Saturday, 31 December 2011

Vinpearl Land

This is their "Vietnam's Wonderland". Vinpearl is on an island outside of Nha Trang. It costs 360,000vnd ($18cad) per person to visit this park. The cost includes a 10-minute cable car ride to and from the city, all rides (wet and dry), games room, shows, and an awesome aquarium. The kids liked it so much yesterday they want to go again. Our bus ride back to Saigon is scheduled to depart at 8:30pm. That's right we are in for another bus adventure "night ride". Apparently the bus is the bed-type seats that we can lay down and sleep during the trip. Hopefully the driver does not decide to do the same! The over night bus is common in VN and we're just about to find out how it works. The route from Nha Trang to Saigon is along the coast, hopefully not as crazy as the mountain ride the last time. I am signing off.

Happy New Years 2012 Nha Trang

We were lucked out on the new years festivities here in VN. Apparently there were two biggest celebrations in the country and we caught one of them in Nha Trang, and the other was in Saigon. The Russians love to visit Nha Trang and there were plenty of them here for New Year's.

1. pPeople are rushing to the Square for the New Year's festivities

2. We were there! Nha Trang 2011 New Year's Eve

3. Quang Truong Square

4. Quang Truong Square

5. The Big Show at midnight! they shot the fireworks from two small boats along the beach.

chúc mừng năm mới!!! Happy New Year 2012!!! We just got back from the celebration at the waterfront in Nha Trang and the fireworks were awesome!! We spent the day at Vinpearl Land which is like our Canada's Wonderland only a gazillion times cheaper! (only a slight exaggeration) The cost to ride the cablecar (longest in the world) which was at least a ten minute ride over the ocean to Vinpearl Island, plus the entrance fee to the park including a waterpark and underwater world with a tunnel under a large aquarium and an indoor area with two floors of games that usually require tokens but here are free! Well, not free......included in the $16 fee! Lol The only thing you had to pay for was food and even that was cheap! There was a beautiful beach with the softest sand. Mal prefered to ride the rollercoaster over and over while Em and I had a blast in the water park. It was so much bang for the buck that we decided to take the overnight bus back to Saigon tomorrow night so we can go back and spend the day at Vinpearl. How can we resist!
Anyway, we hope you all have a fantastic New Year celebration when your turn comes and we will see you in 2012!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Images of the Crazy Bus Ride

The infamost "Bus Ride" .....
I must say the scenary was SPECTACULAR!
- It was like we were in the set of Avatar or Jurasic Park. Imagine yourself flying thru the rain forest with large and tall trees below over cliffs and valleys.
The road was UNIMAGINABLE!
- Winding through the moutains there were lots of ups and downs .... literally. Mud slides, potholes, rolling bolders, edge drops, shear mountain, beautiful waterfalls, .....

Sorry the photos are not in the order of sequence:
1. kids standing on the edge of the road. you can see the road winding down below.
2. incredible there are people living along side of this road with absolutely nothing else around them.
3. view of the drop from where we were standing. Pretty huh
4. The victim bus.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

