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Old 02-14-2012, 01:20 AM   #16
dengwynn
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Unless you are alone in a new place you are not traveling to its fullest extent. You are doing it right, as alone your traveling companions do not block your seeing and experiencing a new place.
You've the ability to look outside of yourself and see others and make good observations., Your photos are quite good and add much.
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Old 02-14-2012, 11:24 AM   #17
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Great photos and interesting report! Stunning and exotic landscape.
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Old 02-14-2012, 04:50 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by dengwynn View Post
Unless you are alone in a new place you are not traveling to its fullest extent. You are doing it right, as alone your traveling companions do not block your seeing and experiencing a new place.
You've the ability to look outside of yourself and see others and make good observations., Your photos are quite good and add much.
Thank you. I'm looking forward to getting more days up soon. There was definitely a learning curve with solo travel, but now if I'm on a bike I much prefer it.
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Old 02-14-2012, 04:53 PM   #19
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Great photos and interesting report! Stunning and exotic landscape.
The landscapes only got better as I traveled North. I'll keep the pics coming.
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Old 02-14-2012, 10:17 PM   #20
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Great pics! My co-worker and I are riding from Hanoi to HCMC next month, so it's nice to hear your story. Keep posting
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Old 02-14-2012, 11:52 PM   #21
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Old 02-15-2012, 02:22 AM   #22
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DAY 3

I didn’t feel the need to rush out today. The only thing I had on my plate was the lantern festival later that evening, so I slept in and ate breakfast at my hotel. A step above your average continental style spread with five staff members ready to assist me.

Rice, baguettes, croissants, small pastries, fresh fruit, coffee, and orange drink. Good way to start the day.

My height was the major topic. Everyone took turns standing with me back to back, while the onlookers laughed. This gets old after a while, but today I had fun with it. I didn’t plan on riding around today. I’d just take the free shuttle into town, and wander until the festivities got rolling. I hadn’t shaved since I’d left home and was getting pretty mangy, so I wanted to try and find a place to clean me up. I’d never had a proper shave with a straight razor, and had always wanted to experience one. I figured this would be a good place try it.

I must have hit five or six salons before I found won that understood what I wanted, and could actually provide the service. Turned out it was going to set me back three whole dollars. Game on. I took my place in the chair and tried to push the image of a severed jugular as far from my thoughts as possible. The young girl that performed the shave didn’t make it easy. It all started with the application of the shaving cream. She literally put a small dollop on her index finger and dabbed it on my face. She was already apprehensive, and we were still a good five minutes away from the dangerous part. At one point she got a bit of lather in my mouth, and proceeded to fish it out with her finger. She wasn’t shy. She just went knuckle deep without skipping a beat.

Then came the moment of truth. She reached into a drawer and removed the razor. She seemed to be petrified just to open it. I watched her eyes dart to different points on my face making it apparent that she had no idea where to start. Just as I was about to loose my nerve, she reached in and took a swipe on the left side of my jaw. No sudden gush of warmth down my neck. So far so good. Each subsequent pass was slow and deliberate. It took a good ten minutes before my face was bare. Just when I thought I was done, she pulled out a cotton ball, and ran it along my face. This girl was nothing if not thorough. On to the second coat of shaving cream. From the first dab of lather to the final application of shaving cream I was in the chair for just under thirty minutes. Hands down the longest shave of my life, but my face had never been smoother.

After the shave the only other employee on the floor brought me a cup of tea, and invited me to sit with him for “English”. He was a nice kid, very eager to communicate, but his English was on par with my Vietnamese. After I finished my tea the girl asked if I wanted a massage. You bet! This was a real salon after all. Not at all like the place the day before. She walked me up to a communal room with three beds. Handed me a pair of cotton shorts and shut the door. After forcing myself into the Vietnamese sized shorts, she came back in with a water filled bucket to soak my feet. They didn’t fit of course. Size 15 if you’re wondering. After a pretty good foot massage she ushered me over to one of the beds. Déjà vu!

As soon as I made contact with the sheet I knew I wasn’t the first one to lie on it. This made me wonder how many people had worn my shorts. I tried to ask for new sheets, but it was lost on her. I gave up and let her go to work. Apart from the sheets it was a great massage. Between this and my shave I was feeling pretty damn good.
I walked down stairs and had another cup of tea. Just as I was beginning to gather my things a young Vietnamese woman walked in. Turned out she owned the place. After talking to her for a while she asked if I would come and have noodles with her family. Hell yes! She asked me to come back at three, then made me promise to return. Turns out most of the shopkeepers there don’t take foreigners at their word. I guess if you hear shoppers falsely say, “I’ll be back to buy that later” fifty or sixty times a day it’s easy to understand why. I promised, and headed out to do grab a bite.



