Inspiring landscape, Pagodas and sweet moments today…

Hello everyone! Today was another educational day full of admiration for this country, people and landscape.  We woke at our usual 5am and went for a walk while it was still dark. We made our way the 3 blocks to the beach where the sun rose with pink clouds over the islands in the distance.  My phone was in the hotel room so I don’t have photos but it was pretty magical. The trees are perfectly manicured along the beach and people were doing Tai Chi and walking along the shore.  We placed our feet in the South China Sea and just watched. No Better way to begin our day. We had a private tour with a delightful and knowledgeable guide named Stephen.  We started with the Ancient Cham Pagodas here in Nha Trang built in approximately the 15th century. The Cham People are an indigenous group of which there are about 160,000 left in Vietnam. These Pagodas in Nha Trang are a mystery mainly because the brick that was used to build is unlike any other in the region. In fact, the Vietnam government wanted to repair some parts of this temple that was destroyed and, to this day, can’t figure out the exact technique for laying the brick nor the brick itself.  As with most Eastern sacred sites, exposed skin must be covered and shoes removed to enter the temple.

Today was overcast, cool and a light rain – a welcome break from the near 100F degrees of Saigon.

There were traditional Cham drummers and dancers that we were able to see and they are beautiful. Nearly a lost art.  And I am able to upload a video here!!

We then visited traditional musicians – all women – that were phenomenal.  The ancient instruments are in a class of their own.  Most don’t have an English word to describe.. with music, though, words typically fall short anyway.  I have some video here of the “stone piano” and a wind instrument that is marvelous.

We visited traditional mat makers- two sisters who never stopped smiling and they allowed me to try and help them.  They do everything by hand including dying these parts of a tree and making these mats.  Beautiful beautiful smiles.

We went to 3 Buddhist temples and very elaborate and exquisite statues that the country subsidizes- which meant Daddy climbed about 499 steps total ???.

The rice fields are the greenest green you can possibly imagine and what I learned there was something very special- there are mounds of soil which indicate a burial site in these rice paddies.  The four goals of a Vietnamese person are:  to be married, to have a first child, to have a grandchild and to die in the region or place where you were born.  So people are buried in these places because of this reason- not necessarily because of income or lack, thereof.

Our guide took us to have coffee in town (you know how much I love this coffee) and invited his 58 year old uncle to join us.  His uncle is familiar with Pleiku and that region as well as the military bases there.  I watched this sincere and fantasticly friendly man ask Daddy exactly where he was stationed in Pleiku and what he remembers in an effort to help  in making sure we found everything we are looking for there.  The terrain and city of Pleiku has changed in 50 years and this man spent about and hour with us hand drawing a map we could hand to our driver there to ensure we find our way.  He looked at Daddy and said, with smiling eyes, “It is very nice to meet you.”  He drew the map after asking details of Daddy’s memory then called a relative in Pleiku to ask for more information in case we needed.  This irony is not lost on us.  A Vietnamese man helping and American find where he was stationed in the war.  With the grace and generosity that I have rarely seen.  He then found a video on his iPad with Camp Holloway (American military base in Pleiku) and allowed Daddy to watch it saying he just wanted to help if he could. His name is Mr Dong and I wanted to hug him on behalf of humanity.  I didn’t, of course, as it’s considered pretty rude to touch another person here but he shook our hands and wished us luck on the journey.  Compassion at its most beautiful.  Expecting nothing in return and with no judgement.  My wish is that we can all be this sincere.

Daddy remembered the San Miguel beer from the Philippines while he was here so we walked to the beach and had that while watching the waves crash.

Tomorrow we take a car to Pleiku – we had to change plans a little because of time and are not going to Quy Nhon (Sorry Johnny!) but are headed the 7 hours straight to Pleiku.  More to come on that portion!! We love you and miss you all and thanks, as always, for the support.  Xoxo- Jarry

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Good Morning Vietnam- not just a great film…

We felt like Western food tonight so we went to Good Morning Vietnam– of course its an Italian restaurant featuring great pizza, steaks from New Zealand and Chianti.  Ha! It was awesome. The bill was only 1.2 million VND.  Makes us feel funny to see a dinner bill with six zeros.

The Russian influence here is very noticeable- in signage and shops and restaurants and people. It’s a very interesting environment all the way around.  A beautiful beach town with a very welcoming and relaxed vibe.

