Thursday, 18 August 2011

Vietnam, (August 2011).

Good morning, Vietnam!

Okay, so we didn't go on another proper adventure for a while. These things cost money! But before long, our next adventure was booked and we were ready to go. I can honestly say that it was when travelling around Vietnam that the importance of travelling dawned on me. I couldn't believe my eyes. I remember sitting in a cafe, drinking sugar cane juice (which I later realized was a huge mistake) and just watching the busy streets of Hanoi whirl past. All you could hear was the beeping of motorbike horns, all you could see was a near-crash every other second. I sat there, completely bemused, as a whole family (mother, father and four children) passed by, all on the same moped. As I said, this was my awakening as to how different all of the six billion lives in this world really are.

After finally recollecting myself, we continued on through Vietnam. During our time there we visited: Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. Saigon. I really enjoyed getting involved in the history and culture, although I unfortunately can't say much for the traffic! Crossing the road in South East Asia is an ordeal and a half. There are so many vehicles crammed into a tiny space, all weaving, veering and swerving out of the way of each other. The trick is to slowly and steadily force your way across the road, 'safe' in the knowledge that motorists will avoid you. It took us a while to realise this, as before we were told the secret, we stood, petrified, holding hands at the side of the road for over twenty minutes! This is where being able to communicate with the locals would have come in handy!

Here is a charming photo of me. Although I can appreciate that I'm not
looking my best, this is a demonstration of how amazing it is to become part of
the history of a country. The hole that I am lowering myself into is one of the Cu Chi tunnels. These
were a labyrinth like system of tunnels, successfully designed by Ho Chi Minh's army who escaped
from American Soldiers during what we would call the 'Vietnam' War, but they call the 'American' War.

Although the Vietnamese suffered horrendously, today they are proud to
say that they beat one of the strongest armies in the world, the USA. I thought it was fascinating to learn
about some of the guerrilla warfare tactics that they used - their strategy was essential to their victory.
This is a photo that I took in a place called Halong Bay, without a doubt one
of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. It's actually a UNESCO World
Heritage Site, and as you can see there are huge limestone 'islands', thick with vegetation.
Some of them are hollow with enormous caves which you can access via kayaks. I would have
loved to have explored them for myself - but instead stayed with mum, who wasn't feeling too great.
Vietnam will always be a place that I will remember as the beginning of my infatuation with travel. Never before had I been so captivated by a place, so interested to discover another way of thinking and another way of life. Studying the history really helped me to understand their culture, but I felt frustrated by the language barrier. Fortunately, we had a tour guide who was able to translate but my lack of Vietnamese has been one of the major factors in improving my Spanish and French! I plan on returning in many years to come, to see how things have changed and I'm considering learning the language to delve deeper into their culture.

I also loved trying local food. This is the recipe for Pumpkin Soup that I managed to get from our tour guide Charlie's mum, the loveliest woman ever. (I haven't edited it in any way)

"Mother Pumpkin Soup" - Fresh pumpkin: slide ALL hard skin out side, cut into small piece, wash with fresh water, and let it dry naturally. - Fresh peanut: soaking in a bow full of hot water (could be boiling water), do not cook it, just soaking about 1 hours or more, until when we can easily peal peanut skin ( pale pink skin, out ) - Heating cooking oil in a big hot pan or a cooker into medium hot, smash red onion and stir fry until Good smell come out, then put Pumkin into and very quick stir fry, add, little bit of Salt, stock powder and little bit sugar. - Over cooking this mixture with water over 30 mins until we see it soft. Taste and add more seasoning if you would like and until you satisfy. - Blend fresh peanut with water into a likely peanut cream then pour into the mixture of pumpkin that cooking. - Waiting until it Re-boilt and enjoy.

Fun fact: The Vietnamese currency is called the Vietnamese Dong VND. One English pound is equivalent to 31634.86 VND. I have to say, we felt incredible when drawing out literally millions of dong from the cashpoint!

We ended up having to buy all the fruit you can see in this photo...
clever Vietnamese women! I do love this photo though.

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