Wednesday morning was a trip down memory lane. We started our day with a stop at our new favorite coffee shop, Cong Caphe for an coconut coffee smoothie. It fortified us for our walk to Unity Park (formerly known as Lenin Park). When J~ & I were here in 2007, we took pictures of kids in these giant inflatable plastic bubbles out on the lake. E~ & G~ have been talking about doing that very thing for years. Unfortunately, the plastic bubbles weren’t in operation today. The kids took the disappointment remarkably well. The kids had a chance to play on the playground & exercise equipment before the masses of school kids descended. After we left the park we walked to see if the hotel we had stayed at was still there. It was. The place we bought T~’s formula was still there too. No Sunny Baby was on the shelf though.
After our Memory lane trip, we headed over to West Lake to have lunch with our expat friends, A~, J~, & their two girls. We ate at a place called 1946. The food was good, as you’d expect, but it was a stretch for some of us. We had banana flower salad, stir-fried pumpkin greens, squid, fried corn, corn water (exactly what you think it is. I have now found a new use for the water I boil corn on the cob in), tofu, clam soup, & these little fried fish things that tasted like fish crackers. The kids tried most of it & seemed to enjoy the fish dish the most.
After lunch we went to Dong Xuan Market. That was a bit overwhelming. So many people. So much stuff. We bought enough cards for Tet to last us until T~ is out of elementary & we no longer celebrate with her class. My favorite part of the market was the spices. Who knew star anise came in both red & brown? So fragrant. I kind of wanted to bring home a big bark of cinnamon but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t survive the trip home intact. After the market we went for more coffee, this time the coffee came with egg white foam. It was pretty tasty too. We had to say good-bye to our friends since they are heading to America for Christmas tomorrow. It was fun to spend so much time with them & get a good insiders look at Hanoi. Today’s coffee shop was through a dress shop
A~ driving her motorbike through the shop & down the hall to park her bike at the coffee shop.
& then up, up, up.
That’s E~ & G~ finishing the 3rd of 4 flights of stairs in search of a bathroom.
The view was well worth the climb.
Not the guy, the view of the city with the pagoda.
We said good-bye to our friends, did a little shopping & now we’re relaxing in the hotel before heading out for supper. Such is life for the world traveler ;-)
Well, we made it through the water puppets, but just barely. J~ was nodding off, which was surprising given how uncomfortable he had to be. There was minimal leg room in the theater.
That’s with his legs almost all in G~’s spot. There’s no way he could have had them straight in front of him.
This morning we headed out to the Temple of Literature. It is the oldest university in Vietnam, started around the year 1000. We heard some traditional Vietnamese music & G~ is now on the hunt for some traditional Vietnamese percussion instruments.
For lunch we stopped at KOTO. It’s a restaurant that trains street kids for hospitality jobs. It’s a neat place but the food on the street is better. And cheaper. It’s surprising how much things have changed here in the last 7.5 years. You can tell there’s more wealth here now & a burgeoning middle class. The place has a different vibe than it did the first time we were here.
After lunch we visited our favorite museum, the Museum of Ethnology. The displays are all about the different ethnic groups in Vietnam. It’s very interesting. In the back courtyard, they have traditional homes built by the different ethnic groups. The kids enjoyed climbing around exploring the houses.
Tonight’s plan is to find some water puppets to take home. E~ is especially keen to find one. T~ is after some stuffed whale that she saw because she thinks it’s a dolphin & we can’t seem to talk her out of it. Oh well. It’s her money…
We are all feeling a little weary of Hanoi. The pollution was especially strong today & the noise is starting to get to us. It just.never.stops. Motorbikes honk at all hours of the day & night. The loudspeaker is mercifully only played twice a day, but there’s still no blocking it out. We are getting better about crossing the street though so the comfort level is getting better. Our expat friend A~ said it would be like this. The first few days you are so acutely aware of being out of your element you are overly annoyed by things & then you find yourself feeling comfortable & those things won’t bother you as much. I hope we’ll be over the hump soon enough to enjoy Hanoi a bit more.
That’s all for tonight! It’s about time to head out in search of supper.
Our Monday is just about in the books as you all begin yours.
After a solid 10 hours of sleep, the kids were ready for another day in Hanoi. We started the day with all of our friends (minus A~, she had to work) at Cong Ca Phe – the coolest coffee shop we’ve found. It’s decorated how you would have found Vietnam 50 years ago – the light fixtures are a bare bulb with a plastic basket around it. The tables were small and cramped. The coconut coffee smoothy was to die for. And the limeade too. Sooo good. We’ll be regulars there for the week.
After coffee, we walked to the Hoa Lo Prison, better known to Americans as the Hanoi Hilton. The tour is quite interesting but definitely favors the Vietnam perspective (as you’d expect). Reading the displays you’d think the US prisoners were at summer camp. E~ was especially indignant about the propoganda.
After the tour our expat friend J~ led us to a fabulous restaurant. We’d never have ventured there on our own but again, the food was amazing. We had a very traditional dish called Cha Ca. It’s fish & rice noodles & vegetables all cooked on a stove right at the table. Expat J~ cooked our meal for a bit but then the owner came & took over cooking duties.The food was delicious. There are so many recipes I need to find now on pinterest.
After lunch, we all went our separate ways. J~ & our kids to walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, Expat J~ & his kids home for a bit, the CP family off to pack for their next adventure & A~ & I took off on her motorbike bound for Chula to do a little shopping. A~ & I visited a number of fair trade shops for souvenirs too. Traveling by motorbike is not for the faint of heart. There’s an art to it though. It would take me a long time to feel comfortable enough to attempt driving here though.
