Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Meow

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Meow with Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale burlesque concert at the SF Davies Symphony Hall:

A&T with Meow Meow


Us at the Symphony Hall:


Tom charging his Bolt at the NASA Ames electric charging station:

day of rest

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Woke up but the headache's till there. Ate some bread for breakfast and downed some coffee with condensed milk. On our way back to the mainland, our boat pulled next to the boat selling fruit (what happened to the floating market? that was it?). We sampled some awesome ripe mangos. i dont like jackfruit, so I didnt touch those. Back on the huong sen hotel in Saigon, I was given a corner suite which suited me just fine. After a proper shower, I went around the corner to have the same pho I had before. The rest of the day I simply chilled and watched australian open women semis. Glad Simona made it. Last supper was at restaurant where they trained under privileged to be chefs. These types of restaurants although with good intentions, just like the ones in Laos and Cambodia, they're usually a bit more expensive. The menu was extensive with over priced fixed dinners. I've ordered the garlic morning glory which was excellent and the grilled squid which was so so.

The EVA flight to Taipei wasnt as comfortable as the one on my way here. But I've discovered the games on the flight entertainment. the guy next to me was playing millionaire and losing badly. So on my next flight leg, I've played battleship and after 20 rounds of millionaire, I've finally made it to the million $. And learned quite a bit on the way. Now I know how to spend time on a flight. I've never had special meal on a flight before but since Eva offered seafood meal without extra charge, I've thought I'd try it. both the lunch and breakfast was shrimp and calamari. By the end of the flight, i was totally shrimp and calamari out. And since I've eaten so much seafood on this trip, I think I'd abstain from seafood for a while.

So the entire southeast asian peninsula is done. Vietnam offers incredibly stunning natural beauty, the sea, the rivers and limestone peaks were a wonder, but totally lacks any unique culture. Everything except the Cham monuments were chinese. HạLong Bay, Hội An and Mỹ Sơn were worth visiting. The rest not really. But the food has been excellent simply because i love seafood and pho. From the 5 countries, I still prefer Cambodia because of its Khmer temples.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

mekong delta on a headache

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
3.5 hours ride to Vinh Long on the Mekong delta. First we visited a very strange temple called cao dai. It's a very small but pretty temple with 2 colorful towers. This religion honors 4 deities: bhudda, confucious, lao tzu and jesus. In fact, 4 statues representing all 4 deities were on the altar, all under the 'all seeing eye'. go figure. After this strange temple, we got on a boat (how many boat rides have we had so far?) and cruised the delta to see orchards and sampled lots of local produce, jackfruit, water melons, bananas, dragon fruit. Stopped to see a cottage industry of rice paper, coconut candy and rice popcorn and snake wine. there was a python in a cage. It was the shop owner's pet.The snake looked relatively mild, so I've touched its skin. scaly, hard, sharp, smooth and shiny. We observed how rice paper, coconut candies and rice popcorn were made and made some purchases. The sampan ride on a small channel lined with small houses and gardens and wooden bridges, was very tranquil. All sampan had women drivers. the lunch at the eco tourism was out of this world. Fried elephant ear fish in a fantastic presentation, hooked on a stand. we cut up the meat and wrap it in rice paper, mixed it with cucumber, lettuce and peanuts. This is the typical mekong delta appetizer. It was heavenly delicious. Next small deep fried chicken spring rolls and giant prawns with heads on, of course, grilled. light veggie soup with small meat balls (typical of a mekong delta meal), a pork dish and steamed rice. jack fruit for dessert. Food this good, how can the women here be so thin? Next more orchards and more fruit trees, durian, jackfruit which looked exactly like durians except the skin arent pointy and sharp, green guavas, bell apples, bananas, longans, tamrind which looked like long peanuts (very ugly fruit), star fruit (carambola), rambutans, avocados, and lots and lots of coconuts. I was all fruit out.

We finally made it to our delta homestead situated at a very shallow and narrow channel. The homestead offered very basic accommodation. the rooms designated for us were inside a big guesthouse built in the style of local mekong delta house. all rooms, although each had its own door, are all open on the top, under the guesthouse roof. Bathrooms were wet rooms (shower and toilet in 1 room) and communal, unisex. Sinks were outside the wet rooms. The living/restaurant area was all open, with a few hammocks. I've climbed on one and was happy for while until a terrible headache started to develop. for the rest of the day I could barely stand the pain. Went to my room, lowered the mosquito net and sprayed deet all around. A small dirty looking towel was offered but didnt use it. I brought my own towel and went for a shower, which was a huge mistake. The shower head barely produced any warm water with any pressure and the floor was of course completely wet. good thing I remembered to bring my flip flops. Dinner though was very good. The owners showed us how to make tamrind pancakes and I've made a small one because with the headache, i didnt have any appetite. the delta appetizer of fish, rice paper, rice crackers and some veggies came of course, this time the fish was boiled. I couldnt even eat it. The waiter made one wrap for each of us, but I had to give mine to John. Lemongrass chicken, light veggie soup and rice followed and i couldnt eat those either. Pineapple and water melon for dessert. i just looked at them and sighed. I've excused myself and went back to my room and crashed. half way through the nite, I had to use the bathroom. All lights were out except for 2 fluorescent tubes above the wet rooms, so I had to use my flash light to illuminate the way. Almost stepped on the dogs that were sleeping in front of the bathrooms. Lowered my pants to pee and scourge of hungry mozzies attacked my deet free butt. had to remember to deet my butt as well next time. needless to say, i didnt enjoy the homestead. had i not had the debilitated headache, the homestead on the mekong delta would have been a nice relaxation.

