.
23. Lose someone close to you.
24. Be scared s**tless and do it anyway.
25. Accept the ravages of gravity.
26. Get a Rolex.
27. Lose it.
28. Scream at the top of your lungs.
29. Quit a job you hate.
30. Start a job you love.
31. Get married.
32. Get divorced.
33. Travel alone.
34. Visit three continents not including your own.
35. Balance a checkbook.
36. Get custom fitted for a bra.
37. Give up on thongs.
38. Get diagnosed; survive.
39. Lose it all.
40. Win everything back.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sunday morning

On Sunday morning I usually take my son to art club downtown. While he is in the classroom, I spend time going for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake or exploring discounter bookstores. And last Sunday the weather was so nice: not too cold, sunny and clear sky (even it is winter in Hanoi). Ideal for a walk. I stopped for a glass of lemon juice and a 'boat' of ice cream by the lake, enjoying the weather and Sunday without work. Talking about the discounter bookstores, I often buy stories there for me and my son. And the discount can be as much as 20%. On the way home, we went to the KFC near Vincom, Bob's favorite fastfood restaurant. He ate 3 chicken thighs but mummy skipped lunch (cos not hungry after an enormous breakfast and lemon juice and ice cream).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bob's paintings

I remember 'boasting' that my son is an artist. He likes arts. I should have introduced his collection long time ago, but I didn't know how. I learned to use Picasa. Today I am confident enough to present my son's masterpieces. :-). Please click here and have a look, which will encourage him a lot.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ho Chi Minh Museum

This Saturday morning I paid a visit to Ho Chi Minh Museum, which is in my list of places in Hanoi I should explore. It was downtown. So it took me about 30 minutes to ride my motorbike slowly there.
The museum was a big and modern building in a large garden. It exhibited so many objects relating to Uncle Ho, from his childhood things to his testiment. For foreigners, the museum gave them an overview of Uncle Ho, and for me, it remined me of my history knowlegde. My friend said the museum was well-organised. I agreed. But many objects there were models. There were many tourists there but it was not too crowded. The visit was less than one hour. I enjoyed the open air area: large and green and fresh air. The garden was well-cared.
I finished my morning with an early lunch in Goethe Institut's Restaurant. This is the third time I have eaten there. It was a nice restaurant: lovely and romantic decoration and delicous food. Especially, they had vases of so beautiful and fresh roses. I would like to recommend you that restaurant for next time you invite your beloved to eat out.

Low tech woman

I don't know much how to make use of the computer. Computering is so complicated for me. I click where I can click and test results while other people know exactly the position to click the mouse.
Long time ago when I chatted via Skype, my partner asked me to send a photo. I told him to give me his email address. He said no need because I could do it via Skype. But I had not ever done it before. He guided me to use Send File step by step. Poor me. Now I am good at sending and receiving photos and documents via Skype. :-).
Today I encountered a problem with connecting my Nokia to my laptop. It took me 3 hours to solve it. Tiring. After noon, I wanted to transfer some photos from the phone. But nothing happened. I opened Nokia PC Suite and it said no phone connected. I thought there was something wrong with the phone and the computer, so I turned them off and turned them on again and again. Same problem, no phone connected. On the screen, a sentence appeared. It said something like problem with connection and gave me the instruction like open Control Panel – Add and remove programmes – PC Connectivity Solution – Change – Repair. I did as it said but could not open Add and remove. I send my friend a message and told him that I had a problem with the two hi tech things. He advised me to uninstall the Nokia software and install again. I took out my Nokia CD. But first you should uninstall the programme. I could not open Add and remove. I sent him a message and told him the problem and said that I would ask an IT man to help. At that time he texted me and asked me to be patient, sometimes it took 5 minutes to open Add and remove. OK, I gave it another try. I stood up and went to the living room to relax. After a while I came back to the desk. There, it opened. I opened Control Panel – Add and remove programmes – PC Connectivity Solution – Change – Repair. The first time I must have clicked the wrong place, nothing happened. I tried again. It worked. So happy.
I call myself a low-tech woman. Please don’t laugh at me or tell me ‘No, you are wrong. You are a no-tech lady.’

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Writing a CV

The term 'curriculum vitae' is not strange for me. At school, we teach third year students how to write it, preparing them for applying for jobs after graduating. As a teacher, I am well-equipped with the theory: how many basic parts a simple CV should have, what you should you put under each heading of the CV. But as a job hunter, I am so bad at making my CV attractive. (Honestly, I have written it several times before, but just a very simple one). So embarrasing for me. :-)
Recently, a friend has helped me apply for a part-time job as a translator/interpreter for an office in Hanoi. And I was requested to submit a CV. I gave him a CV draft for proofreading (he is a consultant and accustomed to recruitments and job interviews). The feedback was: my CV should be improved more. I modified my CV as he suggested and now it looks much more 'professional' (I hope so). I would like to express my many thanks for him.
I learned a lesson that a CV should act as an advertisement for yourself, it should be written in a way to help sell yourself. You should mention your unique selling points. :-). ( I think if 'target customers' read my old CV, they would refuse me immediately. So simple, nothing impressive, nothing persuasive. I could not sell myself :-)
It is clear that sometimes what I teach is not like what I do in reality. 8-(. But I will try to bridge the gap.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Old students

Yesterday evening my students learning TOEIC in my place came to congratulate me on the occassion of Vietnamese Teachers' Day (20 Nov). It was a surprise for me. I had dinner late. So when they came I was still washing the dishes.

They presented me a bunch of light yellow roses (20), a pair of funny slippers, a card and some fruit. We sat in the tiny but cozy living room. My students put the flowers in the vase for me and they prepared the fruit. I contributed some cups of yoghurt from Bavi picnic. We talked and laughed and had a small party with fruit and yoghurt. We forgot the time. When I got a message from my friend, I learned that it was late for my students. They had to travel around 10 km back home. Poor them in a cold night. I thanked them for coming to me and saw them off. Then I read their card. They wrote ' Happy Teachers' Day! We wish you happiness and success. We love you.' So touching.

