Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cua Lo

2 days after I went back from the South trip we went to the sea with my group. The day before we left I had a terrible headache. Poor me. I rubbed out the cold, took some medicine and rested. You can see the red mark between my eyebrows in this photo. I felt OK for the trip. We left early in the morning, at 4.40. But the bus picked us up at 5. The journey took us about 7 hours. It was fine because the bus was big and good airconditioning. I and my son took some medicine and slept a bit on the way.

We stayed in a mini hotel. It had basic things but quite expensive: 450k dongs/night. It was near the beach, and we stayed there at the weekend and summer is peak holiday season. We shared the room with two colleagues.

When we stayed there, the weather was fine: not too sunny and not too hot, ideal for swimming. My son was in the sea a lot. I could not be in the sea. What a pity! I was on the shore, enjoyed the wind and the air and kept an eye on my son. He was careful, so just played near the shore, and he could see his mum. He could not swim well, even I sent him to a swimming class last year. But he could dive a bit. He was not afraid of water. When feeling a bit tired he went to the shore and played with sand.

While my son was happy in the sea, I was unhappy on the shore. So many vendors offered me fresh seafood, peanuts, eggs, and fruit. They made me dizzled.

The food here was not good: too salty and greasy but very expensive.

In the evening, we rent a bike and went cycling and walked on the beach. And in the last evening in Cua Lo, we sang karaoke with the group.
We also visited Uncle Ho’s village on our last day. About 30 kilometers far from Cua Lo. It was hot and felt a bit tired after the trip.

We left for Hanoi at 2 pm. I spent most of the time on the bus sleeping. When we stepped off the bus in Hanoi it was raining a bit. The beach holiday finished.

Day 9

Last day in our long holiday in the South. We had a big breakfast in the restaurant with Harley. A really big breakfast. I knew my son could not eat all his breakfast but I let him try new food. And we gave the food left to beggars. Then we went shopping in Zen Plaza in Nguyen Trai Street buying things for my son’s cousins: some clothing items and toys. Zen was near my hotel, so we just walked there. We returned to the hotel, got ready to check out and left at 11 pm.

We went to an acquantance in Tan Binh District. He lived in a big house with his big family: his family, his sister’s family and his brother. I had thought he lived in a beautiful and well-organized house (his family was rich) but the house was not as I expected. We ate lunch there and stayed in his family’s room until 4 pm. I was impressed by his son. He was some months older than my son. He liked stickers. He put stickers everywhere in the room: sticker collector. (In the photo, my son was in his bed decorated with stickers). My son played with him and his cousin at once. They all liked games. My son was a bit better than the other two boys. He helped them to pass difficult games so they liked my son. I did not know that my son could play very well.

At 4 pm, we said goodbye to them and left for the airport. We came to Saigon with a suitcase and a backpack. We left it with a suitcase and 3 backpacks and a box. So heavy. My flight was 20 minutes delayed. We had a light meal and went round. My son helped me to choose a bag for me and a wallet for my mother.

We got home late, around 10 pm.

Day 8

We spent the morning visiting the Thong Nhat Palace. The place was near my hotel so I persuaded my son to walk there. We had been there once. But long time ago. He did not remember much about it. So preparing some water and snacks, taking the map from the reception and we went for a walk. The streets were so busy and hot. No matter. I let my son to look for the direction and I just checked it. So he was very eager.We got there at about 10 am.

This time the visit was different from the first: we had a tourist guide, free of charge. She showed us around the palace and provided us information about the palace and the palace owners. We took some photos here and ended the visit in the cinema in the basement. The film was over at around noon. Time to come back to the hotel.We walked through Tao Dan park and had lunch in a KFC, my son’s favorite fastfood restaurant.
In the afternoon, we went to my sister’s house to have dinner and say goodbye to her and her family. Then she took us back to the hotel by motorbike. On the way we visited her husband’s cousin. It was in his house that we stepped on the scale and I knew that I was heavier: 52kilos. So fat. Result of a week just eating, walking and sleeping.

