Monday, 29 April 2013

Weeks 46-48 food, motorbikes and hospitality = Holiday in Vietnam!

It's all about the food! 
Hey Everybody, well it's been a ridiculously crazy few weeks, with little sign of things letting up, so I thought I'd better share a little of a mind-blowing trip back to Vietnam, as it is inevitably part of the reason I am here in New Zealand! 

After working out in Romania and then Vietnam, I found myself presenting at the World OT conference in Chile, 2010, where I met a certain Merrolee Penman convinced me to then come and present at the NZ conference, which eventually led me to coming here to live and work! I have always had a strong personal desire to return to Vietnam, a land where my world view was dramatically challenged and where the people I met, had such a strong impact on my life that I had waited almost 5 years for the chance to return. - I was not disappointed.

The idea of spending just 2 weeks, in 3 cities, (Hanoi, Da Nang & Hoi An), including flights between the northern city of Hanoi, and Central Vietnam (Da Nang), meant that I was going to have had 10 flights in 17 days. Timing was essential, and fortunately, luck was on my side. 

After flying from Wellington-Auckland-Sydney-Taipai-Hanoi, I was a little tired, but even tiredness would not stop me from meeting my fiend Tinh, for the first time face-face, and us going exploring Vietnamese food, including Ice cream in a coconut!  
ice cream in coconut! 
My dear friends at the amazing NGO - Blue Dragon were also ready to meet up and after drinks with my friend Phuong, and her beautiful baby boy Tommy, we were joined by Hieu, Yen and some new friends too for dinner on a floating restaurant in the West Lake area. The night eventually ended up like all good nights with friends, in some form of club, (little room with terrible music), though that didn't stop us having fun! 
Hieu, Yen, Me & Phuong
A day long bus tour with 6 hours on a little coach and 2 hours in an even smaller boat with no chairs, was perhaps not the best idea after a night out, especially when the bus arrived 30 mins early, at 07:30 as I had just stepped out of the shower! Still, after circling the city for 45 mins at the start of the day, only to pick up the original passengers they left behind 45 mins earlier, we eventually headed out to a beautiful part of northern Vietnam... 
Tinh & Me on the boat!
2 Hr Boat ride...
More lunches with friends ensued before watching the water puppet show by the lake and getting ready to move on to central vietnam and my 2008 homes in Hoi An & Da Nang.

Returning to Central Vietnam was always going to provoke strong emotions, and within 30 mins of touching down at the New Da Nang airport I felt like I had never left. I recognised the streets and many of the pot holes that I used to hit on my motorbike on a regular basis - needless to say constipation was never an issue in the 8 months I lived there!
I quickly took in the scenes around Hoi An...
Hoi An
Hoi An 
Chickens at the market!
The night soon came as I had the chance to meet with some of my wonderful former colleagues, Lai & Phuong...
Lai & Me
Phuong  Me.
The next few days just flew by, mainly visiting old friends and neighbours, like Anh Mo who was teaching kids in her neighbourhood alongside working and studying.
Mo Anh & Me, 
My friend's little class! 
My former colleague Anh, was also on the list for catching up with, and a visit to her beautiful countryside home was well worth the distance to see her little girl...
Me & Phuong visiting Anh and her daughter.
Hoi An was providing me lots of opportunity to catch up with my wonderful neighbours, some of whom lived in the same place, and some of whom now lived in different parts of the city. My old next door neighbours; Huong & Quam now owned a gorgeous little restaurant called 'Chips & fish'. It does all kinds of food, and the food is beautiful, as are the owners. I also got to meet her son, who was not born during my last stay...
Huong's little one!
Houng ensuring I eat all my food! 
Me with Yen
With sisters 1&3
 Of course, Hoi An was home, but I was equally familiar with Da Nang where I had worked at the fantastic Bien Vien C (Hospital C) back in 2008, under the charge of a very forward thinking and lovely Doctor, Dr Binh. I had been to the hospital for an informal visit but later returned for an official visit, and to see how things had moved on. Of course it ended up in a beautiful and filling lunch and beers, but started with some funny reunions! 
Me with Dr Binh
Me and my physio colleagues...
Me with my wonderful OT student Hoai, and the now developing OT department!
Busy working with kids nowadays! 
Seeing such developments and changes, in both personnel and services made me feel very proud to have been the first overseas volunteer to start the project of development off, all thanks to Dr Binh. The invitations to lunches soon began, as did the adventures! 
The first adventure involved an unplanned stay in Da Nang due to very windy conditions preventing me form driving back to Hoi An for the night! To avoid betting any of my friends into trouble with the authorities, I will simply say staying overnight in local Vietnamese house can be challenging, you may be sharing a bed with a family member, or as in this case, find yourself covered by a pink mosquito net on the floor! 
I was very grateful for this protection!
Lunch with friends, in true VN style followed the next day, at my dear friend's house, (house of Hoai & Suu). I had loved the authentic VN experience last time around, and loved this one even more!
A gorgeous lunch - cam on Hoai! 
Me & Suu
An impromptu invitation to play football followed lunch, which I grabbed with both hands, though it was my feet that caused me the problems! A spare kit including boots were found for me, and my introduction into the game led me to make a fantastic tackle, preventing the other team's striker scoring a certain goal... unfortunately, my touch had taken the ball past my own goal-keeper and into my own goal - not the best introduction! 

Da Nang as a city has plenty to offer with beaches, 4 bridges, including the new colour changing 'Dragon Brdige'...
vietnamese fishing boats... 
Da Nang by night....
I certainly could not leave Da Nang, with out a final meal and much anticipated Karaoke session, and my friends at Hospital C did not disappoint, with a fitting last night out! 
Da Nang farewell dinner...
Da Nang farewell karaoke!
I managed to top score on Karaoke with 95/100 with barry Manilow's 'Copacabana', though I thought my Ronan Keating number deserved more than it got!

Having just about arrived in time in Hanoi, after a cancelled flight from Da Nang, I had one more final evening of fun with good friends from Blue Dragon, before returning to New Zealand. It was another fun night with mountains of food, including, chicken, fish, vegetables, and crickets! very tasty, crunchy crickets! 

Final goodbyes with Hanoi friends.
One last little thing to share with you all... a motorbike's view of Vietnam driving! 

Regards from New Zealand!

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