I took some photos. It is quite easy for you to recognise them because they appeared in my previous blog entry (one completely new student).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Picnic to Ba Vi

Last Sunday, I went for a picnic with my colleagues. There were about 45 people including children. The bus picked us up at out university at 7.30 am, which meant that I and Bob had to wake up early and travelled there by motorbike. Bob was very excited about the trip. Nothing surprising because he likes travelling. After a light breakfast, putting on warm clothes, we set off.

Ba Vi was about 60 km far from Hanoi. Not very far, so I decided not to take nautamine (carsick medicine). Luckily, both of us did not suffer from carsickness.

We arrived at about 9.30. From the 'bus park' to the exact destination was about 2 km. We had to walk. It was really a natural place: path, no road, green grass and bushes around us, 'dirty things' from cows or goats or lambs under our feet; however, fresh air and peace. So different from our city life. We stopped in the middle of a little pine wood. The people who were responsible for preparing main course for us had put up a tent-like thing. The view was fine but it was much better if it was sunny. Poor us, it was so cold and windy here. All of us sat in groups chatting, grilling lamb meat, baking corn and sweet potatoes, enjoying our lunch outdoors and teasing and joking with each other and singing. A lot of fun. But unfortunately, my Nokia had low battery and it shut off automatically, not many photos were taken.

Bob got on well with other kids. He had a good time too. He liked playing around the fire.

At 2.30 we decided to start the journey back. Walking through the field again to the bus. The bus ran at 3.00. On the way back we stopped to buy fresh milk, caramel and youghurt. (Bavi has got farms raising cows.) When we were about 10 km from Big C, we got stuck in a terrible traffic jam, which took us two hours to escape from it.

We got back to our motorbike after 6.30 and home at 7.15 I thought. Cold and hungry. We just had a light dinner and went to bed early.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy when being with son

My son loves watching Disney Channel, like other kids. After coming home from school and after doing homework he often watch it. Today, no homework, so he has more time for himself. This afternoon, while I was busy with cooking dinner, he enjoyed his programme “My Dad, Your Dad’ so much. He talked and laughed. I urged him at least twice to have dinner. He said yes and then laughed and talked again. When I stepped into the living room to see what was on there, here was what I saw. I slided my Nokia and took a snapshot.
Oh, by the way, this morning, we went swimming together. He was able to swim from the deepest end (1.9m) to the other end of the pool once after mummy encouraging and challenging. He made it. And what I found funny when I happened to see him swimming with his head above the water. I could not help laughing. No one taught him to swim like that yet. And whenever he saw me swimming towards him, he started to dive under me. Or when I stood up to have a break he also grabbed my body and dived. So happy. I can not imagine one day I and my son can swim like these days. It is just a basic type of swimming but it is my breakthrough.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Big eater

Compared to my family members and my colleagues, I do not each much. True. All of them say that I eat so little. I start eating at the same time with them but I often stop before them. I get full so quickly. However, my best friend often teases me by calling me 'Big Eater'. The reason is so simple: I often order more dishes (but hardly ever finish all of them) when we eat out and and can eat fruits many times. :-). Here are two evidences that I am truly a BIG EATER.

Thursday

After changing my teaching timetable so many times, I have Thursday off work. No teaching at all. Even I suggested my students that they should learn in my place on Thursday, they refused. A full day for myself in the middle of the week. But in fact, no teaching does not mean no working. I spend the day finishing making and editting my group's end-of term tests and unit reviews or marking my students' papers. Last night, I tried my best to send the last review in order to have my Thursday today completely free.

I got up as usual because I had to take my son to school. On the way home, I went shopping and prepared food for lunch and dinner. After that, I checked my email and intended to go swimming in a pool called "4 seasons" (which means you can go swimming there for the whole year because it is indoors). But I could not swim today. I felt a headache and had to stop working on the computer. I took medicine and slept on the sofa until noon. I got up and prepared lunch and took medicine again. Then I slept on the sofa until 4 pm. I felt much better.
Time to pick up Bob at school. We went to the hairdresser's after school. My son's hair was 'long' so I wanted him to have a haircut.

When we got home, I cooked dinner. Simple but delicious. And now, sitting on the sofa and surfing the net and enjoying being lazy.

I love my Thursday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

'When you tell me that you love me'

When you tell me that you love me (13 November)

I Wanna Feel This Way
Longer Than Time
I Wanna Know Your Dreams
And Make Them Mine
I Wanna Change the World
Only For You
All the Impossible
I Wanna Do
I Wanna Hold You Close Under the Rain
I Wanna Kiss Your Smile
And Feel Your PainI Know What's Beautiful
Looking At You
Here in a World of Lies
You Are the True

And Baby
Everytime You Touch Me
I Become a Hero
I'll Make You Safe no Matter Where You Are
And Bring You
Anything You Ask For
Nothing Is Above Me
I'm Shining Like a Candle in the Dark
When You Tell Me That You Love Me
I Wanna Make You See
Just What I Was
Show You the Loneliness
And What It Does
You Walked Into My Life
To Stop My Tears
Everything's Easy Now
I Have You Here

In a World Without You
I Would Always Hunger
All I Need Is Your Love to Make Me Stronger

