Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, July 09

Log Entry:

Vietnam (Part 3)

06/26/02

Today we rented a motorbike and headed out of Hoi An to explore some of the sights outside of town. We first headed north for about twenty kilometers, almost to the city of Danang, to visit the Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh So'n). Not quite mountains, but five big hills, they are named for the 'elements' of metal, wood, fire, earth, and water. The area is known for it's fine marble and several minig operations dotted the landscape. The roads leading up to the mountains were lined with shops selling marble products ranging from Buddha statues and animal figurines of every description to giant urns and pots. The Water Mountain (Ngon Thuy So'n) is the biggest and most interesting of the five hills, containing a pagoda and some cavern shrines, so we stopped there to have a look around.

As we approached the entrance, every marble shop owner was out on the street waving us down. We passed them all by until we could go no further and had to stop next to the last shop to park our motorbike. The owner, a middle-aged woman, rushed out to greet us and offer to watch our bike while we hiked around the mountain. I tried not to agree to anything, but smiled and locked up the bike a few meters from her storefront. A couple of other younger Vietnamese arnwomen soon came up and offered to let us borrow their hand drawn map of the trails and caves on the mountain for our hike. They seemed sincere as we probed them for the catch, so we took the map, paid the entrance fee, and headed up the mountain.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the various Buddhist cave shrines, the tall pagoda offering a nice view of the area, including the white sands of China Beach and the South China Sea just a kilometer to the east, and a Buddhist monastery. The highlights were climbing up through a narrow cavern known as the "Way to Heaven" (Dong Van Thong) for a superb view from the top of the mountain, meeting Peter, originally from New Jersey but now living in Hong Kong, along the way, and descending into Huyen Khong Cave, a large cavern dimly lit by natural holes in the ceiling and containing some shrines guarded by four eerie warrior statues.

As we came down off the mountain, we found ourselves at a different place than where we had started, requiring a short walk along the road back to our motorbike. Before we had walked very far, the two young Vietnamese women whose map we had borrowed rode up on two motorbikes and offered us a ride. We returned their map, and finally gave in to their persistence and accepted the ride. A minute later they managed to talk us into letting them take us to a small roadside restaurant where they obviously knew the owner. The place was empty, but we sat down and ordered and the two girls, seeing us securely in place, waved and rode off.

We ate a very average meal of rice, noodles, and vegetables, and then set off again to walk the rest of the way down the road to our bike. Once there, of course, the woman who had "watched our bike" for us gave us the hard sell on buying something from her shop. We obliged her by browsing for a few minutes, but seeing we weren't really interested, she became very aggressive, loudly pointing out what a service she had sone for us. Sue didn't like that at all and we saddled up and rode away amidst her protests.

From the Marble Mountains, we rode down a small and nearly deserted rode to China Beach. Once a landing site for US troops, the beach was now practically deserted. As we approached the beach we came to a few makeshift stands with tarpaulins stretched over them for shade scattered among the trees at the edge of the beach. The stands were selling drinks and fruit and the owners, mostly older women rose to greet us, practically running towards us and pushing each other out of the way in their attempts to have us park our bike under their respective tarps to be "watched" while we went to the beach. I managed (barely) to drive around all of them and found a neutral spot to park (or so I thought - several women still claimed they would be guarding the bike for us).

The beach itself was empty and peaceful except for eight sets of umbrellas and chairs directly in front and towards the water and a few fishing boats (well, more like fishing 'tubs', see picture) pulled up onto the beach here and there further along the beach in each direction. A couple of the umbrella and chair setups were occupied by other foreigners and we learned that using them involved paying the fruit and drinks women a few thousand dong. Considering the strength of the sun, this seemed like a good investment, despite the unlikelihood of those women owning or even having anything to do with the chairs and umbrellas.

