A Travellerspoint blog

Extreme travel crossing

Ho Chi Minh City

This city is amazing once rush hour starts. It's pretty challenging before that too. We sympathised with a woman left behind as her nerve broke at a crossing. Her husband anxiously waited until she did the merging thing and made it across to him. That was while we sank a beer and took in the rush hour sights. Best today was a passenger balancing 2 large panes of glass as his driver wove through the traffic.

Today's stand out experience was the Art Museum- not so much for the art as the building. A beautiful faded blue and yellow French colonial mansion with tiled floors, curving staircase and shutters opening onto a central courtyard. Breezes funneled along the galleries, the French architect had mingled Chinese and 1920 s design elements in an elegant but not pretentious way.

Last night, we wandered the Ben Thanh night market clad in ponchos as the rain began, and went on, and intensified. Made it back sodden from knees down, laughing at the sheer quantity of water falling straight down.

Enjoyed a pho breakfast at a local stall in the next alley, and lunched on tiny plastic seats on mmm well, there were pieces of ?pork, rice, cabbage, pickle, egg and a small bowl of a bitter vegetable in soup. This came with iced tea.

We've booked a two day trip into the Delta on Friday, so looking forward to rural sights instead of big city life.

Posted by woylie 03:49 Comments (0)

Botanical eggs

Ho Chi Minh City

Well, that's what the menu said. "Dried shrimp, leeks and botanical eggs." The shrimp, in a spicy sauce, were recognizable, the leeks were crunchy tiny shallot bulbs, and the eggs were steeped in something which turned the white into a dark clear firm jelly, with black creamy yolks. David tried burnt rice with dried and shredded shrimp, which was discs of crispy rice with fine green onions and shrimp.

We have been checking out local beers, and coffee styles. Lots of coffee beans in the markets- we talked last night with a Malaysian guy who works for an NGO, who told us that Vietnam is the 2nd biggest exporter of coffee after Brazil. We talked as the rain bucketed down on the awnings, the traffic slid past in a blur, and then we found our way back to Vy's Guesthouse to catch up with our sleep.

We are now in holiday mode, slow wandering, pleasant but persistent nos to sales people, and sitting to watch the world. Lots of chats with other travellers, like the young man from Adelaide in Vietnam for the first time to visit relatives. We were envious of his ability to speak Vietnamese, which seems a challenging language to master. Our room is in a tiny alley, off another tiny alley, in the backpackers district, so there are lots of different languages to hear. When we arrived, a lanky Brit was resting in the doorway and gave his thumbs up to our choice (well, my choice). It is surprisingly quiet for the activity outside and Vy is very helpful. She provided us with a card to call her if we were lost, but David's direction finding is kicking in. Others are obviously not so lucky.

The traffic is impressive, like Hanoi. 10 million people in the city, and 5 million motor bikes. We have seen riders texting, phoning and smoking as they weave around each other with polite little parps. We are remembering the art of slow inexorable progress across the road, but sometimes resort to hiding behind a local.

Now for the other important part of holiday mode - a little rest each afternoon, to gather strength for the night market.

Posted by woylie 02:54 Comments (0)

Food adventures

Hanoi

As we ventured away from the local streets, we have found a couple of interesting places to try. So for two nights, we have eaten at a busy corner restaurant with a fabulous menu. I really just wanted to buy the menu! The various "meats" were shown by illustrations but after that you were on your own. enteric of chicken? flaccid beef strips? The first night, David was taken sternly to task by one of the young women, who took the bamboo paddles away from him and correctly stirred the earthenware pot of steamed rice, and then filled his bowl. He tried an eel chilli and citronella (lemongrass), my dish was cha ca, the local fried fish speciality and a plate of garlic and morning glory.

It was later than we have usually eaten because we saw the Water Puppet Show fisrt. This was unexpectedly good - very clever work and funny. The theatre empties in a rush onto the street where mighty coaches wait to transport tour groups to their hotel. We meandered past the crush on foot. The streets and verges were a little more open as some shops began to close. The lights glowed in the dusk, and families sat in open doorways.

I have just stopped to chat to an elderly man called in to talk in Russian to a traveller. He says he also speaks French and good English!

Today we passed the HoaLoa prison- the original Hanoi Hilton. I have read that the local Hilton was forced to choose an alternate name for obvious reasons. we were on our way to Hoa Sua which trains kids in skills which lead to hotel employment. Very pleasant courtyard and indooors areas, with charmingly eager young staff. We enjoyed a French oriented light lunch and coffee. Still not what we expect from an espresso. Very popular and some air kissing moments.

A large exhibition space, part of a French study complex, had a French photographer's work on hands of writers.
Lots of gallic posing going on!

I have been channelling Holly often as we pause at shoe shops and lace stalls and material corners. Lots of bling, shiny colours and outrageous violations of "name" brands.

Yesterday, we walked early to the big local market. What a buzz! The wholesalers obviously to many of smaller vendors. Huge bales of fabrics being strapped onto bikes, unbelievable loads wheeled away with a casual hand steadying the stack. The edge of the markets was all foods - I tried a tea, and yearned after the fruit, but not some of the dried fish on offer. Golden mounds of dried noodles, red sunflower seeds, and threatening pots of chilli pastes. Even pets were avalaible. The tiny green turtles were lovely.

Last full day tomorrow so we are paying our respects to uncle Ho.

Posted by woylie 00:15 Comments (0)

More steps

Laos

We spent a whole leisurely day yesterday at a Lao cooking class at the Three Elephants. It started with a tour of the big local food market - at last, I know what some of those strange items were. Not too keen on the dried buffalo skin rolls. Mounds of vegetables, buckets of live fish, slabs of meat, barbecued chicken, eggs in piles and the piece de resistance - the Lao version of fish sauce. Think I'll stick with Thai fish sauce in bottles.
Then we drove back in a tuktuk to start cooking. As we finished a couple of dishes, it was time to eat, then begin some new recipes.
The day ended with preparation of sticky rice and local chilli sauce, before we shared our final plates. Get ready for our demo on return!
Very enjoyable time, and we ate lightly today.

IN an effort to recover from all that food, we walked up to Phousi Hill in the centre of town, admired the fabulous view through the trees across 2 rivers, chatted with a novice in orange robes and an umbrella and then took the steps down the other side. Then on to a local museum of "ethnic items."
It has started raining heavily again this afternoon, but poncho-clad, we walked to the book exchange and enjoyed a lengthy talk with the Australian Lao owner. The temperature has dropped to very pleasant mid 20s.
Tomorrow, we have hired a tuktuk driver to take us into the countryside to some local villages.
One day left and out to Vientiane on Thursday.

Posted by woylie 03:33 Comments (0)

Blue hands

Luang Prabang

Arriving here was low key with only 20 on the small plane from Hanoi. We found our B&B and then went walking. Everyone was under ponchos or umbrellas as the rain settled in. We wondered if this was the pattern for the rest of the week.
Since then we have had dry although very humid weather and been able to saunter down from our lodging to the Mekong - huge, brown and carrying a lot of debris- and get to know our way around town. Visited lots of wats, sat on verandahs with a beer, and caught a tuk tuk.
The Saturday Night Market was three times the usual size so a little shopping happened.
Today we visited a silk weaving workshop where we prepared dyes from plants harvested from their garden and dyed some hanks of silk. I have blue hands from indigo - how traditional is that!
Tomorrow we have a whoile day cooking Lao food after a visit to the market.
Holiday mode is kicking in.

Posted by woylie 03:44 Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 38) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 »