Day 7

I and my son went shopping in Maximark. I intended to buy umbrellas here but they sold umbrellas for small children. I bought backpacks and a T-shirt. Then we went around Ben Thanh market, a landmark of the city. It was here that I bought 2 umbrellas for me and my son. Finally. I invited my son to try some food here but he refused. We walked back to the hotel. My son remembered the way. We passed a place called Seventeen saloon, a pub or bar (I did not know). It seemed for ‘cowboys’. I took a photo of my son in front of it. We had lunch in Bun Bo Hue, the food was famous but it was not my type.

In the afternoon, we visited Van Thanh and Binh Quoi resorts. They were famous for scenery. And they served buffet with typical southern cuisine. (Unluckily for me, just at the weekend. We went there on Monday, so no food). We enjoyed the view and went back to the hotel.
I asked one of my friends to recommend a rooftop restaurant in Saigon so that my son could have a look at the city at night from the height. The nearest was just 10 houses away from my hotel. I took my son to that place called Liberty Hotel and we had dinner on the 9th floor. Still low. Could not see much.

Day 6

I spent the whole day in my sister’s house in District 2. She is my third sister. She has been living in Saigon since 1979. She is 12 years older than me. She has got two sons and a daughter. Now she lives with her husband and daughter and her husband’s nephew. Her sons are studying abroad, one in Russia and one in Australia. She is a housewife. Her house is in a large garden. The garden looks like a small park. She entertained me with dishes in southern cuisine: steamed and grilled lobsters, hotpot, saute pork.

My son went fishing in a ‘mini’ pond. Luckily, he caught 3 fish. He seemed happy and proud of his ‘achievement’. This was the first time he went fishing. In the afternoon, it rained heavily there. Her nephew took us back to the hotel by motorbike.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 5

I got up early, at about 5.30. I made myself a cup of instant coffee, enjoying coffee and looking out of the hotel window: the calm river, some people going jogging and doing morning exercise in the waterfront park, not much noise. We got downstairs, had breakfast, checked out and walked to the tourist harbour where the group gathered to continue our trip. It was sunny. But no problem because we travelled on the river. Windy and fresh air.
We went on the boat trip along Can Tho River, a branch of Hau River. Travelling here reminded of the boat ride in Bangkok. However, no highrise buildings along the river banks. We went through Cai Rang floating market. According to the guide, this was the biggest floating market in Vietnam. Local people sold and bought agricultural produce on their boat, mostly in bulk. Each boat had a long bamboo hanging what they sold. My son found it interesting. He tried to recognise what was sold here, mainly typical southern fruits.

After that we visited a family producing rice noodle. They worked and lived under the same roof. But the house was in a poor condition. I thought it could not protect them from the rain. Equipment was simple and the sanitation was poor. Next to the place they lived and worked was a pig house and duck cage. Dirty and smelling. I felt really sorry for them. How could they live in such a poor condition?
Then we visited a fruit plantation. But on the way there it rained heavily. My son and me were a bit cold. I learned another lesson. We should have brought a disposable light raincoat. The boat driver lent me one and a foreigner lent me his umbrella. He had a waterproof jacket. It was fine to walk from the boat to the plantation house in the rain. Because it was so wet, we could not walk in the plantation, just sat at the table and enjoyed some fruit. I bought jackfruit and mangos and guava. We liked these kinds of fruits. We found a dried gourd hanging on the pole. It had a special shape. Long time ago Vietnamese and Chinese people used it to keep rice wine. I asked to buy it for my son but the local people did not sell. My son liked it because he watched a Disney film about the magic gourd helping his master, a pupil at the same age as my son, to achieve his dreams.
We left the fruit plantation and back to Can Tho. We had lunch here and travelled back to Saigon. After the break on the road we changed to the bigger bus (50 seats). We slept on the way back. We got to Saigon at about 6 pm. We had a new room, 204. After having a shower we went out to have dinner in the restaurant with the photo of Harley. You can see the photo behind me. We went to bed at 10 pm. My feet were so tired. My friend recommeded me to have foot massage. But I could not overcome the feeling that a stranger touching me. Of course it was a professional touch. I knew it but still did not give it a try. In this field, I am conservative. How strange I am.