All of you

All of You
Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross
I've never had this feeling before I've never wanted anyone more
And something in your eyes tells me
You feel the way that I do (I feel like you do)
If you would like to stay here all night
You know that I would say
It's all right
Though I'm saying yes I confess
I've got more on my mind
'Cause I want more of you
Than your time
All of you, your body and soul
Every kind of love you can express
All the secret dreams you've never told
I want everything
And I'll take nothing less
All of you as long as you live
Everything you've never shared before
I want all of you that you can give
All your joys and all your sorrows
Your todays and your tomorrows
How I long to feel the warmth of your touch
And then if I'm not asking too much
I'd like to spend my life wand'ring through
All the wonders of you
And when we're lying close in the dark
So close I feel each beat of your heart
I want you to reveal what you feel
All you hold deep inside
There is nothing I want you to hide
All of you, your body and soul
Everything you want this love to be
I want all of you
All that you can give
And in return for all your giving
Let me give you all of me
All of you, your body and soul
Every kind of love you can express
All the secret dreams you've never told
I want everything (everything) everything
All of you as long as you live
(As long as you live)
Everything you want this love to be
I want all of you
All that you can give
In return (in return)
wanna give you... Let me give you

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My nicknames

Nick name is an informal name for someone or something, especially a name which you are called by your friends or family, usually based on your proper name or your character (Cambridge Advanced Dictionary). I have had at least 6 nicknames with their own story. My first nickname is 'Em bé' (Little Girl). My parents used to call me like that because I am their youngest child, even when I was a student. My brothers and sisters called me 'Tũn' (meaning something like small but ugly name). I knew, they called me by that name because they wanted to tease me and it implied that they loved me. That name was still used even when I had nieces. I remember my first brother-in-law called me Aunt Tũn on be half of his children. And at school, I was the monitor of my class from Grade 1 to Grade 8, my classmates called 'Lop truong' (Monitor). They hardly ever call me by my name. My fourth nickname is 'Quyên Tàu' (Chinese Quyen). It was created by a neighbor. She is about 8 years older than me. Maybe my name sounds Chinese and my hair looks Chinese. :-). At work, I am named 'Quyen 2', so that I can be distinguished with Quyen 1, Quyen 3 and Quyen 4. We have 4 teachers called Quyen in my department. So interesting that this name is rare but it is one of the most popular name in my department. Once I made a joke of the name Quyen 2 with my friend. I said number 2 made me always a number 2 person. So sad. I also know that in someone's contact, I am named '1 call'. Now I am number 1. :-). Happy.
I love my nicknames. They go along with my life and they remind me of my childhood and people who surrounded and surround me now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cocktails

Believe it or not, I have never tried cocktails and I did not know what cocktails were until yesterday when I prepared a lesson relating to how to make a cocktail for my students in a hotel. I just knew it was a drink and often appeared in menus. And my friend once mentioned some cocktails but long time ago. That was all.

Why did I have bad knowledge of cocktails? There are some reasons. First, I do not drink alcoholic drinks: wine, spirits, beer, bitters, liquors. Second, cocktails are not common for Vietnamese people, especially average people like me. Moreover, cocktails are a bit luxurious (my student told me that the cheapest cocktail in the bar is 75,000 dongs).

Now I know more about cocktails, from the Internet and from my students (4 or 5 students awork in the bar and one is the bar captain). Cocktail is drink that is made up of a mixture of different beverages such as fruit juice or soda and usually alcohol, and served iced or chilled (Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.) There are so many kinds of cocktails and each kind has got a name which was called by the person who created the recipe to make it. Some names sound scary, such as Bloody Mary. To make a cocktail you need the following equipment: shaker, zigger, measure, bar spoon, strainer, stir stick and glasses.

Making a cocktail is an art and the bartender is an artist. They serve cocktails in cocktail glasses of different shapes and garnish them with cherries and slices of lemon, orange or celery. I am so amazed when I find that tobasco sauce and salt and pepper are used to add flavours to cocktails. Unbelievable. One important thing about a glass of cocktail is that it contains main tastes of life: sweet (sugar), sour (lemon, lime), salty (salt), and bitter (bitter). Honestly, I love looking at glasses of cocktails. They are sooooo beautiful and in fact they are works of art. By the way it is not too difficult to make a cocktail as long as you have got right equipment, right ingredients (at least 2 kinds of spirits and fruit juice or soda) and passion for cocktails.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hoa Lo Prison

Of course no one wants to go to prision but going to Hoa Lo prison is possible for anyone. The ticket is only 10,000 dongs/person.

It is located in downtown Hanoi, not very far from Hoan Kiem Lake. It was built by French a long time ago, in place which used to be a village. Unbelievable. Now part of the prison's area is Hanoi Tower and the remaining becomes a historic site and tourist attraction. This prison was used by French to keep Vietnamese political prisoners (among whom were some of the Party's leaders) and used by Vietnam to keep American pilots who were captured alive in the North during Vietnam War.

I paid a visit to Hoa Lo this morning. Not many visitors there and the prison is small, which made my visit short. What I felt a bit afraid of was small and dark cells keeping prisoners who were sentenced to death. And what made me feel so touched was the fact that Vietnamese political prisoners survived, escaped and continued their struggles against French before 1945. And I saw on the wall in the memorial area this sentence 'Chao cac dong chi o lai. Vinh biet.' (Goodbye comrades who remain here. Adieu.) I am not sure but it could be said by a political prisoner on the way to the guillotine. So sad. In the photo, behind me are some words presented to political prioners who sacrificed their life for the country, 'Loyal, Undaunted, Glorious, Forever'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Workload reduced

We have only 6 weeks ahead to finish the first semester. However, it seems that we feel bored and tired now. I myself finished one evening class and gave up another class in the International Relations Faculty. I have more time at home now, but relaxing time is still something luxury for me during the week. I am assigned to edit some questions in the end of term test for first year students and a review test. The deadline is 30th October, but I have not done anything on them yet. I plan to spend the whole day tomorrow to finish it. In addition, a list of interview questions for fourth year students have been read carefully. In my opinion, they are diffcult to answer, difficult to teach and to learn. This is the first time we have taught this kind of material. No experience at all. Hope it is going to be all right.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The West Lake

It is a large and beautiful lake in the northwest of Hanoi. It is a famous tourist attraction. Around the lake are so many beautiful buildings. Recently a road running around the lake has been being built. Last weekend I had a chance to go on a tour half the lake. My first place is Quang Ba. This place used to be famous for flowers and bonsai for Tet holiday, for restaurants and now a residential place for the rich and for foreigners. It is so peaceful with a lot of houses with high fences next to each ther. I think long time ago neighbours knew each other but now just stepping out of your house you meet a stranger. It is this place I saw some ponds of lotus. It must be beautiful in the summer, season of this kind of flowers. I also travelled along the new waterfront road, which is called Japan Habour road. I do not know why it has got that name. But the name sounds so romantic. My friend said that in the evening, especially at weekends this long road is full of couples. I went past the Tay Ho pagoda, up to the Ho Tay Villa and along the road near the dike, past Sheraton Hotel to the end of the road near Intercontinetal Hotel.

