Phu Quoc 2

Put on your leathers and start your Hogs. The Vietnam Hell’s Angels have arrived. Which way to Sturgis?

While the guys are off to explore, Tina and I are going to spend time at the pool, and perhaps back to the beach.

I will have to admit that I am the one that had a crash on my scooter. It’s counterintuitive to me that exceleration is twist down. I was making a turn and wanted to slow. I twisted the wrong way and the scooter came out from under me. No harm but mightily embarrassing.

Jim and Emma ventured out to the center of the island to see some sights

Tina and I stayed by the pool. We met some interesting people pool side from all over the world.

  1. Arizona
  2. UK
  3. Germany
  4. Denmark

It was good to have a down day, and it was good that Jim and Emma were able to get away from parents for a while.

On our way to dinner

Made it to dinner OK. Great meal again.

Then the rain started. Had a delay getting the bill. There was a great soaking on the way back to the hotel on scooters.

There is a wedding at the facility next to where we are staying. I was asking the front desk about it. Here, a wedding is a two day event. We are fortunately at the opposite side of the resort, and they appear to be a lively bunch.

At home we sometimes respond to someone’s trivial complaint by responding “well, that is a first world problem”. Here, we have come to appreciate the meaning of that response. We are very blessed people. We can get anything we want when we want it. We have opportunities for education, and we can advance ourselves with hard work, some smarts and a little luck. Here life is hard, and it is a struggle to make a life for yourself and provide an opportunity for your children, unless you are part of the elite. Yes, there is an elite class here in the comunist workers paradise.

How very blessed I am to be able to send my children to elite schools and world class universities, to send them to foreign lands to study what they please. This blessing comes to sharp focus when, here in Vietnam, I see a child acting as a waitress in her family “restaurant” to get a little practice with English. I learned that English is taught here in high school but there is a lack of resources. It is mostly taught at home. It is, I believe, a universal truth that the first principal of being a parent is to do the best one can possibly do for your children.

Speaking of education, I was remarking to a fellow that the penmanship of the locals is very good. He pointed out that the Vietnamese alphabet is so complex with it’s dots, dashes and squiggles that good penmanship is a necessity. It is a complaint of mine that good penmanship is lost in US, and our devices are making it irrelevant.

The policies of the government appear to be bringing opportunity to the struggling proletariat. I am sure that there are some negatives that come along with this expansion. I pray that the decision makers are wise, considering of the less fortunate, and extending some of the largesse to them in ways that will be good for their children’s future.

I encounter few references to the American War. I was talking with a self proclaimed history buff from UK at the pool. (Well, where else do first world people discuss the finer points of the state of the world). Anyway, he pointed out that the American War was just the end of a seventy year struggle. We were just one more comparatively small step in their national history. That was enlightening to me as the Vietnam War looms so very large in my mind and I believe it was so very important in our national development.

I was reading today some old essays by Charles Krauthammer, pool side of course, I was reminded that Vietnam, like Korea, were hot spots in the extended Cold War. Although we eventually won the cold war, these two hot conflicts came to unsettling ends. In the case of Korea, a cease fire at the original boundary and for Vietnam, our pulling out in accordance with the Paris Pease Accords.

Would you believe it, I have a first world problem to deal with, we are low on toilet paper in our room. I do not believe I will complain mightily about this catastrophy.

Phu Quoc

If we were not remote enough in Hanoi, we are today heading to the island of Phu Quoc. It is off the southern coast of Vietnam, very close to Cambodia. We planned to go to Phu Quoc to get some beach weather. However, the weather here in the north has been really good. I understand that Phu Quoc is developing really fast and prices are rising tremendously. Again, it looks like we will be at the last affordable time. We shall soon see.

We have left a bunch of our gear at Emma’s apartment. We are still, in my opinion, lugging too much stuff.

Before we left, Jim got fitted for a new suit, his first tailor made one. The suits are really affordable in Hanoi. We had measurements today, and a fitting when we get back from Phu Quoc. The suit should be finished the day we leave. It should look pretty good if the display ones we saw are any indication. Jim had fun with the process and plans to wear it home.

We will be taking a local Vietnamese airline. Emma arranged for the tickets. She had to pay for them at the local K Mart. Interesting.

Well, we found that we were unceremoniously pushed to a later flight. No big deal. Boarding was a grand happening. Everyone gets into line then the Germans and the Chinese rush the flanks to get better spots. What a cluster, it was either orchestrated by P T Barnum or the three stooges. We all got on OK, and then the real show started. The flight attendants shunted individuals and groups around the plane. I don’t know what that was all about but fun to watch.