We settled in and sure enough over the next few hours we were approached every few minutes by one or other of the fruit and drinks women, both trying to sell us their wares as well as requesting payment for the chair and umbrella use. Obviously a scam (as each woman tried her best to convince us that she was the real owner and should be the one to receive payment), we managed to postpone paying anything until we were leaving and then gave our money to the oldest, most matronly looking woman (amidst the cries and protests of the other women - "But mister!! I watch your bike so long!! You pay me! You pay ME!!!")

Despite all of that hassle, China Beach was a real gem. We were honestly surprised that more people were not there. The beach was clean and wide, backed by forest, and the water was warm and calm. We watched a few Vietnamese fisherman repairing their nets and launching their small boats into the ocean. We also saw a few people, fully clothed, wading knee to chest deep in the water while prodding the sand from side to side with long poles. We never saw them pick anything up, but I assumed they were clamming or collecting some kind of shellfish, although it sure looked like they were simply sweeping the ocean floor.

Late in the afternoon we headed back to Hoi An and before going back to the hotel decided to have a look at Cua Dia Beach, just a couple of kilometers from town and, according to the guidebook a much more popular choice for locals. Well, before even getting to the beach, we could see the guidebook was correct from the number of motorbikes parked along the street and in lots on the road leading in. The road was also flanked by a good number of hotels and restaurants and the place had a sort of Seaside Heights in summer feel to it. People were walking about everywhere.

The beach itself was very crowded; backed by beach bars sporting hundreds of umbrella and chair combos, and thousands of Vietnamese on holiday. We walked around a bit, letting that feeling of sure-glad-we-didn't-come-here-today sink in deep, had a very expensive beer at one of the beach bars and then headed back to where our motorbike was parked (in an official parking lot requiring payment). Along the way Sue stopped at a doughnut stall to buy some snacks and ended up getting yelled at by the largish doughnut lady after she attempted to bargain the price down a bit. Apparently, doughnuts are the only item in Vietnam that are non-negociable.

06/27/02

We had planned on leaving Hoi An today, but as I was looking through our bus tickets I realized that one was missing and we only had a single ticket to our next destination, Nha Trang. So early in the morning I went down to the local Sinh Cafe ticket office to try and work it out while Sue checked email.

After a bunch of explaining and phone calling to other offices, the guy at the Sinh Cafe managed to get me the missing ticket. He was surprisingly and unexpectedly helpful, as I had been fully expecting to have to shell out the money to buy the missing ticket. When I returned to the hotel, I found Suzanne very upset in the hotel room. She had just found out via email that her grandfather had passed away a couple of days earlier. We postponed our travel plans until evening and instead decided to rent a motorbike again and spend a quiet day by ourselves at China Beach.

We returned to the hotel late in the afternoon to shower and pick up our backpacks and then headed out on an overnight bus toward Nha Trang farther south along the coast.

06/28/02

We arrived in Nha Trang at 7:30 in the morning and found our way over to the Phu Quy Hotel and took a decent room for US$10. We recovered from the overnight bus ride for a while and then went out to have a look around.

Nha Trang, the "City of the Blue Sea" is pretty much the closest thing to a beach resort town in southern Vietnam. The road running parallel to the beachfront is home to a few large hotels, bars, and even a small amusement park. The beach was decent, but nowhere near as good as China Beach, in our opinion. It was fairly empty during the day, with the locals and Vietnamese vacationers preferring to come down later after the hot midday sun had passed. We hired an umbrella and chairs for a couple of hours and relaxed until late in the afternoon when the crowds started to descend.

