Friday, January 29, 2010

last days

home again! we are all happy to be home, welcoming the incoming snow storm. perfect timing, as long as the heat stays on, for us to recoup and get over jet lag. as i write it is 4:21 am and we have been up for 2 hours already. back to sleep soon, i hope!

hong kong

yesterday was walker's 1st birthday! he spent it on an airplane...or 2 or 3. but we got a pic of him in 3 different countries: vietnam, china, and the USA! happy birthday, walker!

our last few days were spent eating, hanging out, and traveling. we had some excellent food at the street cafe in hoi an.
the cooks, a long row, each had their own kitchen. this is outside, under a tented roof.

we also had some good conversations with a vietnamese lady there who told us that vietnamese babies basically eat the same food as american babies, that they start spicy food when they are 5 or 6. they also wear disposable diapers, but boys only wear them when not at home. boys do not wear them all the time, because if they do, they will be unable to have children when they grow up. i told her this is NOT true, but she just laughed at me.

spring rolls, yum!
a dish with udon, peanuts, quail egg, pork, veggies. the quail egg tasted just like a regular egg, just smaller and more condensed. i think those chips are fried pork skins, couldn't tell from the taste.

this appetiser came free, so we don't know what it was, but it seemed like some kind of breaded and deep fried vegetable or plaintain-like thing. the breading was especially delicious & the sauce was sweet and sour with some spice. served on a good-looking banana leaf.

here is a pic of the cafe, when everyone was admiring walker.

upon our return to HCMC from hoi an, we found preparations for Tet, the vietnamese new year were under way. these are a bunch of huge plastic flowers they are putting up over the streets. they are assembling these with a glue gun on the side of the road! we also saw large glittered piers being set up. it made me think of my uncle victor who passed away this summer, and how much he would have loved to see this process. i miss him tons.

on our way from hoi an to HCMC, we found that the airline had taken us off the list for our flight. it was an accident, but the lady who messed up wouldn't fess up, so after some angry discussion, we had to pay an extra $100 to get back on the flight. which means we paid 2ce for the flight and then a fee for them to accidentally cancel it. i was MAD! but we made it back to HCMC on time and safely...

THEN, when we were leaving HCMC for the US, we overheard that our flight from hong kong to San fran was SIX hours. and when we got to the front of the line, the lady switched us to a different flight, by passing the delay, so we actually arrived in the US 5 hours EARLIER! we were delighted and figured that evened out the extra we had to pay for our last flight. i love it when things work out like that! my anger at the mean lady at Vietnam Air just disappeared.

so the flight went like this: 2 hours form HCMC to Hong Kong, 15 hours from hong kong to Chicago, 1 hour form chicago to Asheville. the 15 hour flight was very, very long. walker did so great! at times he wiggled so much it almost made me crack, but he slept a bunch and also hung out in our laps a bunch too. he cried some, but never intolerably. jamie walked with him up and down the aisles a bit, and all in all it was just a matter of being tortured by the slow passing of time.

our bags have not yet arrived, but i feel good that they will because we saw them at customs in chicago. when they get here i will take some pics of the goodies i bought so you can see!

i think i will be continuing to blog some about other travels, jewelry, and just plain old whatnot, so if you are interested, keep checking in! thanks for keeping up with us, it is comforting to know people are reading the blog! i leave you with a couple of images that i think are simply that i have photoshop to help me a little! more images sometime soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

this is the sign from the place we have been eating. we've found it to have the best non-western food in hoi an. we had rice pancakes, which are stuffed with veggies and shrimp, then you place fresh greens (lettuce, basil, & something else) on top, then you wrap that concoction in a thin white rice paper and dip it in spicy sweet and sour sauce. yum! we also had crispy noodles, see below, and these are delightful as well, they get not crispy after you mix the sauce.

we have done some cultural things, such as viewing temples and old houses and a folklore museum. each of these huge coils of incense is placed in the temple to burn in honor of a prayer for someone. you can get little coils for little prayers, too.

