Friday, November 30, 2012

Shopping in Hà Nội

Katie, Hannah and I decided the best way to shop for souvenirs and Christmas presents for family and friends back home was to go to Hà Nội for the day. And today was the designated day. Xuân escorted us, bless his heart... and didn't mention till we were on our way home after a HUGE day of shopping that his shoes were very uncomfortable!!

We caught the 6 o'clock train and arrived in Hà Nội around 8.30am and caught a taxi to the Old Quarter. We each had a list of people to buy gifts for so we determined to be very decisive... If we saw something we liked, we would buy it, for there was no time for re-visiting or comparison shopping.

And shop we did!  We were so focused we took hardly any photos...
... two of the streetscape...
  and one of the lotuses flowering in the lake.

We found Joma's after a while and stopped for brunch... couldn't help missing Will. He used to love this place and spent many a Monday vegeing out here. I think he will be back one day... Việt Nam has a way of capturing your heart...

We had a seriously successful day of shopping. At this gorgeous silk shop Hannah bought a stunning silk patchwork quilt for her bed with matching cushions and pillowslips which are to die for.  By 3.30 pm we had crossed off all the names on our lists (amazing!) and that's when Xuân casually mentioned that his feet were in agony!  He had been a fabulous help translating for us and bargaining down the prices, making the whole experience so much easier for us!  We went to Tandor Indian Restaurant and had an absolutely delicious early dinner, then caught a taxi to the bus station.

So many packages to squeeze onto the bus ... VERY pleased with our efforts!

And here's all the stuff we bought... so many great gifts!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Couldn't even see Núi Voi!

Today we wanted to climb Núi Voi - Elephant Mountain.  So a convoy gathered at my place bright and early.  A quick round of darts while we were waiting for the stragglers... (see the dart in flight?)

Tuấn Anh scored a bulls eye!

It was cold and overcast as we mounted up and set out for Vinh's place at An Lão. I was on behind Khánh, Hannah was with Dương, Katie behind Thành, and the fourth bike was Tuấn Anh and Xuân. We got separated into two groups on the way there and took the wrong exit on a roundabout, so we ended up miles in the wrong direction. Dương and Hannah were following us. It began to rain in a light mist, but the roads we travelled were very muddy. After about half an hour going the wrong way Xuân called us to find out where we were ... they had been waiting at Vinh's turn-off for ages and were beginning to worry.  Praise God he did!!! We turned around and went back... getting wetter and colder and muddier - but at least we were headed the right way.   Eventually we caught up with the others and arrived at Vinh's place much later than we planned.  Hannah and I had to hose the mud off the back of our pants legs before we could go into the house.. LOL !

As soon as we arrived, Bich gave Katie the baby to hold, much to her delight!

Katie and Hannah with Vinh's wife, Bich

..............................Xuân,  Tuấn Anh, Nam, Thành, Dương and  Khánh

Bich and Vinh's mother had prepared an absolutely delicious meal for our lunch.

Nam is very small for his age, but this is one cool trick!

There was no way we were going to climb Núi Voi today ... the cloud cover was so low you couldn't see anything and it would have been wet and treacherous underfoot.  So we went for a ride to look around... 
How cool is this for an over-the-shoulder-and-hope-for-the-best photo!!

We stopped at a quaint little temple and took a heap of photos




Vinh and Khánh - old classmates

Tuấn Anh, Katie, Xuân, Thành, Dương,  Vinh, me and Hannah

...a couple of scenic shots...

Then we went to the Community House near the base of Núi Voi for a look.

This lady came and let us in and answered our questions.

This building at the back stands in front of an interesting cave you can see behind Xuân...

Aren't the aerial roots on this tree amazing!

Particularly fascinating was this band of ancient oysters about 1.5m above the cave floor.  
This whole area must have been under seawater for this have occurred - pretty mind-boggling!

It was misting rain again as we left

These roadworks had made mush of the road to the base of Elephant Mountain and only Khánh was prepared to try and navigate it. We slipped and skidded our way to the beginning of the steps that wind up the mountain and realised that none of the others had followed us through the mud. So we slipped and skidded our way back again. It was an impressive feat of strength and skill to keep our bike upright - we could have ended up in the mud so very easily!

And there our adventure ended... Núi Voi shrouded in cloud.  We resolved to come again next year and have another go. But today was not the day for climbing mountains....  but hey, we had a great day anyway!

That night Katie, Hannah and I went to Đồ Sơn with Gene to her favourite  restaurant for Tamarind Crab. I think maybe we were the only customers in all of Đồ Sơn, for the restaurants all looked deserted on this cold, bleak night.  We feasted on crab and just came home (by taxi).  It was good, but not as delicious as the crab we enjoyed on the boat!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Goodbye Texas Girls

I went to Vimaru and collected my pay this morning - I asked Mr Cường to wait for me so he could take me to VAIE, but it took too long, so he left! That meant I had to walk to VAIE  and although I got there before 11am as arranged, the accountant had already left... spewing! So that meant having to rearrange the afternoon to fit in another trip back again.

Anyway, it's Wednesday ... Texas BarBQ day, so I walked to Paragon and sat cogitating over a cup of coffee while I waited for mid-day. Katie and Hannah came along and several of the regular girls - Hannah, Maritha, Jutta, Caroline, Christina, Gene and Estera. I enjoyed the usual lunch - chicken fajitas - one last time... 

Then we jumped in a taxi and headed for Big C. The girls wanted to get coffee and coffee drip cups to take home. We had to postpone a visit to Toni's kindergarten because we ran out of time and I had to go back to VAIE to collect my pay.

That evening was a girl's night out for the Texas girls, so we put on our glad rags and caught a taxi to Harbour View Hotel.

Ushi (Switzeralnd), Jutta (Germany), Maritha (Sweden) and Hannah (Wales)

Me with Caroline (Belgium) and Christina (Brazil)

The girls gave me this beautiful book as a momento. It is full of exquisite water-colour illustrations, history and legends, and vibrant descriptions of life in Việt Nam... perfect!

After drinks at Harbour View we went to BKK for dinner... Melissa and Mel joined us there for a very pleasant meal.

It was beginning to rain as we gathered for a photo. You can see the raindrops!

Some of the girls went on to Julie's Bar after dinner, but we had an early start planned for the morning, so we came home around 10ish... full and happy.