Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nha Trang Rehash; Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) We got our camera back!!!

Our camera arrived last night! YAY!!! I now have the pictures from Nha Trang, Vietnam. This was Isabel's favorite stop because of the mud spa we visited:

Our tour guide Thom!

Cool building in Nha Trang

Happy New Year

Entrance to Nha Trang Big Buddha temple

A little shocking to see the swatstika. Old religious symbol from before the Nazis.

Take off your shoes before you enter the temple.

You rub the Buddha's elbow for luck

Dedicated to the monks who protested the war by setting themselves on fire.

Cemetery in Nha Trang monastery.

This bell is used by the locals when their baby's are fussy. The sound inside the bell is soothing.

Weaving mats with the locals

Weaving mats wight he locals.

Lets of mud bathing!

Massaging jets that sprayed directly into Isabel's eyes!

Mineral water bath

After we left Nha Trang, our next stop was Ho Chi Minh City, or old Saigon. This day was... annoying/interesting/frustrating.

Our tour guide ( or who we THOUGHT was out guide) met us at the ship. We hopped into our van and headed out of the port.  I asked the driver if we could stop and get some Pho for breakfast. He nodded and said "yes." We got excited.

As soon as we left the port, our driver jumped out of the van and switched with another man who waiting...???

With the new driver, I again asked if we could stop for Pho. He wouldn't respond. I asked 3 times and there was no response... Chris asked... and then he replied "No" and continued driving.

We were stumped... What do we do now?

I realized he wouldn't acknowledge me. I think it is because I am a woman...huh...

Finally, and hour into the drive, we made it clear to driver that he needed to call the tour company. I tried to ask for an additional tour guide who spoke English, but they were not able to have anyone meet us. We were dropped off at the Reunification Palace in Saigon (similar to our White House).

Add caption

Outside the port

Reunification Palace
We decided to go into the palace and take a look around. It was awesome in a time capsule of 70's design and furnishings. I kinda fell in love with the conference room. I think I need my own conference room...

After getting back in the car, we requested Pho again. Our driver called the company and I was finally escalated to someone who spoke sufficient English. I explained that we were frustrated with the lack of ability to communicate. We only wanted Pho and shopping.

The company explained this to our driver and he quickly delivered us to a Pho shop across from the main market area. We were sooooo happy!!!

The restroom sign

After lunch, we went to the market across the street and were able to score some durian ( stinky fruit). We headed outside to try it out. I wasn't too disgusted by it, but Isabel didn't like it. Chris... vomited! LOL!

So then... Isabel and I almost were run over!

Our driver was parked across the street and we headed over to his direction. We got his attention and headed toward the car from behind the car. As I opened the back door to put Isabel inside, the driver started moving the car forward!!! I pulled Isabel back into me as I was dragged about 3 feet by the car. We started screaming and he stopped the car. He was trying to pull it forward to give us more room to open the doors. I was PISSED! We got into the car and headed towards the port.

By the time we arrived at the port, I was calmed down, but happy to see our ship. I asked our driver how much money I needed to pay for the tour and he REFUSED payment! Maybe because the tour company approved it, maybe because he almost ran us over...

Whichever one it was, I was happy I didn't have to pay for this mediocre day. Not the best introduction to Saigon. 

Vietnam as whole, which was what I was looking the most forward to, was a disappointment. I would give it another try, but generally, I much prefer Orlando's Vietnam to ACTUAL Vietnam, Vietnam... I know how American that sounds, but that is how I feel...

I kinda miss Pho Hoa off Colonial Rd in Orlando now. I guess I better go visit them now and enjoy the food and culture I have come to love.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hoi An/ Nha Trang: How Chris loses our new camera.

Before I start this blog, I would like to explain the pictures in this posting. While in Nha Trang, Vietnam, my husband left our camera at the mud baths. He left it hanging on a hook in a changing room. I was extremely…”irritated.”

Luckily for us, we emailed the tour guide and mud spa, and TA-DA!!! We have found our camera and it is being sent back to America! YAY!

So the visual representations of these days have been created courtesy of Cici. Thank you Cici!!!

So, after we left Halong Bay, we headed south, down the east coast of Vietnam. The cruise snuck in another sea day between our stops, so we arrived in Denang, Vietnam two days later.