More from our tour tomorrow.  Much love ❤️ ??!!

Jarry

Nha Trang – Beach and built-in relaxation

We left a busy and bustling Saigon this morning and flew North to Nha Trang. It’s a beautiful & relaxing beach town about a 45 minute flight from HCMC.  Our hotel is quiet and nice with an infinity pool on the roof overlooking the South China Sea.

Daddy is in good spirits (albeit probably a little tired ’cause I’m a little tired too) and looking forward to our continuation North.  He drove here once from Pleiku via Quy Nhon to collect supplies while in service.

I planned the start in Saigon with all of our exciting exploring as a plan to not only show the growth of the country and an awesome welcome to Vietnam but also to prepare for coming North. My thought is that seeing the three distinct areas of Vietnam would also help Daddy break it all down a little and not be overwhelmed. The North, the middle and the South have different customs, foods and some language. Pleiku is in the highlands and located in a pretty remote and mountainous region. They have tea plantations and grow most of the incredible coffee for Vietnam. (For those of you who don’t know- forgive the assumption- Daddy was stationed in Pleiku for 13 months. He drove trucks from Pleiku to Quy Nhon, Kontum and the one-time trip to Nha Trang. He arrived into Saigon when he first got to Vietnam but only spent one night. He spent two more nights near Saigon in a graveyard with about 100 other GIs- one of the safest areas while the Army got it together with the thousands of new US troops arriving. He then was sent to Pleiku to hold the North VC back from going South).

We arrived to a light rain today in Nha Trang – about 7.5 hours’ drive from Pleiku.

I snapped this one photo of Daddy looking out from the plane window today at an area closer in terrain to where he spent his tour of duty.

We are here for two days and have a half day tour tomorrow so more updates then!! We love you all and miss you.

The Mekong, Coconut Candy made by hand and an island named Unicorn Island- all in one day!

We were scooped up by our tour this morning and driven to The Mekong Delta (about 1.5 hour drive).  Our guide was the greatest- offering knowledge about Vietnam, the Mekong and life as a 24 year old in Ho Chi Minh City.  Later in the tour, Daddy asked him where he was born and he (his name is Long Nguyen) replied…

“I was born in Pleiku”.  Of course he was!! He and Daddy were able to talk about the town of Pleiku now and how his Mother supported the South Vietnamese during the war in Pleiku.

So we got on a Sam Pan boat and were taken to another area where the women operate small fishing type boats by hand (see the photos below)…  they tell it all.

We had honey bee jasmine tea, listened to traditional folk Vietnamese singers, ate dragon fruit and jack fruit. We then rode on what Daddy called a Lambretta to a restaurant and had lunch. This area is extremely remote and has crocodiles, porcupines and-our favorite-cobra snakes. And coconuts growing in such abundance it’s surreal. Then we rode to an island where they make, by hand, coconut candy.  Daddy and I also got to taste an alcohol made from rice. It’s supposed to help sore muscles- only one shot each day. Inside the bottle was – get ready for this- a huge black scorpion AND A LARGE COBRA.  Apparently- the snake and scorpion venom slowly mix with the alcohol.  Larry La, help us explain this so my Mom doesn’t faint. ?  We only had one little shot and we are feeling good so all is great.

We just returned to the hotel where we are back on the roof and Daddy is enjoying a drink called “Rocket fuels”. He has earned it, for sure. Here’s some fantastic photos to describe our day: 

Easy like Sunday Morning …

I’d like to start today with an appreciation for the Commodores. Songs like Easy like Sunday Morning ?  Just brilliant.

Today is Sunday and we are getting ready for a day on the Mekong.  Next time you eat some rice, maybe think of these people who work to grow and harvest rice for our meals. Very kind and shows us how much we depend on each other around the world.  These photos should be awesome today- I will post them when we get back later today. Yay!

Photo of the morning- I call this one : Just Park It Anywhere (See boat up on the side of the river)

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend and thank you for reading the posts !  ❤?? Jarry

A little Cruise on the Saigon River, Vietnamese lunch and a high five to the whole Country.