Day 4

We went on a 2 day tour of Mekong data. We were picked up at 8 am and went by bus to My Tho. The bus could hold about 30 people. Our group consisted of Vietnamese people and foreigners. I and my son were not the first passengers so we had to sit at the back. We took some nautamines in case we felt carsick. Luckily, the back seats were higher than the front seats. We could see the outside easily. We got to the habour around noon.

It was sunny and very hot but we had to wear life jackets to travel on the boat. My son looked strange and really hot in this jacket. He sweated a lot but never complained. He was so eager with the boat ride. It was cool and windy on the water. The river was wide, full of water. (At first I was a bit afraid. If ... I could not swim). From the river I could see My Thuan Bridge in the far distance. The bridge was constructed with the assistance of Australia.

The first destination was the place in Ben Tre where they made coconut candy. Ben Tre was famous for coconut trees. Women here were compared to this kind of trees in a very famous song. We travelled along the canal, under the shadow of the water coconut trees. Peaceful. Quiet. Houses on the two banks of the canal were simple. So many trees. Travelling here reminded me of classic films about Vietnam war I saw on TV long time ago. The tour guide showed us how they made coconut candy. I bought some packages for my family and friends.

We continued to the Turtoise island and had lunch in the middle of the large orchard. So cool. My son climbed some trees. He was active. He did not let his body relax. We bought a kilo of longans. They were sweet but too juicy. On the ride back to the habour we visited another orchard.
We went there by a small boat rowed by two local people.The boat could hold 6 people: 2 rowers and 4 tourists. We wore traditional Vietnamese hats because the boat has no roof. The creek was narrow. Travelling along it we could smell the water and the wet ground. We enjoyed some kinds of fruits and listened to folk songs. Then we walked through the orchard to a place drinking honey tea. When we were about to leave, a local man showed tourists a small python. He put it on his shoulder. I did not dare to look at it. Scary.

We went back to the harbour and continued the bus trip to Can Tho. We had to cross the river by ferry. It took a lot of time to cross it. Walking to the ferry station in the sun, waiting there, crossing the river, walking in the sun to the bus. By the way, the roads leading to the stations and the stations were terribly dirty, smelling and hot. I and my son stayed in a three star hotel near the river.

The hotel was new and modern. The room was very large and well-equipped: an LCD TV, a big bath, a shower, a sofa,... My son chose to have a bath. He opened the tap and played in the bath. He liked this hotel more than the hotel in Saigon. Moreover, the hotel has got a roof top restaurant. We had dinner there. So wonderful. My son even said we would stay there again next time.

Day 3

We went to Dam Sen water park, the zoo and the war remnants museum. The water park was smaller than in Hanoi. We, especially my son, had a great time here. First, he played in the children area but could not use the slide because it was for children less than 1.2 m. He ran to me and told me that. Second, he played in the wave pool. Then, he swam in the Lazy River, just lying on the lifebouy and floating away at least 3 rounds. No need for mum’s help. A signal of the fact that he is growing up, gradually far away from mum. Another clue was that he could use the open high water slide. We slid together. Twice. He was interested but I was a bit frightened.


Then we visited the zoo. Although I thought in Vietnam there were not many animals in the zoos, I still took my son here to find out if there were any animals we did not see in Hanoi zoo. It was worth visiting. We first saw giraffes, chimpazees and three toed animals in HCMC zoo. When watching chimpazees, my son threw some plums to them.


We finished the day around by visiting the museum. Hope my son could know some more about Vietnamese history and the war. In the evening, we had dinner in a different restaurant where there was a big photo of Harley Davidson motorbike.

