Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Finally arrived

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

After a five hour flight from Korea, and quite possibly the slowest descent in aviation history, I made it to Vietnam. Dan had warned me about long wait times to get the visa. In Vietnam, you apply for a visa online. The company sends you a letter, and then you take that letter, your passport and your money to the Landing Visa window at the airport when you arrive. I paid $15 to get rushed through, although neither Dan nor I knew if this was a scam. He had told me to try to get to the window as quickly as possible.

I got stuck on the moving sidewalk behind the family with the two kids who were kicking me in the back the whole 5 hours on the flight. Gaah! I managed to dart around them between moving sidewalks and got to the Landing Visa window in front of our pack only to find that a couple of flights had arrived shortly before we did. I quickly figured out that getting the visa was like driving in New York City. You have to be assertive/borderline aggressive and jump in wherever you see a break. Make no hesitation. After a little back and forth and finding a place to wait among the hundred or so people there, my name was called immediately, and I was done. I guess the $15 did pay off. Yay!

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see my checked bag again. The last time I saw it was on the curb in Denver, and I’d spent 14 hours at the airport in Korea. Once again I was amazed by my good luck as my bag was one of the first out. I grabbed it and headed for customs. I put the bag on the conveyor belt and walked to the other side. I looked around to see if anyone wanted to talk to me. Nobody seemed to care what I was doing, so I grabbed my bag and went on out. That was easy enough. Dan was right there waiting for me, and after a quick hug, we were off to find a taxi to take us to his place.

Immediately I was amazed by the the amount of people and stuff that could be fit on a small scooter or motorbike. Stuff you see posted on YouTube or Facebook – it’s everywhere. A whole family on a bike with the woman on the back holding her bare butt baby off to the side in case it peed or whatever. More goods loaded on a scooter than I could fit in my car. I love the helmets they have that look like baseball caps and plan on getting one for my bicycle.

After getting to the house, we went out for lunch. Apparently 2:00 on Saturday afternoon is a bad time to look for food, but we finally came upon a woman with her grill on the street and got a plate of rice and a super tasty pork chop for around 90 cents each. That’s where I learned that when you’re done with a napkin or have bones or something else you aren’t going to eat, you throw it on the ground. If you don’t throw it on the ground, the waitress or proprietor throws it on the ground and is annoyed that you didn’t. It all gets swept up later.

After lunch, we stopped by a street vendor for a drink. The guy fills a cup up with ice and then sticks a piece of sugar cane into a grinder. The juice goes over the ice and that’s your drink. It’s really good. It isn’t nearly as sugary or syrupy as you would think. I plan on getting a video of the whole process sometime soon. Maybe later today, as it would be a good reason to get another drink. :-)

We came back to the house and talked for a while. I have a voice over IP device I brought with me so I could talk to Willie, but we needed a phone to plug into it. Dan went out and came back with a cheap imitation (Chinese) Hello Kitty! phone. He told me how you have to test everything before you buy it. I totally want to bring this POS back home with me as a souvenir.

We went out to dinner at a place around the corner. Dan’s been good about not ordering anything too weird. We had seafood fried rice, barbeque ribs (cooked out on the sidewalk), and this beef dish that was really good. Lots of cilantro and basil in Vietnam, which I love. There are also lots of strange fruits that I plan on trying before I leave. Most restaurants – all businesses really – are open to the road. At the restaurant, people pull their motorbikes inside and park them at the front of the restaurant. It’s kind of hard to see them in this picture, but they are between the last table and the door.

After dinner we stopped for dessert. It was another street vendor with a cart facing the street. You order and then go sit down at the tiny little plastic table with plastic kids chairs, all of which are pretty standard in Vietnam. I guess that’s fine if you’re a small Vietnamese person. Dan says you get used to it, and it’s been good for his back. Whatever. The desert has a bunch of stuff thrown in the glass, most of which are beans. There are some pieces of a jello-like substance as well. Ice is put on top, and then a coconut milk concoction is poured over that. I was a little scared, but Dan insisted it was good, so I tried. It was awesome. I also feel less guilty eating a dessert made with beans. I think I need to learn how to make this.

So that was yesterday’s adventure. I’m not sure what we’re doing today, but it’s great just to be hanging out with my kid. Even though it’s been three years, it’s like we saw each other yesterday. We talked about some of the stuff from the past – things we would have done differently, things we didn’t appreciate then but now realize what we had. No regrets so much, just acknowledgment and insight for the future. I know we’ve both changed our circumstances, but we’re still the same mother and son we always were together.