We went back to the hotel and showered and then walked across town to a very untouristy area in search of a guidebook recommended restaurant known for serving a local specialty, nem nuoung - grilled pork and vegetables rolled in rice paper and dipped in fish sauce. After getting lost for a while, we found a man who spoke a bit of English to ask directions. He understood we were looking for nem nuoung, and suggested instead of the restaurant we were looking for that we go to the local favorite, a place called Dien Khan. We agreed and eventually found our way there. The restaurant had mostly outdoor seating and all of the long tables were packed with Vietnamese people, Vietnamese food, and Vietnamese beer. We didn't see any other foreign faces anywhere. A large posted menu listed four or five items, the topmost and apparently most popular choice being the nem nuong. We approached and caught the attention of a young waiter and asked if we could sit at a couple of available seats we saw. He looked at us curiously and slowly shook his head from side, then ran off. We were a bit taken aback and unsure of what to do. No one was paying any attention to us whatsoever. We decided to just sit down and flagged down another young girl on the kitchen staff. We managed to communicate that we wanted some nem nuong and two beers and she seemed to understand and hurried off. We finally realized that the first boy wasn't denying us a seat, he simply was shaking his head because he didn't understand what we were saying.

The food and beer arrived and we stuffed ourselves. As far as authentic Vietnamese food, we probably couldn't have done any better than that. After finishing all of nem nuong, I was feeling adventurous and, considering the purely local and untouristed atmosphere, decided to order another random choice from the menu. I flexed my culinary bravado and ordered up a round of something called "nem chua". A few minutes later a young boy brought out a plate of small bundles of banana leaves. I beamed at Sue in anticipation. Seeing that we obviously did not know what to do with it, he proceeded to demonstrate the proper technique for consumption. Unwrapping several layers of leaves revealed a lump pinkish meat, smelling slightly of ham. The boy indicated that we should dip it in the blazing hot sauce provided, pop it in our mouths, and chase it down with a large piece of raw garlic. We tried a few, and made the guarded observation that they were 'not bad'.

After leaving the restaurant, our curiousity needed satisfying, so we found an Internet cafe and spent a few minutes searching for "nem chua". We learned that we had just eaten raw pork, from the hindquarter no less. Basically, pig ass sushi. We haven't had any side effects yet, but we are daily awaiting the onslaught of trichinosis or maybe a friendly tapeworm. So much for adventurous eating.

(Sue has seemed particularly concerned about this health risk, so in an effort to downplay the possible danger, I have taken to asking "Time to feed the worm?" every time she has expressed a feeling of hunger. For some reason she has not once found it funny.)

We headed back toward our hotel and before turning stopped at a place nearby called "Piano Kem" which offers both piano lessons and ice cream. We opted for the latter and had the best mango shakes in the world.

06/29/02

In the morning we had breakfast on the sunny roof terrace of the hotel and then rented some decrepit bicycles to check out some areas outside of central Nha Trang.

Seeking a quieter, more scenic beach, we pedalled north for a few kilometers to the guidebook recommended Hong Chong promontory. After sweating our way up a few hills we reached the entrance to the promontory area, which required an entry fee of a few thousand dong, plus a few thousand more for parking our bicycles. We thought that was ridiculous, but since we had come so far, we simply voiced our opinion, paid the fees, and went in.

We did not have to go far before realizing that the guidebook had made a serious error on this one. The "beach" was virtually non-existant and located a good scramble down a rocky slope. The promontory itself was excruciatingly unscenic, consisting of an unsightly mass of discolored rocks, more blocking the view than anything else. Atop the slope overlooking the beach were built a few spartan restaurants, more like huts built on wooden platforms, complete with chairs for hire at the cost of an overpriced drink.

Within two minutes we were back at the entrance and politely asked for our money back as we would not be staying. The two women working there spoke little English and seemed not to understand. I again attempted a gentle explanation, but was denied. Sue tried a more agressive approach, which resulted in the women calling over another male staff member, I think he was the "watcher of the bicycles". They talked amongst themselves in Vietnamese, but the answer still came back as a resolute "No." This went on for a couple more minutes, ending in a good deal of shouting back and forth. Bearing in mind that the amount of money at stake here was less than US$2, the issue, as always, was mainly principle. That, and a culmination of third world travelling frustrations. We finally decided to cut our losses and rode off with Sue countering a barrage of Vietnamese shrieking with "Vietnam people bad! Vietnam people bad!" while I subtly slipped their stapler off the counter and tossed it into the woods.