our hotel is about a 5 minute walk from the historic old town, which is pretty much all that hoi an has to offer tourists, except for some nice rice paddy views. we walk down a busy street to get to the old town, where there are not supposed to be any motorbikes. people like to break this ban, unfortunately. we pass this pork place on the way, and here is the guy cutting up the whole roastedpig, right on the side of the road. whenwe came by later, it was nothing but a bare-boned carcass.

in the mornings after breakfast, we have been strolling with walker before his nap time. there is a water way here that is peaceful to walk along. we discovered this handmade boat yesterday, they even put on the eyes. apparently all fishing boats have to have eyes so they can see the fish. some kid and his parent did a great job making this boat out of some trash.

we took an hour long ride down the river to see the city from a boat. jamie got to drive! we saw some corn growing and a duck farm. there was a situation where two old people threw a netout of their very small boat, looking as if they were catching fish. then the bigger boats like ours would come up, and we would have to give them some money. but we still hada nice time and walker liked crawling around on the boat.

we have had a nice time here in hoi an, and in vietnam. however, we are getting worn down by the traffic and by the amount of attention paid to walker. it is exhausting, telling people"no" they can't hold him, no kissing on the face, trying to get around people who want us to stop so they can play with him, telling people it is ok he is not wearing a hat, et cetera. yesterday we came upon someone on the street, stood in front of the stroller so we had to stop, and reached in and grabbed him, trying to pull him out of the stroller. mama bear got MAD.
as i told jamie, one of the best things about this trip is that both of us have gotten to spend such great quality time with walker. i think each of us has developed a closer relationship with him, and i know that all 3 of us have enjoyed our time together. he is such a good baby and and a real delight for us to be with.

we are ready to come home, but 1st we go back to HCMC tomorrow for a day where we will see the currys again! i am so sick of the traffic here, and the sidewalks are taken up by motorbikes. so just a couple more days of that, and then we board the big bird for what could possibly be the most tortuous plane trip ever. we'll see. but it will all be worth it, as we have had a great trip!

more later!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

walker and jamie swimming in hoi an. fun to be had!

this morning we went and got fitted for some clothes ata tailor. hoi an is fullof tailors. it is kind of "the thing to do when in hoi an." jamie is having an embroideredlinen shirt made and i am havinga blue cotton dress made from a picture i tore out of vogue magazine. we'll see how they turn out. we go back for fittings in the morning.

later we will go for a boat ride and see things from the river. then hopefully we will find something yummy to eat cuz so far the food hasn't been that great. how can we beat Hieu at Pho Quoc? it was just so delicious.

we saw a handicraft workshop for handicapped people. making jewelry and embroidering. we'll probably go back and buy walker some pajamas there, to support the cause. it's a good one.

look at this neat plant, growing its roots down in the air. this grows all over hoi an.

more later.

Friday, January 22, 2010

on to hoi an

The past few days at the beach were slow, so we decided to go check out the coconut tree prison. This was used during the american war and also during the war with the French. They had a small museum with some interesting re-enactment figures.

interesting communist propaganda going on here, too. Some of you might notice that this is not the 1st prison jamie and I have visited together: we also visited the eastern state penitentiary while in Philadelphia one year.

We also got to see a lot of the island on our way to the prison. A few small villages and some lovely beach scenery. Fishing shacks, too.

The next day we went into town to try and find the fish sauce factory. We smelled it, but could not find it. We saw some extreme garbage areas and really bad waterways. HCMC was so clean…phu quoc resorts are also clean, but the local village…not so much. Black, oily, trash-filled waterways. That is where these folks live.

they were drying some squid in the alley.yum.

Today we left phu quoc and two plane rides and two mini bus rides later we are in the ancient city of hoi an, very nice! Nikki was right, there is a picture opportunity around every corner. here is a little boy with his horsie balloon!

an old man relaxing on a bench near the waterway.