From Da Lat to Nha Trang

What a day! We got on the bus yesterday at 2pm leaving Da Lat and expecting to arrive in Nha Trang 4 hours later.....yeah, that didn't happen! Well part of it did. We got on the bus, winding down the dangerously narrow road with drops so far down you couldn't see to the bottom. The scenery was so beautiful that I couldn't stop looking but the ride was so rough that my stomach was turning everytime i opened my eyes. Some people in the bus actually threw up! Anyway, as we were going along we went through an area that was all clay-like (red earth) and appeared to have recently been a mudslide. It was scary because it looked like the road could slip away from underneath us at any moment. I mentioned to Phil how lucky we were that it wasn't raining. No more than 10 minutes later it started to rain! And the fog was so thick you could barely see. Yikes! Thankfully we were out of the muddy area and back to trees and cliffs and waterfalls......i would have prefered rainbows, butterflies and unicorns but was beautiful! So again I open my big mouth telling Phil that we were lucky to be doing this trip in daylight. Neither of us could imagine driving this road at night! 2 hours into the trip and we hear a big chuchunk! And the bus came to a stop. We were due for a half time break but stoping next to a cliff with barely enough room for traffic to get by and no civilization in sight wasn't the ideal spot. I thought we had popped I tire. No problem, just put on a spare right? Nope! We had hit a few very large "pot holes" and the whole part that holds the back wheels together was broken so that the wheel was no longer centered in the wheel well. The bus was crippled and we were stranded -_- . They shut the bus off and mostly everyone got out for some fresh air. It didn't take a genious to figure out that we would be waiting a while because a new bus would have to come from the city and we were no where near a city! Here's the fun part of my story, when Phil and his family left Vietnam the boat/barge they were on broke down and they were stranded on a beach for 20 days or so with nothing much to eat other than sweet potatoes.....guess what Phil had picked up to munch on for our bus ride......sweet potatoes! So as we were stranded in our own adventure Phil was telling our new friends from Australia (you quickly make friends in these situations) of his past adventure and sudenly being stuck on a mountain for 2 hours waiting for help that you knew would eventually come, wasn't so bad. Good thing i had become a pro at squatting! (sorry, i know my stories always end up in the toilet) So, we're on the side of the road knowing it will be a while and the urge hits......easy for the men, not so much for the women! But don't you worry, we got creative. Emily, Cam and I wandered down the road and found a clump of tall grass to hide behind then we used my coat, Cam's umbrella and our hats of shame (cone hats to hide our embarrassed faces) to shelter from the view of passing vehicles and other passengers searching for a territory to claim. It was still daylight at that time but little did we know that if we had held it for another hour we would have been able to hide in the shelter of darkness. It was still raining on and off but I prefered to get wet than to sit on the stuffy bus. It had become infested with little cockroach-like bugs that were feasting on the buffet of crumbs left behind by the passengers. Lucky break for the insects......this was Mals first time for a melt down. He was tired of standing in the wet outside but too scared of being eaten by bugs in the bus. Poor little was a long day. At 6:10 an empty bus finally arrived (yeah!!!!)......and drove right passed us (wt*%#^>)......oh right, it had to turn around. 10 minutes later it was back, facing the right direction and we were rescued!
We had booked a hotel using the internet ahead of time since we knew it may be difficult to get a room with it being New Years and all, knowing we may have to cancel it if it didn't meet our standards and price range (Cam is with us and we wanted two rooms this time) but we were so tired we were ready to accept just about anything.......just about! We dicided that after the day we had we deserved something more than the dirty cobwebbed room we entered....then exited as quickly as we could. We spent the next couple of hours cabbing from one hotel to the next exhausted, trying to find a room that didn't smell like someone had just died in it or that wasn't already completely booked. Turns out there is some kind of conference or something in Nha Trang this weekend for Russians so the hotels are all booked. Well, the decent ones anyway. We settled for one eventually and considering the others we had seen, it's a palace! At least the sheets look clean and the smell isn't sooooo bad.
Hope everyone back home, or on vacation, or recuperating in a hospital ;) are all safe and happy. We miss you!


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New Pix

1. On the way to see Big Elfy

2. Thien Vien Truc Lam - top of the mountain

3. Cable car from one mountain to another

4. View from top of a mountain (don't know the name)

5. View of Dalat from our hotel room

6. Nam Qua Elephant Ride - Dalat

7. Malcolm's Big Elfy

8. Em, Carol, Mal riding Big Elfy

9+10. Feeding time with sugar canes

A first blog post from Malcolm

I loved feeding the big elephant and when it followed me to go for a walk.

I love Dalat!

What a spectacular day in Dalat! Yesterday we spent 8 hours on a bus to get here and it was totally worth it! We left the hotel this morning and went on a cable car ride from one mountain tip to another. The city has a major French influence and reminds me of an asian version of Mont Tremblant. I aboslutely love it! Because we are up in the mountains it is of course cooler but the air is fresh and the water in the lakes is clear. So much cleaner than any other area we have been to. We visited the beautiful grounds of a temple and then took a boat ride to get to where the elephant was waiting to greet us. We were all in awe! We all had a ride and fed the elephant some sugar cane stalks. Malcolm had taken a few bananas from the breakfast buffet at the hotel as a treat for Big Elphie and he loved it. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far for Malcolm and probably for the rest of us too! We then relaxed a bit in the hammoks enjoying the view of the elephant and the thatch roofed huts. So beautiful! Like that wasn't enough amazingness for one day, there was more! We went on a ride down a mountain that was like a roller coaster but not. You sit in a bobsled-like thing that is on a roller coaster-like track that snakes down a flower filled mountain. It's different from a coaster because you control the spead yourself. (maybe they have something like this in Canada but I havn't seen it) You have to stay 25m behind the car in front of you so you pull on your brake to slow yourself down. The view is spectacular and at the bottom there is an amazing waterfall. I love Dalat! Unfortunatley our camera's battery ran out at the elephant attraction so we couldn't take any photos of the ride. Poopy. Oh well, we are back at the hotel now for a rest and then we'll go for a walk to the night market. Did I mention I love Dalat? It is my favorite city so far. We leave tomorrow to go to Nga Trang which is back down the mountain by the ocean. The adventure continues!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Dalat ... Here We Come!

We are scheduled to board the bus at 8am at the house.

Stay tuned....


Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day everyone. This is our off day and just hanging out at Chi Hai's house until the next leg of the trip to Dalat and Nha Trang. I am working with Cam to determine the travel arrangements for next 7 days. We are probably going to take the taxi or bus again. We didn't mind the ride on the coach bus from Can Tho to Saigon the other day.

Sorry we seem to have technical difficulties sending photos from this end. You won't be seeing any pix until I get to a more stable setup with proper wi-fi.

It was real nice to see the families on Skype. It felt weird that we could see you but not be there with you. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas break. Hope the weather is not too too bad for travelling back.


