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.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ritual meal offering my passed-away dad

My mum is quite a religious woman. During the summer, according to the Buddism religion, families prepare meals offering the family members who passed away recently on the 4th, 14th and 24th April, May, June in the Lunar year. That is why my family gathers twice a month (my mum skips one day) to prepare meals for our father. Yesterday was the 4th and my mum decided to prepare in the afternoon (often in the morning), her decision was influenced a bit by my suggestion (I think we have more time for the meal than in the morning). All my brothers and sisters and in-laws were at my mum's place except my 3rd sister who is living in Saigon. The main cook was my 2nd sister and my 1st sister in law. I also gave them a hand. We cooked ordinary dishes: sticky rice, grilled shrimps, boiled chicken, stir-fried beef with onions and celery, soup, noodles, sweet and sour pork chops, banana-flower salad.

It was so hot yesterday. I can put up with the hot weather quite well but I sweated a lot yesterday while grilling shrimps. A terribly boiling day.

After cooking, we put some dishes on the altar and my mum did some ritual procedures. We had dinner around 5.30. And then it rained heavily, cooling us down. However, we were kept at my mum's place until about 8.30 pm. We waited for the rain to stop and went home.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cooking spaghetti

Two days ago my son said that he wanted to eat spaghetti. Actually, we have eaten it many times but I have never tried cooking it before. Today was the right time to prove that mum can cook (but not very well :-). I bought basic ingredients for the dish: spaghetti, butter, shrimps, tomatoes (no herbs because I know my son does not eat them). And it took me about an hour to prepare what my son likes. When enjoying it I asked him for his opinion. He said it was fine. And he ate it up, which means I succeeded. For me, success sometimes means that what I do brings happiness and satisfaction to somebody and they appreciate it. So simple.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Preparation for the trip to Hue

I must say that organizing a tour is a headache and time consuming. I really have no experience in this field.
I thought I had travelled enough this year ( in March I went to Thailand for 3 days, in June to HCMC and Mekong Delta for 9 days and to Cua Lo for 3 days). No reason for grumbling about little travelling any more. But my friend encouraged and supported me to make use of the summer vacation to explore my country, to the places I have never been but I have heard of a lot. This time I chose Hue and I invited my mother, who is 70 years old, to join us. We can get there by train, by car or by plane. But my choice is by plane. Of course it is the most expensive but the most convenient. And I would like my mum to have a chance (her first chance) to travel by air. Four necessary and important things for the pleasant trip are done: air tickets, budget, hotel reservation and travelling programme. Perfect. Honestly, I don’t have to do much (how lucky I am). Just CHOOSE where to stay and what to see (but choosing is also tiring :-). We are now looking forward to the day we fly to Hue, next Monday.
(The above photo was taken on the day we decided to travel to Hue. A happy day for me)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Those were the days ...

Đã có một thời (composed by a famous songwrtiter and sung by a famous singer)

Biển xanh rờn và cát trắng dịu êm
Đã có một thời em yêu anh như thế
Ngọt mía lau và mùi hương quế
Em yêu anh, như kẻ lần đầu đến với đại dương...

Biển rất xanh và cát trắng dịu êm
Con sóng ru, lời hát ru bình yên
Và từng cánh buồm lộng gió khơi xa
Đã có một thời em yêu anh như thế

Và trái tim thổn thức bao chờ mong
Và ước mơ về những bến bờ xa
Biển chợt dâng trào ngàn nỗi khát khao
Khi ánh mắt anh trao cho em niềm thương mến

Nhưng anh đi xa rồi
Nơi chân mây cuối trời
Chỉ còn mình em với nỗi đơn côi
Những tháng năm xa dần
Giấc mơ xưa phai tàn
Em như kẻ chài mòn tay với biển
Rồi những ngày giông bão tràn qua
Biển thét gào giận giữ cuồng điên
Làm sao
Làm sao
Em giữ được tình yêu?