Day 2

As planned we went to visit Cu Chi tunnel and Cao Dai temple. I read and heard of and watched films about Cu Chi a lot but now I could walk there. The area was peaceful. But some decades ago, it was not. We experienced going through a dark tunnel. Really exciting.


After Cu Chi, we went to the temple in Tay Ninh. I did not know much about the Cao Dai religion but the temple was really impressive: colourful. Unluckily for us, on the way back to the bus, it suddenly rained heavily. We had to ran fast but still got wet. I realized that I did not have any travelling experience. When travelling, one of many essential things is a foldable umbrella. Easy to carry and useful in sunshine and rain. When we got back to the city, I walked to a shop and bought some bottles of water and snacks. We had dinner in the same restaurant as Day 1.

Long summer holiday (1)

Last year I told my sister in HCMC that I would visit her but I could not do what I intended for many reasons until this June. A long summer holiday trip for me and my son (9 days). My son was very eager and looked forward to this trip. Partly because he likes travelling and travelling by air. He counted each day towards the day we left Hanoi, 16 June. In the morning, it rained heavily but when we got to the airport at 1 pm, it was sunny. We had a window seat and an aisle seat. My son sat next to the window. He could see the outside scenery easily. We got to Saigon at 5 pm and were picked up. This was the second time I had been there. I was impressed by terrible traffic jams and road work. Our hotel was near the centre and it was located in one of the tourist streets: so many backpackers. Our room was 404, in the back of the hotel, quiet.
After settling there, we went out to have dinner in a restaurant nearby, to a bookshop where I bought a of pack of books and CDs I needed, and on the way back we went to Highland cafe. My son had a piece of cake and I had a glass of fruit juice. Then we walked to the hotel and slept early. A bit tired after a day travelling.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lotus

I like flowers. Not surprising. All women (and even men) like flowers. I also like decorating my living place with a vase of real flowers. Now summer time, in Hanoi you can see travelling florists selling lotus. I read somewhere that most of lotus are from some surban areas outside Hanoi. Of course, there are still lakes and ponds in those areas. Luckily. I sometimes buy lotus, just ten. However, unlike roses or lilies, they hardly ever blossom. They are not fresh. You never see the pistil. Today, I have 30 white lotus. Whoa, actually 3 bunches. They stand so close to each other in my crystal vase (even a big vase). This time they blossom and you can see the pistil and you can even smell the sweet fragrance! So nice. When you see the lotus you will feel merciful and peaceful, something pure and elegant. And most of Vietnamese people know the poem about lotus. I translate the meaning of the poem here:
In the pond, nothing is more beautiful than lotus
Green leaves, white flowers, yellow pistil
Yellow pistil, white flowers, green leaves
Near the mud, but not smelling fishy
( The sun is never worse for shining on a dunghill)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wireless works

My friend gave me a wireless device, Linksys, more than 10 days ago. It was so demanding for me ( a low tech woman) to get it work. So complicated. I have spent three afternoons installing it. But bitterly failed. I felt so disappointed and irritated. Mr. Linksys, why didn't you invent something easier to use than this router. But I thought of my friend who bought it for me and hoped it would make my life more interesting. I surfed the net for computer companies who offered wireless installing at home. The first one was Tran Anh Company, famous, but they refused to go to my home. I had to take the device to their office. Not practical at all. Because there might be something wrong with the link between Linksys and the modem. The second one was Hai Anh Company in Le Thanh Nghi Street. They said they would send a technician to my home late in the afternoon. I could not do anything but hope so and did not forget to remind them to call me before they came in case I and my son were outside playing badminton. Another choice was that asking the wireless shop to install it. I had no idea about that shop. I sent a sms to my friend asking for the name of the shop. I got the name and searched on the Internet. I found the telephone number. I called them and they promised to go to my home and install for me at around 4 pm. A flash of hope. I tried to get it work today as promised. At 4.30 a call from Dang Khoa company selling that wireless device informing me that they were short-staffed today. They arranged a visit tomorrow. I am not available tomorrow: 2 meetings. I asked them to come at 4pm. After that I felt really really unhappy, just wanted to break something (luckily, nothing broken). While we were having dinner, I received a call from a man from Hai Anh Company saying that he was on the way to my home. I felt as if I got a lifebuoy while I was drowning. Finally, a specialist agreed to help me. It took him about half an hour to fix it. And it works well now. Not any more a waste of a valuable thing (not only material but also affection). I can surf the net anywhere in my flat. Here are two photos: my son lying reading Doremon next to me on the sofa and me working on the computer, wireless.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday in the Botanical Garden

