Sunday, March 29, 2009



In Hue we went and visited the Citadel. Got some so-so photos. That evening I went down to the Perfume River to check out the possibilities of a boat ride. I got hailed immediately and even tho I said it was too late for a ride I was assured that, "No, now is the best time o go! Tomorrow too hot! Only eight dolla." OK. I reckoned there was a little light left and I might get a sunset picture or two. The boat only had one passenger - me.

It quickly became apparent that the $8 fee wasn't all it was hoped I would part with. Once we got going , Mom and the kids rolled out the sale goods. Mom had embroidery and postcards. The little girl and boy had drinks and doo-dads. They were just so damn cute! the kids were so sweet that I don't think sugar would melt in their mouths. Daughter looked to be about 6, but when she showed me her drawings I asked how old she was and found she was 10.

In Vietnamese there are different ways of saying "Thankyou." You say thankyou-boy, thankyou,girl/woman-younger-than-I. Thankyou-child, thankyou-sir, thankyou-woman-older-than-I. It all gets confusing , so Mom and I spent some time on Vietnamese lessons trying to get that straightened out in my head. Once Mom and I were getting along well, she asked her child to show me her drawings. She had a whole notebook full of pictures, and I admired them so much, that she detached two of them giving them to me using the word, "souvenir." So I got in my wallet and found an American quarter to give each kid for their souvenirs. It was a delightful trip.

Asiana Airlines

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

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Lonely Planet posting re Night Bus to Hoi An Feb 18 '09

Eleven bucks to take a nite bus to Hoi An. Doesn't sound too bad for a nite's lodging a nd transportation for 530 km. Well hold on, There are a few tips you need to know.
The bus is a big honker w/ a row of "bunk beds" that recline, running two rows down the walls of the bus and one row down the center. That's all well and good unless you get the berths in the rear of the bus where the put 5 across. If you are 6 feet tall and 275 pounds wide this makes for a miserable experience I can tell you. Mike is my size and we were put side to side. Mike on the wall and then me and then 3 small (thank God!) Austrian girls. If you are in the single berths you can roll side to side and hang your arms out but I was sardined in and could barely move w/o pissing Mike off or making the girl think I was some kind of dirty old man. Didn't sleep a wink. I think I would try this again But you need to Know a few tricks
Take your boots off and put in your luggage and just wear your sandals onto the bus, You must take off any footwear before entering the bus,
Of course check your seating before buying a ticket
I'd suggest taking a center bunk if you can get it if turning side to side is important to you
Your main luggage goes under the bus. There is no room for a big backpack in your berth.
Your carry-on should have a flashlite, toilet paper, water, snacks, toothbrush
You get one rest stop at midnite and there is a teeny weeny no-water crapper that I fortunately did not check out.

My Lonely Planet post and a reply re. lobster on the beach

Nha Trang lobster on the beach
Nha Trang lobster on the beach - my mouth has been watering for this for 8 months. Now I'm here and the experience was underwhelming. Not awful, but short of my expectations.
The lady cook has been after me for 3 days, so today I took the plunge. It is quite a bit of performance art on her part. First comes all the excitement of showing me her wares, She takes out a plate and puts on a lobster, some scallops and some more sea shells and a crab. It looks fantastic. We refuse an offer to pay her 250,000 VND and get the price down to 200,000 VVD ($12 US) Great bargainers we are not.
There are two of us - each to get the same plate. One of her buddies shows up to help cook on the little charcoal pan they all have and in the hurly burley of being told where to sit, fending off sunglass or insole salesmen, saying "No' to a massage, the helper cook substituted a teeny weeney lobster for the one that was on offer in the first place. I called bullshit on that move and got that put right.
In retrospect i realize:
The "shrimp" were about 6-7 inches long, but are what we in Washington State USA call "sand shrimp" We use them for bait. They actually were tasty but not too meaty. She partially shelled them and put nuoc mam in a slit she cut in the meat, and then grilled them.
The crab was a round red thing about the size of your fist. If you work hard you can get no more than a tablespoon of meat out of it. I'm an experienced crab gourmand and found I had to put the body part in my mouth and grind it all up and spit out the shells. REFUSE the little round crab! Look for a larger white and red one that has big meaty claws. These were kept tucked away somewhere and not pulled out until they started bugging us for the second course.
She showed us 3 scallops in the sample plate that each of us was to get. On the final accounting Mike said he got NONE. I ate 3 (they were damn good)
The lobster (if it is one} has NO CLAWS . I think it is really some type of shrimp that is called a lobster.The restaurants charge by the kilo for lobster and one we looked at was $40 for one lobster. Yes. $40 US! All the other seafood here is inexpensive, so I was shocked at the price. I'll have to check to see if the restaurants have lobster w/ claws.
After we finished she tried to sell us more food. We felt a bit taken advantage of so passed seconds.
SUMMARY: If you must have this "experience" keep you wits about you. Watch for the bait and switch. She tried to get us to sit under a palapa, but we wanted to be close so we could be close to photograph the experience. It really is a visually appealing sight. No telling what would have happened if we had not been right on top of her and her cronies. Make sure she puts both COMPLETE meals in her display bucket and then keep an eye on her.
Alternately go to Nha Trang Seafood restaurant and order deep fried grouper. The breading was crispy, not too thick and the absolute BEST I have had in 60 years on this earth.
Bon Appetit
18-Feb-2009 22:00
by: Junglebeach
Posts: 241
Registered: 25/04/03

