Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chao Ban (Hello) Vietnam!

We were super excited to visit a new country this week! This country is not only unchartered by us, but also by BYU! We are the first touring group to visit and perform in Vietnam, so we are making history!
 The first thing we needed to do was get some money that would work in this new country. Who'da thought we'd become millionaires if we just went to Vietnam! We took out 2 million Vietnamese Dong, it doesn't translate to nearly that much in American money but it definitely made us feel pretty cool for a few minutes. :o)
 As you can see, the main form of transportation here are scooters. At the busiest times there are flocks and flocks of them, I've never seen anything like it.
 Our first stop was Pho 2000. Jer has been SO excited to eat Pho which is pronounced "Fuh" and is like a beef noodle soup. He was in hog heaven!
 Apparently President Clinton once ate here so they changed the name to Pho for the President. Pretty funny.
We then went to the central market to experience Vietnamese shopping. VERY different from Thai. They are a lot stiffer with their prices and they are very physical. They were grabbing at me and trying to pull me away from Jer so they could try and talk him into buying things from their shop. I'm a lot less nice than Jer so they thought they could get through to him better I guess. Nonetheless, I stood my ground and shook off those ladies and got my husband back! A little uncomfortable to say the least but I got a cute hat!
 After the market we visited the reunification palace. I was a little unclear as to what its purpose actually was, but it was a cool old building. I think it was a government building during the war.
 Here are some of the boys in front of an American tank replica like the one that hit the gates in front of the palace and ended the war.
 Ooops there goes another rubber tree plant! Here is a rubber tree farm. We stopped quickly to check this little spot out. You can see the sap dripping off the tree that they use to make latex and rubber.
 We went to the Cuchi tunnels where the Vietnamese people had made a complete underground tunnel system in order to hide and protect themselves from American troops. The Vietnamese call it the American War while we call it the Vietnam war. It was interesting to see the story from the other side. Pictured above is a guy demonstrating how people would enter a tunnel and camouflage the entrance.
 Get got to go in one of the tunnels and crawl through for about 30 meters. I was a little worried about being claustrophobic. It was really tight but it was still ok.
 Its interesting because this is an original American tank and they don't care if you touch it, climb on it, kick it. They really don't care about it. Which makes sense I think.
 We also visited a museum that is kind of similar to the museum of tolerance or a holocaust museum. Lots of very disturbing pictures and stories from the war.
The next day we went on a fun boat ride out to a little island.
 First stop, candy shop! We went to the coconut candy workshop where we saw how they make coconut candy. We bought some to bring home so you can all try it. :o)
 Wrapping the candy.
A tourist trap, a guy had a huge snake people could hold and take pictures. :o)
 Us on a horse and cart ride. We got to wear these Asian hats for the 4 minute duration of the ride.
 Next, we enjoyed fresh fruit and natural honey. I love these tiny bananas! So cute.
 This was one of the most fun parts of the day in my opinion. We got to go on a canoe ride down a narrow river. It felt like we were on that safari ride at Disneyland only it was real.
 Back on the big boat for some coconut water and a ride back to the bus!
 After lunch we all decided to take ballerina photos on this cool log bridge.
 That evening we had another dinner cruise except this time it was in Vietnam! There was traditional Vietnamese music and dancing.
 The next day we head to Da Nang City! The morning was spent traveling. Once we got there we all loaded into an interesting and very old bus with fans for AC and a karaoke machine for the microphone. Our tour guide turned out to be kind of a twit but we thought he was pretty funny, he had a very interesting accent when he spoke english and he even insisted on singing a full song to us on the microphone in a very serious manner. Here we are in a really fun little town called Hoi An. We were able to get out and walk around and shop for a couple hours. We really loved it there and we found some awesome stuff while shopping! Including a pair or genie pants which I adore.
 This is our leader and Thailand and Vietnam expert Ralph Brown. We thought this was hilarious. He just had this guy give him a ride all over the town.
 We were super excited for the next day because reluctantly, Lee let us go to the beach for exactly two hours after we promised to put on sunscreen and not do anything dangerous. This is called the China Sea and is one of the top ten beaches in the world. When we got there we all jumped into the water and played a catch game with a pair of socks rolled into a ball. The water was so clear and warm! Our tour guide called it the "beat" he couldn't for the life of him make the "ch" or "sh" sounds.
 It was a great day. Most of us still got sunburned despite putting on lots of sunblock. I guess we didn't realize that even at 9 am the sun is super intense in Asia. More to come!

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