Tonight the plan is to head out for supper at one of our old haunts, the Kangaroo Cafe, & then meet the CP family for a Water Puppet show. It’ll be a late night for us tonight – we’ll have to stay awake past 8pm. That’ll be a first for some of us. We may need to stop at Cong Ca Phe for a little coconut coffee smoothy in order to make it through the show.
Today was our first full day here in Hanoi & we made the most of it. Let’s back up a bit though.
Last night we made our first trek across a street. If you haven’t experienced Asian traffic, you cannot appreciate how this might be a big deal. It even more harrowing with your children in tow. We all held hands the first time – even E~. No one got hit, all our toes are intact, & by the end of the night we even tackled the scariest of corners, the dreaded 5 road intersection just north of Hoan Kiem Lake. We were able to meet up with our Portland friends (their daughter JM~ & T~ were in the same orphanage) for supper. It wasn’t a terribly long meal but by the end of it, 2 of our 3 kids were curled up on the sofa ready to tuck in for the night. So that’s what we did. Most of us had a solid 10hrs of sleep & we woke up feeling almost normal & ready to tackle the day.
We started our Sunday at an international church where we met up with our missionary friends. After church we went for lunch. When we were here in 2007 we never were brave enough to try some street food. It always looked & smelled so good, but we preferred to eat at places that had actual chairs. I believe we were missing out. Today’s lunch was bun bo nam bo. No idea what’s in it but it was wonderful!
After lunch we went down the street to hang out at Play! Cafe. The kids all needed to let off some steam & it was the perfect place for that. The kids put on a play, built a marble run, dug in the sandbox & interacted with kids who were not going back to the hotel with us. It was sorely needed. Later, we went over to our friend’s house for supper & games. A couple of the kids got experience riding motorbikes too.
It was a fun day. And tiring too. The kids were asleep in the back of the cab within in 5 minutes.
Tomorrows plan includes coffee with friends (who knew we’d have so many people to hang out with half way around the world?), a museum or two, & a Water Puppet show. Should be fun!
After 22 hours of flying, we have made it to Hanoi!
The first & longest flight was not too bad. The kids watched movies (T~ watched Dolphin Tale 2 probably 4 times), we had Tetris tournaments, ate good airplane food (It does exist!), slept a little, & read a little too. We landed in Narita, Japan on Friday afternoon, had a little supper & tried to prepare the kids for the next leg. I was dreading the 7 hours to Ho Chi Minh City. After 13 hours in a plane, the last thing you want to do is sit for another 7. E~ hit a wall about 4 hours in & was sure he was going to be sick. The flight attendants gave him an empty row of seats so he could stretch out. Thankfully he didn’t puke. E~ is the worst puker…
The next part of the journey was getting our visa’s. We had decided to do the Visa on Arrival because it saved us $250. It took an extra 90 minutes so I’m not sure it was worth it. At that point, we had been awake (with only a little napping) for 30 hours & we still had to find a taxi & get to our hotel. We climbed into bed around 1am on Sat. I’m pretty sure the hardest mattress in the world would have felt like sleeping on a cloud at that point. We were all so happy to be prone. It’s the little things…
We were back at the HCMC airport by 10 for our flight to Hanoi. It was a quick 2 hour flight. The cab ride to the hotel was fun. Vietnamese traffic is CRAZY! It was so much fun to listen to the kids as they were concerned we’d hit someone on a motorbike or another car or any of the other hazards on the road. The kids are enthralled with the mix of farmland amongst the big city, the advertising, the people, the buildings. Pretty much everything needs a comment. We’re working on that. We don’t need an international incident as E~ explains the deficits of a communist government.
Tonight’s plan is to head out in search of some food & a walk. I think we’ll walk around Hoan Kiem Lake & then have an early night. We’re still all messed up with the whole time change thing.
No pictures yet. We haven’t seen anything other than airports!
We leave in a week. A trip that we have been planning for 3 years is actually going to happen! I waver between excitement & panic. So many things to see & experience & yet, so much packing & prep work to do!
I’m avoiding a few tasks today because that always works. The upside is, you get a blog post!
Day 1 – drive to Chicago after school
Day 2 – fly
Day 3 – fly some more & eventually end up in Hanoi
Day 4 – 11 Hanoi. We’ll cover things like museums, museums, water puppets, parks, shopping, & museums
Day 12 – 17 Hoi An. We’ll be spending our days at a resort doing resorty things with some dear friends.
Day 17 – 20 HCMC. E~ wants to do the Cu Chi tunnel tour. We’ll do some more museums and sight-seeing.
Day 21 – fly home with a stop in Narita Japan
Day 22 – 26 try to adjust to normal life in time to send the kids back to school.
In the meantime, I need to locate another suitcase, write out instructions for our dog/house sitter, find headphones for the kids, gather books and movies for the 20hrs of travel we will do in one day, kick this head cold, arrange a few more travel details, clean the house, you know, important things…
Better get to it.
Hello? Does anyone even read this blog anymore? Do you read any blogs anymore?
Lots to catch up on & maybe I’ll get to it this week. For sure you’ll be able to read all about our Epic Vietnam Adventure, which begins in less than a month! Eek!
Most of the hotels are now booked. Still working on the HCMC stay. None of the in-country travel is done & that stresses me a bit. Maybe this week?
Just typing that is stressing me out. I’ll leave this for now & I’ll do my best to do an update this week.