The next stop was Sunset Bar in the Intercontinental on the water. I has been there once before, in the evening. But this time in the afternoon. The bar was closed. I remember when we were there we just drank juice and tea. Terribly expensive.

After the Sunset bar, I paid a visit to Tran Quoc pagoda and had some ice cream in Banh Tom Ho Tay restaurant. The location was perfect but the ice cream was not high quality. This restaurant serves shrimp ricecake, speciality. I tried it but it was too oily, not my type. It was here a ride on the water swan was decided.

I did not know the name, something like water bicycle (explained by my friend). Imagine you are on the water, far from the shore, in the middle of nowhere. Wonderful, isn't it? Soooooo peaceful and windy and fresh. You just want to fall asleep there, believe me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quoc Tu Giam

Honestly, I do not explore much Hanoi, my hometown. Here there are so many historical and cultural attractions. These are the places I have ever heard of, I have ever passed by but many of which I have NEVER visited. Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps 'material' life and 'social' things consume a large part of my time. Or perhaps I am lazy to go out.

Quoc Tu Giam, a famous landmark of Hanoi, is the place I did not visit until today. It is on the corner of Ton Duc Thang Street and Nguyen Thai Hoc Str, which used to be my way to university. That means I went past Quoc Tu Giam so many times during my 4 years at university, long long time ago. But only today did I come into it.

Quoc Tu Giam is very beautiful and well-designed. There are a lot of big ancient trees and five small lakes inside, which makes the whole area peaceful and fresh. Moreover, it is looked after well, clean and paved roads, green grass and visitors seems to be well-behaviored (they must be well-educated). However, the text on the stelae of doctor laureates of the Royal exams is in Chinese and I cannot read Chinese. A little pity! Anyhow, I am satisfied with the decision to pay a visit there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rat race

I told myself not to teach any classes anymore because I am working almost three classes everyday. However, one more job offer came to me. I did not turn it down. As a result, so busy with preparing lessons and correcting homework. I cannot afford to have time doing nothing. The most relaxing time for me is from Saturday noon to Sunday night. I told my friends and colleagues I am living like Suzy Stressed (a character in our English coursebook) and for me life in the week is really a rat race now. But my life will return to be calm during the time between the two semesters, Tet holiday and summer holiday. In fact, I just teach 36 weeks a year. So maybe on average I am as busy as other employees.

As I mentioned above, my relaxing time starts on Saturday noon. (I often refuse to teach for other colleagues on Saturday afternoon.) And yesterday afternoon I met my friend downtown and we had a chance to walk along the lake for a while. Hanoi is in the middle of autumn. The weather is pleasant, chilly and not raining. Many people were walking there too, hand in hand, side by side. I am sure most of them are lovers, most of them are tourists, most of them are students. Peaceful. Romantic.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mid-autumn festival

When I was young, when I was a little girl, when life was really difficult for most Vietnamese people this festival really meant to me. We looked forward to it, looked forward to eating typical things such as mooncakes, grapefruits etc , looked forward to getting some presents from parents like a star-shaped, animal-shaped lights, crowns and masks. It is Tet for children. Now it is so different when we are grown up.
I bought two mooncakes a few days ago for my son and a box of mooncake to put on the altar yesterday. Fruits? Oh, we eat almost everyday. Toys for son? He often gets them. But I still feel the environment of the festival. For young people tonight is also a good time to go out together, to watch people on the streets and to watch the beautiful moon in the sky if they are in open areas and to listen to drums. Here I just remember my father who passed away last year. When he was alive, he used to take part in the group of dancers performing in my village. This afternoon, I presented my mum some mooncakes and did not forget to tell her to put on the altar inviting my father... Time flies, he has been away for almost a year.
What is the history of mid-autumn festival and mooncakes? Honestly, I don't know. I felt so shy when my friend asked me if I knew it. I have had at least 34 mid-autumn festivals in my life but I did not know much about it. I will look it up soon.
I do not do anything special tonight, sitting on the sofa lazily and watching 'Mr. Bean's holiday', a comedian. Long time no watch TV. I still hear loud noises of drums downstairs.
Tomorrow we have to go to university, making up for last Saturday's work, while others enjoy their weekend. So boring for teachers like me. However, I think we will stop classes earlier than on weekdays: no one has mood for studying on Sunday.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend in Hue

I have read and heard of flight delays and until the recent flight to Hue did I experience it. Terrible! Our flight was scheduled to take off at 17.45 but just before I took a taxi to the airport, Vietname Airlines called me and informed me that it was posponed until 18.30. But it continued to be delayed until 19.20 then 19.45. Finally, it took off at 20.20. Passengers looked tired and bored in the departure lounge. Even I saw one napping. There was not much to do there: eating, drinking and talking. We killed the time by exploring the lounge as well.
We arrived in Hue after about 1 hour in the sky.

After checking in the hotel in the center (the hotel was the high building behind me), going up to the 14th floor and unpacking, I walked to the window. The city was peaceful. From the hotel window I could see the Huong River and Trang Tien Bridge more clearly than the previous time I was there. So beautiful.

