Once again I've been slacking on the blog front, so it's time to get you up to date! Since the last time I blogged I've had a couple awesome trips and even better, two AMAZING visitors.
Last month mom and Lindsey came to Vietnam to visit. It was so nice having them here for the week, and by the end I was no where ready for them to leave! They flew in late on a Friday night and picking them up from the airport alone was unreal. It was so great to see people from home, I was in serious need of a pick-me-up and seeing them was perfect! My mom is also amazing and brought me lots of goodies from home including clothes, food, toiletries, and goodies for my classroom. After unpacking all my stuff we didn't get to bed until nearly three in the morning and had to be up bright and early (5:30) to catch a flight down to Phu Quoc. When we arrived at our gorgeous hotel we were greeted with ginger iced tea and an assortment of yummy fruits before being shown to our room. Did I mention how amazing our room was? Because it was pretty spectacular! We had the biggest, most comfortable bed I've slept in since being in Nam, and that's just the beginning. We also had a huge, private outdoor area with a sunbathing area, a jacuzzi, an outdoor shower, and a big hangout area. The bathroom was also amazing with a big tub and another amazing shower. I think I could have stayed in the room the whole four days and I would have been completely content. The pool and beach at our resort were also gorgeous. The pool was a lovely infinity pool surrounded by super comfy lounge chairs that we made even more comfy when drinking yummy cocktails.
Our first two days on the island were spent lounging by the pool and catching up. Poor Lindsey was sick with sinus issues and a horrible ear infection, so we did leave on an adventure to a local Vietnamese doctor, which was a wild experience. An employee from the hotel accompanied us down to the local fish market, which is also where the "German" doctor was located. I thought he was simply being nice and taking us so we wouldn't get lost, however he was really there acting as the translator since the doctor, who was not German, spoke no English. Lindsey was examined in an open room with about six other Vietnamese people there to see the doctor as well, or with their children who were seeing doctor. After Lindsey was done, she was given a few baggies of about ten pills each and we were sent on our way. Not at all the typical doctor experience we are used to. But all is well that ends well, and eventually Lindsey got to feeling better before we had to fly back to the city.
On the second day we hired a car to drive us around the island to see all the sites. Michelle and her boyfriend Nate had also just arrived on the island and came with us. It was a lot of fun. We saw everything from a pepper farm, to a white sand beach, to a dried up waterfall and an old war camp. This was all for the low cost of $50 for eight full hours. Not too shabby! Our third day we spent snorkeling off of one the smaller islands about an hour by boat south of the main island. It was really fun and pretty cool that it was just the three of us and two tour guides. Sadly most of the coral was dead, but we did see some really beautifully colored coral. Our tour guide was pretty interesting in the sense that he some how kept finding pieces of coral that had "broken off," and then kept offering the coral to us as a gift. I use quotes there because I clearly watched him break the coral off on a couple of occasions. After seeing that I understood why so much of the coral was dead. While snorkeling was fun, the best part was stopping at a floating fish farm on the way back. We had driven by tons of what looked like floating shacks, but they were all fish farms.
It was really cool floating right up next to them, but it got even better when they invited us on to look. There were tons of Vietnamese locals digging through nets to get out tiny fish they had caught. They were getting small fish to feed the bigger fish that they were 'farming.' Many of the shacks are connected by planks and between the planks are huge nets deep in the water holding HUGE, scary looking fish. The fish are held there for up to a year because right now they aren't worth much in the markets, so they are catching smaller fish to keep feeding the bigger fish. It was super intimidating walking along the planks trying to keep your balance so you don't become fish food. It really was a special, once in a life time experience and the people on the boat were extremely friendly to let us 'on board.' I even got to feed a small fish to the bigger ones... that's right I touched a dead fish with my own bare hands. (Pause for reaction)
Our last day on Phu Quoc was a spa day for Lindsey and I. We spent a relaxing three hours at the spa being pampered and relaxing. Lindsey really enjoyed it, as it was her first time in a spa! Not a bad first experience, being pampered right on the beach while listening to the waves crash....
Late Wednesday afternoon we arrived back in Saigon and shortly after getting back to my apartment hopped back in a cab to meet up with Anh for some yummy Indian food at one of my favorite restaurants, Baba's (I should mention that I just finished eating Baba's for din din, so good. Thank goodness for Vietnammm.com food delivery on lazy Monday nights!). I am so excited my family got to meet Anh and vise-verse. After dinner we headed down to the Bin Than night market for some souvenir shopping. I think mom and Lindsey were a bit intimidated by all the bartering, but it was fun to have Anh to help with negotiating in Vietnamese... mine is still extremely rusty.
On Thursday we enjoyed an early lunch with my co-worker Hannah and her mom and then I dropped mom and Lindsey off at the War Remnants Museum. I had already been, and once was enough! While they were at the museum I went and booked tickets to the Cu Chi tunnels. A couple of hours later we met up at L'Usine for some yummy cup cakes and then headed back out for more shopping. This time, we shopped at the Tax Center, a big mall in district one where the top level is a market with all the same goodies as Bin Than. The Tax Center, however, is much less crowded, cheaper, and best of all, it has air con! This time it was my turn to show off my bartering skills.... which have gotten pretty good since moving here. I'm proud to say I saved Denise lots of mula! After we were all shopped out, we came home to change quick and then headed to Red Room for dinner with friends and some other parentals who were in town. It was another great chance for my real family to meet some of my Vietnam/AIS family who have become such a large part of my life.
On Friday the Miossi ladies head to the Cu Chi war tunnels. It was a hot, hot, hot day which was new for mom and Lindsey who had just left the cold, midwest weather, but we still had a great day. It was crazy seeing how tiny the old war tunnels were... especially after finding out the already small tunnels had been widened for tourists. It was amazing to think how so many people lived underground for such extended periods of time! After the tunnels I took the fam to see the school. I really wish they could have come to work with me on a day the kids were there, but it was still really fun to give them a tour and show them where I spend a great deal of my time here. For lunch we walked down to an awesome pork place down the street from school. It was yummy as always and it was fun eating more traditional Vietnamese food.
After a nice nap, I took mom and Lindsey to yet another favorite food spot, BBQ Garden. It is a an outdoor restaurant with tons of ferry lights hanging from all the trees and you order your food then cook it yourself at your table. It's a great atmosphere and the food is awesome. Lindsey and I dropped mom off at my apartment after eating and then headed down to the backpackers district for a night out with friends. It was fun going out with Lindsey and showing her the young night life in the city! However, it did result in a slow moving Saturday morning!
On Saturday we ordered breakfast in and vegged out for a while before heading back to Bin Than to get some last minute gifts. The day market is way different from the night market. Tons more people and it is SUPER stinky!!! Lots of fun is made there and tons of durian is sold. Durian, I should mention is the most foul smelling, gross tasting fruit in the world. You can smell it coming meters away! We did some more walking around, hung out at my apartment and had a lazy day after shopping and before heading out to our last dinner together at Jaspas, another Saigon favorite.
It was so great having my family here. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to have dad here! It was a sad goodbye, but knowing that I'd see them again in June made things a bit easier.
Well this is only part one... I also need to tell you all about my trip to Singapore last weekend, which was like a short trip back to America! Hope all is well wherever you are in the world. I'll now leave you with some more pics from our time together!
We hike for a good 20 minutes to see a waterfall... the actual waterfall was dried up (since it's dry season) but we did stumble upon this bad boy. Not bad for Lindsey's first waterfall! ;)
First time at a pagoda
What are you doing, Denise??