The battery charger is burning up right now due to the high voltage of the plug here, so I have to cut this one short. more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


just so you guys know, that pic of the 3 people on the scooter is not us! we would never take walker on a scooter ride. i put it on there so you can see how the vietnamese ride with their babies!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

deep thoughts

Times come during a trip when there is “nothing to do”. especially with walker. So we try to find little things to do that become the focus of the day. for example, this morning we walked down the road to deliver 2 kg of laundry to chip chip. This will cost us $2. That is for approx 1 load of laundry. Not bad. So now we are backing the room, waiting for walker’s nap time, which is about 30 minutes from now. Other such time filling events include buying bottled water, finding a cookie snack, swimming in the pool (much to walker‘s immense delight!!), having a short dip in the ocean, and going for a short walk around the compound area. The one thing that I wish were different about phu quoc was that there was a place we could stroll for long periods of time. I enjoy walking with walker and looking at things. Here, there is a dirt road out from our alley, and it is not so enjoyable to push the stroller on, as motorbikes are whizzing by and it is very dusty and gravelly. The beach is beautiful, but there is no place to go for a walk. In some areas, there is even a retaining wall, instead of wide stretches of sand leading to the shore. In addition, the sand is a very thick grain, and this makes for mushy walking. Mushy walking while carrying a 23 pound baby is not that fun.

So, we do other things…like visit the scary monkey down the alley, and look at the carrier pigeons, and checkout the incredible flora and fauna. The monkeys are in a cage. But guess what? The little one can squeeze himself through one of the chain links. He acts like he wants to climb in walker’s lap, and I saw his little sharp teeth earlier when he was chewing on a stick, so when he gets out, we run away. The plants are gorgeous. There is a pencil cactus TREE. The Devils’s Backbone is not a plant, it is a BUSH. Orchids and bromeliads are everywhere. Some other beautiful flowering trees are everywhere too. The bouganvilla are perpetually in bloom and one plant blooms both white and pink flowers. I love the papery blossomson a bouganvilla.

The past few evenings we have gone over to the bar at the moon resort, had a few beers, played some pool on the wonky pool table, and watched some amazing sunsets. Truly gorgeous.

We met a Canadian couple when we first got here. They were debating about coffee, so I nosied in and recommended the iced white coffee. Then after watching them I realized they did not want Vietnamese coffee, they wanted western style coffee. Then they complained about the hotel and the service, and changed hotels. I saw them later and they told me how much better it is where they currently stay, that they are on the 5th floor and the room is much bigger and the pool is much better, etc. I told them I was glad it worked out for them. I realized that these people are spending their time here in Vietnam, trying to make things as much like home as possible. Instead of enjoying and appreciating the differences, they wish things were like they are in Canada. I feel bad for them, for not being able to laugh at the funny differences, for not appreciating the delicious coffee made with condensed milk instead of cow’s cream. These are the type of people who end up blaming the Vietnamese for things that they Canadians themselves either misinterpret or just don’t understand.

Now I must compare the asian countries I have traveled to in recent years: India, Thailand, Vietnam. Vietnam has by far the friendliest people. Thai people were so shy and in India I mostly talk to men, who usually want to sell me something orprove how much smarter they are than me, being male and all. In Vietnam, communism planted a seed of gender equality. You see women on constrcution crews, women driving vehicles just as much as men, women working everywhere. In India, many women stay at home with the children. In Thailand the women worked as well, but were too shy to interact with us.

Here in Vietnam we have not heard much music. Every once in a while we run across some loudspeaker than has some guy yelling about something and then there will be some brief music. We imagine this to be the communist propaganda loudspeaker. In India, music is always playing…either bollywood hits or older religious songs or classical. People walk down the street singing to themselves, to the passing cows. In Thailand, I remember lots of western music.

The cloths in Vietnam are boring. Regular western cloths, with a bit of bad taste. There are two notable outfits: the traditional top with a long skirt attached that slits up to the waist on both hips. Pants are worn underneath. We have only seen this outfit worn as work clothes, not as daily wear. For daily wear, we have seen this type of pajama ensemble, which is made of a simple button blouse and simple pants of a matching material. All of these I have seen are made of light polyester and the patterns and prints are either not so good or plain old terrible. Often, the prints are right out of 1975, and not in a good way. The men all wear pants and shirts or jeans, nothing to remark on really. The clothing in India as you know is a whole other story. Colorful, flowing, sparkly, embroidered, silky, saris, salwaar kameez…some men wear traditional cotton outfits, some western pants, but there are also the tribal folks who really wear the spectacular things. We will not get to the north of Vietnam to see any tribal people. Their needlework is very similar to that of the tribal people in Thailand. Very colorful embroidery and lots of tiny quilting on clothes. So I am sorry we will miss seeing that.

