Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hoi An Day 3 and 4 - Meeting Mysterious Mister Phong

Day 3

We rented 2 motorbikes for $7 each, just outside the hotel door, and headed for Mr X's village. Mr X led the parade with Mom, the 2nd motorbike was Dad, I was 3rd, and an Australian couple at the rear. I've never motorbiked before.

I've never motorbiked before. Let's go zig-zagging in ridiculous highways. My travel insurance does not cover motorbike accidents.
Whizzing through the rice fields on a few dusty, bumpy roads among other motorbikes was fine. Then we saw the highway ahead and followed Mr X straight into the traffic, and to the LEFT (so we had to cut through oncoming cars and trucks from both directions) I was very tense! But I managed.

We made it safely to Thanh Quit village and Mr X's house. There he gave us a real history lesson about Vietnam and the war, the role he played as officer with South Vietnam... Against the Viet Cong, in which his uncle was fighting. After US marines fled Saigon he was captured like most of his SV soldiers and had to get "communist re-education". (Or brainwashing) Because he had connections, he was only emprisoned for a year, while others were emprisoned for 2-3 years. He told us: "The whole time we learn everything about communism, we say Oh I didn't know that before! And to make sure we can leave we answer Yes, communism is a good idea, yes! But we don't believe in it, no, we don't believe in communism." Of course he wouldn't say these things in public in Hoi An. Only to us in his home.

Getting an authentic first hand, Vietnam history lesson from Mr Phong.
Mr X explained that while the population of Vietnam is approx. 90 million people, only 3.5 million are "communist members". There are specific criteria to become a communist member. You become an elite member of society, with higher priviledges and access to higher level jobs reserved for communist members.

Here is Mr Phong, chatting with his uncle's wife. She was so lovely. Sadly she passed away a few months after we met her.
After visiting Mr X's small house (big compared to the rest of the village) walking around the small streets in the sizzling sun, seeing watermelons, drying rice, rice wine (strong liquor), jackfruits, drying tobacco, cute kids and a cheap barber shop, we had a delicious lunch prepared by Mrs X: whiterose springrolls (with shrimp), wintermelon soup (also with shrimp), fried morning glory with garlic, and a pork & veggie stir fry.

Delicious lunch.

I learned that his daughter, who looks 20 yrs old, is actually 40 yrs old. Say what??? Vietnamese women look so young... None of us could believe it.

This hardworking man was rolling leaves of tobacco full speed. His palms were black with a thick crust of tobacco leaves that must surely be seeping through the pores of his skin.
Mr Phong's uncle who also fought in the Vietnam War. They're both very happy to be at peace again.
Back by 4pm, in one piece - luckily, cause saw a car accident on the road - we returned the motorbikes. I went for a 2nd (and last) fitting of my orange aodai: the chest is a bit floppy (yeah yeah, laugh away) but everything looks lovely. It would look better on a super-skinny vietnamese girl of course.

Pool time and then dinner by the river. We sat with the locals on tiny stools for some traditional cao lau, this time with Quang noodles. Delicious! We walked around Hoi An by night one last time. So many colorful lanterns!

Day 4

Every time we come back from the beach or from biking on the island, and we really feel at home. We recognize our street corner easily, and the banana-pancake-lady, and the mango/pineapple stand...

This morning we rent 1$ bicycles and head over to the ferry. We paid 20,000 dong each ($1) for the ferry. Then we realized that locals were paying 3000-5000 dongs. Damnit! We'll refuse to pay on the way back.

We wandered around Cam Kim Island, rice paddies, drying peanuts, tabacco and rice, cute little paths... It's still authentic here, compared to touristy Hoi An. But it won't be long for theisland to develop the same way.

We came back, didn't pay for the ferry and went out for lunch. Banana blossom salad was delicious! Then we just sat on a patio for 3 hours and talked, watched people, drank beer, chilled. We got a cheap ride to Danang to head straight for the airport. I had expensive pho bo ga and took an evening flight to HANOI!! The old capital reminds us of Saigon a bit, the jumbled mess of electric wires at every street corner, but the traffic is not as bad. Buildings in most of Vietnam cities are very narrow (5-6 feet wide) but super long (20-30 feet deep) so sometimes you can see a small shop and their home in the back, it goes in very deep into the buidling. But everyone is happy because they all get a bit of the sidewalk! Sometimes you can see that the 3rd, 4th or 5th floor's façade just doesn't fit with the rest of the building: it's probably because it was added afterwards.

We headed straight for our Hong Gnoc Hotel, 6th floor bedroom at the front of the building. Our room was the same width as the building, so once we opened all the curtains we had a 270 degree view of Hanoi by night. Cooool...

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