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Category: Travel Moments (page 2 of 4)

Tombs and Temples

We spent the day in Hue going to the tourist attractions, namely visiting the tombs and temples of the emperors of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty. Yes, I’m a descendant of royalty. HA. Me and half of Vietnam. There were seven in Hue; we went to two of them. The last one we tried to go to was closed so we went and bought tea and treats in bulk instead.

The first place we went to was Chi Kiem temple. It was the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc (1829-1883), his predecessors, and his minor wives. Tu Duc was the fourth out of thirteen emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, and was the last emperor of independent Vietnam. He ascended the throne in 1847 after the death of his father, Thieu Tri.

He had 104 wives (playaaa), but had no children because he was rendered sterile after a bout of small pox as a child. During his reign, he signed away many of Vietnam’s provinces and it was the year after his death that Vietnam lost its independence and became a French colony, or protectorate.

The tomb grounds are amazing. Picturesque, calm, rustic, and beautiful.

Where the Emperor was buried.

Architectural detail

As with a lot of older civilizations, they like to be buried with their army, or icons of their army, so that they may protect them in the afterlife.

Our next place was the Khai Dinh tomb, which took 11 consecutive years to build (1920-1931). This place was beautiful in its own unique right. A blend of both eastern and western art and materials. Many of the intricate mosaics were made mostly of glass and ceramics. Absolutely fantastic, amazing stuff.

Emperor Khai Dinh was the 12th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, and only ruled for 9 years. During his reign, he was bent on restoring the empire to its former glory and prestige, but instead of achieving this, all he did was approve and push forward the French’s colonial powers and decisions. Many regard him as merely a puppet for the French colonial institution. While letting them take control of the country, he lounged back in his palace of grandiose splendor. He died in 1925 in poor health and suffering from drug addiction.

There were three ish flights of stairs to get to the final big tomb area, all the way up a hill, but the view from the top was amazing. Stretching far out, you can see all the hills and valleys, and the break between the hills. So green.

 

Hue

The trip to Hue was long, grueling, and mildly rewarding. Hue is what we call the central region of Vietnam. The country is split up into 3 distinct parts, Bac (North), Hue (middle), and Nam (South). Only us in the North speak proper Vietnamese, HAHAH. No, really, all them other Vietnamese people speak some kind of wackadoodle. Those in the South have an annoying high pitched whine that goes along with their speaking, and the Hue people seem to speak a whole ‘nother language. “English, motherfucker. Do you speak it?!” Or rather, Vietnamese. Seriously.

Our first stop was to visit my paternal grandparents’ village, where we, apparently, have a bunch of family that I’ve never heard of. Even my dad rarely go to see them. They live about 3 hours south of Hai Phong. It was weird seeing all these people. The village was very run down and poor, and their house, dark, as it is with most Vietnamese villages in the rural areas.

Both my grandparents were from this village, and way back, probably in the 30’s, they both left the village to go to the city of Hai Phong. They weren’t together, and I’m not sure if they knew each other, actually, but what I do know is that they met in the city and got married, had kids, and my grandfather started his bus business. That’s where my dad was born.

We didn’t stay there too long, just long enough for a short visit, and then we made our way further south to Hue. Including the 3 hour trip to my grandparents’ village, it was probably a 16 hour trip. This was our first food stop. Built on top of some body of water, it was a rather nice idea. We were suspended over the water, with a great view of the fish/shrimp/waterlife farms. My awe at the place didn’t last long though, because I had to pee.

What’s this photo of? What are you showing me? A room? with a little hole in the back? A white box filled with questionable fluid? I thought you had to go to the bathroom. Yeah, I had to go to the bathroom. WTF IS THIS SHIT. I walked in and out of the bathroom umpteen times, refusing to go to the bathroom in this forsaken place. However, we were 6 hours out from the city and another 10 hours from our destination. Yes, I had to suck it up and pee in this bathroom. You can’t even call it a bathroom.

How do you pee there, you ask? You squat, pee on the floor, and the floor is tilted back and the fluids go through that hole. What about the solids? What do you do about the solids?!?! I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

So I go back to our room to eat, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I sat there for the better part of the hour, utterly grossed out, and not having the stomach to eat anything there. It doesn’t help that it was seafood either, and I don’t particularly like seafood. Especially the kind that looked like it was fished out from the muddy waters beyond. I prefer to not know where my food come from k, thanks.

Fish from beyond, that was probably not half bad tasting.

Other food that I just couldn't eat.

Melodramatic, you say? You weren’t there, man. It was horrible. I am just very thankful that I don’t have to put up with that every day. It was a bit of a shock to my system, and I sat at the table, zombified. It’s times like that moment that I wish I were a boy.

In other news, when I got over that, and we got to Hue, we had some rather spectacular dishes. Delicious! A lot of North people don’t like the Hue way of doing things, but I’m down for different foods.

Noodles, bean sprouts, pork blood.

Bun Reu Cua. My favourite dish, Hue Style. Vermicelli with egg/crab mushballs, in a tom yum-like broth, with onions, chili sauce, and cilantro on top.

Chicken

Tofu

Front: boiled pork. Back: Pork and shrimp deliciousness. My favourite way that you can prepare pork, but I don't know what it's called in English. "Thit Lon Kho" though the spelling might not be right. It's a sweet and tangy sautee or something.