I gave myself some extra time to find my way back. I’m glad I did. Sure enough, I got lost (again) and barely made it by three. When I arrived she had changed clothes and was ready to go. She had been very flirty earlier, and was even more so now. I didn’t think too much of it because I had heard that Vietnamese people tend to be very touchy feely, and we were going to meet her husband after all. I was still curious about her motives though. Let’s face it. “I’m a God damn good looking guy.”

I didn’t have a scooter today so the plan was to go two up on hers. Unbeknownst to me, the plan was to have me on the back. “You no license.” Really? I began to loose count of the double takes I was witnessing on the way out of town. We had to have caused an accident or two. I’m not sure how far we went, or even which direction, but it took us twenty-five minutes to get to the first stop.

That’s me on the back there.




Our first stop was to meet her mother in-law, and the person I thought was her husband. He wanted nothing to do with me, so I was beginning to think this whole thing was a bad idea. The owner of the salon (I’m horrible, and don’t remember her name) had also mentioned earlier that her husband “Make medicine.” So when the tea came out, all I could think of were the horror stories about tourists waking up without kidneys. I had read in numerous places that it was a bad idea to accept food, or drink from someone unknown to you. Normally I just blow that kind of talk off, but I was genuinely nervous. It didn’t help that she brought the tea out pre-poured. I also had no idea where the hell I was. I touched the cup to my lips, but never took in too much of the tea. What a moron.

Turned out it wasn’t her husband, it was her brother in-law. He was standoffish because he didn’t speak any English. This became clear to me only after I met her actual husband. No roofies, no kidney harvesting, just genuine hospitality.



Their view.


Back on the scooter, and off to our next stop. This time to meet her husband, and father in-law. I was curious to see how he would react to a tall American riding all over town with his wife. When we arrived at the apothecary shop they ran, he rushed out to great me with a giant smile and his arms extended. He immediately began to shake my hands and pat my arms and shoulders. Her father in-law received me just as warmly, but not as energetically. He had a great deal of trouble moving, and by Western standards would have been considered legally blind. He hobbled over to me and handed me a box of Vietnamese treats, similar to moon pies. I loved these people.

Need some shark penis, or Tylenol? This is the place.






(VIDEO)


As broken as the conversation was, it was really enjoyable. Her husband showed me around the shop (didn't take long), and tried to explain what everything was. I got none of it, but it was cool to see someone so excited about what they do . We all worked at communication for a bit more, then I was asked “You want noodle?” Of course, I love noodle! We were off to dinner. This time I rode with her husband. It was a bit less emasculating.

The place we ended up at was awesome. It was packed with people, and not an American, Australian, Kiwi, or European among them. I kid you not, there was a moment when we first walked in, that it became totally silent. If there had been a record playing, it would have most definitely skipped. This is the kind of place I had been dying to eat at, and it didn’t disappoint. The food they ordered was amazing, but being the moron that I am, I didn’t remember the names of any of the dishes. This meant I didn’t get to enjoy them again on my trip.







I offered to pay, but it was made very clear to me that if you are invited out by someone in Vietnam, you are not expected to pay. Nor should you offer. So I did the next best thing. After the meal her husband pulled out a cigarette, but couldn’t seem to find his lighter. I grabbed my Zippo and lit it for him. He excitedly shouted “ZIPPO” when he saw it. He obviously had seen them before, but had no idea how to use it. I flicked it a few times for him, then motioned for him to keep it. He was stoked, but she looked upset. At that moment I had remembered her giving him a hard time about smoking while we sat in front of the pharmacy. Then I felt bad about the whole exchange. I looked at her and shook my head, as if to say “Was that not okay?” He took it to mean that I hadn’t actually given it to him, and tried to hand it back to me. Fortunately we got it all figured out, and left with full bellies, and smiles on our faces.

Now it was time coffee. If you’ve never had a Vietnamese coffee, I would highly recommend trying it. It consists a small glass filled with a bit of condensed milk. A French drip filter filled with finely ground coffee sits on top of the glass. When it’s filled with hot water it slowly fills the glass with concentrated coffee. You then poor it over ice. Delicious!
The place we rode to was huge, and we were the only people there. It was an open air restaurant that sat right on edge of a massive rice paddy. It was a stunning location. Unfortunately I left my good camera with her father in-law, and my point and shoot had run out of batteries just after we arrived.