We wanted to have something for the stomache. But it was late, we could not go out. So we visited the rooftop bar of the hotel and I had a glass of fruit juice there and enjoyed the overview of the city at night in the moonlight. Hue was sleeping.

The next day I woke up at 7 am. The first thing I did was to look out of the window again. Sunday's life started. Not much traffic in the street. The sun was shining not very brightly, the wind blowing gently, what a pleasant weather. Completely different from my previous trip to here: boiling and humid.

We decided to rent orange bikes to go on a tour of the city. We walked to an old rental shop, which was not very far from our hotel. We cycled over the bridge and to the Citadel. I wanted to visit only the areas which I missed before. It was so wonderful to wander here. I just had a little dissatisfaction: the preservation and maintenance work was happening too slowly. After the Citadel, we cycled around the city.

We returned the bike after having lunch in the paradise garden on the riverfront. Cool and fresh air here, which made me want to sleep. On the way back to the hotel to relax, we walked through the park on the river bank and took some photos here.

We spent the afternoon visiting one of the most beautiful royal tombs in Hue: King Tu Duc's Tomb. We organised the tour ourselves so we had more time to explore the tomb's area. Actually, I also visited the parts which I missed in my previous trip. On the way back to the center, we visited the Ngu Binh mountain range, one of the famous landmarks in Hue. Now I could say that this trip made my previous one more complete.

We had some snack in a mini restaurant near the river and an early dinner on the second floor of a small restaurant in town. We came back to the hotel and got ready to the airport. On the way to the hotel, it rained heavily. As I knew, a storm was going to strike the city. We got to the airport and checked in and waited for a while and luckily, the flight was on time. The flight took off at 19.50. My second trip to the peaceful city ended.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Home class again

I have been so busy these days with preparing teaching materials for my private classes (private and from the centers). I could have refused to teach them but not. Really don't understand why not.

My own class has got 11 students (3 males). And the flat has got a small spare room and now the room is changed into a classroom with some investment in furniture (everything should be small to fit in the room). I told them but they still insisted on learning in my place. My students have to sit so close to each other. But luckily it is autumn, so not too hot. We are cooled by three fans. These students want to learn TOEIC test tactics and I teach them some vocabulary and grammar which are TOEIC-oriented. So far, they seem to be hardworking students and really interested in English.

Why do I have this class? Well, easily. One of my old students who I used to teach recommended me to her room mate (her name is Nga) last year. Nga wanted me to open a new class but I did not have much free time at that time. And at the beginning of this semester she phoned me again. The result was ... I agreed to teach her and her friends. Now we meet twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday evening for 2 hours each. The class will last 60 hours.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Independence Day

It was a public holiday in Vietnam. This year we celebrated the Independence Day early in my mum's place. My second sister's family was responsible for that: a small party for the whole family. So yesterday we were 'independent'. However, we decided to visit a museum with my friend in the morning. Honestly, I hardly ever go to museums. It is partly because I often had to spend my free time visiting families or having small lunch with families, and partly because Vietnamese people have no habit to do that. We just spend time trying to earn money not trying to educate ourselves. I remember taking my son to 2 museums in Hanoi before: Military Museum and Airforce Museum and 1 museum in Saigon: War Remnants. He has been to Uncle Ho's Museum while I haven't.

My son was excited. He got up as early as 6 am (no need mother to wake up) and asked me for the time so often. I told him we left at 8 am. Before the museum, I went to the market to buy some food. A nice and cool day, still a bit foggy, a bit sunny, typical autumn day. (I like that kind of the weather.) I did not forget to buy a bunch of flowers to decorate the living room, some fruits, a square cake to put on the altar. And we left home at 8.15.

The streets were still busy because people went out (like us). We got to the museum just after 9. Whoa, so many people there. I said to my friend that it must be the most crowded museum in Hanoi. It changed what people often thought about museums: as deserted as museums. It was also beautiful with large gardens and clean grass. It was not only good for cultural education (lifestyle of Vietnamese ethnic minorities) but also ideal for picnic and for families together at the weekend. Oh, I could see a couple having their wedding photos taken here.

We finished the visit by having lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant nearby.

In the afternoon, I suffered a terrible headache. I took some panadol and then vomitted what I ate at lunchtime. I was not able to cook dinner for my son. I told him to prepare it himself. He peeled the square cake and ate a quarter. He took a shower and then at 8 pm he went to bed. I asked him why he went to bed early. He said because mum was sick and it was boring. He slept at once. I knew that because he snored. I woke up and slept and woke up and slept. I really slept after 10 pm. No dinner, no shower.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Milk flowers

Talking about the autumn in Hanoi we can not forget to mention a kind of typical flowers here: hoa sua (milk flowers). They used to be in Nguyen Du street, but now sua flower trees can be found in many streets and parks and gardens in Hanoi. I don't know why they are called milk flowers. Perhaps, the flowers are as white as milk and they smell as sweet as milk? What is special about hoa sua is that they only smell in the evening and at night. (or they smell all day but only in the evening do we have time to smell the scent). It is so wonderful to go out with our beloved, in a street that has hoa sua, in the evening, under the moon, in the autumn climate. I sometimes have the feeling as if I was in love and sometimes I have the feeling of missing someone (unclear) . Yes, romantic. Anyone who has spent their youth in Hanoi and has had a love in Hanoi can not forget the scent of hoa sua. One bad thing about these flowers is that we can not put up with too many milk flowers, which smell too strong.
Hoa sua come into songs and poetry. Here is a sentence from the song 'Hoa sua'. ... Hoa sữa vẫn nồng nàn đầu phố đêm đêm, có lẽ nào anh lại quên em ...
(Milk flowers still smell sweet at the beginning of the street every night, you forget me, is it possible?)
Next time, when you go out in streets (not in a car or taxi), try to find hoa sua scent somewhere in the wind.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Autumn arrives

Even summer is over but the weather in autumn these days have been really humid, even more terrible than in summer. As a result, I was sick for nearly 5 days, eating little (mostly fruits) and drinking a lot of water.
Autumn arrives and children start their new school year. One more week to go, my son will go to school ‘full time’ from 7 to 5.15. This year is his last year in the primary school. Just wish him a successful year.
Autumn in Hanoi is nice and is associated with ‘romantic’. The sky is high and blue and clear. The sun shines brightly. The wind blows gently. The trees are full of green leaves. It is not very hot and at night it is even cool. A season for lovers to miss each other more. However, autumn is also seen as ‘sad’...