This is big garden in Hanoi with so many big trees and a small lake and a hill. It has been lovers' favorite place. Now, it is a weekend destination for families, too. But I have been there once. Long time ago. Yesterday, my son participated in an open air painting contest which was held there by ILO and Asscociation for Protection of Children's Rights. So I took him to the garden. We spent the whole morning there. My son had a chance to take part in a community activity and his mum had a chance to be in a peaceful place. There were about 150 young artists. He did not get a prize but a T-shirt and a bag of 'lunch'. I took some photos of him, sitting on the tree bed and painting.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sexy sexy lover

Sexy sexy lover
Modern talking

Oh I tell you once and I tell you twice
I'll be there for you in your paradise
Oh please stay with me
and I show you what I feel
You're the nearest thing to heaven girl
Baby just for you, I'll fly around the world
Oh everything I do, I do it just for you


My sexy, sexy lover, oh tell me there's no other
Tell me there's no other, deep in your heart
My sexy, sexy lover, I wanna be your cover
There's no other, who's breaking apart
Oh my sexy little lover, swear there is no other
I'll feel alone, when I'm coming home
Oh my sexy little lover, tell me there's no other
just when I'm down, I need you all around

I am not a man, who wants to be alone
There's a place for us, we can't go wrong
Oh baby you and I, we're flying one mile high
We are more than two, you are more than one
And my love for you is burning like the sun
Oh everything I do, I do it just for you

My sexy, sexy lover, oh tell me there's no other
Tell me there's no other, deep in your heart
My sexy, sexy lover, I wanna be your cover
There's no other, who's breaking apart
Oh my sexy little lover, swear there is no other
I'll feel alone, when I'm coming home
Oh my sexy little lover, tell me there's no other
just when I'm down, I need you all around

My sexy, sexy lover, I wanna be your cover
There's no other, who's breaking apart

New songs

Whenever I have a mood for music I surf the net. I want to find old love songs (maybe heartbreak songs). Recently, I have found the song 'Love me with all your heart' sung by Engelbert Humperdinck. This singer also sings the song 'Quando quando quando' used in Heineken TV commercial (now I know that quando in Italian means when in English). The song Love me with all your heart has got a Vietnamese lyrics. I heard the Vietnamese version many times but I did not know that the original song is in English. So beautiful. Engelbert sings another song which made me cry when I first listened to it. The name is Am I that easy to forget. The words are simple but so sad. And I happened to find an old song 'One sided love affair' when I was reading some Vietnamese articles. The song was posted to share with music lovers. I clicked it and recognised it was the song I liked. I googled the name and found it on another website with the better sound quality.

New fast food restaurant

As I mentioned in the previous post, my son liked KFC. Last Sunday, on the way home from his art class, we went to his favorite KFC in Ba Trieu Street. Unluckily, it was crowded. We could not find an empty table. We decided to try a new fast food restaurant: Lotteria. There are some Lotterias in Hanoi. We chose one in Kim Lien street. This place was on the corner, easy to access but it was so small and hot (even it was air conditioned), that was because it faces east. It was crowded too. It took us about half an hour to get our food. However, my son did mind because he paid all his attention to his new Conan stories. The food was not as good as KFC. We did not feat up all our food, so I asked for somw bags to carry it home. To my surprise, a waiter was my old student. I could not remember his name but I remembered his face. He recognised me too. We talked for a while and he helped us to put the remaining into the bags and did not forget to give me some membership cards. We went home and my son ate all the food one hour later.