I thought that was the end of our time together, but we still had to meet her mother and father. After dropping her father in-law off at his home, we made the thirty-minute trek into the country. Once again I was greeted with open arms, and excitement. This place was dramatically smaller than her in-laws place. This was the home of a rice famer. What it lacked in size and furnishings it made up for in personality.

The mother appeared from the back just long enough to shake my hand. Then immediately retreated to her hiding place. Her father was quick to offer me a seat in a plastic chair (of course). It sat with others, surrounding a plastic table that wasn’t much larger than the chairs. We communicated as best we could. As before, when one of us was stumped we just embraced the fact that we could go no further and just jump into something else. This went on for a while until the father asked (through his daughter) if I liked beer. This night just keeps getting better!

One thing I had forgotten in that moment, is that virtually everyone in Vietnam has a satellite dish, but refrigerators are in short supply. When he offered up a cold beer, that meant we had to walk to the one shop in town that had the means to keep them cold. Father and husband stayed behind, as I was escorted down the road by my new friend. At one point she reached out and grabbed my hand. Once again, I was confused about the message she was trying to send. Was this inappropriate, or simply a cultural difference? I didn’t want to offend her if it was the latter, so I simply held her hand. It became clear that it was completely innocent.

We reached the store after walking about half a mile. Sitting out front were two of the coolest old guys I’d ever seen. All smiles, and not a healthy tooth between them.




Once we arrived back at her father’s house, beers in hand, her mother made another appearance. She brought out an egg omelet with minced duck, and a bowl full of steamed snails. Apparently the snails are abundant in the rice paddies. My hosts wasted no time diving into the food. The father put the snails in whole, and simply spit out the shells once he had retrieved the meat. Old school! His daughter and son in-law chose to use toothpicks to fish the critters out, and encouraged me to do the same. Then something funny happened. Even though I was keeping a pretty good pace with the rest of them, her father would occasionally reach across, and feed me one. I was confused about the message he was trying to send. Was this inappropriate, or simply a cultural difference? Once again I chose not to offend.

This day remains one of my fondest travel memories.


(VIDEO)


After a bit more socializing, we were off. It was a long hard ride home. The two bulging disks I had been nursing back to health prior to this trip were on fire. For the bulk of the ride home I had placed my hands on the back of the scooter pushing my self up off of the seat. By the time we reached her salon, forty minutes later, I was a wreck. Now, not only was my back killing me, but my neck and shoulders were in spasm. I got one final massage (with clean sheets) thanked her profusely, and was off to catch the last shuttle to the hotel. I had missed the lantern festival, but could have cared less. When I left home, I told my wife that being invited into someone’s home would be a high point for me. Three days in, and it had already happened. Everything from here on out would be gravy. Hell, I hadn’t even officially started my trip.

Tomorrow morning I’d be off to Hanoi, in search of legendary Minsk, and truly starting my adventure.

Jedum1 screwed with this post 02-22-2012 at 10:35 PM
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Old 02-15-2012, 02:44 AM   #23
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...amazing, just amazing!

I'm in. the more updates the better!! Pressure is on!


BTW Beautiful photography
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Old 02-15-2012, 06:21 AM   #24
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Beautiful.

I don't know if you've seen the Top Gear Vietnam special, but they travel the length of Vietnam by bike/scooter etc.

I'm absolutely green with envy, and pretty darned inspired to boot
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:28 AM   #25
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Very nice.. Hopefully to be able to do the same one day.
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Old 02-15-2012, 09:53 AM   #26
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Looking forward to more!
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Old 02-15-2012, 10:48 AM   #27
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Old 02-15-2012, 11:53 AM   #28
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i love your vibe!

i was fortunate enough to travel around SE asia for 5 weeks a few years back and the trip was one of the highlights of my life. the people's hospitality and generosity are next-level, and i am thankfully reliving my fond memories through your trip.

keep up with the report. we all know it's hard work, but it is incredibly appreciated by both the vocal commenters and the silent observers.
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Old 02-15-2012, 04:03 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Arek Kontrol View Post
I'm in. the more updates the better!! Pressure is on!


BTW Beautiful photography
I'll try not to let you down Hope to have day 4 up by Thursday. Thanks for checking it out!
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Old 02-15-2012, 04:11 PM   #30
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Beautiful.

I don't know if you've seen the Top Gear Vietnam special, but they travel the length of Vietnam by bike/scooter etc.

I'm absolutely green with envy, and pretty darned inspired to boot
I saw someone riding a pink Minsk while I was in Hanoi. Didn't understand why anyone would do that, until I got home and saw the episode Glad to hear my report is stirring something in you. I'll be posting some links in the following reports that could help turn that inspiration into an actual trip. If I could do it anyone can!
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