Friday, August 21, 2009

'You don't have to say ...'

In our coursebooks, sometimes we have some songs for students to enjoy and to consolidate certain grammar items. The song 'You don't have to say you love me' is one of these songs. Students enjoy it when learning 'have to'. A nice and sad song but I like it (although I don't want to be like the woman in the song). I just found some information about it in Wikipedia. It says "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" is a song recorded by British singer Dusty Springfield. It is an English version of an Italian song called "Io che non vivo (senza te)" (translated: "I, who can't live (without you)") written by Pino Donaggio and Vito Pallavicini. Springfield heard it at the Sanremo Festival in 1965 where it was performed by Donaggio himself and his team partner Jody Miller, and she presented it to Vicki Wickham and Simon Napier-Bell, who wrote the English lyrics for the song. Released in early 1966, the single release of Springfield's recording became a huge hit and remains one of the songs most identified with her.

You said you would always stay
It wasn't me who changed but you
And now you've gone away

Don't you see
That now you've gone
And I'm left here on my own
That I have to follow you
And beg you to come home?

You don't have to say you love me
Just be close at hand
You don't have to stay forever
I will understand
Believe me, believe me
I can't help but love you
But believe me
I'll never tie you down

Left alone with just a memory
Life seems dead and so unreal
All that's left is loneliness
There's nothing left to feel

You don't have to say you love me
Just be close at hand
You don't have to stay forever
I will understand
Believe me, believe me

You don't have to say you love me
Just be close at hand
You dont have to stay forever
I will understand
Believe me, believe me, believe me

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New clothes

As a rule, when a new school year starts, I often buy something new for myself , such as a handbag, a new bottle of perfume, a pair of shoes, some clothes. This year, I bought some new clothes instead of going to the tailor's. I am fatter. My skirts are fine but shirts are too tight. I spent a whole Sunday morning strolling downtown and finally decided to buy two new shirts and a dress. I don't know why but it is quite easy for me to choose ready-to-wear things. And my friends find them nice. I hope they mean it. :-). (My friend took this photo of me in a new dress at the end of our teaching day today.)

Money

Sometimes I am offered chances to make money. Sometimes I have to turn them down. Sometimes I feel so sorry for that. My time budget is limited. I told my friend that I was so greedy, I wanted to earn money but I also wanted to take care of my family. It is obvious that I can not do both of them well at the same time. Both of them need my time. Trade off. If you turn left, you can not turn right. I am teaching an evening class in my colleagues' center. They are short-staffed. I told them I could not continue after 10 lessons. I don't know if I can stop or not because they insisted me to cooperate with them. I have just refused another evening class at VOV. But other chances come to me. Students ask me to teach them outside school time. They are waiting for my reply. And I am considering. It is much better if they come to my place.
This noon, when we were relaxing in the staff room, some colleagues said that they wished to reduce working time (35 periods /week) on condition that their husbands could bring them more money so that they could stay at home more. I just smiled and asked them how much was 'more money'. They calculated and gave an amount. A dream number for most of teachers in my department. However, I don't think they would reduce workload if they got that amount. We work for money (extremely right) but for enjoyment as well. Am I a dreamer? Anyhow, I am not rich (poorer than the rich) but not very poor (richer than the poor). Some people even tell me that I will be rich because I have got a beauty spot in the middle of the hollow part on the front neck, it is considered as a money hole - so funny........ Despite it, I still want to work to earn as much money as possible. Nothing good comes to a lazy person. And I still understand that money is not everything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Souvenir from Bat Trang

A friend of mine just gave me a souvenir from the trip to Bat Trang: statutes of a famous couple Chi Pheo (man) and Thi No (woman). They come from a famous story which I think most Vietnamese people know. I remember telling my friend a bit about their love story that goes back to before 1945. They were very very poor. Chi Pheo often drank and got drunk and often sweared and cursed (he had been a good man) and Thi No was so ugly. In general, they had no friends. One night Chi Pheo got drunk and was ill (caught a cold). Luckily Thi No found him and cooked rice porridge with some small spring onion (very very simple rice soup) to offer him (Vietnames people think hot porridge and onion can help people with a cold be better). And they fell in love with each other. Their love story is part of the whole long story Lang Vu Dai Ngay Ay (Vu Dai Village in the old time). Obviously love is every where and comes to everybody.

Getting back to work

My first working week is nearly over. Nice to get back to school, meeting colleagues and old and new students. This semester I teach quite a lot. Not a big problem for my health but I haven't got much free time for my son, especially these days he doesn't have to go to school yet.
From now on, we have different coursebooks for students of different departments: Market leader, Tourism, Engineering, IT and Toeic. Luckily I am assigned to teach Market leader and Toeic. As a result, not much time on preparing materials.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Where Did Your Heart Go?"

A friend of mine gave me this song in a collection in a USB long time ago. Now it turns out to be the song I listen the most in iTunes, 35 times.

Where did your heart go
By Wham

I spend my nights down on the wharf
In unlit alleyways
By the church downtown
Where Sally prays
Come down sometime
We'll share a rusty can of corn...
And listen to the radio
I love you, I love you, it says...