Saturday, 24 December 2011

Well, we've had our Christmas in the lobby. I'll admit it was a little strange to see vespa's wizzing by outside the window during our little private moment and the guy working the desk acted like we weren't even there. Lol It took a while to wake Malcolm and I'm not entirely convinced that he ever was truly awake. We did manage to get him to stumble into the elevator on his own two feet to find the tree and gifts 7 floors below us. He was so hard to wake that i concidered waiting until morning to open the gifts but Emily was very determined to go ahead as scheduled. It was funny because when it came time to wake Mal she admitted to me that she would prefer not to go down to the lobby but when i told her that if we didn't have to worry about using the lobby when it was empty we could wait until morning, she quickly relented!
The stockings were stuffed with an asian pear, pocky-like chocolate covered sticks, gum, Christmas tree shaped candy cane on a stick, ritz crackers and oreo cookies for a taste of home and for Em a Hello Kitty watch and Mal a dragon pendant necklace.
Mal's main gift was a scooter and Em's was a Hello Kitty baking apron so she can bake in style! They were happy so i was too!:) hope you all enjoy your Chritmas traditions but most of all enjoy each other! Have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS wherever you are!!

Just over 15 minutes to Christmas and since we don't have a tree in our hotel room (other than the one Emily cut out of a sheet of paper) and I can't steal the one from the lobby (thought about it but it is too tall to fit in the elevator and taking the stairs would be too much work) I have decided to just borrow the lobby area for our Christmas gift giving. Our usual tradition is to get up whenever the kids wake us up but this year we will wake Mal (Em is still awake) at midnite so that we can have the lobby to ourselves. Phil thinks I'm crazy but it's not the first time he goes along with a plan he doesn't agree with. If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy and mama wants a Christmas with a tree, gifts and stockings! Even if the stockings are a pair of socks I bought at the market! Who needs a fancy stocking....hanging on a fancy mantle....above a fancy sparkling cozy fire? Not me. Nope. I've got plenty of heat here in Vietnam and while you're all singing Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire I actually SAW chestnuts roasting on an open fire out on the street while doing my last minute shopping. Oh I know you're jelous but the truth is, as wonderful as it is to be here, I miss Christmas at home! Oh hey, it's 12:05...Merry Christmas everyone!!! Love you all!!! And Happy Birthday to Ron, Andrew and Suzanne! Did I miss anyone? Time to give Santa a hand getting the gifts under the tree and wake Mal.....

Merry Christmas!

Emmy got run-over by a vespa,
Going to get ice cream christmas eve.
Lol re-invented christmas traditions!
T'was the night before christmas,
And all through the hotel,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even an ant.

Aha Merry Christmas everyone!
Love Emily :) <3

Happy Christmas Eve from Saigon

Last night here so I thought we'd make the best of it. Cam took us downtown this evening to see the lights and people who are celebrating Christmas in Saigon. It was crazy crazy crazy! If you think Canada Day in Ottawa was crazy with the crowd of 100,000 just multiply that by 10 then add a couple of million people mixed in with the motobikes ..... voila, you have Christmas Eve in Saigon. When you're in Rome you do what the Romans do so we decided to take a walk from our hotel which on a normal day would only take 15 minutes to the downtown (Ben Thanh and Dong Khoi Street). Tonight it took us 1 hour to get there. The taxis were all refused to drive downtown because they wouldn't be able to get too far. It was an unbelievable site to see. The funny thing was the majority of the population are not catholic. They just wanted to be there, period!


Friday, 23 December 2011

2nd Day in Saigon

1. Bun Bo Hue

2. Night traffic at Ben Thanh Market

3. Emily is in cloud 9 at the Hello Kitty store

4. Dam Sen Water Park

5. Small sampling of the gazillion kids at the Water Park!

Half day left guys...... you can do it.

It's great having Cam around especially in Saigon. This is her home turf. We have learned quite a few things from her so far.

1st we learned how to cross the street .... safely.

2nd we learned how to bargain at the market. You have to be brave but it works. She is a pro at it.

3rd it doesn't matter how hard I try I just can't be a local. The Vietnamese can spot me out fairly quickly. It's so funny the vendors in the market would call me "sir" and start talking to me in English until I answer them back in Vietnamese and they stop and giggle and say "I thought you were Tay". I just laugh!!

I love walking with Emily to any store. The girls staff would whisper to one another in Vietnamese of how beautiful she looks and they keep staring at her until we leave the store. Emily feels like a celebrity.

Anyways, here are some of today's pics.

