Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vietnam & Random Acts of Kindness :)

I made it to Vietnam! I took the 22 hour bus from Vientiane, Laos, to Da Nang, Vietnam, and survived it with a surprising amount of sleep and general well-being. The bus left Vientiane at 6:30 pm sharp and made stops every 2 hours until 12:30am, when we had a long sleep until we arrived at the border at 4:45am.  When the immigration office opened at 6am, it was flooded with lots of Vietnamese and Laos workers and a very small handful of tourists. I was on the bus with a South Korean guy, and we managed to navigate stamping out of Laos, walking the 1km across the border, and getting our Vietnam stamps. 
Sleeper cars, made for teeny people (comfy for me!)
Many buses waiting at 5:30am for immigration

We finished border business at 8am and drove straight until 11:30, when we had a short lunch break (see photos) and some locals convinced me to try squid. IT WAS GOOD! As long as I don't think too hard about all those months I spent cutting open, defrosting, re-freezing, and generally abusing poor little squids, I can eat them just fine! It only took me 1.5+ years to get over it. I don't know how to explain to people here that it's not about finding squid gross in general - it's remembering the smells and textures of months-old samples. I swear I'm made of tougher stuff...
ok, it was delicious
and the fish were good too!
When I arrived in Da Nang, I found out that my hotel has a fabulous view of the beach and I'm on the 5th floor facing the sea. WOO! I wasn't planning on a hotel but there don't seem to be any hostels in Da Nang, so I checked my new favorite site agoda.com and found the Blue Whale Hotel. It has very reasonable, clean, and comfortable rooms (see photos) and a fantastic spot on the beach. Great find on agoda!

pretty pretty!

view of the city

I'll be here for a day waiting for my travel buddy, YD (a nickname for my friend Douglas), to arrive from California. We'll be traveling in Vietnam for 2 weeks, starting in the middle in Da Nang and Hoi An and working our way north to Hanoi and Sapa.  Should be delightful! After 2 weeks here, we'll fly back to Thailand and travel around my old digs, as well as seeing some of the north that I didn't view on my first trip there. YAY! The world is a beautiful place...

... which was made even more clear to me today at dinner. I left the hotel and started walking down the restaurants that lined the beach, only to realize that I was:
  1. The only tourist in sight
  2. Unable to speak or read anything in Vietnamese
  3. Only able to order pho, which was not on the menu
  4. REALLY HUNGRY after not eating much on the 22 hour bus extravaganza
I walked around and peered into restaurant after restaurant filled with tables of unfamiliar food. I finally settled at a popular-looking one by my hotel, and sat down, staring confusedly at my menu. I was going to order at random when a woman next to me made her husband come over and help me figure out, in broken english, how to order something with chicken. That seemed safe.  And luckily, "beer" is the same in Vietnam!
As my dish was just arriving, his daughter arrived and helped me translate the menu, finish my enormous stove pot full of chicken stew, and tell me a bit about Danang. IT WAS AWESOME! I learned that I had almost ordered frog and that my second choice had been octopus (neither of which is a particular favorite). Now I can say "thank you" and order fried rice, as well as roughly translate the main meats in Vietnamese. And to top it off, her parents treated us to dinner even though I insisted on the bill! And really Mom and Dad, I did insist but then they insisted in Vietnamese which was more effective with the wait staff. They were so helpful, and so friendly and so... perfect for making me feel comfortable when I wasn't sure if I would be able to eat something I remotely wanted. That's yet another wonderful experience that I will pay forward when I can.

words that I'm still in the process of translating

NOM NOM food and a beer :)

What a wonderful end to over 24 hours of adventures!

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