Made it to the resort, seems to be a good place. We are a short walk to a great beach.

We spent most of the day at the beach today. Did not take the phone so I was not able to take photos. Maybe I will be able to get one from Jim or Emma. It’s a typical beach scene, mostly Scandinavians and Russians on the beach. There is great food served from some locals on the beach.

I do not believe that there is a lot of multitasking here. It took an hour to get lunch from the gal on the beach. Emma just ordered a fruit plate when we returned to the pool, twenty minutes. Things are done precisely and one thing at a time. Not a problem if anticipated beforehand.

We went for dinner across the street from the resort. A very small family place. The children were doing homework on the main table when we arrived. The daughter was the waitress, nine years old and in her pajamas. A giant thunderstorm started; we were moved under a shelter. Had a wonderful home cooked meal.

I am truly blessed to be able to bring my family here. What a great experience for me and, I hope something positive for Emma to be able to share the country and people she has come to admire.

Halong Bay

Today we are on our way to Halong Bay where we will be doing an overnight cruise.

The first thing I will do is check the name of the boat. If it is the “Minnow” I am going to start lobbying to be Gilligan. I will lose that part to Jim who always gets the lead role. Tina and Emma will both want to be Maryanne. Tina will get that part as Emma will be cast as Ginger – alas, that is what happens when you dye your hair blond. So much for my pathetic try at humor.

The boat was named “Camilla,” by the way. The other passengers included a family from Texas and their friends, a family living in Ho Chi Minh City – the Dad is at the US State Dept there, a couple from Italy and a couple from Ireland. This is a small boat: they served copious amounts of food and our guide was a fellow named Tony, that cannot be his real name. Tony is great, very personable, funny and knowledgeable.

The tour we are doing of Halong Bay starts in Lan Ha Bay. This is supposed to be less crowded. It’s still touristy but the spectacular beauty of the place Trump’s anything negative. We were able to kayak in a sheltered bay and go through sea caves. Lucky travelers are able to see monkeys in the area. We did not see any monkeys.

Below are some pictures of the area. They do not adequately relate the beauty and serenity of the place.

Tina and I did tai chi and we all took a course on making spring rolls. Tina was the star.

We returned to Hanoi on Christmas Eve. We will be having dinner with Emma and her friend James who also works at her school.

The next day, Christmas, was spent in Hanoi. We spent some time shopping in the old quarter. We did not find much to buy, everything blurs into a sameness.

Had an early dinner with Emma and her friend Pearl.

I retired early. Jim and Tina joined Emma later this evening.

Tomorrow we are going to Phu Quoc, a new adventure

Spa treatments

Today was a day to get things done. We did the laundry, and shopped while waiting for the expedited wash to be completed. Later Tina and Emma went for a spa treatment. Jim and I had street food. It was really good, and I did not get sick. Jim got a shave and haircut. I thought it would take maybe half an hour as it is at home. It turned out to be quite a treatment. I suspect that he was not expecting such a production either. The hot towels after the shave took forty minutes.

Tonight we had dinner with Emma and a bunch of her friends. What a great group of young professionals. Pearl is a native Vietnamese educated in England. Pearl has a lovely BBC accent, which was initially a surprise when I first met her. Her grandfather fought in the American war. Davin and Kaylin are Canadian, she is from Toronto, and he is from Vancouver. They are both educators and their love of what they do flows out of them to all. It is truly pleasing to me that Emma has such great friends.

Dinner was at a place that is operated by a guy featured on Top Chef. Pearl chose the menu. It was a highlight of the trip. We must have been interesting patrons because the staff came to the table with Ruou Gao a Vietnamese rice wine to do a traditional toast – Mot, hi, ba, yo! “One, two, three, drink!”

We will then get ready for the trip to Halong Bay.

Still in Hanoi

Emma joined us this morning. Although we have started to rebel against museum’s, we did go to the Ho Chi Minh museum. Went to his mosuleum but did not get in as it is closed on Fridays. Uncle Ho seems to be quite the hero here. Scads of buses and lots of tours even though the mosuleum was closed, many were going to the gardens on the same location. The honor guard at the mosuleum was in splendid attire. Honoring Ho Chi Minh here is akin to our honoring George Washington. I was not comfortable taking photos here. I promised no more politics or downers so I will leave it at that.

I get the feeling that this country is breaking into prosperity. Prices are going up and there are a lot of western tourists.

Walked along a lake that had many pagodas. People were out enjoying the great weather. It must be a blessing in Budism to release a captured animal. A couple purchased turtles for their children to release in the lake. Vendors sell snails, turtles or fish to be let go into the water. The parents were more interested than the kids.