Mekong Delta photos:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

the whole town in celebration

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:30 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Sài Gòn - drove back to da nang and flew to saigon, now HCM city. and went straight to sightseeing. the war remnants museum was boring. american planes, tanks and helicopters on display in the garden, a few replications of prison cells and 3 floors of nothing but photographs. not interesting. however, the lunch was very special. i had coconut salad and duck confit on a bed of super delicious egg noodles. again, was totally stuffed. Afterwards, we visited the reunification palace, which was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt. Again, not very interesting. quite simple and no extravagance. Had wanted to see the notre dame cathedral but it was closed for renovation. At the market inside the post office building, i finally purchased the Trung Nguyen coffee, only to find out that the coffee store was but a block from our hotel and it was cheaper at the coffee shop, and i could purchase whole beans there too. ah well, me, stupid tourist! the hotel huong sen was 1 block from the city center/time square, 2 blocks from the opera house, 3 blocks from the union square. the rooms were excellently appointed and with balconies. Skipped dinner that night as the lunch just about made my stomach explode. Stayed in the room and watched australian open tennis. Quite good. Breakfast was at the hotel terrace. Really liked this hotel.

the following day we did the cu chi tunnels. A picture depicting how the tunnel structures were was very interesting. disguised openings, traps, rooms for sleeping, dining and even teaching, and openings to the river. however, the 40 meters of the total 60m of tunnel I've crawled or rather walked bending over, was not all that fun or interesting. Just a low dark place. Displays of traps, guerrilla soldiers, shops to sell vietcon soldiers uniforms, hats and boots (made of rubber tires, they called them uncle ho's boots), nothing much else. not sure why all the fuzz about these tunnels. Not exciting to me. Returned to saigon for a pho lunch, just around the corner from the hotel. the pho was quite good. and i had a coconut juice right from the fruit. not as good as the ones in cambodia or myanmar. another free afternoon at the hotel watching tennis on tv.

A little before 7, i was sipping cold green tea in my balcony, when suddenly a big commotion started on the street below. a crowd waving the vietnamese flag was shouting. I thought it was some kind of political uprising. Soon the motorbikes joined, banging pot and pans tops. More and more bikes came and filled the streets in front of our hotel completely. Then I've realized this was their AFC cup semi-final victory parade. By 7 we headed out to hunt for dinner. The streets were filled with bikes, people carrying the nation's flag, shouting, banging pot lids. we had a hard time crossing the street, jumping over bikes. We eat on the top air conditioned floor at the Lemongrass, quite an upscale restaurant. I had soft shell crabs which were gigantic and deep fried seabass that was expensive, good but not excellent. For drink I've tried the 'car driver' which was grenadine, pineapple, lime and ginger ale. it was super delicious. My bill totaled almost 400K dongs, my most expensive meal in vietnam. Going back to the hotel took another daring motorbike filled street crossing. somersaulting over bikes again. back at the hotel, we watched the never ending sea of motorbikes from the hotel terrace. It was quite a sight. the victory parade didnt stop until around 3AM.

Sài Gòn photos:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

finally some temples

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:16 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Mỹ Sơn - I've never heard of the Champa people until I came to vietnam. and this afternoon we visited the Cham civilization's spiritual home, after admiring their intricate artifacts at the Cham museum in Da Nang. My Son was one of the ancient Cham's sanctuaries, where they buried their kings as early as the fourth century. The orange stone towers had an entirely unique architecture than I've never seen before, stone upon stone without mortar. imposing structures, with a haunting feel. there the guests were offered a free show of Cham dancing and music. the dance resembled laotian and cambodian dances with the fingers curling backwards.

In the morning, I went back to use up my old town ticket's remaining tabs and visited the cantonese chinese assembly hall. They were all the same, with buildings with chinese style roofs and dragon motifs. on my way into the old town, i've spotted a light green blouse with a pretty cut and buttons on the side. on a whim i've bought it along with another the same color but with a big button in front. I knew vietnam makes good clothing so I was happy with my purchase. I've also tried an Áo dài, but they were too long for me and didnt come in green. In retrospect, I should have had it made in one of the tailors but now it's too late because we're leaving the next day. ah well, i have no occasion to wear it at home anyway. besides, it would look better on tall slender women. it wouldnt look good on me. finally on my way back to the hotel i found the tiny restaurant, more of a take out place, that had real bánh mì, the one John told me about. indeed it came with real toasted baguette and wrapped in a banana leaf. I chose the beef. this thing was the most delicious sandwich I've ever eaten. the baguette was crunchy, the veggies cut to perfection (long thin round strips) and the beef savory. it was so good I've almost went back for another one. So today was a good day. For dinner we just walked to the first restaurant we encountered in the old town and the waitress stayed late just to serve us. I had some nice grilled squid. Was good but not terribly excellent. After our meal, we saw the waitress put on her helmet and get on her motorbike to go home. very typical. I've really enjoyed hoi an, the nice hotel (would have been nicer to have a room with a view), the night strolls under colorful lighted lanterns, the food and the cham temples.

Mỹ Sơn photos:

 

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