The 18 Days of Christmas

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.


So peaceful and green


Kate with Phuc


rice paper drying in the sun


The man mixing up the milk and rice to make the rice paper


The dear old woman making the rice paper


Some of the finished products out to dry; the number of coconut husks was amazing. They use the coconut milk to cook the rice.


We visited a temple


I loved the view of the gardens


Lots of large statues. I really don’t know what they are about. I do like Kate’s braid in the shot though


Some lotus plants – this is the traditional flower of Vietnam


rolling leaves for the coconut/rice treats


passed some pigs on the road – I thought Dad would like this trailer


chopping down coconuts to sell on the streets of Saigon


one of the little towns we passed through


stretch break selfie


empty open roads


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.


My tree and poinsettia with some gifts!


Kate with some goods


Christmas = pool day


Merry Christmas selfie


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.


ladies who lunch


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!


Sleepy Colleen on her 2nd flight of the day. We loved the photo bomber in the next row.


I am pretty sure this was my favorite house in Hoi An, but there were so many good ones to choose from


pictures with some fruit sellers


both girls holding the traditional baskets


Kate being adorable by the bridge


we did a series of jump shots


Coll likes to stretch before jumping


lunch at Morning Glory was the best


I loved this Christmasy bike. Vietnam doesn’t decorate as early for Christmas, but they don’t just take it down the day after either.


by the river lighting some lanterns


It was nice to be near water again. After mountains, I like water the best.


We visited a boat maker.


and a circle boat maker. These circle boats were originally designed to look like baskets because the French would tax the Vietnamese who owned boats, but they could avoid the tax by claiming these boats were just large baskets. Genius.


We got to practice paddling the basket boats. It was hard


Coll posing with our dear guide


I was not the star basket boating pupil of the day. I needed much help to make it back to shore.


With our amazing biking tour guides Lily land Trinh.


Lily and Trinh giving us a language lesson


We went to see how rice wine was made, but I mostly loved the pigs on the farm.


Walking back to the boat at the end of our tour.


After the tour, we biked to the beach, and Kate practiced more jumps.


Our tour guide Lily came with us to work on her English. We adored her


The next day we returned to the beach to drink some coconuts and work on our tans. Only Kate actually swam in the ocean. Even though the water wasn’t too cold, the air was for me.


Kate and I lounging on a couch at Soul Kitchen, a beachside bar.


lots of water buffalo in Hoi An


getting ready for NYE


ringing in the new year with Trinh. Selfies are hard to take, so I forgot to smile.


another great house

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.


Coll on a cafe break downtown


Colleen and Phuc lead the way


passed a tractor


sometimes Phuc stops to point out strange sights


A tank at Cu Chi tunnels


Phuc showed us some milling equipment – all hand operated. I am glad Dad doesn’t have to use this.


level one of the tunnels


Colleen in the commanders’ headquarters.


a cabinet in the surgical room


The new dessert place in my building was very festive for the holidays


playing Farkel at a cafe. Thanks for the game, Rachel!


Having a drink before the AO show.


This is one of my favorite cafes in D1


We got lost on a walk and ended up beside a place called Chum coffee. I loved it since I adore the Chumney family. I promise to take any visiting Chumney’s to this location even if it is all the way up in Phu Nhuan district. Good thing Colleen likes to walk as much as I do.

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.





1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed your trips with the gals. Also, glad to see the captions as some of them on facebook postings were a puzzle. I was sure the “rice paper” was some kind of flat bread. So much for that idea. Temperature eased up a bit but we’re getting a bit of freezing precip this morning (12th). Not too bad & I’m not going anywhere at the moment. Will see what happens later. I think we’re on the transition between rain and snow.


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