[CHORUS:]
Where did your heart go
Did you put it on a train
Did you leave it in the rain
Or down in Mexico

You cry, but I don't know
I've heard it all before
There it goes again, the slamming of the door
Sometimes the river calls me
And at night it calls my name
Says "put your troubles down beside me"
Things have always been the same...
And rock 'n' roll won't teach me
What the river said that night
I jumped into this beauty
And drifted out of sight...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Swimming course

The goal for the summer I set for myself is that I can swim. Now, summer is over and it seems that I have achieved that. Happy. Both my son and I can swim and feel so comfortable in the water. Whenever I ask him to join me to go swimming, he agrees. I must admit that I was afraid of water, drank some pool water and that it took me time (and money) to get confident in the pool. I practiced a lot and went to the pool so regularly that the safety guards knew me. From now, I have not much free time but I can still go swimming 3 times a week (Thur morning, Sat and Sun).

New School Year

Tomorrow I come back to work again. I have prepared teaching materials for the first week quite well. It is clear that I teach more classes than the last year (9 classes at school and 3 classes in the evening). I don't know if I can handle that or not, but I give it a try. Good news is that all classes at school are in the same campus and it is in Minh Khai street, which means easier to assess, no flood, no dust and no bumpy road; and 7 classes are learning the same books and so are the other 2 classes, which means I don't have to bring many coursebooks. However, my son will suffer a bit when mum works hard.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer holiday is over

My long summer holiday is nearly over. New school year starts in a week. Today afternoon I have to attend our falcuty meeting, preparing for the new school year. It also means that autumn in Hanoi is coming. The hot weather will disappear soon (this photo was taken on one of the hottest day in Hanoi). However, some hot days are still expected in August.

I am happy with summer 2009. In general, I have done some good things. Son attended his art club (however, skipped some days because of travelling), we had wonderful (and informative) trips (especially my mum had a chance to travel by air) and we started to learn to swim (now we can swim, not very well but progress made). And I gained weight, a bit (no change in diet but maybe my life is more comfortable). One thing I did not do very well is teaching my son English regularly (this will be better in the new school year).

Friday, July 31, 2009

A visit to Hue

Day 1: departure. The flight arrived in Hue at noon. It did not take much time to get out of the terminal (a small airport) and got in a Mai Linh taxi to the hotel. My first impressions when I got to Hue were hot weather (maybe 36 degrees), local people’s accent (difficult to understand them), and peace (not much traffic).


The hotel was in the center, near the Perfume River and Truong Tien bridge. The room was fine, facing the street and we could see the river from the balcony. After relaxing a bit we went out for lunch. There were many restaurants nearby. I chose one opposite the hotel. It looked nice, but it was so busy, no table left. We had to go to another on the same side as my hotel. The food was fine except the vegetable soup with crab. It was different from the northern cuisine. Then we went back to the hotel to have a nap.

At 4.30 we started the tour . We walked over the bridge. It was one of the landmarks in Hue, very famous. It came into poetry and folksongs. Here was an example:
Cầu Tràng Tiền 6 vài 12 nhịp
Trang tien bridge has 6 arcs and 12 spans
Anh đi mà không kịp tội lắm em ơi
I went over it (to meet you) but not in time, poor me
Chẳng thà không biết thì thôi
If we did not know each other, it would not be a matter
Biết rồi mỗi đứa một nơi sao đành
But we do and each person is at each end, which is sad

We went into a supermarket at the foot of the bridge and bought some water and fruit. We walked back to the hotel and left the purchase there and continued the tour. The roads here were small and so peaceful. But the pavements were not well-cared. We could find some houses with a garden or a green hedge.
We had dinner in a floating restaurant near the bridge. So windy, cool and a good view of the river and the bridge in the evening. My son realized that the bridge lights changed colours, which was magnificent.
We finished dinner at 8 pm. Still early. We decided to take a boat ride and listen to Hue folksongs (there were 2 performances: one at 7 pm and the other at 8.30 pm). The band had 8 singers and musicians. They performed about 10 songs. Honestly, sometimes I did not recognize the lyrics. In addition, the sound quality was not good. No micro, no amplifier, no speakers. Some Vietnamese people even talked louder than singers. One of the song they sang was Ly 10 thuong (10 reasons why I love you). Anyhow, I had one more experience. We went back to the hotel at around 10 pm. Time to sleep to refresh for the next day’s tour.

Day 2 in Hue started with a tour to Vi Da ward. I wanted to visit this place because it was also in poetry. A well-known romantic poet, Han Mac Tu (1912-1940), wrote a poem about this village. And the poem was in literature course book I studied long time ago Đây thôn Vĩ Dạ (Here Vi Da village)
Sao em không về chơi thôn Vĩ (Why don’t you visit Vi Da village?)
Nhìn nắng hàng cau nắng mới lên (To look at the sunlight over the areca trees in the morning)
Vườn ai mướt quá xanh như ngọc (Someone’s garden is as green and fresh as gem)
Lá trúc che ngang mặt chữ điền (Little bamboo leaves cover a square face)

Gió theo lối gió mây đường mây (Wind goes wind’s way, cloud goes cloud’s way)
Dòng nước buồn trôi hoa bắp lay (Water flows sadly, corn flowers sway lighly)
Thuyền ai đậu bến sông trăng đó (Somebody’s boat is mooring at the moon river pier)
Có chở trăng về kịp tối nay (I wonder if it carries the moon in time tonight)

Mơ khác đường xa khách đường xa (Dream about a visitor)
Áo em trắng quá nhìn không ra (Your dress is too white for me to recognise you)
Ở đây sương khói mờ nhân ảnh (Here smoke and fog make the figure unclear)
Ai biết tình ai có đậm đà (I don’t know if your love is deep)

Long time ago it was a village but now it is the city. I walked along the main road and tried to find areca trees and gardens, not many left. The village was on the banks of two rivers Perfume and Như Ý (To your liking / As desired) River. There were still boats on the river, there were still corn trees and the sun shone brightly. And we came back to the hotel over the Vi Da bridge.
The day before I booked a city tour visiting some royal tombs, Thien Mu pagoda and a garden house. The receptionist said the bus would pick us up at 9.20. I told my mum and son to stay at the hotel waiting for the bus (they seemed a bit tired) and I rented a bike just around the corner to cycle along Le Loi street. I passed some universities, hospital (famous for curing heart diseases) and the National School (where Uncle Ho studied) and stopped in front of the station (I stopped here some times when travelling by train). On the way back to the hotel I went along some other streets: small and peaceful and not very busy.
I returned the bike and walked back to the hotel. And here came the bus (big and air conditioned). We went to the citadel and the bus picked up a group of 20 other people. They booked a full day tour. We just joined them.