View from the boat of DeNang port

Outside Hoi An

I chose not to take a shuttle into Denang, a thriving city in Central Vietnam and instead chose to head towards Hoi An.

Hoi An is an “ancient city” according to the literature, who was part of the spice/silk trade in the 1500 and 1600s. The structures in the city were supposed to be pretty well preserved and there was supposed to be amazing shopping to be found.

The previous day I had come down with a horrible stomach ailment. It kept me in bed for entire previous day and I hadn’t eaten since. I awoke to a not much better state, but was concerned about skipping this excursion, since I really wanted to see it!

I mustered my courage, Immodium, and bottled water and set out with the family.

Our tour guide was waiting for us, holding a sign LISA CONNELLY FREEMAN!!!

It was awesome. Similar to a movie. I have enjoyed each stop in which there is a signed driver waiting for me. (the little things)

We boarded a private van and headed south about 45 minutes to Hoi An. Our driver was excellent and decided to take us through the country route so we could see the rice paddies and gardens. I became quite envious of the gardens that each subset of homes kept. They were so extensive and full of varied vegetables and herbs.

After trolling around the countryside, he dropped us off at the ancient city area. We crossed a bridge and entered the area. There were several historical buildings that we were supposed to tour.

Apparently "Nokia" is a kid name...probably!

Lunar New Year in Hoi An

Of course there are fish in there!

Due to my general ill health, I sent the girls shopping with Chris. Teehee. I let them stroll the shops and pick out random goods while we looked around. After a couple hours, I gave up and we headed back to the ship, where I slept the rest of the day.

Luckily, my health improved over the next two days on our way to Nha Trang. I was really looking forward to Nha Trang because I had booked a special day and tour that the girls were looking forward to.

We were again met on the dock by a man holding a sign with my name on it. This time we had a DRIVER and a TOUR GUIDE!!! Our guide had pretty good English and had a planned itinerary.

Our first stop. The Nha Trang Buddha.

The Nha Trang Long Son Pagoda Buddha consists of a reclining Buddha and a large 45 foot seated Buddha in a lotus leaf. The height and size of the Buddha was very impressive as were the numerous stairs to reach the top! This was dedicated to the monks who set themselves on fire during the war and their effigies were on the base of the Buddha.

Big Buddha

Burning monks on the base.

After the Buddha, we headed out into the country to view the smaller towns. There were many rice paddies and small family cemeteries. It was very interesting! The guide brought us to “old house.”

Old House is a home that has been preserved since the 1850s. It was built by a “Mandarin” and was beautifully landscaped with flowing and fruited trees. We were seated and served tea, fruit, and Coca Cola (by request). Afterwards we toured the property and learned about the traditional setup of a household.

American Tea

Fruit plate at Old House.

Fish in the fountain. They eat the mesquito larva.

After old house, we visited a couple homes that created handmade clay furnaces and straw mats.

Naked chicken at the pottery place.

Cock fighting is apparently big in Vietnam. Illegal, but popular.

We were brought to lunch, which was in a very nice restaurant. We were served a pre-picked lunch that even the girls couldn’t argue with! We ate and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.

Our fabulous lunch!

The “piece de resistance” though, was the mud baths! We went to Thap Ba Spa, which specializes in mud bath therapy. We entered the facility and changed into our bathing suits. This was the protocol:

1.     Rinse lightly in shower
2.     Hop into “family” tub and sit in mud for 20 minutes.
3.     Get out of tub and sit out for 2 minutes to dry.
4.     Shower off very well
5.     Walk through high power jet area for massage
6.     Sit in “family” mineral water bath for 20 minutes
7.     Go swim in mineral pool for 20 minutes.

Needless to say. I look GORGEOUS!

I will repost the pictures of the mud bath once I reclaim my camera. It was a hilarious and entertaining experience!

Family mud bath

We finished our tour up with a visit of an ancient Hindu temple called Po Nagar Temple. It is the place of Cham. Cham is someone important. He has a temple. His Mom has a temple too. We saw a lot of Cham. It was cool.

Cham's Mom. Her REAL head is apparently in the Louvre in France. We will look for her in April.

View from the temple.

Our next stop: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)