Saving the best for last. These cover my month of eating my way through Vietnam. I never did recover my lost pictures which means that, considering how many photos of food I still have, I ate a lot! Of course I tried to share with my pandas. When my daughter was with me I did not take as many pictures – she complained too much. This means Hanoi is but a delightful gustatory memory.
One of the challenges with keeping a blog that include pictures is deciding which ones to use. Which ones will appeal, which ones appeal to me, and of course can I recall why I took a specific photo in the first place. Another challenge for me is trying to keep them straight! Using my iPhone was challenging enough, adding my Canon PowerShot SX120 nearly did me in on the technical end of things. Perhaps it will be noted how old the camera is; too bad I have not mastered how to use it. There was a manual, and instructions could be found online – my problem is that, like my sandals that were stolen, the camera came into my hands via my mother. She read the manual, she also looked everything up before and after making the purchase. I did not. I am still attempting to either delete the dates completely or change to match the here and now – unsuccessfully. Which means my nifty little gadget for downloading photos from the card to my iPad has been doing so based on incorrect dates. The result is a mess. Therefore, before I delete anything (to make room, get rid of duplicates and start over) I thought I would share some favourites in a few loose themes over the days, plus captions when I can recall where I was. Some of these will be repeats. (I believe I already explained trying to keep track became nearly impossible for me) I am shuddering at picking up my last two weeks – four days were another bike trip!
Capturing the Scene (or trying to)
Amazing! After ten days we arrived at Hoi An where my intrepid driver/guide/new friend dropped my off at the hotel I had chosen and where I would meet my daughter who had flown in the previous day. That however is the next chapter. Day Ten was another day of adventure, history and laughs. To date I had not mentioned laughing, I should have as we certainly had some hilarious moments, ranging from misunderstanding words, the changing weather patterns and people I met on the way.
Poor Toan, he had no way of knowing that my responses of okay, or mhm usually meant I had not heard everything he was telling me as we were flying past a place of some significance. As I said already, I left most of the stops up to him, this also meant he had to decide which gems to let shine. My goal had finally become, ‘sit back and enjoy’, learning more, and retaining everything, about places was a bonus.
The most significant stop of our day was at the monument where the Ho Chi Minh Road takes a sharp turn to the left – and Laos – before heading northwest. The monument itself is hidden behind some trees, looking rather forlorn considering the importance of the spot. However, comrades who survived the severe, daily bombings in the area between 1969-1975, visit annually if not more often, to remember their friends, family and fellow soldiers who were killed or have since died. This is a crossroads with all sorts of messages.
I was invited to dismount from the bike and walk across the bridge that separates Ho Chi Minh Road from the highway facing Hoi An. It was a poignant moment, not taken lightly. I rarely ‘feel’ the energy emanating from a spot or region, I usually scoff at such silliness – until I too sense more than just my presence. Whatever it was, I did feel awed that each step I was making took me towards, and away from, the past. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the bridge, I saw only 2-3 motorbikes crossing it when I was walking, it was easy to go to the opposite side without worrying about being run down. I chose to turn back just before hitting the end of the bridge – it was not the distance – something just made me want to leave that side of history alone.
I walked back to the present where I was met by trucks, cars and motorbikes vying for space. Once I safely made it back to the shade of the trees and the monument I discovered several men chatting with Toan who were far too interested in seeing if I would fall off the bike! To commemorate arriving I also had a picture taken; I could barely stop from falling over laughing as these men were smiling and laughing at me. So, a rarity, a photo of me.
We still had miles to go, with a final meal and coffee together before saying adieu and see you in five days. Oh yes, we were still booked for that four day tour.
So many photos, so many stories. I hope to share more with short captions.
Well, we were nearing the end and I was beginning to wonder what else I could possibly be shown to make me amazed, sad, surprised, or maybe angry. Then there were the visual and auditory senses, and even some emotional ones. I will start with the last one – it is physically tough riding on the back of a motorbike for even an hour let alone several hours. Despite Toan’s insistence I say if I wanted to stop at any time to take photos, visit a place or just stretch my legs, I tended to let him determine the pace. We stopped every two hours if there was not a place to visit for more than five minutes – I did choose to just sit and enjoy some scenery rather than climbing off the bike, then lining up my phone or camera in an often son attempt to capture a scene. I am not a photographer and I do not edit anything. (Fine, I do not know how to)
Visual and auditory senses were assaulted the whole nine days – there was just so much to take in that it became impossible to capture only one moment a day. Having the history of a culture explained in snapshots is difficult, understanding it would take a lifetime. Day 9 was Thanksgiving in Canada, which made me sort of wish I had someone to celebrate with. Cross cultural small-scale celebrations are not always easy to translate (me explaining, others attemptingbto process into Vietnamese) – how to describe the smells attached to the holiday: wafts of roasting turkey, sage, onion, parsley and butter for stuffing, potatoes mashed to perfection mixed with butter, cream(or milk, or yogurt or sour cream – even cream cheese) and garlic, to someone who has never had turkey? Rather disheartening to be given a bowl of rice and what someone tried to pass as chicken – which was overdone and dry. (Most of my meals have been fair to wonderful)
This was the day we crossed, in my head anyway, from South to North although we had been in Central Vietnam for quite some time and there is no longer a division between North and South. However, to me this was the beginning of Ho Chi Min Road, with its two glimpses of the Ho Chi Minh Trail far below. The trail was never really a trail, it was built between 1959- 1975 to make it possible for weaponry, people and supplies to pass undetected – which meant most of the trail was actually in neighbouring Laos, no more than 14 km away in some areas. The views were, once again, absolutely stunning and breathtaking as was the switchback road! Meeting cattle and goats foraging along the side of the highway- at times lumbering into the the two lanes – was a time to close my eyes, except I would have fallen off the bike.
Of course there was visit to another temple, one I nearly opted to miss considering how weary my backside was getting. The difference here was how isolated it appeared to be and it was, according to my guide, a Muslim structure belonging to the Cham minority, who primarily follow Islam, and to a lesser degree Hinduism. This particular temple is not well kept, being allowed to rejoin the jungle from what I could see, its two stone guards so worn down they were difficult to recognize as a rhinoceros (hunted to distinction) and what might have been an elephant. Reminded me more of what would be in front of a Hindu temple. Perhaps the information given was incorrect.
We were stopped at a train track, entering civilization again. I tried to grab a photo of the gatekeeper – no automation here. While he waited for the train to pass he kept busy painting the arm that held all vehicles back until it was time to manually raise it again. We would soon arrive at the last overnight stay before leaving Ho Chi Minh Road and heading to Hoi An where I intended to rest my weary bones and oversaturated brain. Yes, I had finally told Toan I would be do a four day trip with him but this time with my daughter and another driver.
I mentioned that Day 8 was exhausting. My travel companions thought they deserved the beer more than Toan, or driver.
Then there was a Thanksgiving on Day 9. I asked for chicken. This is what I got. I told Toan I thought they should have allowed the poor bird live long enough to grow a little fatter. Notice the little bit of wilted parsley for decoration.