Sunday, May 24, 2009

Xin chao from Vietnam

Xin chao! That is how we say "Hi" in Vietnam. It sounds like "sin chow."
Vietnam is a fascinating country. It suffered from war for hundreds of years including the war with the United States. Now the country is at peace and a wonderful place to visit. The largest city in the south is called Ho Chi Minh City. It used to be called Saigon but when peace came they renamed the city after the first president of the country, Ho Chi Minh. At the War Remnants Museum we saw photographs that made us very sad but we liked all the pictures made by students celebrating peace. There was a whole room of peace pictures plus a peace statue.

Walking back to our hotel we saw students getting out of school. Their parents pick them up on a motorbike. A new rule required them to wear a helmet. Also people often wear a facemask if they have a cold or are riding a motorbike. They don’t like to breathe the fumes.

We love Vietnamese food so we took a cooking lesson. Our guide, Ms. Phan showed us fruits and vegetables that they have in Vietnam. Some we had never seen before. She explained that most kitchens have a special place for the Three Kitchen Gods. These gods see everything that takes place and once a year report to the Jade Emperor in Heaven. On that day the Kitchen Gods are offered the best food and are presented with gifts. We made a whole meal and liked everything but especially the Sweet Green Bean Soup with Seaweed. It is a dessert and delicious. It can be served hot or poured over crushed ice. Sometimes looks and names can be deceiving.

We visited the city of Dalat which is different than most of Vietnam’s cities. It is located at 5000 feet so it is not hot and humid like most of the cities in the southern part of the country. The higher the elevation the cooler the weather. Another interesting fact is that it was never bombed during the war. There are many interesting things to see and do in Dalat. We took a long cable car ride to a mountaintop where there is a Buddhist monastery where people enjoy dressing up like royalty of years ago. The cable car went high over the forest that looked like the evergreen forests in America. Another fun experience was getting down to see the beautiful waterfalls. We sat is something like a sled attached to rails that curved first one way then the other making for a roller coaster-like ride to the bottom. It was exciting. Luckily we could use the brakes so we didn’t scare ourselves by going to fast. The waterfalls are beautiful so it was easy to understand why a local legend says it is where the fairies from heaven came to bath. Going back up on the coaster wasn’t as exciting but it was sure better than the 15-minute climb up the steps.
Our favorite building is called The Crazy House. It looks like Dr. Seuss created it. There are unexpected twists and turns. One part looks like giant tree roots have grown over it. The creator included a huge giraffe in one area and spider in another. It is a fun place to visit and it is not finished. We would like to return to see what else the architect creates.
The world is so interesting. Don’t you think so?