We spent two nights on a sampan on the Mekong.  We stopped at one village market and another in a small city.  The markets were bustling with conversation and commerce, like we are used to in Mexico.  We have gotten so far from our food in the US, I am even more grateful for Way Out farmstead, Tristan and Aubyn, our local Coyle market. 

There was a battered copy of “After Sorrow – An American Among the Vietnamese” by Lady Borton.  Reading just a few chapters of that book added to my understanding of the culture of the Mekong.  As I walked the markets filled the unusual fruits that I have been growing accustomed to, I considered what the people ate in the twelve years that it took this land to recover from Agent Orange.

These photos were taken by Chris McLane.

Rice weighs heavy on the boats

Rice weighs heavy on the boats

Rice chaff is light, used for fuel, especially for making bricks.

Rice chaff is light, used for fuel, especially for making bricks.

Rambutans, a new fruit for me.  Open the spiny exterior for a sweet milky fruit with a pit that reminds me of loquat.

Rambutans, a new fruit for me. Open the spiny exterior for a sweet milky fruit with a pit that reminds me of loquat.

The markets were rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and rice.

The markets were rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and rice.

"Ha Low!"  Kids, adults, everyone tries a little English and cracks up when we respond.  I felt like the Rose Queen, waving and greeting.  It was so much fun.

“Ha Low!” Kids, adults, everyone tries a little English and cracks up when we respond. I felt like the Rose Queen, waving and greeting. It was so much fun.

Taking the boat into Cambodia, we noticed how populated the river was in Viet Nam and not so much in Cambodia.

Taking the boat into Cambodia, we noticed how populated the river was in Viet Nam and not so much in Cambodia.

Sitting room at the bow of the sampan with Mark and me.

Sitting room at the bow of the sampan with Mark and me.

The best thing about Hoi An

December 23, 2013

Bicycles!

Cycling the countryside of Kim Bong

Cycling the countryside of Kim Bong

We borrowed bikes from our fabulous hotel, Villa Hoa Su and took the ferry to the village of Kim Bong.

"One dolla" for the tourists.  10 cents for the locals.  I negotiated a half price return which was great fun.

“One dolla” for the tourists. 10 cents for the locals. I negotiated a half price return which was great fun.

Kim Bong has wood carvers that make furniture and carve buddhas and other objects for tourists. But mostly they make and repair boats. These boat yards were on a smaller scale than our local Port Townsend yard.

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And my favorite part was peddling through the rice fields and vegetable gardens. The roads are built for scooters, motorcycles and bicycles. No cars could maneuver the streets and byways.

If the Wizard of Oz had been written by Vietnamese, the Scarecrow would have dressed like this.

If the Wizard of Oz had been written by Vietnamese, the Scarecrow would have dressed like this.

The cows were tied along the river and looked much fatter than Mexican cows.

The cows were tied along the river and looked much fatter than Mexican cows.

These women were riding with over 100 pounds of marigolds on their bikes.  One tipped over and Chris was there to assist.

These women were riding with over 100 pounds of marigolds on their bikes. One tipped over and Chris was there to assist.

The village was a grid of streets for two-wheeled traffic only.

The village was a grid of streets for two-wheeled traffic only.

And after a fine day of exploring the Vietnamese countryside, chatting with residents that actually were not used to seeing tourists and were eager to practice their English, we enjoyed a delicious meal at, of course, The Morning Glory Restaurant

Sea bass with spinach and "red risotto."  Scrumptious.

Sea bass with spinach and “red risotto.” Scrumptious.

Rated ‘G’ in Vientiane

December 6, 2013

A neighbor in San Miguel, when I told him I was going to be blogging this trip, admonished “Don’t be boring.”  We are in Vientiane and nothing particularly is happening except of course, that we are in Vientiane, Laos and this day included:

– the best steak I have eaten in years at a Belgian Beer Bar, Chokdee, filled with happy conversation in a multitude of languages.

– a tuk tuk to Wat That Luang and had a conversation with a monk about the #5 lesson.  It was written in Lau and I picked up in the temple after I played a kind of  “pick up sticks” like I watched the young girl before me. The monk had a hard time translating because his English was not that sophisticated but said it was something like “you will work on a problem and it will turn out fine.”  Fine Buddhist dharma.

