Monday, June 8, 2009

The Vietnam Post - Days 3 & 4

Stupidity abounds in the university's hierarchy of power, but because I'd like to stay happy and frown-free, I'll let it pass. Let me just say, to those concerned: congratulations for making the university safe and virus-free for students. When they come back next week let's hope the support staff are oh-so-healthy too. Eherm.

Anyway, it's time for my third and last Vietnam Post. The last two days of my Vietnam stay were the most tiring, not because of the places we went to, but because of the scandalous amounts of Vietnamese Dong and energy we spent on shopping. Eh. Weird sentence.

Here 'tis:
DAY 3 - May 30, 2009

Day Three was Mekong River day. We traveled to another part of the country ( a river port) for the cruise, passing along a highway that showcased the new structures being developed--a "feel" I got from the view was that of one riding by The Fort-Serendra--condo units sprouting from everywhere.
Past the developments, the countryside was full of life on market day:

When we got to the river port, we boarded two boats (one for each bus group) and, engrossed in the Mekong view, promptly stopped paying attention to our tour guides.

The boat stopped on an island, where we were led to a canteen-hut and served lotus seeds, banana and ginger chips, and peanut brittle, complete with honeymansi tea, banana wine, and royal jelly. It was a household industry and many of us bought products after the 'free taste'.
Me with my ka-tables Fr. Deng, Ka Puroy, and Sir Joey, before, during, & after the banana wine.

After the tea, we moved along to another part of the island where we were served fresh fruits while singers performed folk pieces. In one corner of the room, there was a keychain stand, where I strode over to make usyoso. While viewing keychains, the keychainmaker-calligrapher (you can have your name written in "Vietnamese script" on the keychains) noticed the Chucks keychain on my backpack and asked me where I got it. I told him we had lots of those in the Philippines. Seeing that he liked it so much, I offered to trade it for one of his keychains. "Yes yes!" he replied gleefully. So now I have another turtle keychain. I had "Thursday Kids" written on it. :)
Fr. Deng took this photo of me with the keychainmaker-calligrapher. (wow, candid!) :)

After the keychain barter we hopped on small boats, four passengers each. We wound around the narrow channels of the river until we made our way back to the 'big boats'.
Important reminder when riding: keep your hands inside the boat. :)

When we got back to the big boats, we were given complimentary coconuts for refreshments. :)

We transferred to another part of the island, to a coconut candy factory. I saw how coconut candy was made (quick hands, quick hands), and several snakes in bottles. My boss said the snake wine tasted a bit bland. After the coco candies, we again transferred to another part of the island, this time for lunch. Big fish and veggies, mmm.

Then it's back to Ho Chi Minh. During the ride back to the capital city, I slept. When I woke up, we were already in
Vietnam's Chinatown, where we also visited a Buddhist Temple.

We didn't stay there long though; most of the co-tourists were already itching to shop. So off we went, some back to the hotel (me included) where we just opted to lounge and shop around Ben Thanh Market instead of the Diamond Plaza (a bit of a high-end mall), where most of the others went. We were picked up for dinner at another hotel a short distance away. The resto, atop the hotel, had a great view of the market. And while the dinner wasn't much (literally--it left many hungry), they served shrimp, making me the happiest eater at our table. :)

Since it was also our last night in Ho Chi Minh, the energy during night market shopping was at a peak. I went with my mom, who haggled and who could probably have bought half of Ho Chi Minh had we not run out of Dongs to spend. [The tactical problem involved here was packing, but since we were so good at shopping and bringing stuff home, it was no hassle at all, and we were well within the weight limit, hahaha.]

One of the shops we went to sold miniature ships. Me likey.

All the shopping and hauling made me tired, but I didn't want to miss the "last coffee in Vietnam" night with the officemates, so off again we went, but this time to a club (ohyeah), but to order the same thing: iced coffee (it was that good). More chitchat and reflections about the trip, including sharing what we thought about our co-tourists. Hehehe. People are so different. :)

Day Three would end with me setting my alarm to go off in an earlier hour, since Day Four was a Sunday and our early-to-church day:

DAY 4 - May 31, 2009

It was difficult dragging my ass away from bed at five AM, for us to make it to the Notre Dame Cathedral for the 7 o'clock mass. Sans breakfast I served as guide for the walk (naks), and when we got to the plaza in front of the church, my mom had me chase pigeons.

The mass was in Vietnamese, but except for the ultra-long speech made by the priest at the start of the mass, we understood how things went. The mass finished at about 8:30, at which point my mom and I raced back to the hotel (literally brisk walking) for breakfast. Some did some last-minute shopping at the Ben Thanh Market. My mom gave me a few thousand Dong to spend, so I walked around and explored inside the market, and it was a WOW experience--the hustle and bustle, the food corners, the conversations I didn't understand but had fun hearing nonetheless. Too bad I didn't take my camera along.
Back at the hotel, it was time for the final packing, but not before I took Li'l Blush out for a walk in the sun, along streets we didn't usually take the days before. It was like seeing the city again for the first time, and truly I felt happy, glad for the opportunity of being able to go to another country. :)

All packed, the tour buses picked us up at 11, taking us to our last meal in Vietnam, at a little restaurant you wouldn't know existed unless you had a habit of going through narrow streets. The lunch was also one of our best meals, amen! After lunch, the bus took us straight to the airport, and we gave our guides the Philippine souvenirs we were supposed to have given to Vietnamese families during the Mekong trip.
When in Vietnam: look for this guy. Highly recommended!

Then, the waiting until flight time. During the flight and nearing the Philippines, we encountered some light turbulence--due to the not-so-good weather. We also had to do a turnaround--according to the pilot, we couldn't land on schedule because of the traffic at the airport. Still, as you can see, we arrived back in Manila safely and flu-free, so cheers all around. :)

Until the next trip, then.

Goodbye, Vietnam Jollibee. :)

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