Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cause it's 5, 6, 7, Vietnam is really gr8!

It pains me to write "gr8," but If you don't get the title, go watch "Woodstock" and you'll understand. Alright, that out of the way, time to recap that last few weeks. After Siem Reap we bussed back to Sihanoukville to decompress from the tiring Angkorian heat. We spent our days reading on the beach, playing cards and backgammon and uploading pictures. The usual. Only this time the internet cafe was ON the beach (the picture on the right was taken while sitting at a computer). If life gets better than this, sign me up.

After a few relaxing days we took our longest Asian bus ride yet (12+ hours) across the border into Vietnam. It felt great to put all the hassles and annoyances of Cambodia behind us and find ourselves in the land of great food and traveler conveniences. We settled into our guest house in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and crashed. It's amazing how exhausting sitting on a bus for 12 hours can be. We spent the next two days walking around Saigon, eating pho and discovering all sorts of new good food (bun cha and bun thit bo xao being our favorites).

One of those mornings while Deanna went shopping, I took a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels, dug by the Vietcong during the American War (as they rightfully call it here). On the right I'm posing with two new plastic friends (Cu Chi is done up like an Epcot Center pavilion, with animatronic soldiers, an AK47/M16 firing range and about 15 gift shops). Below on the left is the entrance to the tunnels. I crawled through that one on all fours for about 15 long, sweaty, claustrophobic minutes. It's amazing that people LIVED down there for years. On the right a tour guide demonstrates one of the hidden fox holes.

We then embarked on a 2-day tour of the Mekong Delta, which only seemed appropriate as we've been in it or on it in three other countries so far. On the left are a few of the outboard motor boats we used in the deeper sections of the delta. In the shallower parts, we used canoes like in the picture below (complete with authentic triangle hats). The stunning scenery made us feel like Martin Sheen in Apocolypse Now. Except we were yelling "The delight, the delight!" instead of "The horror."

We saw how the locals make coconut candy (below left), rice wine (35%, yuck), rice noodles, rice paper (below right) and how they shuck rice husks. Yeah, in case you couldn't tell, rice is pretty important to daily life here. We really enjoyed how they kept all the huts cool with cross-breezes and shade. Thank god for that, as it is pretty stifling in here.

On the small motorboat we got to visit the floating market. Most of the roads in the delta are only big enough for motorbikes, so the locals float everything along the river. Below left a man buys some watermelons and below right a woman pulled her canoe right up to our boat to sell us cold drinks.

Travel note: We've noticed a trend in Asia thus far. It has to do with loud noises and early morning hours. I've lovingly dubbed it the Asian alarm clock. Like the alpaca nightmare of Peru and Bolivia (4-7 thick alpaca blankets weighing about 10 pounds on each bed, making you feel like you're getting your teeth x-rayed every night while you sleep), it tends to be a bit of an nuisance. Ranging from hotel employees to animals to horn honking to wedding rituals to reeducation public loudspeaker messages (well, that's what they sound like if you don't know the local language), we're woken up early just about every morning. And we're talking the 4-7am range. SE Asians get up RIDICULOUSLY early. We've yet to find a hotel where this isn't the case. Luckily we're able to fall back asleep most mornings.

I know, I know--poor us. We're grateful that we don't have to get up for work every day, but it's still a royal pain. Enjoy the video above of our last morning in Siem Reap, where a wedding was slated for that AFTERNOON. At 4am a loud speaker on the street started BLARING music. If you can call it that. We're talking the WORST, most off-key nails-on-a-chalkboard we've ever heard. And I've been to my share of rock concerts and this hurt my ears more than seeing Mars Volta live (sorry, Deanna!).

Anyway, we're having a fantastic time in Vietnam. We're in Nha Trang right now, relaxing at the beach (which seems to be a recurring theme in our travels). We're sorry if you believed ourApril Fool's prank. Our prior blog entry was entirely fabricated. Anyway, Deanna gets WAY too seasick for that to happen. We leave you with a picture of our new careers as canoe paddlers and rice paddy workers in the Mekong Delta. Ok, if you believe THAT one then you're really gullible!

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