Đã có một thời
Và phải có một thời như thế
Sẽ nối bước theo ta những lứa đôi tuổi trẻ
Những lỗi lầm và những xót xa
Nhưng mãi còn trong trái tim ta
Dẫu là biển của một thời đã mất...

Son doing housework

Since we moved to the small flat, I have asked my son to help me with housework. Principle: if he can do something, let him do it even not as well as mum. I ask him to prepare vegetable, throw away the rubish and put away his toys and books after playing time, and fold the laundry. He seems to be fine with the chores except the thing with rubbish. He says it is dirty. But I still force him to do it. A bit cruel :-).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Swimming lesson

For many people swimming is something easy. For me it is so difficult. When I was a child, there was a small pond near my house, but I never learnt to swim there. My brothers could swim very well, they could teach me but I was afraid of being in water, I mean totally in the water. That is why I can not swim.
I did not want my son to step in the same situation as his mother and I think a boy/man should be sportive, so I sent him to a swimming class last summer. I took him there almost everyday. But after 8 lessons, he could not dare to swim. He did not tell me why at that time and I was busy with something (I don't remember). The swimming lessons stopped. This summer I decide to learn to swim with him. And he was brave enough to tell me the reason. He said he was choked with water once and afraid of dying. What a boy.
On my vacation in Hochiminh city, we went to Dam Sen. I dared to put my head in the water for 10 seconds. I did not know why I could do it. Maybe I wanted to prove with my son that I could do it. No need to be afraid of water. Maybe my son could do why I could not. After the vacation and the entrance exams I went to the same club and registered for both of us. The first day was 13rd July. But overslept and my son had to go school. On 14th the pool closed for cleaning. On the 15th, son went to school. I think we could have managed to go to the pool but not ready. I still felt afraid. But if we did not go, I would waste money and we could not swim. This morning the first lesson must be learnt. So at 6.45, I woke my son up and went to the pool.
My son learnt better than me because he learnt before. I had to learn how to float. After some minutes, I could float. Whoa, so wonderful. So fantastic to be able to float in the water. I was not afraid any more. My son was also more active than last summer. He swam more. Even he encouraged me to practice. Other people said that I was lucky when my son did that to me. Mum and son both swam (no, floated) together. When I saw him swim, I had more braveness to practice. When he saw me in the pool with him, he would feel more confident and more comfortable. Nothing to worry when mum is there. There was a little girl learning to swim too. After 7 lessons, she could not float. Her mother was on the bank. The teacher said the girl was not brave enough. Swimming was her burden. I told her mum to learn with her. Children need encouragement and motivation to do hard work.
Anyhow, I felt satisfied with the first lesson, my big breakthrough. I defeated myself. I felt happy. I told my son if I had know it was so wonderful to be able to float I would have learnt with him last summer. But never too late to learn.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OUP Workshop

My colleague got an invitation by OUP Vietnam and she asked me if I liked she would register for me to take part in this workshop. Of course I liked. Moreover, I was on holiday, not busy at all. The workshop took place on Monday and Tuesday morning, from 8.30 to 11.30. The presenter was Grant Trew from Oxford Univeristy Press, author of Toeic Tactics. He was really good at giving presentations. All of participants felt interested in his presentations.

On Day 1, Mr Trew focused on the needs of professional learners and the ways International Express (coursebook) could be used as part of a standardised test preparation course for tests such as TOEIC. (When the presentation was over, it was raining heavily in Hanoi, affected by Storm number 4. Some of the roads were flooded). On Day 2, he talked about 5 keys ways to motivate students and essential elements of a business English course. What he provided us was really informative and useful.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Love messages