Vietnamese are mostly Buddhist. Although we see many pagodas and small shrines, the religion does not seem to play the same big role as religion dopes in Thailand and india. The latter 2 countries have festivals and temples everywhere….and religion is a big obvious part of daily life. Esp in India, as Hinduism looks for any excuse possible to celebrate.

I have more to say as far as comparisons go, but I don’t want to bore you. Basically, I like India the best, then Vietnam, then Thailand. So far. Maybe once we get to hoi an I will see more and change my mind! (bearing in mind of course I have seen limited places in Thailand and Vietnam….and only a few areas of India for that matter! And of course, we are only tourists!!)

We did eat some seaweed flavored Pringles yesterday. walker loved them too. Very salty. A small “hash house” down the alley is our favorite eatery, where we dined upon meat stuffed squid and shrimp in coconut curry. The best meal yet. Those stuffed squid were so delicious…we will try to make something similar when we get home, but we already know they won’t be as tasty. Walker had some coconut curry and he enjoyed it too, just the right amount of spice. We walked through the night market last night which has many food stalls, and I saw listed “sautéed goat udders”. mmm, sounds delightful, doesn’t it?? Ha, I think tonight we will return and see if there aren’t some interesting things we actually are interested in sampling.

Jamie is off on a scooter ride, walker is napping. I have finished my 2nd book and now need to find something else to read. I’ll try to upload some pics, too. Hope everyone is well. Write us email please, we check it all the time! (we don’t really have access to face book, though.) jo: jlgjewelry@ and jamie: jstirling71@ emails keep us from feeling homesick, and we want to know what you guys are doing too!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

a few things

1. there are dirty farang here. those old men who hire a hooker for the week. so disgusting of them and sad for the women. also a suspicious male pair at breakfast. adopted son? or perhaps not!

2. thank goodness for breast feeding. without it, i don't know what we would have done. now walker is a complete and total mama's boy. he cries when i get up to go to the bathroom.

3. reading lights are good.

4. the iced coffee here is fantabulous.

5. no more kissing or touching the baby on the face with your face. if it comes across as rude when we tell you this, too effing bad.



jamie got to play guitar hero with the curry boys. he did very well. we are so happy to get to know this family better, and we have had such a fun time with them! what special people!

we had to leave the hotel and come down the street in order to be able to sign on to blogspot! at the hotel we can get on other sites, but not his one. seems fishy to us. however, it made me realize i can post pics to flickr. so check it out!! i have posted more pics there if you are interested, but here i'll have more comment. i'll try to keep doing that, as naptime is good for this kind of thing and we get naptime 2x a day.

so before we left HCMC, we went on a boatride on the Saigon river with the currys. it was so fun! silas was not really into it, but i could tell he liked it secretly. we went on a junk, a little traditional boat. it was interesting and a little scary, but just fine. we got some great pictures of saigon at sunset from the water and we saw some super cool boats. i mean, so cool!

then we crossed the street, and i am kicking myself for not taking a video,cuz this is some serious business, crossing the road. more than in india or thailand. it is actually quite scary and involves taking a big leap of faith. thousands of motorbikes are whizzing by and there are almost no traffic lights. and the way you do it is....step into traffic and they avoid you. or so you hope. seriously folks, it is unbelievable. and when i say thousands of motorbikes, i am in no way exaggerating. whoa!

so after all 8 of us crossed the street, we went to the black cat for dinner. cnn apparently rated this one of the top 10 restaraunts, so the sign said, but this should be researched for validity. it is a hamburger joint! but a delicious one. jamie stepped out with walker and witnessed a traffic accident, and then a fight. this apparently involved two belts and a large knife. and a flying kick right into a motorscooter. he was excited!

