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Vietnam Days

Winding Down in Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 35 °C
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Amy Says:
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Hoi An equals Love. Maybe because Hanoi was really busy or maybe the train ride was too insane. All we know, is that we adore Hoi An. The cau lao and fried wontons from Miss Ly's Cafeteria are the best. Maybe if you go, she will be there still in her white see-through linen dress with baby in tow. The people are smiley, the clothes - a plenty, the town - beautifully old.
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We stayed in a little Indochine hotel called the Vihn Hung 1 on Tru Phan road. They used the front part of the second floor ias Michael Caine's dressing room in 'The Quiet American'. I mention Hoi An again, because of this great business they have there - affordable, quality, custom handmade clothing. Joy!

Now, every woman has struggled with store bought clothes not fitting in 'problem' areas. What makes Hoi An every woman's dream, is that for say, $8 USD, you can get fitted and have a pair of pants made to fit. You pick out the fabric (linen mostly) and the nice lady measures you and calls out the number to the other lady (in Vietnamese thankfully, so you don't know how big you've become on the trip), and then within four hours or so, you go back and try it on. Usually it fits perfect or maybe they make a few adjustments for you and you return in an hour. I'm not sure how all this happens so fast. We had excellent service at Tailors Nguyen at 29 Le Loi. They even hand delivered all the finished clothes to our hotel. I'd suggest going to the nicer end places (no cement floors). Chris had some real bad shirts made at other places and you can tell the quality is lacking. Some of the material smells bad, like mildew. So beware.

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There is a little place near our hotel called Tam Tam Cafe which has your usual old looking chinese style front, but then opens into a courtyard and two story colonial in the back. Order the crepe with vanilla ice cream and chocolate and a Tiger beer to wash it down. Do it and find instant happiness.

Also stopped at Reaching Out - a place where disabled Vietnamese make crafts. I picked up a litle something for a little boy I know back home.
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A dollar got us bicycles and we rode our sweaty selves out to the coast. The beach is only a few miles from THE China Beach and it was interesting to see where the GIs got their R&R. Every two minutes a lady would come by saying "Happy hour! Buy something. Where are you from? What is your name?" And we'd have to say, no money, no pineapple! But it was still nice there. We watched some kids play soccer and all was well.

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As usual, there was payment asked for to leave our bikes, payment to rinse off our feet with water. Payment for everything. We did wise up enough to negotiate our hotel to take us back to Da Nang and the airport for $12 though. He drove like an absolute madman and once again, my stomach was in my throat. Good thing though, we had been a haf hour late waiting for our clothes to be delivered to the hotel.

After a full airline meal (not too bad) courtesy Vietnam Air and an hour flight, we arrived at night in Ho Chi Minh City. What a change! It's a city of 8 million and they are all on motor bike zooming around to who knows where. Couples on their bikes lined the parks like a lover's lane. Thousands of 'em.

Our driver delivered us to the revered Continental Hotel (1893) for our last two days. It was at my insistance we stay here based on the 'The Quiet American' and sadly, it was the most disappointing hotel of the lot.

The Continental - although steeped in historical value, was by far the most overpriced bit of hooha in all of Viet Nam. What had cost 5,000 dong for an hour of internet usage in Hoi An only a day before, now was costing us 10,000 dong a minute. Stay at the Empress instead. I hear it is much better.
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The first night in HCM, we made our way down to the equally nostalgic Majestic's roof top bar to watch a Filipino band play among others faves, "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" and to pay real city prices for our beer and food. When we crawled back to the hotel at midnight, we thought we'd be in for a long rest after a hectic travel day, but were we wrong! I had somewhat wondered about the stage a huge amplifiers being set up outside the hotel the night we went to the Majestic. We had all but forgotten until promptly at 6 am we were bombarded with an arrangement of the loudest mixture of dance party music, announcements and the birthday song ever to welcome in God's day. After much bitching by moi, and a call to the Empress Hotel to see if they had any openings (they did not), we made our way out into the city to take a walking tour of the main sites. For us, this included the Art Museum, the City Library, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, The War Remnants museum and the Notre Dame Catholic Church.

By far the most important was the War Remnants Museum. Which is curiously, the most popular museum for Western tourists. For people of Chris and my age, the American War (as it is called in Viet Nam) brings about conflicting feelings of guilt, patriotism, horror, and shame to name a few. Most ill feelings falling toward the governments of these participating countries. As Han reminded us back in Hanoi, the government is not the people.

Inside are many gruesome photographs as well as a heart wrenching exhibit of the love letters and poems passed between Vietnamese soldiers and their wives and fiances back home. The grounds of the museum displays an assortment of intimidating US armored vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs, infantry weapons and even a guillotine used by the French on the Viet Minh. Life size examples of the infamously cruel tiger cages are also on view. There are pieces on the My Lai massacre and the napalm, Agent Orange and phosphorous bombs used on the Vietnamese. There is also a fascinating exhibit of war photos by 130 international photo journalists, most of who never made it home. Though certainly not an completely unbiased representation of events in Viet Nam in the 60s and 70s, the museum is nonetheless successful in driving home the fact that wars are brutal and that civilians are the biggest losers. It should be a compulsory viewing for all politicians worldwide.

A long hot and sweaty walk home for dinner and rest, the next day we left early and made our way back home. 28 hours later for me, 38 for Christina and the trip became a memory.

Posted by Antonogurl 23:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world

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