nice story
You have been a seafood taster for so long, and from Wa state, yet you do not know that real lobsters (with claws)are only from the Atlantic ocean, the rest are all fake, these others, in Canada, we call them crayfish,

these so called lobsters grown and sold in VietNam are Langouste, and are farmed

the ones sold on the beach and in many restaurants in Nha Trang , are very bad quality or sick, not able to be sold to the wholeseller, or are stolen by night by divers ... the real cost of the real langouste is actually 1 500 000 to 1 800 000 vnd / kilo, ( yes around 100 usd) which is what the growers get, and most are shipped from the farm direct to Hong Kong, tokyo or Singapore
you say, that's crazy, so do I, but I know some growers and that's the going rate, one of them is a french dude, who does not even eat his, he says, at that rate he sells them all, and waits to be in France and pig out on real lobsters at 1/3 of that price ...

the big shrimp, at about 10 pieces per kilo (1/4 pounders) are going at the market for about 800 000 vnd [nearly 50 usd) / kilo ...

the ones you talk about i think are meaty shrimps (translated from the vietnamese name) , with many bone like separations in the meat part, very hard to eat are cheap, then again they are not the real shrimp, but they do look goor until you bite into them

and you are right, seafood restaurants have much better quality seafood
a very good place in Nha Trang is Truc Linh rest. on Biet Thu st. they also have 2 others but the 1 in front of crazy kim's is the best as far as I am concerned

and yes, the bait and switch is very big on the beach, are you must look out very good, they are expert at it

E-mail Feb 18,2009

Mike and I walked along the beach this a,m, about 0630 and saw the VN exercising very early . They are done early and when it's hot the gringos take over. We walked about 2 mi from Hotel to where the fishing fleet is unloading. Mike took a $ 6 boat ride around the area while I waited on shore. I took the same ride yesterday for $6 and sent some pix. $6 is way too much but I wanted to ingratiate myself w/ the people so they would take kindly to my poking a camera in their faces. This is not on any of the tour routes . I was the only Westerner there. Everyone is quite friendly so photos were no problem. I just kept smiling and saying "Kam On" (don't know how to spell "thank you")

This afternoon Our goal is to go to the beach and find a woman to cook us some lobster in her little charcoal cooker right on the beach. I have been looking forward to this for months.

Not as hot here as delta, Still plenty warm at 90 deg - ocean breeze is very helpful.

Tomorrow we take the NhaTrang city tour and then the 11 hr nite bus to Hoi An. $11 for an 11 hr ride. The seats recline something like a Lazy boy. One nite's lodging AND transportation fo $11, Not bad (I hope)

This is an E-mail I sent 2/16/09

We are in Nha Trang, a fishing port known to have "best beaches in VN" The place is crawling w/ gringos from all over the world. A polish girl is sitting next to me in the internet section of the Hotel., Golden Hotel (maybe you can google it.)
$25 per nite w/ brkfst. AC is good. Went out to eat in a seafood restaurant and had the best breaded deep fried fish chunks I ever had in my life. The hot pot w/ crab, shrimp, fish and clams was very tasty. Mike and I dined like kings for $12.
The place was called simply Nha Trang Seafood It was recommended to us by the receptionist at the hotel. When we got there we saw several waitresses standing around and only 2 English patrons in the dining room. We thought, "Where are all the Vietnamese? We got a bum steer on this place, so we left. As we rounded the corner we saw the outdoor eating courtyard was full of Vietnamese chowing down. So we went back and are so glad we did.

OK, here is and interesting story for you.

Last nite we went to the VN version of Walmart as I lost my pocket knife.
In Can Tho (a city of 2 million) was a 3 story store with grocery store taking up the whole first level. It was JAMMED with people. LOUD and bustling. Imagine Safeway selling food at 90% off. It was amazing, You could buy Oral B tooth brushes, Huggies, Palmolive etc. Also lots of Go to ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost (in your home directory library). Remove any files titled Restart iTunes and acknowledge the agreement.
ietnamese domestic goods. All the aisles were labeled in Vietnamese, and English 2ndarily, much the same as Home Depot in Eng And Spanish. Small children loved saying "Hello" Any body who spoke any English wanted to say "Hello, how do you do? where are you from?" etc.
One Mother carrying a 5-6 year old maneuverd herself to cross our path as her little one was excitedly squirming in her mother's arms, working herself up for the big "HELLO!" and then buried her face in Mom's shoulder, then popped back around wearing a huge smile and waving "Hello" again. Mom seemed breathlessly excited too. This happened over and over. Mostly youngsters, but adults too. One 20 something corralled Mike and held on to his arm while speaking pretty good English, asking "Where you from? " etc.
As we moved around the store you could see people talking and looking at us. Some would bend over and whisper to their kids and all that would produce another "Hello!" and a big smile. It was a riot!! I gave 'em a big grin and said "Hello" back. I walked behind Mike sometimes and the gawkers didn't notice me observing them. Seriously, you would think Brad Pitt was strolling thru the place.
Next we went across the street to a big modern electronics store. The hustle and bustle was gone , but the celebrity status of the visitors was still in evidence., The staff was trying to be cool, but you could see them whispering with eyes glued to the oddball alien invaders.
Most things are cheaper in VN but a microwave we would pay $60 for was $130. A small reefer was 600 bucks