While you all were snug in your beds...(except Steph who was busy delivering my great nephew Jessie congratulations) we spent the day at a water park.....just us and about two million elementary kids. At least half of them were armed with water guns and we were trapped in the crossfire the whole way down the lazy river. Cute right? Ugh. There was however a no fire safety zone for foreigners aka "sunbath area for foreigners". The locals don't sunbathe. Worked for me. We were able to sit there alone and use a private bathroom just for ourselves. Strange feeling considering the number of people in the park. Em and I went down a tube slide and I got so much water up the nose that I stuck to the lazy river after that. Both Phil and Em did the zip line with a drop into the pool and Mal and Phil did the Kamakazi slide! It was a very refreshing way to spend a very hot day. With the humidex it is in the 40's i'm sure and with the exhaust from all the motorbikes it is down right steamy downtown. Emily is a very happy girl though because she finally set foot in a Hello Kitty store! She bought a few t-shirts and a pj bottom. Life is good!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Hello again! We are back from dinner and the kids wanted to stay in tonight so Phil went out for a walk on his own. The kids have taken over the television and the ipad so that leaves me and my phone and since I've checked Facebook a gazillion times in the last 30 minutes and there have been no updates to entertain me I've decided to talk to myself on the blog. It's much better than just talking to myself because at least on the blog I can imagine someone reading it. Sweet mother of pearl, I am talking to myself! Oh well, it's not the first time. So is everyone ready for Christmas? We were supposed to skip the whole present thing this year due to the expense of the trip but as the big day gets closer I am feeling a little lonesome for the hustle and bustle of last minute purchases and preparations I usually complain about. I actually packed stockings but left them at Phil's sisters' house when we left last week. Darn it! I'll have to get creative. Phil is supposed to be scoping out the nearby stores for me tonight. We decided against making a traditional Canadian Christmas dinner when we go back to Chi Hai's on the 25th because we can't get the right stuff and to improvise and make a sucky meal would be worse than no meal at all. (We learned our lesson with the spaghetti and every dish ordered in a restaurant claiming to be western food) I'll just have to remember our last supper in Canada. My mom made us a Christmas meal with all the fixin's including the pumpkin pie. Yum!
While riding on the bus from Can Tho to Saigon I was trying to imagine how I would sum up my feelings about Vietnam. It is a place that is both dirty yet beautiful at the same time. The people, well, at fist glance I felt pity for them. For the way they live and how hard they have to work just to survive and though I still feel some of that, mostly I feel in awe of them. Of their resilience and strength. Their houses may not look like much to those of us who are used to having perfectly painted walls with colour coordinated furniture but you don't have to be there long to realize that the artwork in their homes is living and breathing. It is the people smiling and sharing food and giggles that is the focal point in any Vietnamese home. These people are built with heighten survival instincts too. I mean, I knew I came from a spoiled part of the world but as with children, being spoiled isn't necessarily a good thing. ( not that I'm ready to give it up or anything ) all this to say that if there was a natural disaster in Canada and one in Vietnam, we would have a much tougher time surviving without comforts than the Vietnamese. That being said, I think I'm ready to take up camping next summer. I feel like I've been at camping bootcamp and the borders of my usual comfort zone have been stretched quite a bit.
Oh, hey Phil's back! I can go ramble on to him and spare my dear blog followers. Thanks for reading!


Arrived in Saigon

We just arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (the locals still refer to it as Saigon). I wish I have a big enough memory card to capture the hustle and bustle of this city. It's crazy,.. everywhere!

We started our day in Phu Quoc this morning as Malcolm, Em and I took our last swim in the ocean. The ocean water was warm and fabulous. Temperature was around 27 C and rising. We took the hotel shuttle to the nearby airport and checked in., as we went thru the scanning section at the airport we had a little glitch. The authority discovered 2 jars of "mam" from Phu Quoc in our carry-on. They belonged to Chi Hai. The jars had to be in the check-in luggage which already left the terminal. Crap, we had to leave them behind. 45 minute flight and we were back in Can Tho. Took a taxi to the Saigon-Can Tho bus terminal. We left Can Tho at 1:30pm. It was a good ride on a big bus like a Greyhound. Besides the the driver there was a director who came along on every ride to pass out bottled water and wet naps to each passenger. It was kind of cool. One thing we haven't tried is train. We did the plane, automobile, boat, taxi, Emily tried the motobike. We arrived in Saigon at 4:30pm. Found our hotel Ming Khang on Vo Van Tan. It's quite modern and confortable. This will be our home for the next 4 days. It's 6:30pm and we are going to venture outside the hotel for a bite to eat. STay tuned,.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Day 4 in Phu Quoc

It may be end of day for most of you in North America but the opposite is brightly presenting to us. Today is our last day on this amazing island. We have been waking up every morning by the sound of the chick-a-do-o-do from the chickens nearby and the sound of the waves gently coming in to shore that we can hear from our room.

We decided to take a tour yesterday to discover the island a little bit while we still have time. As our driver made his way through the centertown Duong Dong (biggest centre on the island) he explained to us the history and facts of the island. There are only 80,000 on this island. The majority of the people live by the sea and fishing is their trade. The people in the centertowns tend to live off the tourism industry which is very alive and will be better in the future as the government has planned to turn Phu Quoc into a major tourist destination. Right now the island is still primitive off the beaten paths as we got to see it yesterday during our tour. There is only one paved road in the center of the island that connects North and South of the island. The road is only big enough for one vehicle to travel. The motobikes or Hondas are still the choice of trasportation on the island. Most of the products besides seafoods are coming from the mainland on a daily delivery from either Rach Gia or Ha Tien by ferries. It may seem isolated but there is no shortage of cellphones and motobikes. They are the Southern Vietnamese trademarks. As we drove through the small villages along the road side it reminded me of Hai Nam island. The native people are dark and the landscape is dry but very friendly and seem honest. We totally enjoyed the white sandy beach in Bay Sao (Sao Beach).

