Friday, October 12, 2007

Final Vietnam Stories

Yes, so we had an excellent trip even with the fun that we had with the typhoon, the delays, and the cancelled flight. If anything the flexibility that we had allowed us to adapt and get to see a part of Vietnam that was definitely worth the delays, as the train ride and the views of the coast from Hue down to Da Nang were spectacular.

The cancelled flight, albeit annoying, just needs to be looked at as a free flight to nowhere that included a meal. I remember taking a small plane up for a loop around Hudson when I was a kid and getting to see our house, I’m willing to bet that cost a little more then free and I don’t recall having food service. Another hidden bright side to this is that had we initially booked the train we would have slept in past 06:00, and we would have missed driving through the early morning market. When driving out of Hanoi we went right through this outdoor market, still almost pitch black, and got to see the booths each with their lights showing off their goods, and all the little old ladies with their baskets buying the fruits and vegetables that they would later be lugging through the streets of the old quarter selling to all the small restaurants, locals, and tourists.

On our last night in Vietnam, as we mentioned earlier, we stopped off at the Rex Hotel right in the center of Saigon. We walked in at probably around 15:30 and headed up to the bar at the roof deck. Exiting the elevator I went over to the window to take a picture of the town hall and when I return towards the bar Tina is talking to a guy saying “Now why do I think I know you from somewhere?” I walk up and say “Because we talked to him two weeks ago over at the Orient Bar in Xiamen.” Here were are 1,200 miles from our China home, some 8,000 miles from the states, and we run into a Californian that we know.

Now, we did know that he was going to be in Vietnam for the holiday week, but he was going to be further north for his engagement party. He had just gotten back into Saigon, had tons of errands that he needed to complete before heading back to Xiamen, and had only gone to the Rex because it was close to where one of his friends works and they were catching up over a quick drink. Fifteen minutes later and we never would have run into him. We joke that Xiamen is a small island because one seems to run into the few people that you know quite often, but this is more small world then I would have ever expected.

Finally, on our last day as we head to the airport we still have 1.7 million in Vietnamese Dong, it does seem really odd that first time you go to the ATM and pull out 2 million in cash, but 1.7 equates to roughly 105 USD. The international side of their airport is beautiful, brand new, many of the stores and restaurants are still under construction, and so too is the currency exchange. Huh. Vietnam has a closed currency, so we can’t exchange it anywhere except Vietnam. “Buy stuff” is the advice that we get, “Great”, 1.7M buys a lot of airport trinkets.

Yes, so why not just buy more wine at duty free? We thought of that, but we have a connecting flight through Hong Kong, and we aren’t fully sure of their rules for liquids. Not worth the risk.

Vietnam magnets for everybody we know? OK, grab some of them and then that bag of snickers bars, the peanut M&M’s, and bunches of gummy bears. What are we up to? $48, OK what next? That’s when Tina calls me over to the back corner of the store. Ah, she’s found the humidor and it’s stuffed with Cuban cigars. Yes, we can easily spend $105 on Cubans, I’ll go and put all these magnets and candy back.

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