Last night we went out for dinner with some friends for samgyepsal. Nothing crazy there, a Korean pork BBQ.
Pretty tasty, pork wrapped in lettuce or sesame leaves with roasted garlic, bean sauce and other veggies. But the kicker was that one of the side dishes was boendegi.Bendegi is silkworm larvae and although I have seen it all over the place (the kids of Korea love the stuff!) I haven't tried it. So I HAD to do it this time. Pretty gross stuff. Tastes like it smells and it has a paticularly odd smell. So not trying that again. But the picture looks gross eh?
A little while back I took the plunge. I had heard about it and at first couldn't believe it. But it was true and I knew that at some time I would have to try it. So, with the companionship of two other brave souls I had my first helping of.... dog soup.
No jokes. They eat dog here. Not your average Fido, Spot or Teebo but a specially bred variety for eating. Tasted not too bad actually. A little gamey but the spicey broth made it a nice winter dish.
So next on our brave adventurer's to-eat list is whale. Yeah, they eat that in Korea too. Oh yeah, and live baby octopus. What's the point of being here and not eating like they do, says I. Though Nolana seems to think a little differently.
On a completely unrelated note, the two other guys in the picture just bought the most adorable little Shitzu puppies this last weekend. Seriously, so cute.... though probably not very edible.
This, my friends, is my new wheels! 125 cc's of pure power. After 6 months of cabbing, bussing, and hoofing it we decided it was time for a scooter. Plus a couple of our friends have one and we can do mini road trips and boot around together. I also aquired my Korean lisence and am thus feeling particular Korean.
And yet particularly Canadian. Finally, after 6 months of abstinence I was able to participate in a act so Canadian it is undeniable. Hockey Night in Canada. I found a way to stream some live sports games and had a friend (and Oilers fan) over to watch Flames vs. Oilers. Six months and it was my first game. Sweet bliss and the Flames managed to pull out a win. Nothing is better.
In other developments, our friend Nils was here from Victoria for a quick visit. He is teaching at a winter camp in Korea and managed to make his way to Ulsan for a visit. So nice to see a familiar face and catch up with how he is doing.
And a couple of us guys have started a bible study/discussion group where we are taking turns bringing issues and questions to the table and discussing. It has been a great mix of guys so far with everyone willing to discuss AND listen. So key. A wide range of perspectives and I can see how it is going to stretch everyone.
That's all for now, another update in the near future.
Our last stretch of time in Vietnam was spent in the grandeur of Ha Long Bay. It was phenomenal. It is a bay with over 3,000 small island of limestone mountain and forest, speckeled with white beaches and great views.
The wind and waves have carved out lots of caves and lagoons and we were off an a boating and kayaking trip to see it all!
The first day we met our guide (#1) and took our drive to the boat. We got there and had the first of our feasts on the boat. Fresh crab, chicken, fish, pork and veggies, bok, choy, etc... Wow. We had payed a bit more and got the whole boat to ourselves for the trip. We had it so good, so much food, our guide, the crew and the run of the boat (see #2). We took off among the misty mountains (the season was cool so it was kinda foggy the whole time) and headed for a large underground cave (see #3 and 4). It was incredible. All these crazy formations and absolutely huge! It took us close to 45 minutes to walk through it all. We went for a quick hike to the top of one mountain (where we took the pics above) and then for a quick night kayak into a lagoon (see #5). All among the mountains are caves and some of them lead into enclosed lagoons. A lake of sorts with mountains all around with the cave as the only way in. It was silent and peaceful. Spent the night on the boat.
The next day we spent kayaking. The highlight was one set of caves. We came on the opening and we could see monkeys rustling the trees and could hear them.It was a large cave...and led into an enclosed lagoon. Silent and peaceful except for the chattering of monkeys.
We paddled into a couple of these but this one was especially amazing because within the one cave/lagoon was another cave/lagoon.It was a smaller opening in the one corner (you can see the guide going through in the first picture) and you went through into another completely enclosed, misty lagoon.Ha Long Bay claims to be the only place in the world like this and I have no doubt it is. It was so awe inspiring to be in this phenomenal natural creation, paddling through the mist into caves that led to secluded lagoons. It was like discovering just how amazing God had created this world for the first time. There for us to discover.
We paddled around alot that day
and saw some pretty amazing things. More caves and openings with bottoms of coral (#7), floating villiages where people live pretty much on a raft and go fishing, etc... (#8) but amazingly they have TV! We also saw a pearl farm and in general just so much natural beauty.
We head back to the boat and spent a fairly quiet New Year's Eve on the boat. A nice dinner and then a drink with the crew of the boat, sampling some Vietnamese Rice Wine which has a serious kick to it. Crashed early, the first New Years I haven't rung in. The next day we sailed around a bit more, stopped at one beach to relax, docked and then headed back to Hanoi.
We spent the majority of a day in Hanoi shopping and relaxing, then in the evening flew to Ho Chi Minh before flying back to Seoul during the night. After a super tight connection in Seoul which we made thanks to our taxi driver hitting speeds of 150 km/h we arrived back home about 10am, changed and went straight to work. Another amazing holiday concluded.