Read the 22 following love messages (collected from the internet and somewhere else) and smile happily. They are so sweet and wonderful.
1. Hello my queen. This is the best that could happen to me: Getting your message! Of course I am free, I make myself free. Coffee only, or lunch? Where will we meet? I'll be there!!! You can recognize me easily, wearing a yellow shirt. And my hair is short these days. And you, any special items to recognize you, beside your shiny appearance?
2. I can't sleep. It's you. I love you. :-*
3. I hope that this message does not wake you up. But I can’t close the day without saying good night. We do so for as long as we know each other good. You’re part of my life, like sleeping, eating and loving. I miss you my love. Good night.
4. I can see through your eyes the love that you hide for others and stored for me.
5. If Love & Friendship could be brought or sold as if they were Stocks & Shares.those wise enough to invest in you SEXY would all be millionaires!!!
6. If water was a kiss, I’d send you the sea. If a hug was one leaf, I’d send you a tree. If love was forever, I’d send you eternity!
7. If I wrote your name in the sky wind would blow it away. If I wrote your name in the sea waves would wash it away. But your name is engravd in my heart where nothing can touch it!
8. If you love me like you told me please be careful with my heart- you can take it just don’t break it or my world will fall appart.
9. If a kiss was a raindrop I'd send was showers. If a hug was a second I'd send you hours. If a smile was water I'd send you a sea. If love was a person I'd send you me!
10. You are like the sunshine so warm, you are like sugar, so sweet... you are like you... and that's the reason why I love you!
11. If you love someone, put their name in a circle, instead of a heart, because hearts can break, but circles go on forever
12. You must be a good runner because you are always running in my mind, you must be a good thief because you have stolen my heart, and I am always a bad shooter because I Miss You Always...
13. I am opening an emotional bank account for you sweetheart, so deposit your love in it and you will get the interest
14. My love for you is a journey, starting at forever and ending at never
15. When the night comes, look at the sky. If you see a falling star, don't wonder why, just make a wish. Trust me, it will come true, because I did it and I found you.
16. Words however special... could never even start, to tell you all the love I have for you within my heart. xXx
17. I feel something in my heart, it's like a little flame, every time I see you, this flame lights up, this flame is special for you, because I LOVE YOU!.…
18. Somewhere, someone dreams of your smile & finds your presence in life so worthwhile. So when you are lonely, remember it’s true that someone, somewhere, is thinking of you.
19. Looks may capture the eyes, but it’s the personality that captures the heart.
20. Lonely? No, how can I be lonely when you are always in my thoughts. I wake up with you and go to sleep with you. I love you!!
21. If you read this message, you owe me a hug. If you delete, you owe me a kiss. If you save, you owe me a date. If you reply, you owe me all but if you ignore it, you are mine. Choose one
22. Our love is the most beautiful and precious thing in the world, and I'll treasure it all the days of my life. Love you forever.

Entrance exams finish

The entrance examinations to our university have just finished. They are divided into two periods. Period one (3,4,5 th July): students do tests belonging to Group A: Math (180 minutes), Physics (90 minutes) and Chemistry (90 minutes). Period two (8,9, 10th July) : students do tests belonging to Group C: Literature, History and Geography, each lasts for 180 minutes, and tests belonging to Group D: Math (180 minutes), Literature (180 minutes) and a foreign language (English in our university) (90 minutes). On examination days supervisors have to get up early. I myself got up at 5 am this year's exams. It is really tiring not doing anything during the tests but give examination papers, sign the papers and keep an eye on students. Easy to fall asleep if the weather is cool (luckily I have never fallen asleep because I drink coffee but sometimes yawn) and terribly exhausted if it is sunny and hot (for example, yesterday afternoon I sweated a lot). Finally, they were over today. We have our summer holiday, officially from this afternoon.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Son's world

I have got a small desk in my son's room. In fact we share this desk. When I work here my son often plays behind me (like the time when he was a small baby, playing near mummy and letting mummy work). A good boy. While I am writing this blog entry he is playing behind me. I took this photo some days ago, and just looking at it you will know something about him and his world. The bookcase used to be mine but now nearly full of his stories and toys. The fan is always his friend, even there is his name on it. He likes assembling things (building things he can imagine) and drawing (the book I bought for him when we were in Saigon) and reading Doremon and Conan stories (they are in the bed).