Thursday, March 19, 2015

Xin chao from Vietnam

Xin Chao (sounds like “sin chow”) or “Hello” from Vietnam. Vietnam is a fascinating country with a long history. For about 1000 years it was controlled by the Chinese, then 100 years by the French and then about 10 years of the American War (as it is called in Vietnam). It is finally governing itself. More than half the population was born after the American War.  

We have been to Vietnam a couple of times.  This time we decided to take a boat from Cambodia down the Mekong River to the Mekong Delta where there are many cities and villages.  The Mekong is the 12th longest river in the world and borders many countries. The Mekong Delta is called a “biological treasure trove” because over 10,000 new species have been recently discovered in the unexplored areas of the Delta. Where the Mekong River flows into the delta area the river divides into many branches – some are large rivers others very small
streams.  Along the river there are many rice fields and fishing villages. Many people live in houses on stilts because during the rainy season the Mekong River floods and during the hot, dry season it allows air to circulate under the house helping to keep it cool. We visited one small village where some people were playing marbles, a girl was weaving, a lady was selling soup, and others had small shops selling a variety of things.  We bought some delicious snacks from two girls. We visited a fish farm and a huge fresh food market where they sold fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and many other things. 

We decided to visit someplace different on this trip so we took a five-hour car ride east of Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon). Mui Ne is a beach destination on the South China Sea most famous with travelers who like to kite surf.  Kite surfing is an exciting sport
where people get up on a board like a surf board and are attached to a huge kite that zips them across the water. The waves and winds were strong so it is mainly for experts. It is very exciting but we only watched!  Less exciting but just as wonderful was watching the sun come up over the South China Sea.  It was especially interesting because the fishermen in
Mui Ne have unique boats.  They are round and reminded us of the nursery rhyme “Rub-a-dub-ub Three Men in a Tub” but most of the boats called coracle had one or two men in it.  Originally they were made
out of woven reeds but now they are fiberglass. Each morning hundreds of them would row out to check the nets for fish and then sell them it in the market.  We went to one fish market and they even had a small crocodile for sale.  We have eaten crocodile. Have you?  It doesn’t have must taste but it was good.

One day we took a tour to see a reclining Buddha 160-feet long and 36-feet high. A tram took us to a cable car that went through the forest to near the statue but there were still many steps to climb in order to see the statue. We also stopped at a dragon fruit farm.  Dragon fruit is good: red on the outside and white with tiny black seeds on the inside. 

Most countries have their own kind of money.  In Vietnam their money is called VND (New Vietnamese Dong). One US dollar is about the same as 0.000046 VND. If the T-shirt you want to buy in Vietnam is 300,000 VND how much would that be in US dollars?