As our last night on the island we went out to the night market just outside the gate of our hotel. This market resumes every night starting around 4pm and runs until 11pm. There are lots of live seafood vendors displaying their catches of the day. You pick and they cook right on the spot. We noticed there were lots of westerners enjoying this experience. If you love seafood you have got to try this when you're on the island. As we walked pass all the seafood vendors the souvenir shops lined the street offering the tourists the island's famous pearls and products from the seas. Real pearls, fake pearls you name it they have it and they're all for the taking. And remember, you have to bargain for the right price in any market and this market is no exception. Our cousin Cam is real good at it. We just ask her to come along to do the dirty deed for us. I wanted to snap a few pictures of the market but our camera ran out of juice. Sorry.

This morning we need to get to the breakfast buffet on time for the last time then back to the room and pack and get ready to leave at 10:30. Our flight is scheduled for 11:45am going to Can Tho. We'll take a bus from Can Tho to Saigon and that should take about 3 to 4 hours. We should be arriving in Saigon around 5 this afternoon. Until then our adventure continues..... stay tuned.


I Think We've Found Paradise!

This is Phu Quoc's at its best.

1. Nha Tu Phu Quoc
2. Sao Beach
3. Sao Beach
4. Sao Beach

ps. Happy Birthday Zach!

Another beautiful day in Phu Quoc. We hired a driver for the day to visit all the sites. We visited (and shopped at) two pearl farms, we toured a winery, a fish sauce plant (would that be a saucery? It sure was stinky!), a waterless waterfall (they should really call it a rock garden since the water all dried up) and the Phu Quoc prison museum where Phil's sister's late husband was a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973. (they met after he was realeased at the end of the war and they were married in 1976. (I was 5) and last but so not least we went to a beautiful beach and swam in the ocean. Remember how I told you that Phil's niece Cam doesn't like the sun to touch her skin? Well, we got to the beach and there were these beautiful tiki style huts to sit in that provided plenty of shade, chairs and a table and you could order lunch. I figured Cam would hide out in the hut the whole time to keep out of the sun but she surprised me! She let me know in the "language" she and I share, that she would like to go to the water so I offered her a towel to wrap around her to block her from the sun. I thought maybe she wanted to feel the soft white sand between her toes or maybe even get her feet wet for a few minutes. She took the towel from me, put on the traditional cone hat and walked right in to the water with Em. Towel and all! This girl is serious about keeping the sun off her skin!
There is a night market right beside our hotel. A real hotspot for visitors to the island for food and shopping. Heading back out there now for a bit and then tucking in for a good night sleep. We fly back to Can Tho tomorrow and then head to the big city (Saigon) for three nights.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Photos of Phu Quoc

As promised here are more pics

1. beach back of hotel
2. hello Phu Quoc from our flight
3. Dinner at Chez Carole 1st night
4. Em enjoying a dip in the hotel pool
5. Scene of Phu Quoc on our way to the local market
Okay, i realize that things could be a lot worse and that in the grand scheme of things a little pink eye is not that big of a deal but it has now spread to her other eye and i'm scared the rest of us will have it by morning. As I was saying on facebook, the hotel staff will be calling the exorcist when they see us with our red eyes. And what if they don't let us back on the plane to the mainland? Sure we'd be stranded on a tropical paradise island but all they serve here is seafood and the kids and I don't like seafood. Not that it matters if I eat or not, i just end up in the washroom anyway. It's funny, Cam asked Phil why I would want to come to Phu Quoc if I don't eat question to her was why would she come with us if she doesn't want the sun to touch her? She is so desperate to not let her skin get any darker that she carries an umbrella all the time and even had Em and I switch seats with her in the van while in motion because we had changed direction and the sun was getting her. I have to say though that she does have beautiful, unblemished skin!
We never did make it to the pearl farm today but will likely go tomorrow. Apparently there is a big storm in the Phillipines that is headed toward Vung Tau which is where we were last week. It rained here this evening for a few hours but nothing too serious. Okay, bed time.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Question: wasn't the small fortune we paid the travel clinic supposed to keep me out of the washroom? It seems like i'm on a toilet tour because I'm seeing more toilets than anything else! I'll admit they've been interesting and if I would have realised how many I would visit I would have taken photos for a running theme in my album. Ahhh hindsight.....okay enough about my behind. I better be losing weight! :)

Good news!