Christmas is much in evidence here; however, it is more in the background than in your face as it seems to be at home. Christmas music is in many restaurants and stores. Children have Santa outfits. Emma is doing Christmas activities with her class. Jim attended Emma’s class this afternoon. Emma did have to jump through some hoops to make this happen. This is a very regimented society like many other Asian countries.

We made plans to visit Halong Bay. An overnight on a boat should be fun. I am sure that this will be a very touristy thing, but it will be fun.

One can get really good deals on clothing here. Emma tells me that the low priced merchandise is not knockoff but over production. I bought a North Face jacket for the equivalent of $17. It lists in US for $199.

Have not ventured into the street food much yet. Emma tells me that the street food is famous and great. Perhaps I will get into it tomorrow.

First day

Emma came to our B+B this morning,
and it was great to see her. We spent most of the day together. We had breakfast at a somewhat western type of place.
, then saw some sights.

This is culturally as different from West Hartford as it can be. Also, the air quality is a challenge and traffic is truly amazing. The motorbikes swarm like bees. I commented to Emma that instead of fighting the war, we should have given them all cars. They would have done themselves in.

Went to the prison where John McCain was held, then to the Vietnam Women’s Museum. I was curious as to how the war would be presented. I should not have wondered as the answer is obvious and predictable. It is presented as it probably should to the people of Vietnam and visitors. The Hanoi Hilton was presented as Hogan’s Heroes light. Games, good times and great medical care. Seems like a missed opportunity to teach a lesson. The brutality of the French Colonial period was presented in stark images. Even the gilotine that was put to all too grim purposes.

Again I am going to stop the downers.

The food is wonderful, the experience is exotic, and the people are great. I have a feeling that we are seeing Vietnam’s transition to a prosperous nation. I sincerely hope that the native culture is not lost. It would be a shame to see it become something less; that is to say, commercialized.

Entrance to the Hanoi Hilton.
Typical scene


The three of us, Tina, Jim and I, are on our way. Julia Sauter was so kind as to take us with our luggage to the Hartford train station. Transferred to Metro North at New Haven and on to NYC where we will spend the night. I feel like I am on the Camino again.

Kind of an adventure getting through NYC. Decided to take the train to the airport then shuttle to hotel. Subway was an adventure since we hit the peak rush hour, 5:00 pm. But, made it to the hotel. Now just a shuttle to the airport in the morning. 7:00 am flight; suggestion is that we get there three hours before flight. Ouch!

First leg just about completed, heading into Seattle. Slept most of the way. Tina slept a lot as well. The next leg is the big one to Seoul, Korea.

Middle of the leg to Korea. Grief, this is a long trip. We have a grand visit planned with Emma and I am setting in the lap of luxury on this flight; I should not fuss about the flight. How must a new second lieutenant have felt on this same route to this same country fifty years ago. I am going to see my daughter he was going into harm’s way. No possible comparison.

Passed through the Seoul airport, what a beautiful airport. The kind but methodical people we’re great. Now looking forward to Hanoi.

Made it to Hanoi. Visa processing is cumbersome. Partly my fault for neglecting to get photos. They took them at visa desk, no issue. Emma had a driver for us at the airport. Got to the Airbnb. Nice place but little hot water. Have to remember that we are not in the Hamptons. Sleep tonight and adventure with Emma starts tomorrow.

Travel date is looming

I will soon be traveling to Vietnam with Tina and Jim to visit Emma. Time is becoming short and Delta is goofing around with the flight times and connections.

I previously wrote that Vietnam is large in my memory.  It is so significant that I am often not aware that others do not remember it as clearly. There are some 30 years between the Vietnam war and the birth of my children. As a comparison, Vietnam is in time to them what World War I was in time to me. So, I should not be surprised when there is little meaning to younger people, beyond a few paragraphs in a history book.

I am curious about the presentation of the war to the Vietnamese people.  I have read that the “American War” is presented in a very bad light.  After all, the history is written by the victors. I thought of this when I was reflecting on My Lai. As evil as that was, I am now feeling that putting that atrocity front and center in the U. S. conscience was the correct thing to do. I pray that doing so has lessened the possibility of a reoccurrence.  I am curious to see to how like occurrences on the other side are presented, if at all.

No more downers on this trip.  We leave in the morning. Looking forward to seeing Emma, warm weather and a mind expanding experience.

I plan take plenty of photos and will be loading them to this site.  However,  I do not believe I will be able to move them to the gallery that is viewable until I have access to a computer. However, the new WordPress editor may let me add them.  Or, my WordPress savvy daughter may educate me.