Fresh coconut juice (back) and fresh sugarcane juice aka "nuoc mia" (front)

Orange juice.

Passionfruit juice. Yes, I was addicted.

What is there to do in Vietnam?

Short answer:

Nothing.

Long answer:

Parkson arcade. Warning: very expensive.

Crane paddle-boats (only fun once)

Eating at the market. (Or just eating in general).

Playing cards. We did this everyday.

Watch local transportation.

Watch the skank-show at clubs.

Paint tiny sculpture things. This was fun. About $2 each sculpture.

Can you guess which one was mine?

And absolutely nothing at all.

East Meets West

Growing up in Canada, when you go away, you begin to miss things that you take for granted while in Canada. You miss the comfort of not worrying about lizards crawling up your snatch every time you go pee. Is someone going to try to grab your purse when you’re not paying attention? (Trick question. You should always be paying attention.) So, especially if you’re younger, you start wishing you were back home, in the comfort of air conditioning (or rather at this time of the year, heating). Not having to wear sandals in the house because the people are too dirty to clean their house properly. So, we find the closest thing we have to home and we cling to it.

In Vietnam, it was Parkson Place. It was clean. Like, shiny clean. With actual clothes on racks, albeit ugly clothes. There were staff, and even a cafe. On the top floor, was an arcade and food court. And a bowling. How many times did we go bowling in those three weeks? I lost count, but I know that my score just kept getting progressively worse instead of improving. But my tolerance for Heineken improved, so worth it? Heineken is the only decent beer available there.

My brother’s favourite meal was KFC. Yes, you can groan now. All the choice in the world, and food you can’t get halfway around the world, and you go for KFC. Though, I’m not going to lie, I also partook in the finger-lickin’ goodness. There’s just something so satisfying about tasting familiarity in a place that’s so very outside your comfort zone.

There were also some Vietnamese renditions of American classics that weren’t half bad. Of course, we just wanted to try it to see what it was like. The pizza wasn’t too bad, it was just.. different. Everything we did in Vietnam, just felt so (surprise, surprise) Vietnamese. Not hating on my culture, but there’s only so much I can take.

The spaghetti actually came out better than expected. It was really just a tomato sauce with carrots, that tasted a bit watery, but some people I know have made worse spaghetti sauce. So, A for effort, Vietnam. A for effort.

Mong Cai

One day, sometime after Christmas, a large group of us drove up to Mong Cai for some apparently cheap cheap shopping. It was about an 8 hour drive north, as it’s right on the Vietnam/China border, which is why things there are so cheap. This, my dears, is where you can get all the legit Luis Vutiton and Verascae clothing and purses, if that was your desire. The scenery there was gorgeous, though the roads, as always, were rocky at best.

However, you had to bargain your ass through everything in the market, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s haggling. Just let me buy things at the right price, people, and stop trying to rip me off. Ffuuuu. I’ll just let other people do the talking for me, however, and I’ll just pay whatever price they say. I don’t care.

It’s a bit bad though, because I’m not holding Canadian currency, spending Vietnamese dollars is like water. Just here, I’ll pay for this, this and that, and before you know it, I’ve run out of cash. Horrible mentality.

We stayed at a family friend’s hotel that night and were served the absolute grossest meal I’ve ever seen. Well, gross because we were so Canadian that we couldn’t bear to even look at it. Actually, most of my family couldn’t, even the recent immigrant. So, the parents were forced to eat it out of politeness while the rest of us starved ourselves, waiting to go somewhere else to eat. You know, if I were served this in Canada, I’d probably eat it. Actually, if it was anywhere else, I would have eaten it but because I have a really skewed perception of Vietnam, most likely in a negative way, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it.We did get served this wonderful corn juice though, which was boiled and mashed corn, slightly strained, and mixed with a condensed coconut milk of some sort. So sweet, so fattening, so delicious.

Silkworms stir-fried with bean sprouts and onions.

Sauteed lizard.

Fried gator.

Stewed lizard.

This cold-blooded cooking though, blehh, so gross. Even looking at the images now, I remember the taste, the chewy, sinewy texture, the toughness. *shiver* Nope, no sir, can’t take it.

Mong Cai was uneventful for the most part. We went shopping during the day, went back to the hotel at night, did a little karaoke, and then slept. We left the next morning. I was a little miffed because I thought we were actually going to cross the border and going into China, but no, we stayed in Vietnam.

See Vietnam

Yes, so a lot of these posts are photo-dumps, but I took a lot of pictures in Vietnam. ~1500 on my Nikon, and ~1500 on my iPhone. (Although, now my hard drive refuses to turn on, so hopefully I still have my photos. 😐 )

Vietnam has some beautiful landscapes. Absolutely gorgeous. Aside from the food, (and I guess, family), looking at the scenic part of it is one of my favourite things. Though, I don’t have many pictures of the city-life, but enjoy the scenic tour of the homeland.

Close to my village.

On the waters of Hai Phong

Behind my uncle's house.

Foggy river.

On a drive up North.

A bridge in Hue.

Oh my, so artsy. This symbolizes the life of an average Vietnamese person. All work, no play. LOL. I kid. Vietnamese people are all play.

This is not the archetype for Vietnamese architecture.

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