planning a trip to Vietnam and are having difficulties
deciding where to go and what to do, what you cannot miss
and what to skip. From the feedbacks of our customers,
Cheap Vietnam Holidays would like to recommend some
activities considered by travellers as must-do's when you
are in Vietnam....
We have arrived
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Well, I'm in Saigon
now. Arrived yesterday Jan. 2nd at 11am (which was Jan 1st 11pm
US Eastern coast time, I believe). The Nguyne Retreat was such a challenging
experience and going from fasting, meditating, and taking a vow of silence for a
couple of days and then getting on a plane for over 20 hours and stopping in
Frankfurt, Singapore, and finally my destination, Saigon, has been a mental,
physical, and spiritual challenge. Just so you know from my own experience, be very
careful what you eat after you fast. I unfortunately wasn't careful and ate a
chocolate truffle, from a batch I whipped up myself, which made me sick on the
plane. Teale and I counted down to NYC New Year's time. It wasn't much of a party
blast as I was expecting for I could barely stand or ingest anything, let alone
stay conscious. The awesome Singapore Airlines flight attendant said, at least I
was getting out the bad stuff (purifying) for the New Year. I loved the way he
looked at it.
Well, knock on wood, I'm in Saigon now and I feel great. Unfortunately, my DP,
Teale got sick the day we arrived. No worries, she's feeling much better today.
FAMILY & LANGUAGE
My lovely extended family Uncle Phan, and Ba Yi Tuyet (my grandmother's sister) who
looks just like my grandmother (Ba Ngoai) who I plan on interviewing, and cousin
Mr. Khoa (her son-in-law), received us with loving embraces. I love how Ba Yi's
kisses on the cheeks, like my grandmother, who grabs my cheeks and sniffs them, I
love it! Language
was a big barrier for us to communicate but the love is felt
greatly. I also met Uncle Phan's daughter, Ms. Hanh and her little sixteen year old
niece who looked as hip as any of my New Yorker college students. I was actually
surprised how modern Vietnam is now since I last visited in '98. The Vietnamese
have progressed in such a short time. I dig Saigon and could live here for a few
months to learn the language and teach film courses (I will apply for Fulbright
Scholarships to work here and teach next year). I want to learn the Southern tongue
as opposed to the Northern, for obvious reasons, since my family is Southern. I
know basics like, 'yes', 'no', 'thank you', 'go eat', 'sit down', 'go to sleep',
'wash your face', all those things that your mom tells you to do in Vietnamese when
you are child. But I need to get a better handle on the language. People are really
cool and it doesn't seem to matter that we don't share the same language, there is
always a way to communicate. I heard somewhere a long time ago, that something like
70% or so of communication is non-verbal. You can really understand this when
immersed in Saigon. It also doesn't hurt that the young Viets are taught English in
Vietnam is not the same Vietnam I recall from 1998. It resembles something more
like Bangkok with much more commercialism and fruitful businesses everywhere, and a
lot technology too. I'm happy to see the country growing and the people prospering.
There's two sides to the prosperity as globalization and economic growth in
developing countries have clear dark sides (for example, Christmas consumerism is
at its' finest here - Christmas trees, pine branch garnishing, jingles, and
advertisements everywhere, just like in the States) but I'm happy to see the growth
since I understand the hardships the country has endured in the past---it's the
lesser of the two evils or extremes, I'd say. This is definitely up for a longer
intellectual/academic conversation which I don't wish to delve into right now and
need more time to reflect on the topic but that is my initial impression.
New York vs. Saigon
I feel very much at home here. It reminds me of New York except it's not a foot
culture or public transportation culture or a car culture. It's a motorbike culture
and I love it although a bit toxic (I need to buy a mask to cover my mouth and
nose). The weather is in the 80's and the people seem pretty chill. 1 USD = 16,000
VN Dongs. I can be fed all day on one dollar. Being anywhere else in the world
aside from NY (and maybe London) is soooo much more affordable. I can really
appreciate that, living on a low budget.
THE JOURNEY HAS JUST BEGUN...
Okay, well, I have to do some production planning and shopping around for extra
gear. Gonna catch a ride on a motorbike ($1 can get you anywhere you want to go!).
Next week we trek to Vinh Long (along the Mekong
Delta) where my grandmother and
her children and sister were pirated on a boat when she was fleeing from an area
that was being bombed by the French during WWII, will visit my ancestor's graves to
do an offering, and then to Chau Duc along the Vietnamese-Cambodian border to a
very spiritual and miraculous place, Sam Mountain, where a Quan Am (Quan Yin)
statue is located that saved my grandfather's life after WWII. There are many other
places to visit on this journey in South Vietnam since so much of my family's
history took place here.