Monday, July 16, 2012

Another Night in 'Nam

We were up bright and early, though probably would have been more rested if there hadn't been some sort of strange singing being played over a loudspeaker somewhere in the middle of the night.  It legitimately sounded like someone was drowning very loud, very sick house cats and it went on for very much longer than I would have liked.

We spent some time at the front desk and with the help of such useful devices as charades, pictionary and my translator app, coordinated a ride to the nature preserve to go for a hike.  A taxi came to pick up Tara, Marissa, and me, but just as we were getting in to go up the road, a van flew past us in the opposite direction & we heard tires squealing and then this loud smacking sound.  We turned around and saw that the van had hit a woman on a motor scooter.  She had been thrown off of it and was lying in the road, not moving.  A bunch of people came running over to help and we saw someone on their phone calling for an ambulance.  We weren't sure if we should go try to do something too but our cab driver made us get in the car, so we have no idea what happened to her.  It was surreal and scary & the idea we had tossed around, of renting motorbikes if we couldn't do the hike, evaporated into the afternoon sky.

Our taxi driver took us, very slowly & while beeping like a mad man at any motorbikes within hearing distance, to the nature preserve office.  There a sweet, stylish little Vietnamese woman helped us figure out what hike we could do with our limited amount of time, provided us with a pretty useless map (all maps are pretty useless to me, but my companions confirmed that this one was in fact, truly useless) and sent us on our way.

After a considerable amount of searching, and one false alarm, we finally located the pink house that indicated the start of the trail.  You can bet that this pink house was not properly marked on said useless map.   As we headed up, it quickly became a pretty steep hike and we were sweaty (okay sweatier) and breathless in no time- my body rebelling at the first legitimate physical activity in days.

(Pictured here, upon our return, Marissa and I enjoy a birdbath facial, directly under the air conditioner while we wait to be sure we don't have heat exhaustion.)

It was nice to be in the jungle and enjoy the quiet for a bit, but we didn't get too far due to some time constraints that arose from the multiple times we had to stop and examine the map.  If we had it to do over again we probably would have tried to hike the day we got here and do the trail that led to a scenic vista & snorkeling lagoon.  Maybe next time Con Dao.

Back on the main road, we stopped at a little house that was selling cookies, chips, etc  and bought some pandan pirouettes that, while delicious, were really just a way to get in the house so we could use the phone and get our cab driver to come and pick our sweaty asses up there instead of back at the national park office.   I'm still not entirely sure how we managed to convey this to both the owner and the cab driver and it actually happened but the owner was very hospitable and invited us (still via charades) to sit and watch a Japanese movie, dubbed in Vietnamese, with him and engage in some more pantomimed conversation while we waited.

We ended up being a little late leaving for the airport and I actually thought that we wouldn't get there at all because I was pretty sure they were going to find my body by the side of the road after being ejected from the seat-belt-less van going 90 miles an hour along hairpin turns.  But we made it one piece, making up for lost time & then some, and had a quick flight back to Ho Chi Minh.

Back in the city we checked in to the Empress Hotel, which wasn't anything terribly notable; it's claim to fame was being awarded something by Trip 1998.  We dropped our stuff and headed back to our favorite market for some more wandering around.

This time we were prepared for the early dining hours of Ho Chi Minh and after some pre-dinner drinks at a pretty posh Thai restaurant (which we knew was posh because they brought us actual cloth napkins for us to wipe ourselves down with- aka the birdbath) we made our way over to Huong Lai- the restaurant that Nattie and I had tried to dine at on my birthday.  This place was great, it has open air loft seating and not only is the space beautiful, the concept is as well.  All the employees of the restaurant are disadvantaged youth, who are training to work in the service industry so they will have a way of supporting themselves.  We did a prix fix and all of our dishes were great- with the exception of my dessert, but that is my own fault for choosing some sort of strange red bean pudding because it sounded the most exotic.  Exotic it was, tasty it wasn't.

The dessert fail turned out just as well because that meant I had room for one of these adorable little cupcakes from a shop that we passed by on our way to the Hoa Vien Brauhouse- that's right, we went to a German beer garden in Vietnam.  And I ate a cupcake of unknown ethnic background inside of it.

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