Monday, January 6, 2014

Almost Home

I've been out of the office, out of town, and out of the country...

In Vietnam even I put sugar in my coffee!

My daughter Cassandra currently lives and works in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I had not seen her since March of 2013 so a visit was in order.  Her mother and brother went to see her in June.  Cassie and I reprised several sights and sought out some new ones as well.

Hanoi - Bun Bo Nam Bo, my son Erik's favorite restaurant in Hanoi, is quite the eatery.  They serve only one dish - Bun Bo - which is a little like soup and salad all in the same bowl.  Bia Hanoi, while a pilsner like all beer in Vietnam, is tasty, cheap, and safe to drink.

Sapa - In the extreme north of the country along the border with China.  Cold at night, cool and damp in the morning. Pleasant in the afternoon, in the sun at least.  It snowed there the day before we arrived.

Halong Bay - on the northeast coast, again close to the border with China, is a popular getaway.

Hue - was the traditional capital of Vietnam and the scene of brutal fighting during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Hoi An - A quiet coastal village south of Danang.  We ate at all three stores operated by Ms Trinh Diem Vy, the owner of Morning Glory Restaurant.  Each was delicious in different ways.

The Champa ruins at My Son - Are ruins because the US bombed a Viet Cong weapons depot there in 1969.  The Vietnamese are not fond of the B52.

Saigon - Bia Saigon is good too...and only $0.60 a bottle.

Mekong Delta at Can Tho - Beautiful and a little spooky. I know men who suffered badly there a generation ago.

The Cao Dai Holy See - The Cao Dai religion is a 20th century Vietnamese syncretism of Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and others.  They gather for prayer every six hours, 24/7. While very colorful and accompanied by wonderful music and singing, it seems a little wrapped up in legalisms. Guess they're not alone in that. Never been challenged by temple monkeys outside any other congregations' houses of worship though...

The tunnels at Cu Chi - The (notorious or heroic) underground fighting complex served as the transfer point between the terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Highway in Cambodia and the outskirts of Saigon.  Watch your step!

Ancient Angkor at Siem Reap, Cambodia - We also visited the Bakong temple in the Rolous Group east of Siem Reap. I circumambulated each of its five levels as I ascended. Cassie went straight to the top and sat in the shade to wait for me.  There's a lesson there for somebody.

Our itinerary was a mix of cultural, historical, religious, and political.  Vietnam is nominally a communist country in which everyone owns a scooter and runs a little shop.

This is not the Southeast Asia I grew up watching every night on the CBS Evening News.  It has not been so for a long time.  

Fascinating place, fascinating people.