Saigon, Nha Trang, Hanoi, and Beijing in a few pix

My wife and I spent two weeks in Vietnam and China recently. Below are some images from the trip. The main part of the vacation was in Vietnam. The time in Beijing was a stop off on the way home to visit with our son, his beautiful wife and their adorable two daughters.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

There is almost no semblance of traffic control in Vietnam: no traffic lights (except for the very rare ones on large streets); there are no crosswalks nor indicators for pedestrian crossings. Scooters outnumber cars and trucks 10 to 1. It is controlled chaos. Pedestrians cross streets when it looks safe and the scooters ride around the pedestrians like water around river rocks. Even the sidewalks weren’t safe. Scooterists helped themselves to use what we take for granted as walkways part of the road as well as scooter parking spaces. As fun as the three cities we visited in Vietnam, it took a toll on us. We were exhausted each night when made it back to our hotel. The weather had us in shorts and all I could think of is getting clipped in the calf, chin, or Achilles’s heal by a scooter’s foot peg.

Ho Chi Minh City Museum
Inside the City Museum
Captured U.S. equipment (Bell HU-1 “Huey” and a Northrop F5) outside the museum
Captured Huey
I forgot what this exhibit is about. I’m guessing it is an example of a National Liberation Front rally (aka the Viet Cong.).
Me ‘n Uncle Ho at the Central Post Office
Statue of Minh in front of the Hồ Chí Minh City People’s Committee

My first authentic banh mi. I was worried about eating pork due to African Swine Fever which hit Vietnam back in 2017. Still, I ate pork three times in first two days. I worried about drinking water. This was remedied by always drinking bottled water (assuming the local bottlers were properly filtering their product), and I worried about drinking any iced drinks since it was highly likely the ice came from non-filtered water. As it turned out I drank four drinks with ice in them. So much for being cautious.

We took a Mekong Delta tour where we visited the Tho Xa My Phong; Vinh Trang Pagoda, drank coconut juice right from a coconut with lunch–just like an obvious tourist. We also watched caramel candy being made, visited beehives, and a honey bottling operation.

Buddhist monastery
A failed attempt at messaging a friend in front of a pagoda
Our ride
“Ride the snake…
the snake is long.”

The following day we visited the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden. We skipped the animals. Too depressing. We toured the Palace of Reunification where–before Saigon fell–the building used to house the South Vietnamese President.

Before we set out for another day I watched a little of the Red Sox’ season opener.
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden.
People etched their names on leaves. Why?
In front of Reunification Palace. This used to be the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace.
Another Huey–this on the Reunification Palace roof
S. Vietnam’s prez had a sweet crib, including a theater!

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is an international vacation spot where English takes a rumble seat to Russian. In fact, most of the non-Vietnamese we heard was Russian. This goes back to the Soviet Union days where Soviets vacationed above the 17th Parallel. After the reunification, Russians started vacationing further south. In some ways, this is their Mexico–a relatively close, cheap, and warm place to kick it. A lot of cigarettes are sold here, sometimes via “cigarette girls” walking the streets. Russians obviously didn’t get the memo on the health hazards of smoking. Russians can pick people like us out–holding hands while crossing the street, sometimes frozen in the middle of the street in fear. One Russian snapped at us mid-crossing, “Cross with confidence!”

Our next stop was the beach resort Nha Trang. This is a view from our hotel balcony.
The first time I ever eaten pho. Messy.
Go ahead, guys, park your rides right in the restaurant.
A lot of seafood
Try crossing the street, I dare ya.
That’s okay, fellas, you can park your scoots on the sidewalk. We’ll walk around.
All restaurants that had menus offered Cyrillic translations
More grilled sea food.
Some stuff just didn’t look appetizing.
Cigarettes–mainly for the Russian customers.
More seafood
… and even more seafood
Yeah, I ate gray meat all right.

These are common images. People sitting or lying on their scooters. The guy on the left is one of many Grab riders–Asia’s answer to Uber. There are supposed to be Grab taxis, but all we saw were scooters. The picture on the right was taken in Saigon.

I was enjoying vacation so much I forgot politics and political podcasts and just deleted my alerts. As of this posting, I’m still not listening to most of them. It feels nice. The whole time we were in Vietnam and Beijing Sacramento was experiencing some serious rainfall. I’m glad we got the rain and even happier that I dodged it.

A word about Vietnam (and as I would find out later) Beijing napkins. They don’t offer very big ones–very skimpy ones, to be honest. However, every meal comes with a wet nap. I would open them right away and place them on my lap which was awkward–especially when we were in Saigon and Nha Trang since I wore shorts and could feel my shorts getting damp as I ate.

Hanoi

The first 24 hours in Hanoi were fun. Our hotel was near St. Joseph’s Cathedral. I had hot and iced Vietnamese coffee quite often while I was Vietnam. The fourth and fifth images below are from a walking street food tour we took on the second night. The pho was good, but I didn’t feel well after eating the meat in it. For our last stop we had Vietnamese coffee with a whisked egg yolk in it. It was the best coffee I had the whole trip, but thinks didn’t feel so good in my gut by this time. A couple of hours later I was tossing everything up I had that day and then some. I spend our last day in Vietnam retching and praying this all would be over by the time I got to the airport. It was, but that was a horrible 24 hours.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral located in the old quarter of Hanoi. This was taken from our hotel room.
I drank a lot of coffee in Vietnam, but after I got sick I stopped.I have only had a couple of cups in the last three weeks. I don’t blame coffee for becoming violently ill, but the naturally acid taste reminds me of that night. I’ve been drinking tea ever since.
Was this the culprit?
I really hope it wasn’t this. I really want to try Vietnamese Egg Coffee (or Cà Phê Trứng) again.

Beijing

On our first night in Beijing we saw people throwing paper on little fires on the sidewalk. The next day and throughout the rest of our stay, we saw these chalk circles on the sidewalk–sites where the burning events occurred. Peter said people were burning fake money (Joss paper). It had something to do with sending the money up to their recently departed, I think. Peter said to not step inside any of the many circles we would come across. We obliged.
Family portrait: the artist portrayed Peter as Chinese!
Bin Man and baby Zora. We didn’t see enough of Peter’s beautiful bride. She was on a project at work much of the time.
The Chinese like to feed you and Bin Man and Peter were gracious hosts.
Peter and Alanis.
Grandpa with his daughter and granddaughters.
ZiZi, the very cute and obedient family dog.

Here are more of Alanis. (I guess the secret is out, I’m a proud grandfather.) The last one is of Alanis and Grandpa, Bin Man’s father.

Only a couple of things left to do before leaving Beijing for home:

Leave a note for my friend Dave from Tienanmen Square and . . .
dub my eldest granddaughter China’s No. 1 Oakland A’s fan.

Funny thing is, Peter had a concern about me walking around Tiananmen Square with a sheet of paper with words on it–as if it could be interpreted as a protest sign to someone of authority that doesn’t read English. Seconds after raising the harmless sign for the picture, I was confronted by someone from–I think–the People’s Liberation Army, but he just wanted me to move along and was quite polite about it. I shuddered later thinking it could have been someone pushing me into a paddy wagon!

More room on the way back. Us fat guys need it!

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