I just put the second dose of drops in Em's eye and it definitly looks like there is improvement and so far no one else has it. Thank God!
It's almost 1 pm and we still haven't left the hotel. We are enjoying a more relaxed pace here. We ' ve been for a swim in the ocean and i've already had my second poolside massage since arriving yesterday. They cost the equivalent of $5 for 35 minutes of pure heaven. He noticed how wound up tight my muscles were and said it was causing problems with my nerves. (i've been having numbness in my arms for months now, likely job related) Anyway, he is going to work on me twice a day to try and help me before I leave but he said he'll only have time to get me 75% better because we leave on Thursday and it would take a week to fix me. Of course Phill had to translate that info for me because he doesn't speak English. As an added bonus he can also read faces and told Phil that he and I will do okay financially but never be rich. Our success will come from doing a good job with our children so don't spoil them. He said they know we love them so we shouldn't spoil them with things. He said they are both very bright and will be very successful. He said Emily is more like me and Malcolm is more like Phil personality wise. He also said that Phil looks like his mother (cheeks) and has a strong maternal side. The kids will be very close to him even more than to me. He said I was very easy going and would stay with Phil forever. I wish I could have understood him because Phil couldn't remember everything the man said.
Anyway, I think we're going to try to see the pearl farm this afternoon and then get back for my evening muscle is good!

Houston we have a problem!

I seemed to have packed everything in my Pharmacy away from home except antibiotic eye drops for Pink Eye! Darn it! Emily's right eye looks like it has been posessed by the devil! Poor girl. On the bright side, it matches everything in her wardrobe! I've just posted a desperate plea on facebook hoping someone can find out if polysporin cream can be put in the eyes. On line it says to use the drops and not the ointment but do they just want you to buy more stuff or would it actually damage the eye more than some unknown bootlegged product from a "pharmacy" on the island of Phu Quoc would.

Phu Quoc

We've made it to Phu island this afternoon after a short flight from Can Tho. We arrived just before 2pm local time. Since i didn't book any hotel ahead of time (that was unlike me!) we were scrambling to find a decent hotel to call home for the next few nights. We ended up at the Huong Bien Hotel which turned out to be a beautiful place with an outdoor pool overlooking the beach. Photos to follow. Carol was pretty happy with this place considering our previous arrangements for accommodations. She can fill you in the rest in the morning.

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect weather for this leg of the trip. It's been sunny and warm perfect temperature for a swim in the ocean or the pool. I've been enjoying my cold beaverage of choice (Heiniken) for $25,000 vnd = $1+cad by the pool side. Sweet.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Can Tho

The weather has been terrific we haven't seen too much rain at all. Temperatures are around 21-22 in the morning and get muggy around 10am. Temperatures are at the highest 30-32 (+ humidex 40) around noon - 2pm so they all get a siesta from 11:30am to 1pm. I like this idea! Here are some more pictures. btw I am loving the ca phe sua da! Iced coffee.

1. Breakfast at the hotel
2. Floating market
3. Monkey business
4. Outhouse in the rural area. Thank God we didn't have to use it!!!!!
We are just waking up for the last time in Can Tho (i know how to spell it now) and I've had my second full night sleep. Thank God! Some other good news is that the swelling in my feet is going down. Turns out my continued plumbing problem is a blessing in disguise because i am no longer feeling as bloated as the goodyear plimp. Again, thank God!. The weather has been steadily in the 30's with humidity making it feel like 40's. I gave up wearing my hair down because it was just frizzing out of control!
Yesterday was a very relaxing day. We woke up and went to the floating market. We got on a rickety little wooden boat and were rowed between many bigger boats selling fruit, drinks even Pho noodle soup! If you couldn't see inside their boat they had a big stick/post sticking up with a sample of what they were selling hanging from the top. Some smaller boats would weave in and around the bigger ones and latch on to our boat to give us a taste of their fruit to entice us to buy. At one point i just about had a heart attack as we were all focused on the left side of our boat watching Chi Hai make a purchase of more Breast Milk (remember that's a fruit), we were rammed into on the right side of us with purpose. For a split second i thought we were under attack, that pirates were about to board our little island of splintered safety and have us for breakfast but as i spun around I saw an old woman with a huge grin yelling Hi! We were all startled but quickly relaxed and had a good laugh as she said hi again and asked us to buy some drinks.
After buying more fresh fruit, Mr Honk Happy drove us to a tourist garden where we strolled along and looked at flowers, crocodiles and of all things, a monkey show! Mal loved the monkeys! They were riding around on bikes and doing all kinds of tricks. Several hundred moskito bites on Em's legs later, we went back to the hotel for a break. Emily went straight to Facebook but of course all of her friends were snug as bugs snoring in their beds back home. We are looking forward to flying to the island of Phu Quoc (pronounced fu woc) around noon today where we are expecting white sandy beaches and more sightseeing.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

My Tho, Ben Tre, An Hoa

It's Sunday and we are jst came bac from the floating market tour at Cay Rang. Can Tho is the biggest city in the South Western region (Tay). The traffic is as crazy as in Saigon. I still can't figure out how they manage to drive like that .... it's like liquid. There are very few traffic lights especially at the major intersections. The motobikes (they are referred to as xe hon-da or xe oto or xe 2 banh (2 wheels) they just weave in and out and around the cars. On the big streets, there are 3 lanes per side, the left lane is for cars and trucks, middle and right lanes are for motobikes and bicycles. If a car wants to turn right they signal and just jump from left to right and the bikes will slow down and yield and go around the car. But if a car wants to turn left they just start turning onto oncoming traffic and let the oncoming traffic slow down and go around them. very effective and fluid. After 10 days here I can tell you that two things that represent the people here : xe hon-da and cellphone. Everybody has a cellphone. Even a farmer in the field has a cellphone. We saw a monk in the temple chatting on a cellphone like there is no tomorrow. It's because cellphones are so cheap here and are readily available without any contract. Just pay for a sim card and pay an equivalent of $5 USD a month to use anywhere locally and long distance. And I am happy to know that every hotel has free wi-fi service. It's great for us.