In retrospect these outbursts were completely childish and wrong, and we did feel badly shortly afterward. However, it sure felt good at the moment and may in fact have been therapeutic to relieve some of our travel stress. Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it...

We rode back to the main beach in Nha Trang and again hired an umbrella and chairs for a few hours until the local crowds started gathering in the afternoon. We then toured the area south of town for a while before heading back to the hotel. After showering, we rode over to an Indian restaurant called Omar Khayyam´s for some amazing chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi cooked to order by the very friendly owner and then stopped by Piano Kem for some very good flan and the best mango shakes in the world.

06/30/02

In the morning we packed up our gear and caught the bus for the next stage of our Open Tour bus package to the city of Da Lat located in the cool, mountainous region of southern Vietnam. We were looking forward to spending a few days there before heading down into the heat and humidity of Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta.

We checked into another US$10 room at the Dreams Hotel, which had been recommended to us. The hotel was family-owned, the owners were very friendly, and they included free breakfast and free internet access in the evenings. Great deal.

After stowing our packs in our room, we headed out to explore Da Lat. The city was actually founded by the French in the early 1900s and due to the miniature "Da Lat Eiffel Tower" monument presiding over the cityscape, is known as ¨Le Petit Paris" (maybe just to the French, though). One of the girls working in the hostel had French and Vietnamese parents and had been travelling in Vietnam like ourselves but liked Da Lat so much that she decided to stay and had been working in the hotel for several months. She recommended a good local restaurant across the street called Nhat Ly and we took her advice and headed over for a great meal of Vietnamese soup and fried noodles with pork.

After eating we wandered over to what the guidebook map described at "Protestant Church" to find what was in fact the Vietnamese Evangelical Church with a service in progress. We could hear that the service was in Vietnamese and seemed very full so we hesitated before going in thinking it may be a wedding or private event. After a few minutes of sitting on the church steps, a Vietnamese woman walked up, obviously on her way inside, and starting talking with us in very good English. Her name was Khiem and she told us that the meeting was a youth service combining the local church youth and a visiting group from a church in Bac Lieu in the Mekong Delta. We went inside with her and after the service she introduced us to everyone and we shared a light meal of fruit (bananas and something called 'nhan') and a special cake made of beans and rice called 'banh in' while one of the youth, a college student named Oanh, attempted to teach me a few words in Vietnamese.

We made plans to join Khiem and the youth group the following day for a trip outside the city by bus to visit some of the surrounding sights and headed back to the hotel.

07/01/02

We rose early to eat our free breakfast at the hotel before joining the youth group and were very glad we did. The breakfast, served around a large table in the homey downstairs kitchen of the hotel, consisted of eggs cooked to order, fresh bread and butter, homemade jam, fruit, juice and coffee! I helped myself generously.

Khiem came by the hotel to get us (she turned out to be an acquaintance of the hotel owner) and we walked over to another of the church member's homes where all of the youth were staying. They were all very friendly and curious about the foreigners joining them on their trip! The bus arrived and we all boarded and headed out of Da Lat to Lake Tin Thua Lom. We walked along a ridge affording a nice view across the lake and the hills surrounding it and I stopped to take a picture. One of the youth worked up enough courage to ask if she could have a picture taken with Sue and I, and that opened up a whole floodgate of picture requests! We spent the next half hour posing for photos with just about each of the kids or groups of them and even some people who were not part of our group, but just happened to be visiting the lake also and wanted their picture taken with a foreigner. We felt like quite the celebrities.

After the photo shoot, we engaged in some games and activities organized by Mr. Du, the pastor of the church from Bac Lieu. During one such game, I had the opportunity to display my fine foot-hand coordination and perform a nice face plant into the ground (see video). I think the kids were impressed.

From the lake, we headed over to an old Catholic monastery which had been turned into a museum of sorts displaying a wide variety of taxidermically preserved animals in various states of decay. Here we again had the opportunity to have our pictures taken with various members of the youth group in front of stuffed birds, tigers, and a baby elephant.

