Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 33 - The Gorgeous, Lush Rice Terraces of Sapa, Vietnam!

I doubt I can really explain to you how beautiful it is here in Sapa, Vietnam, or even show you in pictures. I think it's something you have to see for yourself...

The train ride from Hanoi to Lao Cai was surprisingly good. It was definitely a class higher than the sleeping buses I got so accustomed to travel on. Each berth had 4 beds that were spacious enough to sleep comfortably. The movement of the train rocked me like a baby and I slept through most of the night.

Once we got to Lao Cai, we took a bus ride higher into the mountains to Sapa. The weather was cool and foggy for once in Vietnam! Along the way, we got a glimpse of what we would be expecting to see - Lush mountains and rice terraces surrounding us 360 degrees around. The higher we drove up, and the deeper we went into the mountains, the more alluring everything was.

The northern Vietnam area is home to many ethnic minorities that speak Vietnamese, but also their own languages. They come from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and the other surrounding areas. The way to tell each tribe apart from another is (aside from their physical features) by their clothing, which is usually very intricate and colorful. Most of the Sapa Village is inhabited by the Black Hmong group, and their clothing is usually Black. Other Hmong groups include the Red, Green, and Flower tribes.

Their lifestyle is very basic, with the women usually in town trying to sell merchandise to tourists, tending the rice terraces, or taking care of the children, while the men are usually taking care of the water buffalo and home, or driving motorbikes for tourists. Their diet consists mainly of rice and vegetables, and they obtain meet in the marketplaces.

After arrival at our hotel and breakfast, we headed on a 12km trek all the way down the mountains to the valley below. We had a black Hmong group accompany us and one of them spoke some English enough to explain some of our questions. Our tour group was small, consisting of two brothers from Australia, and a Fijian couple living in Australia, but of Indian descent. I liked that our group was small because it helped take away the "tourist" feel you get when you are in a large group. It also leads to less waiting around for laggers. It GREATLY helped that everyone was really friendly and talkative. You could easily get stuck with non-talkative or rude tour-mates, but I got lucky this time.

When we started our trek, a Black Hmong member walked alongside each of us and asked us basic questions like "What is your Name? How Old are you? Where are you from?" I really felt like they were very welcoming!

The trek down the mountains was incredible, because we were right beside the rice terraces and could see everything near and far, including the clouds that were both above and below us. The irrigation system is very extensive and complicated, and I could only imagine how long it must have taken to make it all work. Water was flowing non-stop from the top of the mountains down to the river below. Each terrace was filled with water to nourish the rice plants completely. I don't think I saw any error in the irrigation system. Everything was a deep green, and all the plants and vegetation looked healthy- No dry spots anywhere.

It took a while, and some help from the Black Hmong, to get down to the bottom. Luckily, it only drizzled for about 15 minutes or so while we were hiking down. While we had our rain boots on, slipping here and there, the Black Hmong were wearing slippers and easily trekking along, even a little girl who looked maybe 5 years old was walking down with no hesitation.

By the time we got to the bottom, it was time for lunch...but not before we were all bombarded with Black Hmong women selling merchandise, including the women who trekked with us down. It felt like an ambush...and we all felt obligated to purchase something, which is what we all figured out. They would walk with us and feel that it was necessary for us to purchase something from them. I ended up purchasing a bracelet since there really wasn't anything else I thought I could use.

After lunch, we had another hour trek in the valley, this time, being escorted by some Red Dzao members. I think we all tried our best to let the members know that we weren't interested in buying anything at the end of the hike. It's hard to say no because they explain that they are very poor and sales have been very slow recently and that with my purchase, they could go home... Way to guilt trip! In the end, I bought another 2 bracelets. I think I'm going to be accumulating a good amount of these on this trip. I already have 4 on my arms now.

By the end of the hike, we luckily were able to get a van ride back up to our hotel. I didn't realize how far down and how far away we trekked until we rode back up in the van. It didn't seem that far, but I guess I was just too mesmerized by my surroundings to care how long or how far we walked.

The rest of the day was open for us to explore the city on our own. The village near the hotel was small, and it was easy to walk around and take in the market activities occurring everywhere. People were trying to sell you anything and everything! I loved some of the clothing the Black Hmong wore, and was thinking of maybe getting something to bring home, but then I realized that probably wouldn't wear it...

I had a couple of beers with the Fijian couple at night as they told me stories of their daughter's husband, who trained for 3 months in Bangkok to fight Muy Thai in the ring against an experienced Thai person with a pretty impressive Win-Loss record. In the end, he actually knocked the Thai person out, and the crowd was cheering "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" because he was the underdog. A pretty incredible experience to be able to share with your friends and family, no? I doubt I would train Muy Thai, but I would love to be able to catch a match in the ring the next time I'm in Bangkok!