Anyways, Carol has promised photos to follow so here they are. Enjoy.
1. Truong Tieu Hoc An Hoa
2. Emily and the python
3. Thiem Ba Niem, Phil, Di 5 and Chi Hai
4. Us on the boat travelling down a small creek lined with water coconut trees
5. Cam with the 100-banana-bunch tree


December......what day is it again?

We're back! We were off the grid for a few days in a very rural area visiting 2 uncles, an aunt, some cousins and a dear family friend. We had thought we'd sleep in a hotel but Uncle 4 had prepared his spare room for us so we spent the night there. Cam and Chi Hai were with us. This was the area where Phil was born. Many of the neighbours came out to get a glimpse of us foreigners. Malcolm became fast friends with Phil's aunts' grandaughter and was so happy to have someone to play with. The living conditions were quite primitive in one area, when I saw the "Toilet" (pics to follow) over the water I went back to were the kids were to have them come and see but as i started to point and explain things coming down the path toward the toilet with my camera ready i sudenly noticed someone stand up! I quickly did a 180 gesturing to the kids to do the same.....abort, abort, abort! I don't think she saw us. Anyway while we're on the topic of bathrooms i may as well share another fun experience. WARNING: if you are eating, have a week stomach, don't know me very well or just plain don't care to hear about the functions or malfunctions of my inner plumbing then please skip the next paragraph!
Don't say I didn't warn you! Okay, first of all, in the past, whenever I've travelled, I've always lost my appetite and my bowels stoped functioning. It was never a serious problem because I never went anywhere for very long. I was however a little nervous about this trip because holding for 4 weeks would not only be uncomfortable but would likely have me feeling like, well, shit! Pardon the pun. (sorry, couldn't resist) Anyway, all this to say that after my first week, despite all the abundant fruit, all I'd been able to produce was a few rabbit poops. That is of course until the moment we were about to leave on our trip to the rural area.....of course. I went from plugged to diarrhea in 0 to 60 seconds! Now, thankfully I had packed some Immodium (if they are looking for a new spokes person I am happy to oblige)which helped a lot thank God because the next few days i would use nothing but squatting toilets and water buckets for flushing. (surprisingly effective BTW unless the toilet is somewhat clogged in which case i found myself swearing at the contents of the bowl for 20 minutes pouring bucket after bucket of water begging and pleading to the stubborn remnant to give up and disappear!) It struck Phil too later the same day when we were on the highway and couldn't pull off. Not to worry, he managed to hold.(he may not be impressed that i'm sharring this with you but oh well....he's asleep.) Anyway, enough about that...yeah.
So, today on the way back to the city we stopped to do a little tour (again, pictures to follow when Phil wakes up.....I don't no how) we got on a boat which took us to a few different islands where we saw how coconut candy is made, rode in a cart pulled by a little horse (poor horsey) to a honey farm where we drank honey tea and were seranaded by a local singing act, saw some crocodiles (or were they alligators......i always forget which is which) anyway they had sharp teeth, Emily held a boa snake around her neck and we loved every minute of it! Tonight we are back in the comfort of a hotel in the city (i'd tell you which city but I have no idea how to spell it and like I said before, Phil is sleeping so I can't ask) Our driver whom we lovingly refer to as Mr Honk Happy (not to his face of course) suggested that we have dinner on a popular restaurant boat. It was fabulous! The 5 of us had a fabulous dinner, drinks, entertainment (Malcolm loved the magician) plus close to 2 hours on the boat for $25! We had said goodbye to Cam earlier today because she had to accept a top sales award at a banquet tonight in Saigon. She sells Amway. She will meet up with us again before we fly out to Phu Quoc (spelling?). We thought we'd be on our own for that part of our adventure but she and her mom (Phil's sister) want to come with us. They've been such terrific hosts! Cam and Hue have been just loving the kids but especially pampering Emily, painting her nails, brushing her hair, taking her shopping and dressing her up. They are giving her the royal treatment! Em's not complaining! Anyway, it's almost midnight so I better get to sleep. I am still waking up at 3 am which makes for very long days. Miss you all!


Say whaaat?

