Thursday, January 14, 2016

Vietnam: Hanoi

The second half of our trip we spent in the city of Hanoi. The city felt very different any much smaller than Ho Chi Minh City. This could be because we didn't really leave the old quarter, but there was plenty to do and see.
The view from our hotel. There were tall skinny buildings everywhere.
The first thing on our list was find some Vietnamese coffee. We didn't have to go far, but we did. We were in search of a specific place that J had read about. We didn't find it but the place we went to was good.
Our morning coffee view
The view
I liked mine iced and J liked it hot.
The seats at the little coffee shops like this one were Baby O sized.
After coffee we were ready to check out Hoa Lo Prison. Hao Lo Prison was initially used by the French colonist in Vietnam for political prisoners. It was later used by the North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. American prisoners called it the "Hanoi Hilton".
The sign by this said that sixteen political prisoners escaped through this
 underground sewer on December 24th, 1951. Five of them rejoined the resistance.
That evening we attended a Water Puppet Show. Baby O really enjoyed the show too! Well most of it. The show runs about thirty-five minutes and that was about five minutes too long for Baby O. Water puppetry dates back to the 11th century. Traditionally the water puppets were used to entertain each other when the rice fields flooded. Todays puppets are made of lacquered wood on long bamboo rods. The puppeteers are hidden behind a screen.
After the show we went in search of a Pho restaurant, but it turns out Pho is traditionally served for breakfast. We ended up at a nice restaurant with a great view of the lake.
The next two days we spent on a cruise of Ha Long Bay. I am going to write a separate post about this so this one doesn't get too long.

Our last day in Vietnam was good, but not action packed. We of course went for a coffee after breakfast. J had a conference call for work, I repacked, we did a little shopping and we went to the Ethnology Museum. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology focuses on the fifty-four ethnic groups in Vietnam. The three acre property has an outdoor exhibit showing the many different styles of dwellings. This was my favorite part of the museum because we got to climb into and walk around all the different styles of dwellings.
I believe this guy was on the fertility hut.
Cham House
Ede House
Bahnar Communal House
I loved our trip to Vietnam! The food, the history, the people, it was all so interesting. We only had nine days to explore and it definitely was not enough.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Part 2

Our first day in HCMC felt packed! The rest of our time in HCMC didn't feel as busy. We started our next day with a trip to the Ben Thanh market. It seemed like you could get anything there. We saw food stalls, tea, fresh meat, live fish, veggies, shoes, all kinds of clothes, purses and they were all crammed into one building.
For lunch that day we went in search of The Lunch Lady. This "restaurant" was featured on one of Anthony Bourdain's shows. We have tried other places that he recommended and haven't been disappointed yet. The Lunch Lady serves soup from a couple of carts, we were lucky that it happened to be near our hotel. There is only one option every day. I'm not sure what our soup was called but it was good. I also ordered a milk tea, well I thought it was just a milk tea I was surprised with my first sip that it also had bailey's (or something similar) in it as well.
We sat down and they just started bringing food over. In addition to our soup we got fresh and fried spring rolls.
After lunch we went to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and to a local park. Baby O loved the park, and he didn't even play on any of the play equipment! There were a couple of teenagers playing saxophone, so he did a little bit of dancing. Then he slowly walked past all the people sitting on the park benches enjoying an afternoon coffee and chat with friends. He did not wave or say hello, just looked at them and slowly walked past as he usually does. Then he found a group of girls practicing a dance routine and he walked right up to the front and joined them. The girls were very cute. You could tell they wanted to stop and check Baby O out but they also needed to finish their song. As soon as it was over there was a lot of oohing and ahhing, and he promptly ran away.
The next day we had a tour planned to see the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a huge network of underground tunnels. The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. They were quite interesting to walk (really almost crawl) though some of the tunnels. They were very hot and humid and there were bats. Ick! When our tour guide brought us back to the city he helped us order some delicious banh mi sandwiches.

That afternoon we went for a tasty Vietnamese coffee (we had Vietnamese coffee every day, usually twice) and it started pouring. It was crazy! It was a nice sunny day and all of a sudden torrential downpour. So we had two coffees to wait out the downpour. Once it had stopped raining enough for us to get a taxi we headed to the hotel to get our luggage and head to the airport. Up next Hanoi.

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Part 1

At the beginning of October J gets a week off work for National Day. This year we decided to head to Vietnam. We had a bit of a rough start to our journey. We spent all day at the airport but didn't go any where. Our tickets were "suspended" and apparently neither the airline or Expedia could do anything about it! It was very frustrating, and in the end we book a flight for the next day with a different airline (and NOT through Expedia).
There was a sea of mopeds on every street.
Our first full day in HCMC was a busy one. We went to the War Remnants Museum. It was really interesting. There are some powerful (and graphic) photographs. I wish that we could have had more time here, but they closed at noon for a lunch break so we had to rush a bit at the end.
We had lunch at Pasteur Street Brewing Company. Baby O slept though most of it. The place was tiny! The beer and sandwiches were really good.
After lunch we went to the Reunification Palace. The palace was originally built in 1868 as a residence for the French governor-general. After the French departed the South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem moved in. Diem was very unpopular, his own air force bombed the palace in 1962 in an attempt to kill him. Diem ordered a new palace be built in the same location, this time with a large bomb shelter in the basement (it was also a communications center). Constructions was completed on the current building in 1966. The 1960's style and d├ęcor were still in place at the Palace.
Reception Salon
Baby O makes friends everywhere he goes!
Card playing room
Part of the command center in the basement.
Communication center.
That evening we did a Foodie tour with XO Tours. It was a blast! We each rode on a scooter with our Vietnamese driver (Baby O rode with me in the Egro carrier). We ate a ton of food - lemongrass soup; BBQ goat breast, frog, shrimp and okra; and lastly we had some seafood and dessert. J tried an unhatched chicken egg, I just couldn't do it. The food was all delicious, and we got to see a lot of the city. Baby O did a great job, even though we kept him out way past bedtime. And the drivers LOVED him!

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Picture a Week | 40/52

It was such a treat having our friends on our flight back to China! I am so blessed that their little family is part of our life.

A Picture a Week | 39/52

Christmas morning Silly String fight with the cousins courtesy of Santa!!

A Picture a Week | 38/52

Dancing to our friends player piano.

A Picture a Week | 37/52

Jumping on a trampoline in Missouri while visiting J's side of the family. He LOVED jumping!!

A Picture a Week | 36/52

On the plane to Seattle for a long (and busy) visit.

A Picture a Week | 35/52

Our Thanksgiving Day art project. There were a few "feathers" lost immediately after this picture was taken.

A Picture a Week | 34/52

I love this smiley little guy!

A Picture a Week | 33/52

Getting ready for some dancing at Gymboree Music class

A Picture a Week | 32/52

The cutest 'hired help' I've ever seen!