I'm up past my bedtime. I'll try to find a way to send some photos. The floating market in Can Tho was fantastic.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The last two cut and pastes I gave you for pix direct you to the same album. Hopefully this address gets you to the rest of my Mekong Delta Pix

I have lots more pix and comments so return from time to time as I have a job to go to and it will take some time to get this all figured out


In Can Tho we stayed at the Tay Ho hotel. The guy there was pleased to see former servicemen. He told us of some of his trials and tribulations, getting choked up when relating the story of how his father spent 15 yrs in prison after the war. The whole family was in disbelief when he showed up at home as they all thought he had perished. He arranged an SUV and a guide to take us to Mike's old base area, and he set up the river tour for the next day. The food in the restaurant next door was just fabulous.

Phoung, our guide for 2 days, had been a Captain in the SV army and spent 2 years in a re-education camp after the war. He related that the RedCross kept an eye on the place so conditions weren't as bad as they could have been. He makes his living now teaching English and guiding tourists. In my travels I haven't been too keen on using guides, but I'm re-evaluating that stance as for only $10 he stayed w/ us all day and explained things we never would have figured out on our own.

For more pix go to
If I upload to this page I can only do 4 pix at a time. I've found it is faster to upload a complete album to Picasa and then let you copy and paste the address into your browser and you can see the whole thing.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mike and I have been wandering around Saigon in our travel vests and wearing goofy looking hats to keep sun off bald heads. People just stare at us like we are from outer space. They are very friendly and chatty. We hear all the time. " You brothers?" You look all same same!. The other odd thing is we keep getting patted on the belly and here "Bhudda" or "Happy Bhudda" along w/ a big smile or laugh. They seem to be very tactile people. Every girl in the maket wants to grab my hand or arm and get me to stop and buy something, It's all very gentle but persistant. We had a 70 year old male guide today (more on that later.) who constantly touched Mike or me on the arm or leg while talking to us.
NOTE internet connexion is so unstable i wont correct spelling as im afraid of losing everthing
Took a very cool speed boat ride up to Can Tho today. . Interestingly thisis not given much write up in the guidebook, and the hotel receptionist told us the boat went out of business. It does not appear on the tourist maps. It is a great way to avoid 4-5 hrs on a bus and stopping off at candy factory, handicrafts venues etc where all the busses stop. There are no kickbacks to hotels etc if we bypass all that..Interesting.
Once we got here we arranged a tour to see Mike's old area in Binh Thuy. He couldn't recognize much. Our guide was a former SVN Army captain. Very interesting to talk w/ him. His English was very hard to understand but we did OK.
As we were returning to town he asked if we wanted to meet his American friend who had moved to VN and married a local woman who was a friend of his daughter. We went to his house and he wasn't home but the guides old army buddy who had escaped to Vancouver 30 yrs ago was the neighbor of theAmerican, and said the american would be home in 10 mins. We had some tea with this guy who owned real estate in vancouver and bellingham while waiting. Talked about "re-education camps" they had to endure etc. The Anerican shows up and it turns out that his brother was one of the guests at Kyla and Brady's wedding! He had a lovely VN wife and we visited15 min or so before we had to leave. Small world! (Kyla is my daughter)
Alot more I'd like to say about beiong a veteran and some of the things people tell us about thei experinces afgter the north won, but I keep getting warnigs about unable to continue, lakc of memory etc so will send this in hopes at least somethin gets thru
After Saigon we took the fast boat to Can Tho in the Mekong delta. Here is an e-mail I sent home at the time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

We only stayed in Saigon long enuff for me to get the only pedicure I've ever had in my life and to make arrangements to get on the Fast River Boat to the Mekong delta. We sweated our brains out. HOT!HOT!

We flew Asiana Airlines from Seattle to Korea and then on to Saigon. 24 hrs (11 hrs in the air to Korea and 5 more to Saigon). Asiana was great. I could put my fist w/ an extended thumb in the space between my knee and the seat in front of me, as opposed to the United flight we had on the way home from SFO to SEA where I could only put 2 fingers in that space. Asiana's food was delicious and the flight attendants were always up and down the aisle w/ drinks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009