Hello Saturday! We woke up at 5am (per usual so far), had more AMAZING coffee for an early breakfast and Daddy kicked off the day with Grilled Crocodile from the breakfast buffet.  Yup. Also scrambled eggs so that worked for me.  At 8 we were collected by a driver to go to our Saigon River breakfast Cruise.  We had the boat to ourselves!! A beautiful modified SamPan boat with our juice and breakfast ready to go.  We traveled slowly along the river and saw all of the extraordinary growth of Saigon – high rises, vacation homes, their shipping port (we assume lots of made in Vietnam items for Target and Walmart) 🙂 – ships headed to Cambodia and beyond.  We got back to the hotel and met Larry LA’s childhood friend Minh Hanh and she took us to a traditional Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. Always lots of vegetables, fish sauce, rice and crab and pork spring rolls.  Now we are sitting by the rooftop pool awaiting… wait for it… A massage !! Jet lag seems to have hit us today so we are chilling out.  Tomorrow is our Mekong Delta island hopping tour so we need our rest. I’m sure we will have some awesome photos from there – floating markets and rice farms- fruits and vegetables abound.  Also the local people are hard working and beautiful people so I shall bow my head to them in respect.

We love you all and miss you and thank you again for your notes and support and love!!!

Jarry ❤❤❤???????

 

One more thing about the Scooters…

Thank you all for your very sweet and support and comments. I wanted to add that you won’t see many photos of the streets of Saigon and on the scooters – it’s a little risky to have an iPhone out in my hand as it might get swiped so you’ll have to imagine a little using these photos as a true example of yesterday!! Our drivers were adorable and had zero fear. Brenda is exactly correct about it being a ballet mixed with maybe a bee hive and the Daytona 599 complete with horns of all makes and sounds.

Oh- and we each had a real coconut in our hands with a straw to drink WHILE WE WERE HOLDING ON TO THE DRIVER  Ha!

Scooters through Saigon!

Friday morning we walked to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and saw hundreds of school kids on a tour. They asked if they could take a photo with us because we are American. So adorable, these smiling kids. We took a photo with them, as well. We were then collected by two brave girls who put Daddy on the back of one scooter and I was on the other. We had an awesome day seeing the city the best way possible- on scooters! With over 9 million residents in Ho Chi Minh City- there are approximately 8 million scooters. These are an efficient and economical way to get around the city and they definitely have their own way to navigate that is amazing to see. As they both explained- you have to GO WITH THE FLOW – anyone who might try to battle the existing flow would cause inumerous issues. Much like life!

We saw the famous and beautiful Post Office, Notre Dam Cathedral- both built by the French in the 1800s. We drove to a coffee shop that has been operating since 1938 serving amazing coffee made in clay pots!!! I had about 5 coffees yesterday because I love it so much !! We drove to the flower area and saw lotus flowers, tuberoses, sunflowers – and the nicest man who said “Hello!” To Daddy then held out his hand to shake it and said “My friend”. Again- a beautiful moment with these lovely people. Then we enjoyed a local lunch (photo below), visited a Chinese Pagoda built in the 1300s, ate dessert of sticky rice and dragon fruit and was brought safely back to our hotel.  We had a cocktail at our hotel rooftop pool, Then we walked to the market and had dinner in District  3.   Today is a breakfast tour on the Saigon River and later meeting my Saigon Aunt, Minh Hanh (Larry La’s  good friend) for lunch. She promises to take us to a real Vietnam restaurant. 

Luke Briggs is turning 6 and it’s already 6am the next day in Saigon

“Today” is relative since today here is yesterday there to our Sweet Luke Briggs. Happy Birthday, Luke! We love you and miss you and six will be a magical age for you- I am sure of it.

It’s Friday morning here and Daddy is still asleep. I’m having the best coffee in the world- hands down- and the songs playing on the instrumental hotel  mix have been these two in a row:  “I miss you like crazy”(remember that 80s R&B tune?) and now “My heart will go on” from Titanic. I’m thinking these could be love songs from Daddy to this country.  Clearly not a “miss you like crazy” as in you would describe in the sense of reliving those years here but in the sense of wanting to see it again. And crazy may be accurate for his daughter placing him on a motorbike in saigon this morning for a tour of the city. Ha!  I’ll be on one too- not to worry. Driven by arguably the most amazing navigators on the planet. And now the song is “Nothing’s gonna change my love for you”. That’s right, Vietnam- nothing is gonna change our love for you. ?It just keeps going and it’s all just perfect. (And I woke at 3:17 am so I acknowledge that I may be making very little sense today.)

Congee for breakfast with the best coffee and music- I’m ready to punch the world in the face as my Grandfather says. Photos and update to come post-motorbike street tour. We miss you all and love you!! Jarry