Hoi-An/Danang -> Hanoi
share with us your sweet gift.
-(oh god not more haikus?!)
last day in HoiAn very nice lazy day. Plane to Hanoi not til 5:00 pm. Quick taxi into town w Sue to buy me some sandals! my Nikes finally broke down so got very nice pair for about $8 - little expensive but what are you going to do? Back to hotel and check out. D&T already left for a few days on their own - we will meet up w them in couple days. The heat is again a bit overwhelming and we spend couple hours in the (very nice spacious 5-star) hotel lobby, dozing, and enjoying an unusually nice and cool sea-breeze (hence the haiku! - warning-more to follow!).
Early afternoon we walk across the street to little restaurant. There are 3 restaurants across the street next to each other, and we go to the one WITHOUT the proprietor yelling at us "YOU EAT HERE VERY GOOD".
We have a very nice lunch and the whole day is very nice and lazy and quiet and uncrowded. Downtown Hoi-An of course a major zoo, but hotel about 30 min from town, on beach one-side and river on the other and very mellow. Long says the very nice guy (who I will call Mr. Thuan...don't know if that's his name, but I think there is 30% chance that it is Mr. Thuan) and his family who run/own the restaurant just bought or started it, so they are still a bit new at serving western customers. Example: while taking drink orders, long orders ice-cold lemonade for Ethan. Mr. Thuan then rushes to the front of the rest., fishes cold lemonade out of fridge, gets glass, and returns. Then I order ice-cold "Coke Lite" (aka diet coke). Mr. Thuan then rushes to fridge, gets my coke, glass, and returns. Repeat for rest of drinks!
I didn't notice a lot of war remnants while in saigon - of course we were playing it very local so maybe that's why. There were certainly very old bunkers and former military bases/prisons around, but not a lot of war-damage. Danang very very different. During 45 min drive from airport to HoiAn you see many bombed out wreckage of homes - presumably untouched for 40 years. very powerful emotionally for me and surprised havent been cleaned up etc. Of course most of region very very poor, and Danang was the dividing point betw N and S. Anyway, as w the rest of VN, the odd blending of new and old, rich and poor is striking. Danang countryside fairly wide-open, here a small bombed-out very small house, 1/4 mile later a very nice expensive new one. I guess similar story all over VN - very difficult to move and/or buy a new home - I think govt must approve every sale/move so aside from being very expensive there are some political hassles as well, that I guess virtually all the VN people would rather not deal with. So if you are poor you live in very shabby tiny little house/room, and as you get more money you just upgrade by adding extra floors, marble tile, AC, cable TV etc.]
At any rate back to Mr. Thuan and the restaurant - As w many of the locals we have come across he is very open, warm, and friendly. He tells about VN war fighting that took place in Hoi-An right where his restaurant is. He tells us that his father was killed in the war just outside, along w 3 americans he was fighting alongside. I am mezmerized. He rushes to the back of the restaurant (which as usual is his residence as well) and comes back w an old VN helmet liner - the very one his father was killed in. He is extremely proud that his father fought alongside and died alongside the american soldiers. How is that for bring the VN war back into focus? I ask if I can take a pic w him and he is very excited. Sue must turn my camera sideways since he is very small and comes up to about my shoulder. very very sweet man - hope pic makes it home!
This episode also brings into focus perhaps how selfish I have been in avoiding any war sites etc. Of course I view the whole VN war and US involvement w great sadness and guilt (and a lot of naivete), but I think I got it wrong. I think you must embrace the war and the horror and the pain and sadness in order to understand a bit more about the VN people. I wish now we had seen the DMZ in Danang and "American War Crimes Museum" in Saigon. Next time I am in VN I will go!!
1hr15min plane flight from Danang to Hanoi - I have now prepared myself emotionally to spend the next 1.5 hrs in a seat designed for 2nd graders, totally immobile w my knees up around my chin (maybe a slight exag but not much!) The plane is an old 737 that holds I have no idea maybe couple hundred people? I think there are about 1200 vn people on board and each one has at least one small child or baby. Still I am in good mood and just tripping out on the whole experience.
My new hobby - I think I mentioned how amazingly rude and obnoxious the VN people are en-masse - and long confirms this - in small groups very warm friendly and polite, but in large groups - whether in traffic or cramming into an airplane, there is just no concept of "after you". So I am constantly being jostled out of the way by little VN ladies dragging their kids around. Often, I start off in line w rest of my family and by time we get on bus/plane I am nearly dead-last. So my new hobby is "yield no ground". I am tired of being pushed out of the way, so I simply "yield no ground" now. When a little VN lady tries to squeeze past me while we are waiting to deplane the aircraft, I ever-so-subtly stiffen my body and make it abs impossible for her to pass me. It gives me surprising pleasure when the lady finally realizes that I am every bit as stubborn as she is, and inevitably she gets stuck half-way while passing. I mean really, where in the world is she going in the airplane aisle that is already packed? No more Mr. Nice Guy!!
need to go eat lunch now w rest of family. continuation to follow.