I had a really lovely Christmas vacation with Colleen and Kate, and while I am sad that they are no longer here and that I have to go back to work in 2 days, I am so thankful that I had this time with good friends. We had lots of great adventures and quiet days by the pool/ocean to recover. I am tanned, rejuvenated and ready to face semester 2. Or, I will be once I fight off this nasty cold that has decided to attack my body. Who gets a cold in the tropics?
While you would certainly be bored by the entire play by play of the trip, there were some highlights that must be mentioned.
On Christmas Eve, Kate and I went on a motorbike tour of the Mekong Delta with Phuc and Nghi. Phuc is a tour guide who has a friend in the States who was friends with Rena and Gary, my co-workers and neighbors. So now Phuc is practically employed by the staff of the school as our personal tour guide, and he is phenomenal. By the end of the tour, Kate and I were half in love him. It was great to get out of the city and Phuc took us to see several local businesses. We met an 85 year old woman who makes rice paper with her family, bought coconuts from a family who husks them to sell in Saigon, and we bought delicious coconut milk, rice, and bean treats wrapped in banana leaves. The best was riding through narrow little alleys surrounded by water and seeing how people live. We stopped for lunch and visited a local food market where we scored some more pomelo for Trang to chop up for us. Yum! By the time we arrived home our bums and hips were extremely sore from sitting on a motorbike for at least 8 hours, but we did the T25 stretch video and felt renewed.
On Christmas day, we made pancakes and mimosas for breakfast and then spent most of the day at the pool. That night we went downtown for a fancy dinner at the Refinery, and then walked around lots of construction until we ended up watching a blues band from New Orleans play at Broma, a rooftop bar. A very different Christmas than I am used to, but lovely in its own way. Kate and I both got some FaceTime with our families thanks to technology.
Then Kate and I had 2 more days before Colleen arrived, and we spent them shopping and cafe-hopping downtown and laying by the pool. We did manage to exercise and sleep well. Kate was divine company even when we weren’t doing the most exciting things.
On the 28th, I picked Colleen up early in the morning (2:30amish) and then brought her home for a bit of rest. When we woke up, we went to the spa for massages before she had to get back on a plane that evening for our trip to Hoi An. Hoi An is a coastal town in central Vietnam, and it was the place I was most excited to visit when I moved here. I had heard rave reviews, and it mostly lived up to its beloved reputation. The architecture was charming and the cool weather was pretty great (though I should have packed warmer clothes because apparently I find 70 degrees with a breeze very cold these days). Hoi An’s only drawback is the pushiness of people trying to sell things to tourists, but since we all bought some goods, I guess they are effective. The best day was when we went on a bike tour of the countryside. Our tour guides were amazing, and it was nice to get out into the rural areas and meet lots of local artisans and spend some time on the water. We stayed in Hoi An through New Year’s Day, and we all had lots of fun. We got a little chilly beach time and lots of time downtown. We even reunited with Alison, Greg, and Rebecca from work (and their moms) for NYE!
After returning from Hoi An, we only had Kate for one more day, and after that Coll and I spent lots of days downtown and lots of days by the pool. Our highlight was a motorbike tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. I haven’t done many historical explorations in Vietnam, and it seemed like it was time. The system of tunnels that the VietCong soldiers created and lived in was remarkable. I cannot imagine how they endured such small and dark places for such a long time. I was pretty shaken by the day and imagining what life was like for all the young men on both sides of the war. It is remarkable how forgiving and open the Vietnamese are just decades later, and I am glad that I can be part of the process of restoring positive relationships.
All in all, it was a great holiday, and ready or not work is coming. I hope you all had a joyous celebration of Christmas and are loving the start of 2015. I can’t wait to hear your stories of the holidays.