In the afternoon we drove back to Da Lat and all piled into someone's house where lunch was served. After eating, Khiem and Oanh took Suzanne and I for a walk over to the town's central market so Sue could do some shopping and I could follow them around, looking for photo opportunities. Late in the afternoon we made our way back toward the hotel, grabbed a quick meal at the Nhat Ly restaurant, and then took advantage of our evening of free internet access.

07/02/02

Khiem had invited Suzanne and I over to her house for a homecooked meal today, so after breakfast she came by the hotel on her motorbike, picked me up, drove back to a food market near her house and then I returned to the hotel to pick up Sue. We joined Khiem at the market and she took Suzanne on a tour of the roadside fresh vegetable stands while I tried to take some pictures.

Khiem speaks, reads and writes English very well, and as a result has a job as a translator for some local missionaries. Her work involves heavy use of her home computer which she explained was not working so well lately and also needed a CDROM burner installed, so when we arrived back at her house I worked on fixing her computer while she gave Sue a lesson in Vietnamese cooking.

After a great meal of shrimp crackers, soup, stir-fried vegetables and rice, Khiem took us to a place called the Valley of Love (Thung Lung Tinh Yen), a scenic spot and popular with Vietnamese couples for strolling around the large lake. The real highlight was seeing the "Da Lat Cowboys", basically a bunch of skinny Vietnamese guys each dressed up like John Wayne, posing for photos and leading kids around on their horses.

For dinner, Sue and I walked over to the central market. We wandered through the food vendor area where different soups, rice and noodle dishes were being cooked in large pots and dished out to the hungry hordes squatting on tiny plastic stools situated around dozens of little tables. We observed for a while, and picked one table where a beef noodle soup was the specialty. The cook was happy to have us, we pointed to the pot, and within a couple of minutes had two steaming bowls of our own. It was good stuff, except for the chunks of congealed blood masquerading as pieces of beef. We let our Western tourist colors show and ate around them.

07/03/02

Today we borrowed one of Khiem's motorbikes and rode around town a bit to visit the Hang Nga Tru House Hotel, locally known as the "Crazy House". A local architect and daughter of former president Trong Chinh, Hang Nga designed a hotel resembling something out of Alice in Wonderland. From the looks of it, the hotel doesn't get many guests (it's a bit pricey), so they seem to make most of their money by charging people a few thousand dong to come in and have a look around. We spent a little while climbing through the twisting narrow staircases and exploring the bizzare rooms, each uniquely designed. Although interesting, we thought that even if we had the money to spend, we wouldn't want to stay there. The rooms were a bit drafty and cold and who would really want a bunch of foreigners like us constantly traipsing around the place?

After leaving the Crazy House, we got lost for a while and then found our way to a small Buddhist pagoda and monastery where the lone monk, supposedly quite a character who is well educated and speaks English, houses an impressive Vietnamese art collection. The place seemed deserted when we arrived, but I pushed open the large iron gate and walked up through an overgrown courtyard, up the wide stone steps, an knocked on the wooden door. Sue was a bit freaked out by the foreboding looks of the place and waited with the bike by the gate.

No one answered and after a couple of minutes I gave up, but as I was walking away, the door opened and an older man, clad in a red robe with a shaved head appeared. I said hello and haltingly tried to explain we were here to see the art collection. He considered me blankly for a minute while I smiled and tried to look worthy.

"Lunchtime. Come back later." And he shut the door.

I walked back out to where Sue was waiting. We considered making the treak all the way back later in the day, but unfortunately would not have the time. Actually, the place was a bit freaky and emanated a strange vibe, so we were not entirely disappointed.

We spent the rest of the day at Khiem's house, eating and talking and finishing up the repairs to her computer.