Hellooo! Soo ive decided to write a bit since i havent said anything yet...
Vietnam is amazing! I feel like i belong here! Well, except for some minor details... Lol yeah.
Im not very good at this blogging stuff.
Sooo to end my useless rambling, hiii! :) i miss everyone back home who are starting their weekend today! Love You guys!
Emmy :)
P.s. for anyone who didnt read my facebook status... So far:
1) ive held a python
2) got hit on by men my dad's age
3) got poured a glass of beer by my great-uncle
4) about 50% of my skin surface is covered in mosquito bites .. Ugh
But all in all AMAZING TRIP!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What a fabulous day we had yêsterday! After a minor (well...) meltdown The night before brought ơn by extreem lack of sleep and an overwhelming feeling of cluelessness, and sèlf conciousness (hey, i'm a woman who is used to being a size M ôr L not XXXXL and no woman likes to jump up 4 sizes when she's not êven eating dessert) Anyway, like i was saying, yesterday was great! After a fabulous breakfast and a long walk up the steps of a beautiful mountain side temple (Em took lots of pictures to prove to her gym teacher, that she has been excersising haha) the boys went to the Beach and Cam (Phils's niece) took Emily and I shopping at a little market where Emily had 3 pairs of shoes made for her (you choose a pre made base and a decorative strap and they put it together) Em fit the biggest size they had, I was out of luck! It was so nice to be just the girls but we had to have Phil on speed dial to translate when my attempt at sign language wasn't working. Then she took us to a hair salon for a hair washing and head massage. Very nice! Later on we met up with the boys again who "forgot" to put sun lotion and could have been mistaken for freshly cooked lobsters. Gotta go! More sightseeing in Vung Tau this morning the we head back to Phil's sister's.


As promised here are some photos of banh khot.
1. Truong Duon Ket's entrance
2. School courtyard
3. Breakfast ..... awesome
4. Sugar cane pressing machine

btw: I went out with the girls (Hue and Cam) last night to check out Vung Tau's night life but since it had rained in the evening the streets were empty. We ended up stopping by a Hu Tieu lieng (throw) place on Ba Cu street around 11pm. Each got a bowl of hu tieu mi, great bedtime snack!

Cam is taking Emily and Carol shopping all afternoon as the boys hanging around the hotel and the beach. They just called and they are heading over to the spa as I speak. I'll take Malcolm to get him some food. He's been having a hard time eating true Vietnamese food.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Vung Tau

It's so nice to see comments! :) the weather is 30 degrees and humid. Phil is sweating but the rest of us are completely loving it! We just had lunch in a little seaside restaurant and bought some Vietnamese apples to munch on. They taste a little like a granny smith but they have a pit instead of seeds. On our way out of Hoa Long (where phil's sister lives) we stopped at a coffee house with his two nieces in Ba Ria. His nieces have been absolute dolls!!! They are in their 30's and know how to make things happen. Going to the beach now so the kids can pick up sea shells.

Monday, 12 December 2011

December 13

Happy Birthday Đad!!!! I'm thinking òf home today with it being Đad's birthday and Stephanie's due date. Yesterday we went to Vung Tau to mêet some relatives. It was very nice to see their happy faces when they spoke to Phil. It hás bêen a little strange for me though to be so quiet being that I am a people person and all! My cheeks are sỏre from smiling so much to make up for my language dísability. Today we go back to Vung Tau to stay in a hotel for a few nights so we can swim in the ocean.

Lást night Phil decided to give the women hểre a break and make them a "north American" meal...spaghetti òf course! Unfortunately Ỏregano and Italian spices are not easily found in a grocery store here, nore is Ceasar salad dressing. Oh well, we improvised. I made gảrlic toást with something resembling the taste òf margarine, crushed gảrlic and a salt like pơwder. Ìf they đidn't like it they sure đidn't show it. Phil plans to make a turkey dinner for Christmas.....that ought to be interesting. Thank goodness he's an amazing improvisational chèf!

Please excuse the Viet accents, I don't know hơw to get rid òf them but they sort òf put a Vietnamese slant on my message which ís very fitting. We've bêen eating lóts òf delicious fruit including one called "breast milk"...yeah....once you get your head around the name of it it ís quite delicious! One mỏre thing about know hơw we were looking so forward to eating lóts ò Pho (noodle soup)? Well it túrns out the oh so popular dísh back home ís really only served at breakfast so Malcolm hásn't bêen able to order it in the nice restaurants we've bêen going to.

Emily and I are having beautiful traditional vietnamese dresses made while we're hểre and had our measurments taken and fabrics chosén yesterday.They òf course will have to be creative while making mine because the intricut fabrics don't come long enough for my height.....funny story about height....Phil's nieceses are very self concious about being short and I am very self concious about being an amazon woman....we're even! To put things into pếrspective, you all know that Emily ís considered height challenged among hẻr péers, well hểre she ís considered ìf she ís considered tall that makes me freakishly large nẽxt to thế beautiful dainty women. On that fine note I múst go dơwn and eat beakfast now. I went to bed later lást night managing to stay up pást 9pm but I was still awake again at 4am. I feel like half a day hás gone by already and I'm starving! mmmmm breast milk......

Vung Tau

Here are some pics of Vung Tau - a city by the seaside where i grew up.