Hope you enjoyed the pictures.
and an old pagoda statue on the other end which is a symbol of Hanoi.We saw sights such as an old French cathedral...and we took in a cultural experience and watched the famed Vietnamese water puppets, an acient art using traditional music, puppets and... water.The puppets were actually really neat and as you can see in the last picture when the curtain is raised, they operate them with poles from behind. Pretty impressive.
More than all the sights we were always taking pictures of the city and how the people lived. Everything is just so different from what we're used to in Canada or Korea. People all ride scooters/motorbikes. They are family vehicles, cargo vehicles, farm vehicles, taxis... everything.
We saw anything and everything on scooters: statues, paintings, two dozen chickens, an already gutted pig...
The Vietnamese building style is tall and narrow which gives the city a unique style and shape. Much more scattered and varied... and colorful.
It was not uncommon to see a solitary builidng, 4 floors high and only one room wide. Building up gives more room for more people to build.
Everyone shops in markets or even better from the vendors who roam the streets.
Here are strawberries, oranges and the basket at the back is roses. You can buy anything from underwear to vegetables from a vendor.
We enjoyed the city but were more fond of the open spaces. But this is how a majority of Vietnamese live, bustling from dawn to late at night in the hectic pace of the city. Scootering to work and navigating the busy alleys of old Hanoi. One last pic of us taking a cyclo ride in the city... I felt like a lame tourist! I guess it's okay to be a tourist sometimes....
That evening we caught the train for Hoi An. I had read about the train and that was one of the things that had first piqued my interest in Vietnam. The train goes from bottom to top and you get to see quite a bit of the country. It wasn't glamorous digs but we lucked out and had a room to ourselves for both legs of our journey.
In fact at times, it was downright unglamorous... like when you had to use the toilet....Oh well, we're getting a little more used to the squat that is so common here in Asia.
But the scenery really was impressive. The first leg from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An was through endlessly green rice fields, small towns and meandering water buffalo.
We saw the average farmer Joe going about his day and it really was beautiful. Saw the girls in their traditional dress riding along dirt roads to school.
We arrived in Hoi An about noon the next day and had a full 24 hours to explore the town. It really was a quiant little place. The old quarter has all been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is all small little streets and buildings left over from the French colonial era in Vietnam. Survived the war intact and now is home to tourists and as much tailor made silk as one could ever want.
We wandered the streets and sat in cafes overlooking the river, sipping Vietnamese iced coffees (they have great coffee there!).Nolana loved the shopping there. You could get clothes tailor made for cheap and there were silk shops everywhere. She even suckered me into getting us silk house coats made. I've never even ever worn a house coat! I call this the effect of domestication! We enjoyed our short time there and the next day headed off again on the train.
The section of the train ride after Hoi An was gorgeous! The train picked its way through the mountains, all the while trailing along the Vietnamese coastline.Rugged coastline edged by forest/jungle with the occasional break of deserted white beaches.We had the afternoon just watching out the window and then crashed, waking up in Hanoi. All in all the train ride was about 32 hours long but we timed it well. Twice through the night but also with some daylight to enjoy the scenery. Totally cool and we would love to do that again!
We arrived in Saigon for a quick stay, just an evening and we went out and had our first encounter with Vietnamese traffic.
It's 95% motorbikes/scooters and 100% mayhem. They don't stop and if you want to cross the road you just have to step out knowing that they will go around you. Nolana was especially sketched by this at first, clutching my arm everytime we crossed the street. By the end we were pros and just jumped out, ignoring the beeps and people all around. We browsed the market and ate at the street vendors. Coconuts, spring rolls, shrimp... big shrimp!We had so many prawns and spring rolls and seafood... the food was just so amazing in Vietnam!
Early the next morning we headed off for the small island of Phu Quoc for some R&R. It was advertised as beach and well... beach. Much more undeveloped than alot of the other main beach areas in this part of the world (read: Thailand, Boacay, etc...) It was phenomenal. Pretty much my top spot. We relaxed on the beach which was pretty quiet. Bought 65 cent pineapple which was carved up in front of you by the ladies who walked the beach. Swam, did some snorkelling, ate some good food. Enjoyed some great sunsets just sitting on a beach chair. Wow.
We also spent our Christmas here. Didn't much feel like Christmas but it turned out to be a fantastic day. We rented a motorbike and headed off down the dirt road, seeking out deserted beaches and to see life away from the tourist spread (as meagre as it was). Nolana especially wanted pics of the people. We thought they were super friendly, laid back people and loved our time with them. I could picture myself living in a hut on the beach, catching fish, growing veggies, reading and caring less what happened in the world at large... kinda like I am sure they do.Nolana especially liked the kids who were riding their bikes around, playing soccer barefoot and always had time to wave to us as we went by.
We found our secluded beaches...... with nothing but palm trees and sand. Not a person around except maybe boys swimming off a fishing boat a little ways off. We rode back and watched the sunset from the beach. And it was no simple sunset. It was phenomenal. A sunset like none other that seemed to go on forever. They are so good I am leaving those 3 pics for a seperate post (which I am now realizing will show up first... darn). It was amazing. We sat and watched it and then went back for a dip in the dying pink light. What a Christmas!