07/04/02

We caught the Open Tour bus from the hotel this morning for the last leg of our journey south through Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City, the former (and still locally known) Saigon. Viet Cong tanks crashed through the gates of Indpendence Palace on April 30, 1975 following the withdrawal of US forces from Saigon. With the declaration of a unified Vietnam, Communism flowed into the South and in the past quarter century one might expect the renamed Ho Chi Minh City to flow with the same reverant, oppressive undercurrent as Hanoi, but, quite to the contrary, we found HCMC alive and sizzling. Capitalism and Western influnce were clearly evident; Pepsi and Sony lit up on bright neon billboards, and KFC and Baskin-Robbins making appearances.

We settled in at the Hotel 64 in the backpacker ghetto along Bui Vien in District One (Quan Mot) of the city. We were greeted by the overly friendly and bubbly proprietoress, Anh. Besides having air-conditioning they also offered free breakfast and dinner. Our kind of place. Here's another sign of HCMC's progress - the hotel had a motorized winch to haul our backpacks up to the fifth floor instead of having to carry them up the stairs. Yes! In the evening we headed out to find the alleged modern cineplex in an actual shopping mall - and we found it! The Diamond Center mall was just as cosmopolitan as any mall back home, but unfortunately the "cineplex" only had two operational theatres and weren't playing anything recent. Well, it's a start.

07/05/02

In the morning we chowed on the free, but lame, breakfast of baguettes and jam. (In the hotel's guestbook someone had mentioned something about pancakes and we had our hopes up.) Then we sent off our passports with the everpresent and eversmiling Anh to be processed for Cambodian visas. We had a few days to kill.

We took a walk over to another district of the city to have a look at the outdoor "pet market". We expected a large, tent-covered affair, but instead found wide avenue with a concentration of pet shops, mostly birds and bird paraphenalia along one or two blocks. There were a few that also had dogs, but I am not convinced that they were being sold as pets and not dinner.

After the pet market we wandered through some small back alleys collecting a bagful of curious stares and then found our way to the large indoor Ben Thanh Market where you are as likely to buy some crap you've never seen before as to have your wallet stolen. I guarded mine carefully. Sue and I proceeded to get into a massive fight and blame everything on each other instead of our tired feet and growling stomachs. We came to our sensed and found a little cafe to relax with some fruit shakes and then Sue headed back to the hotel to cool off while I went to have a look at the Notre Dame Cathedral, a miniature (but still pretty enormous) version of that one in Paris. I even timed it right so as to arrive just at the beginning of a mass.

After our free dinner (greasy spring rolls and spicy soup) at the hotel, we took a walk over to a supermarket we had noted earlier in the day and bought some ice cream. Coconut flavored. Superb. Best in the world, for a supermarket brand. We spent the remainder of the evening at one of the several Internet cafes along our street writing email. At one point a loud and violent argument between two Vietnamese women broke out in front of the cafe. They went on and on, rather annoyingly and some men had to separate them. I went back to the hotel before Sue, but learned from her later that she managed to find out what it was all about. Apparently, one of the women borrowed a dish from the other several weeks ago and was just returning it then and the owner was not happy. Seems pretty trivial to me, but they sure spent a lot of energy and ruined a lot of innocent eardrums disagreeing about it.

07/06/02

Today we went on a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong to live in as well as move around troops and supplies during the war. Our guide was a veteran of the South Vietnamese army and he was passionate and informative. The tunnels are located in an area outside HCMC known as the Iron Triangle because of the amount and ineffectiveness of the ordnance which was dropped trying to destroy the tunnnel network. Our guide led us through the forest, past filled in bomb craters and collapsed tunnels, and into a few restored bunkers where gruesome looking "tiger traps" were on display. (These were the booby traps that largely consisted of a covered hole in the ground filled with some sort of spiked contraption to completely maim the victim.) All the while we were touring these things, there was the ominous sound of sporadic gunfire off in the distance. Obviously, it made the experience even more surreal and disturbing than it already was. Later in the tour we saw the cause - a shooting range where for about one dollar per round you could shoot off an M-16, AK-47, M-30, or an assortment of other pistols and rifles. In about ten seconds, one dullard of the tour group threw away about fifty dollars by squeezing the trigger of a big machine gun a little too hard.