– Stopped in a shop to buy a carved elephant, a Lao memento of a Thai elephant ride, and three year old daughter of the shop owner picked up my hat while I was paying and then posed for a picture before putting the hat on the ground, putting her foot in it and sweeps the floor with it too quickly to be intercepted.

– Ate freshly prepared noodles soup with pork and crispy garnish of mung bean sprouts, string beans, basil, mint and lime for 12000 kip, roughly $ 1.50 USD.

Life is good.

The pose just before sweeping.

The pose just before sweeping.

Reclining Buddha at Wat That Phung

Reclining Buddha at Wat That Phung

Sticky rice baskets in a temple.

Sticky rice baskets in a temple.

Noodle soup and garnish

Noodle soup and garnish

Interesting creature holding up a temple at Wat That Luang

Interesting creature holding up a temple at Wat That Luang

Cool and clean air.  Children free to play in the streets.  Helping the night staff in the hotel set up his Facebook account.  Spicy fresh vegetables and really good coffee, hot or cold.  Floral scent at the riverside.  Alms to the monks at dawn.  Sticky rice with everything.  Croissants and baguettes.

The view from the temple on Phousy.  A place to walk up, see the city and watch the sunset, say a prayer, free a bird.

The view from the temple on Phousy. A place to walk up, see the city and watch the sunset, say a prayer, free a bird.

one of the many, many Buddhas that lined the path up to Phousy

one of the many, many Buddhas that lined the path up to Phousy

Dawn alms for the monks.  Sticky rice from my bamboo pot to their metal pot in a leather sling.

Dawn alms for the monks. Sticky rice from my bamboo pot to their metal pot in a leather sling.

Delicious market snacks:  white bean soaked smothered in coconut milk and fried.  Or just plain coconut milk poached.  Ate them both with great delight.

Delicious market snacks: white bean soaked smothered in coconut milk and fried. Or just plain coconut milk poached. Ate them both with great delight.

These tasty little eggplant are dried and also made into a dip.

These tasty little eggplant are dried and also made into a dip.

The monks are quite young and this beach on the Mekong is quite inviting.

The monks are quite young and this beach on the Mekong is quite inviting.

For my foodie friends,  for our exotic evening meal:  steamed vegetables with a spicy shrimp sauce, grilled buffalo, young pumpkin salad at the Tamarind Cafe.  Oh and of course, sticky rice.

For my foodie friends, for our exotic evening meal: steamed vegetables with a spicy shrimp sauce, grilled buffalo, young pumpkin salad at the Tamarind Cafe. Oh and of course, sticky rice.

Quite a day in Chiang Mai

November 28, 2013

First:  Walk the old city.

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Not so old.  Yet to be unwrapped.

Not so old. Yet to be unwrapped.

On a backstreet

On a backstreet

And then some great food.

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Eggplant and shrimp.  Not pictured: fat rice noodles and pork, yellow curry and chicken.  Best food so far on the trip.

Eggplant and shrimp. Not pictured: fat rice noodles and pork, yellow curry and chicken. Best food so far on the trip.

End the day with the night market.

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And the ultimate Eco-friendly tickly fishy pedicure.

And the ultimate Eco-friendly tickly fishy pedicure.

Last day in Bangkok

November 24, 2013

On our last day here in Bangkok before our bus ride to Sukhothai, we wandered the streets, found a lovely taylor to hem Chris’s pants, ate persimmons from a plastic bag, explored Wat Arum in the rain and ate noodle soup on the street (luckily they had special instructions for ordering in English: choose broth, choose noodle, choose meat.) Ended the day with a Scrabble game with Gwen.  What could be better!  Loved our first taste of Thailand.

Wat Arum

Wat Arum

decorated using left over Chinese tiles they left behind, not needing the balast

decorated using left over Chinese tiles they left behind, not needing the balast

and shells

and shells

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Delicious persimmons for a snack

guava juice at the noodle soup restaurant

guava juice at the noodle soup restaurant

our noodle soup chef

our noodle soup chef