Thursday, July 22, 2010

Winding Down

"Gray beard starts to fade.
Visions of san diego
becoming clearer"

Smelly feet problem is ME of feet stink, and I think everyone else's probably do as well. Scrub as I might they will not come clean (think lady macbeth out damn spot). My apologies to sue and derek - their feet cannot be worse than mine!

It is thursday afternoon right now as I sit in the hotel IndoChina II lobby using one of the 2 public computers.

Yesterday we had another adventurous day-trip to the Perfume Pagoda - which is very old and sacred Buddhist temple, high in the mountains a couple of hours S-SW (?) of Hanoi. All 7 of us meet for early breakfast and take a taxi-van to the small town where we will catch a boat that will take us rest of way where we can hike just a bit up to the pagoda. I am already a little travel-weary as we head out, and we spend the next couple of hours fighting Hanoi traffic and driving thru the entire city. Mercifully we have the mellowest taxi driver in Hanoi, who hardly ever honks and is not overly aggressive (Like most of the drivers) so this helps quite a bit w the long trip. Driving thru Hanoi SUCKS, but finally we get outside the city and the green fields of rice and mountains and jungles are everywhere and very very scenic. We get to the small town (name later) where we will rent a small river-boat to take us the rest of the way to pagoda. The heat is worse than it has even been since we've been here and it is nearly unbearable. We are all feeling it. Absolutely drenched w sweat, shirt and shorts, and drinking non-stop bottled water and never having to PEE!! The threat of heat-stroke is very real so we all make sure to drink plenty of water and try not to over-exert. I am esp concerned about Donald, since he is a very large man, sweating profusely (as we all are), and seems out of breath. Derek also seems very hot, but I must say how impressed I am w both boys once again, and neither of them complains a single time during the entire day-trip. very good boys!

(Right now there is some VN guy in the lobby screaming into his cell phone in his crazy annoying language - very very irritating, but I can rise above my baser instincts of walking over to him, screaming SHUT UP and smashing his cell phone beneath my very nice VN sandals that I bought in Hoi-An)

The boat is a small sort of large metal canoe with 5 seats up each side and there are 2 paddlers who paddle us up the river (i guess a tributary of the Red River) and the trip takes maybe another hour. Again the heat is outrageous but once the boat starts moving we get just a taste of breeze which makes a big difference. While I am sitting there pouring out buckets of sweat and thinking how uncomfortable I am, sue says to derek, "Derek, next time you complain about how much homework you have to do, I want you think about our paddlers, who do this all day long, every single day." point-taken and I start to (once again) enjoy the amazing and beautiful scenery along the river - green lush mountains and jungles everywhere, with distant ranges slowly dissolving in the mist -

Get to Pagoda area and it is a commercial zoo as we walk up the main path (pagoda still a ways off). Typical VN street-sellers type stuff every step along the way w just about everyone selling cold drinks, food, trinkets. We stop and all get a cold drink which is very nice.

Sue and Long had been here 15 years ago and had actually hiked the rest of the way up the mountain to the pagoda, but there is now a cable-car thank god. We still have to climb up and up along stone/rock path, catch cable car for 10 minute ride to top. Weather much cooler and just a bit drizzley up here which is a very needed and welcomed break - but still quite hot and humid.

The Perfume Pagoda itself is actually down from the very top of the mountain into an amazing canyon/cavern with shear cliffs and feels very tropical rain-foresty. The entrance to the pagoda is now down down down long stone staircase that has been there for who knows how many centuries. At the very bottom right at the entrance to the pagoda, there is a sign for "No Shorts Please" (inside the temple) Personally I think it would have made a lot more sense to warn us of this a bit earlier, since we are all in shorts of course. I ask Long what his thoughts are about if we should go in or not - He's not sure, but many people w shorts are continuing into the temple - think "Bat Cave" (literally). So we all go in. Very very dark lots of incense lots of candles, lots of tourists, fairly small cave, a bit anti-climatic after the entire trip, but overall magnificent. I cannot even imagine the buddhist monks building this monument high in the mountains/jungles.

We head back and enjoy a bit of cloud-cover and just a bit of drizzle on the return trip which is just perfect. Still hot, but no longer "immediate coronary hot"...just "pretty uncomfortable hot" , which is a marked improvment. I take lots of pics of the beautiful and mystical, serene mountain scapes mixed in w lush greenery of jungles and river.

Back down along the river and back into the taxi-van for drive back to hotel. I am starving (we ate breakfast at 7:30 it is now 2 pm and we've done quite a bit of hiking) and I am feeling the trip and quite travel-weary and in the worst mood of the trip. Everything is bothering me and I spend most of the trip listening to Sue and Terri discuss their work, and Long and Donald discuss computer problems. I think we are all ready to go home.

Except of course for Saint Susan - who never seems to get tired or cranky. She is still amazing and I am starting to wonder if she is my sister or a cyborg replacement.

Finally back to hotel and we all find very nice resaurant to celebrate D&T last night w us. They will be flying out in the morning. The weather is nice and cool and rainy which is fantastic and we all enjoy a very very nice dinner w plenty of beer and great food. Grand total is about 700,000 dong which is about $7 US each - very very nice.

I say goodnight to everyone and retire early. Donald and Terri have grown on us all, and they will be missed and they were a nice addition to our travels. Donald, Long, and I have a billiards date next time I come up to San Jose, which should be a lot of fun!!