Long time no update. We’ve been busy.
Three days ago, we set foot in a new country for the first time in a while.
We left Chiang Mai via train to Bangkok, and flew from Bangkok to Hanoi. Hello Vietnam!
The travelling left us exhausted, and Hanoi had some next-level traffic to navigate. That, and the heat, challenged us quite a bit.
Plus, at one point we sat ourselves down at a park bench near a lake, and in the span of 10 minutes we: • Bought some apples from an amputee woman who lost her leg in the war against America, after she (very successfully) guilt-tripped us • Gave a bottle of water to a woman who asked us for it, because when we said ‘No’ she just hovered over us with her mouth open • Saw a man wiggle his penis near some lady’s head
After all that, we threw in the towel pretty early into our first Vietnamese evening.
The next day we woke up and enjoyed our first Vietnamese coffees, which were truly everything we’d heard they would be.
Unbelievably rich, almost oily, and quite sweet. I’ve never loved a drink so hard. Also this picture was set into the bathroom wall: Don’t ask me why.
After coffees we tried to visit the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. No dice! His tomb is closed for maintenance for the next three months. That was a bit of a heartbreaker.
The Vietnamese military museum was still open for business though. It was a little unnerving, looking at all the scary devices that the Viet Cong assembled to kill French and American soldiers in the bush.
They included: a spikey ball… …a paddle… …and a wasps’ nest.
Obviously a lot of ingenuity at work, there.
Here’s the paper that American pilots presented to locals if they got shot down:
Any American ought to see the military museum, I think. It’s humbling. Definitely a lot of food for thought.
But speaking of food…
Though Rebecca has not had an easy time finding grub for herself, I’ve had a great time. Bahn Mi and Pho have been my staples since we’ve arrived.
Yesterday morning, in fact, I got up at 6am so I could make it to a local pho hotspot. I arrived at 6:40 and there was hardly a seat available – and with good reason. The pho was phenomenal.
They served it with Chinese doughnuts that you’re meant to toss in the soup. That was a new addition for me, but now I’m never going to go without them.
This pho was Northern style, which means a savory broth, heavy with green onions, and minimal condiments. It’s supposed be no-nonsense and unadulterated. Here’s the bowl, pre-doughnutting: Ungodly good.
Southern pho has a sweeter broth, and they serve it with basil and sprouts and jalapenos and hoisin sauce for you to toss in. That’s much more what I’m used to. Looking forward to that as we get closer to Saigon.
We had a lazy last day in Hanoi before we made our way to the train station. At around 7:50 at night they herded us to a hilariously ad hoc “platform”:
And 20 minutes after that we boarded our night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, a small town near the Chinese border.
What was supposed to be an 8 hour ride became 12 hours long, due to typhoon damage on the rail-way.
In the middle of the night I woke up to the train repeatedly backing up for a mile or so, and then trying to ram its way through some obstacle I couldn’t see.
Then we had a rather frightening bus ride to Sapa, a gorgeous region in the hills full of rice-terraces and Hmong people.
A lot of what I wrote today makes it sound like we’re having a bad time, but let me assure you we’re not!
Very impressed with Vietnam so far – not sure what took us so long to get here!