the next day we went to see reunification palace, the president's palace where he did all negotiating etc for the american war. the interesting thing about this is that it remains as it was in 1975. decorations...everything. very weird. there were some weird artifacts, such as elephant feet and very old radio equipment. and some vintage mid-century furniture.

we got take out from a thai restaraunt for dinner and it was EXCELLENT! this is the 2nd time we ate there. here is a pic of the funny bags with sauces and chilis.

so yesterday it was off to phu quoc! the plane ride had some excellent views of the mekong delta, but i had a wiggle worm in my lap, so no pics of that. we arrived to our hotel, the kim hoa. we changed last minute from the mai spa, as we decided rustic was no good for walker. we are super glad we changed, as this is perfect for him to move about the room. AND it looks like they are gearing up for a wedding reception tonight!!! a great cultural event to witness, full of karaoke most likely. we already heard some singing which was verrrry interesting as they tested the mike! i'll let you know if it turns out to be interesting.

we walked into town today and were blown away by how cool it is. a little fishing village with a lively market! so many cool boats and curved inlets. just unbelievably pretty.

we have had some delightful meals here of vietnamese food already. we plan on venturing outside the hotel for dinner tonight. this bar we are in right n0w seems super cool, too. all open air places, very breezy and comfortable. we are using the stroller as a high chair.

walker,by the way, has settled in quite nicely. he is on a regular sleeping schedule and his mood has improved 100 fold. he loves swimming! he even spoke in his half sleep "dig dig dig" which means "hand paddle" from our swimming class. he asks to swim all day! (there is a pool at our hotel.)

the ocean has something called "sea lice" which feels like small bites. it comes and goes, so we don't think walker would like it much as we don't like it!

i think that's about it for now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

more hcmc

we are still in hcmc til the 15th, when we'll depart for phu quoc. we are ready to go, the city is wearing on us a bit! but it has been good to adjust to the time difference, learn about what we need to do to make walker comfortable, and to see the curry's.

yesterday we took a short trip over to pham ngu lao, which is the back packer district. there were tons of street side restaraunts and tourists everywhere, and it made me realize that we have been pretty isolated this week. i wanted to move hotels so we could be in a place with other foreigners we could talk to. but then we talked it over and i realized we will meet people at the beach and in hoi an, so i let go of the idea and we are staying put.

then we went to ben thanh market, which is a huge indoor market. it is full of all kinds of things form clothes to pigs legs. we ate a delicious lunch of some rice noodle wrapped rolls, and some other kind of long noodles with pork and shrimp. the pork was so delicious! i also ordered a fresh mango juice which was like a frozen mango drink, sooo good, and walker learned how to drink from the straw, so he enjoyed it too!

the later we went to the Rex hotel and paid admission to use their pool. walker had a fun time playing humpty dumpty! he really likes the pool and when we say we are going swimming he says something like "dig dig", which is what he does when he paddles. we talked to a really nice australian couple there and heard about their cool adventure down the Meking, something we missed out on.

then we met the curry's for dinner at a mediterranean restaraunt, and it was really neat! the decor was awesome! we sat in a private booth surrounded by all these hanging beads! upstairs in this very old building with stairs that were not all the same height. i had lamb shank, which was like stew with a big ole piece of lamb in it and jamie has the mixed grill. we also had a delightful mint lemonade. yum.

this morning we went to Cholon, which is chinatown, and saw two amazingly detailed pagados. there was so much incense burning, it was awesome. they had tons of those large coils hanging down, every single one lit, and tons more of these gigantic sticks stuck everywhere. the last pagoda had a horse statue, and when you left you were supposed to ring the bells on his harness for luck.

we came back to the hotel and bought more french baby food for walker and jamie and i got thai take out, which was arguably the best food yet. wide noodles with vegetables and pork. the sauces and chilis came in tiny little blown up bags. i have pics but can't post cuz i am on the hotel computer! (i pulled these images from the web.)

now we are chilling in the room for a while so walker can get some exercise. jamie is reading a book about the war form a viet cong nurse's perspective. i am reading the vietnam guide book and also a novel set in india.

this afternoon we are meeting the currys to take a ride down the saigon river on a junk, which is an old boat. not sure what we are doing for dinner. i'll tell you later!