Thought I better find time to write of our adventures as I received an email from my brother Gary asking if he should send someone to rescue us from communist hands as his normally talkative sister had been so silent, an unusual phenomenon, for too long!!
Well actually he was very close to the truth..the tour leader from the package deal we are travelling on (they have organised everything) has basically kidnapped us till we have seen every square inch of Vietnam and eaten so much food there is probably going to be a world shortage of Vietnamese food for the next 12 months!!
We started in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon to you older folk & a lot of southern Vietnamese still!) with a trip to the Mekong delta (where large quanties of their food are caught or grown), very beautiful acres of rice paddies, fishing villages & veggie gardens. We were whisked away on a motorised long boat taking us to the floating markets where the local farmers sell their goods after bringing them down the river from their farms, usually one type each, so you see boats almost sinking under the weight of 1000's of pumpkins, watermelons etc. We then transferred (very precariously) to a traditional wooden canoe with a lady oars-person (about 110 in the shade!) who paddled us to who knows where up and down tiny streams among the local farms and villages, eventually stopping at a local farm / restaurant for the first of our forced feedings! We now know what those geese in France go through!! I reckon we will make tasty foie gras.. hang on, now I realise what the Vietnamese will be eating after we have consumed all their food...diabolical plot I say...yes Gary send in Sylvester Stallone to rescue us).
So this is how our tour has continued...wake up calls at times I forgot existed (that's anything before 8am) minivan pickup and off to many wonderful places such as Chi Chi Tunnels (VC tunnels from the war), the War Museum, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame cathedral (we couldn't get in as closed (they must have known Kev was coming and didn't want it struck down with lightning) & lots of Pagodas & temples...with stops every 2 hours to eat something strange looking but usually tasty (there were a a few exceptions..best not to ask). A lot of our meals are included in the package, but on the few occasions we were let out on our own and with seafood a plenty and no meals costing more than $10 per head (& that includes beer & cocktails) we were mostly too stuffed to eat very much...but we did manage BBQ scallops in garlic, salt & pepper calamari, king prawns & whole deep fried fish on one occasion...well how could you refuse??
We then flew to Da Nang & Hoi An, both beautiful beach towns on the east coast..Da Nang is about 30 years old and has modern 5 star beach resorts etc but Hoi An is 100's of years old, with streets of amazingly preserved French, Japanese & Chinese style homes still being used for homes and shops. This morning we drank from a well dug in the 15th century and still supplying the town with clean drinking water and, in addition, we ate something called 'Cao Lau' which may only be made using this well's water. Yesterday we were taken to the My Son Sanctuary, which is a lovely valley in the countryside where a religious centre comprising about 70 Hindu temples dating back to the 4th century was discovered about 100 years ago underneath the jungle...very beautiful but, unfortunately, after they had survived 100's of years, many of them were bombed & destroyed by the USA during the war.
Today we have again survived an official "Foodie Tour" (what the hell the other days were beats me) where we were given bicycles and proceeded to cycle around Hoi An town among the kamikaze Vietnamese drivers / riders where the only road rules are there is none!!!
First we visited a communal farm on the outskirts of town worked by 80 families, where there is no chemical used, only seaweed from the river as fertiliser, this farm supplies most of the vegetables/herbs to Hoi An and surrounding districts. Then it became a bit more dicey as we proceeded to go from one restaurant to another in town to sample food only made in Hoi An. Now I have to admit (and anyone that knows me well, will not be shocked!) I didn't ride a bike, as my misspent youth never included one, but I got a ‘Cyclo’, which is a bike with a seat on the front with a nice red velvet cushion and sun shade and most importantly a man (also 105 in the shade) behind doing the peddling....now hold on, you are all about to say what a wimp BUT there were 6 of us on this little jaunt and I unselfishly said I would be the official photographer for this dangerous & eventful day trip as those on bikes had no free hands for camera use etc..and needed to be concentrating on not getting killed...little did I know that the cyclo got to be out front and all the others used it as protection between them and the mad Vietnamese!!! Then after having been road bait for everyone all morning, at lunch I was attacked by a ferocious monkey who stole my sunglasses and all everyone did was grab their cameras to get a photo....no gratitude I say!!!!!
Well that covers the southern & middle half of our Vietnamese holiday, we did have 4 days in Bangkok before coming here, which was a bit more restful, but now have another 7 days up north, them 3 more days in Bangkok before going to Cambodia for 4 days.....so lots of fun still to be had (or survived?)
Hopefully you are all well.