War and Peace in Hue

December 20, 2013

Where was I in January 1968?  8th grade, Curran Junior High School, Bakersfield California, hanging out with Maureen and Laura and singing the sound track to “Oliver” in Mrs. Lee’s classroom at lunchtime.  So why do I feel sad here?  It is visceral experience, for me, of how the Vietnam war affected my generation, even if I was just a kid when it was going on.   Tet Offensive and Walter Cronkite somehow got through my adolescent haze.  Today, as we were taking a boat down the Perfume River to see a pagoda I realized that this country, Vietnam, has moved on.  Forty-five year later there are still reminders in the war museums of “American Imperialism” being pushed back and on the streets it is business as usual.  In fact, quite a great deal of capitalism in this communist country.

I believe that I will be processing this experience for a bit longer.  And I had a thought.  Before we go to war again, wouldn’t it be a great idea to send a group of students and mothers and teachers and clergy to the country that we are preparing to attack.  And bring to our country their same representatives.  And let these representatives spend a couple of months together, just people, no governments.  And if this group feels that bombs and guns are the answer, then carry on.  Somehow I believe that a different solution might become apparent.

The bonsai at the pagoda and Citadel were amazing.

The bonsai at the pagoda and Citadel were amazing.

Young women at the DMZ bar, very happy to pose with their beer bottle tree.

Young women at the DMZ bar, very happy to pose with their beer bottle tree.

Adornment at the Citadel in Hue.

Adornment at the Citadel in Hue.

Captured planes of the "American Imperialist" forces

Captured planes of the “American Imperialist” forces

Non OSHA approved equipment.

Non OSHA approved equipment.

9 royal bronze urns for the emperor.

9 royal bronze urns for the emperor.

Laughing Buddha at the Perfume Pagoda.

Laughing Buddha at the Perfume Pagoda.

My memorial for the fallen.

My memorial for the fallen.

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Home Sweet Home Hanoi

December 16, 2013

We have returned to Hanoi for the third time this trip and it feels like home.  Long gone is the initial terror of navigating tooting cars, motorcycles and scooters.  Chris’ motto:  “Show no fear.”  I did look up from a seemingly near fatal encounter with a scooter to see a Vietnamese man sitting on the corner laughing.  I know that my facial expressions are not always cool, calm and collected.  That must have been one of those times.  And, though it is quite cold and rainy, it is much warmer than Sapa.  When the shuttle picked us up to take us to the train station last night, there was an inch of snow collecting on the hedges in the yard of the Sapa Gardens Bed and Breakfast.

Taking the motorcycle helmet to a new level.  Wish I had a need for the polka dot one.

Taking the motorcycle helmet to a new level. Wish I had a need for the polka dot one.

Basket vendor.  photo by Chris McLane

Basket vendor. photo by Chris McLane

and of course, traffic.  Photo by Chris McLane

and of course, traffic. Photo by Chris McLane

Texting?  This adds a little extra challenge as a pedestrian.

Texting? This adds a little extra challenge as a pedestrian.

photo by Chris McLane.  Thanks Chris for filling in until I replaced my broken camera.

photo by Chris McLane. Thanks Chris for filling in until I replaced my broken camera.

Rain

December 14, 2013

We took the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa, a small town in the mountains of North Vietnam.  From here tourists walk to villages, have home stays, experience the beauty of the area.  We had plans to visit a village close by and a large market where many village people come together for trade.  If I were home, either San Miguel or Coyle, I would don my rain gear and go out exploring, it is only a constant and mild rain, after all, and it is in the mid-50’s.  Instead, I am taking this opportunity to rest in our Sapa Garden Bed and Breakfast, read and write and enjoy the sound of the rain and the sound of the birds and the hum of this family home turned bed and breakfast.

We walked into town yesterday.  It was so foggy that we could not see across the small town square.  There are Hmong saleswomen on the streets wearing traditional clothing selling mostly small purses made from local textiles.  The girl who attached herself to me for the day was 16 years old.  She was a beautiful young girl, the same age as my oldest granddaughter.  I have experienced hard sell in Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and how many small purses did I need to buy to make a difference in her life?  Maybe I am not just hiding from the rain.

I "like" a page on Facebook called Grow Food Not Lawns.  No lawns in Sapa.

I “like” a page on Facebook called Grow Food Not Lawns. No lawns in Sapa.

During French colonization, Sapa was the place to own a home to get out of the Hanoi heat.

During French colonization, Sapa was the place to own a home to get out of the Hanoi heat.

Down there, somewhere, are some beautiful terraced gardens.

Down there, somewhere, are some beautiful terraced gardens.

Five Star Float

December 12, 2013

Have to swim if there is an opportunity.  A bit chilly but warmer than Seacliff Beach.  Our boat, the Prince II in the back ground

Have to swim if there is an opportunity. A bit chilly but warmer than Seacliff Beach. Our boat, the Prince II in the back ground

Our three days on Ha Long Bay was not what I expected in a cruise.  The reason:  8 passengers and 7 crew.  What were these gracious Vietnamese men going to do all day but make sure we ate too much, kayaked too much, swam too much and relaxed too much.  The unknown:  the other 4 people sharing the space.  How about four cool new friends from Pasadena?  Sounds like a plan.

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Barbecue on the beach.

Just one of the many delicacies.  Clams prepared with herbs and garlic and a little chili.

Just one of the many delicacies. Clams prepared with herbs and garlic and a little chili.

And the scenery for floating and cruising and kayaking.  It was very quiet out there.

And the scenery for floating and cruising and kayaking. It was very quiet out there.

School is out in the floating village.  1st, 2nd and 3rd graders jump in boats and head home.

School is out in the floating village. 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders jump in boats and head home.

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.

This IPad is disabled

December 2, 2013

So, technical difficulties.  For all my techie friends, just skip this blog post.  You have probably been there before.  And you survived. 

I am in Luang Prabang, Laos, in a lovely guest house, Chitdara 2.  There is a soft conversation in French at a table near me in the lobby of terracotta colored tile and rich wood ceiling.  WWF is on the television.  Yes, WWF and they do have the volume so low that I can’t hear the racket.  The waiter says “Yes” in a quiet Lao accent when I ask, “You love that?”  Across the street is a river flowing.  

I am typing on my husband’s laptop and posting from the laptop is actually much easier than posting from the iPad where I had to use a mixture of browser and app to get the results that I wanted. 

I was up until midnight last night trying to get the disabled pad to work.  No go.  Downloading iTunes onto this laptop, a PC, was a challenge.  Somewhere around 10:15 pm the guests and staff must have gone to bed because the download speed doubled and I saw light at the end of the technological tunnel.  Oooops.  It was the train.  Permanent disability seems to be the state of the Pad.  Maybe it got a little fried in Chiang Mai?  I still have not found a surge protector.  I didn’t forget my passcode.

So, this is bloggers life, I suppose.  I am in Luang Prabang.  What do I have to complain about? 

Don’t let the Nagas get you down!  Photo by Chris McLane

 

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