The first stop was a shop selling Hue specialties: candy and tea and sour shrimp sauce. I bought some for my family and friends. The second stop was An Hien garden house. Whoa, an ancient house in the middle of very large garden with so many trees. A mandarin used to live here. The third stop was Thien Mu pagoda, a pagoda commemorating a fairy lady. It was on a hill with many pine trees.

The pagoda was so famous that it had a model as a souvenir and that it was in postcards. We walked to the end of the place and back. It was really hot. We drank a lot of water. And we sweated a lot.
After the pagoda, we went to the center to have buffet lunch for 30 minutes. Then we started the tour of 3 royal tombs: Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Tu Duc. They were on hills and far away from the center.


Minh Mang and Tu Duc tombs were in large areas with many trees and lakes. But Khai Dinh tomb was on a side of a hill and the structure was made from cement, no trees, no lakes. When we visited Tu Duc tomb, there were some buildings we could not enter because they were in bad conditions, dangerous for visitors. I tried to visit as many places as possible within the time budget. I had some photos taken in Khai Dinh and Minh Mang tombs. My Nokia did not produce nice photos while I wanted some nice photos for my mum.
On the way to visit Tu Duc tomb we called in a ‘conical hat and incense stick producing village’ as introduced in the leaflet. But in fact it was a roadside shop with two women making these two things. It was here where I bought a small boat and my mum bought some hats.
After Tu Duc tomb we went back to the city by ‘dragon boat’. So hot in the tombs and now so cool and fresh on the river.
We relaxed a bit and had a shower and then went out to have dinner. I found out that there was a vegetarian restaurant in Le Loi Street called Bồ Đề (Bodhi tree) restaurant. And my mum was half Buddist (she eats vegetarian dishes on certain days). So we walked to the restaurant and had dinner there. Only my mum finished her food. I and my son could not.
We were so tired after the city tour. So we went back to the hotel. My mum and son could relax. It was still early, but they did not want to be out anymore. I went to the cafe around the corner and ordered a drink and an ice cream box and enjoyed the city atmosphere in the evening. So many tourists walking in the street.

Day 3 was for the citadel. I intended to include this tour in the tour of royal tombs but my friend advised me not. Luckily I took the advice. We had no energy after the tour of royal tombs. We decided to spend the whole morning traveling in the citadel. We went there by rickshaw. Firsts around the citadel. Then the rickshaw drivers dropped us at the main gate. It was not as hot as the day before. (In fact, it rained a bit when we were visiting a small exhibition room). We went into the citadel without the tour guide. But the photographer, the information boards and the tour guide of a group helped us.
Walking to explore the remaining of the ancient palace was really tiring. It was peaceful and a bit holy in some temples. There were so many plastic animals. My son asked me to take this photo for him. I had to lift the animal up and he crawled inside. When visiting the citadel I was rather disappointed when I saw so many buildings were destroyed and there was a lack of information boards and there was rubbish in some places and some things from the festival left, no one put them away, and the grass was not beautiful. However, workers were doing the preservation work. Hope after that the citadel would be more beautiful (it must take long long long time). We ended the tour after 11 am. We went to the restaurant (which was introduced in some tourist book) and had Hue specialties: banh khoai (cake) and bun thit nuong (noodle with grilled pork). The restaurant was small and dirty and bad service (I mean the waitresses and waiters were not very friendly). And the food was greasy and fat. But it was cheap. We slept in the room until 5 pm.
Then we went to another restaurant to try other Hue cakes (5 kinds) by xe om. My mum and son liked them (these cakes used to serve royal members). They ate happily (partly because they were hungry, noodle makes you full easily but hungry easily too). I found it nothing special (maybe I was difficult in eating strange food). Then we walked to the restaurant called Paradise (also in Le Loi street), a nice restaurant with a good view of the river and the bridge. While walking, I saw a mini restaurant in a small lane selling sweet soup called Che Hem (sweet soup sold in a small lane). Hue specialty. I told my mum and son to stop there and try it. 3 people ordered 3 different tastes. We continued our journey to the Paradise (I had a map, so easy to find the street). A modern style restaurant serving European and Hue dishes. We ordered a pizza, French fires and roast chicken. I hardly ever ate. We strolled along the river bank back to the hotel. Windy and fresh here. Le Loi was the most beautiful street in Hue (I think). The third day in Hue finished.
Day 4 was for shopping. We went to Dong Ba market, buying nothing here. This market was like Dong Xuan market in Hanoi, a wholesale market, selling everything. Like other markets in Vietnam, it was busy, dirty and smelling. They offered things at high prices. Then back to the supermarket we went to on the first day. I bought a handbag, Biti’s sandals and a big bag for my mum and denim shorts for my son and then went to a Bun Bo Hue (noodle with beef and pork) restaurant in Ly Thuong Kiet street. I could not finish my bowl, again.
In general, the trip was successful. We visited must-to-see places and tried must-to-eat dishes in Hue. And we experinced the hot weather here. (I had a slight headache and took some medicine). I was a bit sunburnt.
We checked out at 11 am and left for the airport in a Mai Linh taxi. The tour to Hue ended.