Friday, February 25, 2011

Vietnam and Cambodia part 1

Close readers will know that we took a family trip to visit family in Vietnam at the beginning of February with a side trip to Cambodia. Had we taken this trip 15 years ago, we would not be faced with the problem that's giving me travelogue writing block: 800 photos. It's so daunting to filter through all of those and come up with smaller sets that depict our trip without subjecting you to a moment-by-moment documentary.

I've decided to bite off a small chunk by writi
ng about our first few jet-lagged days in Saigon before heading up to Phnom Penh and the temples at Angkor.

We will forever have a skewed view of Saigon becau
se we were there at Tet, Vietnamese New Year. Holiday decorations adorned everything from public spaces to grocery stores to homes. Flower markets with a carnival atmosphere had sprung up in empty lots in the weeks before we got there.
Our boys with their cousins on a Tet display in District 1, downtown Saigon.
The four in Trevor & Colin's neighborhood flower market in Phu My Hung. Charlie & Teddy got Vietnam soccer kits as a present when we arrived.

Having left winter behind in Pittsburgh, we were psyched to have 90 degree swimming weather.We visited Benh Tanh market, an overwhelming collection of stalls selling everything from handicrafts to Dolce & Gabana (you buy? you buy?) to, well, pig snouts. Charlie took along this stuffed lamb as part of his school homework. Baa typically goes home on the weekend with a student, and the student journals about what Baa does with him/her and his/her family. Baa came with us, and Charlie wrote of Benh Tanh market that it is "a place where people insist that you buy their stuff", which was a succinctly apt description.

Considering we're reasonably foodie, we have reasonably little to say about our food experiences on this trip. Traveling with kids partially explains that. When they're tired and out of their comfort zone, sometimes we didn't push ourselves that far to experiment. We did go to a restaurant whose name I never quite new how to say, Nha Hang Ngon. My sister in law pronounced it something like it looks most of the time and then like the 70s hit television show Sha na na other times. The restaurateur has purportedly collected the best street food in Saigon and put it under one comfortable, lovely roof.

The yellow flowers outside the door were Tet decorations.
Sha na na featured very man;y cocktails.
The food was delicious but sometimes complicated for the jet-lagged. Lauren instructed us on what to put where and how to wrap things up in lettuce leaves and so forth.

The fam outside the People's Committee Building

The most strikingly constant attribute of time in Saigon is the traffic. Although it consists of everything from bikes to big trucks and buses, the vehicle of choice for every use is the moped. We saw two guys on two different occasions carrying a stack of flat screen TVs on the back and a case of beer in their laps on moped. My brother-in-law, Mike, explained that the beer was a gift for buying expensive electronics at Tet. We saw a glass-front cabinet between driver and passenger on one and, just for good measure, we saw a guy carrying a kitchen sink on the back of one, complete with long water pipes hanging out behind.

You'll see none of those in this video, but you'll see the startling volume of mopeds in District 1.


Lauren Jackson said...

Thanks for capturing the moped video. Also fun to relive those moments in Q1 together. We are so thankful that you decided to spend your vacation time and travel dollars (and probably some dollars earmarked for things other than travel) on this trip!

Paige said...

It was a great use of our time and money. The house will always be there to be improved. :)

Anne H. said...

I like your selection of photos, Jeff, and you're right. The streams of motor bike traffic are probably the most striking and ever-present thing about Saigon. I never tired of watching it and marveling at how close the vehicles and motorbikes came to each other, how they negotiated around and through each other, accompanied by constant honking.

You're also right about the name of that restaurant. What the heck is it called? Sha na na is as good a name as any, I guess. Whatever it's called, good food!