The end of the tour consisted of actually half crawling and half walking while crouching down through one of the tunnels for about one hundred meters. Luckily Sue and I were among the first to go through because it was really hot down there. The people who came up at the end were soaked with sweat. It was a nightmare inside. Dark, tight, and extremely claustrophopic. Not something you want to do every day. Or any day.

After we returned to HCMC, the tour bus let us off at the War Remnants Museum for some further edification of the horribe atrocities of war. The museum, filled with a good amount of propaganda, contained a number of captured US tanks, planes, and artillery. But the main focus was a few large rooms filled with photographs of babies with birth defects caused by exposure to Agent Orange, people, many of them children, with various disabilities as a direct result of the war (Napalm burns, land mines, bombs, etc.), as well as explicit photos of dead and wounded civilians. It was depressing and disturbing and for sure not something you'd ever see in the United States, but it is something that needs to be seen.

07/07/02

We attended church this morning at the HCMC International Fellowship Church at the Saigon Prince Hotel where we met Peter and Priscilla, a couple of expats, now living and working in Vietnam. They have travelled and lived in several places around the world in the past few years and we had a lot to talk about. We joined them and a few other people from the church for lunch at an Italian place near our hotel.

07/08/02

We met Peter adnd Priscilla for lunch today at a restaurant run for the benefit of HCMC's street children. It is staffed by underprivileged kids, a lot of them recovering drug addicts, who are being given a second chance at life. The food and service was excellent.

The rest of the day we spent updating the web site and writing email.

07/09/02

Early in the morning we packed up our gear, got our freshly-visa'd passports back, and along with a handful of other foreigners boarded a small mini-van bound for the Vietnam-Cambodia border and then on to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The ride to the border took two or three hours and was reltively smooth. But as we approached, the terrain grew dryer and more desolate and as we entered immigration, we could see the the infamous dirt road beyond was going to be anything but smooth.


Pictures:


Marble Mountains (1), Da Nang




Marble Mountains (2), Da Nang




Marble Mountains (3), Da Nang




Marble Mountains (4), Da Nang




China Beach (1), Da Nang




China Beach (2), Da Nang




China Beach (3), Da Nang




China Beach (4), Da Nang




China Beach (5), Da Nang




China Beach (6), Da Nang




China Beach (7), Da Nang




Thu Bon River, Hoi An




Poklongarai Main Tower (1)




Poklongarai Main Tower (2)




Poklongarai Main Tower (3)




Dave and Little Buddy, Dalat




Sue and Oanh, Dalat




Dave and Big Buddy, Dalat




Dave and new happy friend, Dalat




Us with the pastor's family, Dalat




Sue and Dave, Dalat




Playing games at the lake, Da Lat




Little friends, Dalat




Sue, Dave, Khiem's mother, and Khiem in her house, Dalat




Downtown Dalat, "Le Petit Paris"




Sue and Khiem shopping at the market, Dalat




Sue helps to fry up some shrimp crackers in Khiem's kitchen, Dalat




Sue digs the rice cake, Dalat




Dave, Khiem, and Suzanne at Love Valley, Dalat




Vietnamese cowboy in Love Valley, Dalat




I have no idea what this is supposed to be so I will call it "Buddha goes to the Carnival", Dalat




Not really sure what this is either, but all the souvenir vendors in Dalat have them. I think it's some kind of wine. And a cobra eating a green krait.




This is a bit more tame... A spider eating a bee inside a pretty flower. (Dalat)




Protestant Church, Dalat




Making rice paper, Ho Chi Minh City




Model of a portion of the Cu Chi tunnel system used by the Viet Cong in the 'Iron Triangle'




Tunnel doorway, Cu Chi Tunnels




American tank near the Cu Chi Tunnels