I learned a little about Fiji as well. There are a lot of people from Indian descent living in Fiji, because in the past, there was an indenture system implemented in the area. It's always interesting to see why and how there are huge populations of different ethnic groups all over the world.

They shared their stories of traveling, and they reminded me somewhat of my parents and made me miss them. I told them that I would love for my parents to be more open to traveling, but would also feel too worried to let them go all alone... I feel like I'd have to watch out for them against the traveler world of scams...and non-existent traffic lights...

At the end of the night, I walked around the village again, before deciding to get an hour foot massage to relax my tired legs. Must be more prepared tomorrow...and stretch often...

I don't think I need to caption much. Just enjoy the views!

Black Hmong on her Cell Phone

My Tour-mates and our Black Hmong group trekking down a steep path

Day 32 - Last Day in Hanoi

Just another filler day before heading out to Sapa by taking the night train. It would be the first time I would take a train in Vietnam.

Spent the day again trying to keep cool and in the shade, so I went to a couple coffee shops in the high-rise buildings near Hoan Kiem lake for most of the day to update this blog and figure out my plans after I leave Vietnam. I'm headed to the Philippines next! I'm not exactly sure what I plan on doing there, but I'll have my travel guide with me. I know I'm going to Boracay Islands and Manila, but am not too certain what there is to do in the Capital. Some of my Filipino friends mentioned visiting the big Mall there...but I hope there's a lot more to do.

It was difficult trying to figure out the routes to take to get to Boracay since there aren't any direct flights from Hanoi to Manila. I decided after much research to take Vietnam Airlines from Hanoi to HCMC, and then Cebu Pacific Air from HCMC to Manila to Caticlan (Boracay). It should be exciting to finally set off for another country after my 3 weeks here in Vietnam.

I was pretty disappointed with the food I ate in Hanoi, even after 4 days here... One thing I noticed is that you shouldn't trust the Lonely Planet guide for recommendations. I think maybe the quality lessens after a restaurant gets distinction in a guidebook...or maybe restaurants in general just aren't as good as some of the food stalls around town.

Street Food Stall - Fried Noodles with Beef

Ladybird Restaurant (Lonely Planet Recommendation) - Duck Salad (YUCK)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 31 - Seeing Ho Chi Minh in Person

Spent most of the morning in the Ba Dinh district of Hanoi since most of the attractions were only accessible from 8am-11am, every day of the week except Monday and Friday. Many tourists aren't aware of these restrictions and get there too late to see anything.

The first stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body lay. Other communist leaders like Lenin and Mao Zedong also have been embalmed and displayed to visitors in their respective countries. The entire structure was very plain, and cold-looking, made of a gray marble. All the visitors had to pass through a checkpoint, before being lead down a long line to the entrance of the mausoleum. Soldiers were on guard at various points to ensure the security of the area. I really didn't know what to expect when entering the building. It was chilly, stepping in as the A/C ventilation was on at full-blast and we were led in 2 single-file lines up some stairs before turning into the room where Ho Chi Minh lay. Everyone was asked to remain silent and keep the line moving, as we saw Ho Chi Minh's body in a glass case, laying peacefully like you would see at a funeral. A soldier was standing at every corner of the glass case for protection. I felt very uneasy being there and witnessing the body of someone who died in 1969, still preserved as if he died not a week ago. I never got the chance to see Mao Zedong's body when I visited China, so this was the first time I'd witnessed something like this. What's interesting is that Ho Chi Minh never wanted to be embalmed, but rather cremated and have his ashes spread across Vietnam. Against his wishes, he was instead embalmed.

Afterwards, we were all led to the Presidential Living Quarters, which included some of the places that Ho Chi Minh lived and worked. Basic tourist filler attractions. I then headed to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which included many bazaar and abstract displays, much of which I didn't really understand. It was very strange.

The last museum I wanted to stop by was the Museum of Vietnamese Women, which showcased some of the historical achievements of women during Vietnamese resistance. There was also a floor dedicated to learning more about the work Vietnamese woman do, many working as street vendors to help their families out. Some go to the market to purchase goods at 4am in the morning, and sell the goods all day until around 7pm, repeating this routine everyday... On that same floor was an exhibit that showcased the Vietnamese Traditions of Marriage and Giving Birth.

The top floor was dedicated to Vietnamese Women's Fashion, which included a wide variety of clothing from different tribes across the country. Many of the costumes were very colorful and intricate, probably intentionally done to distinguish a tribe from another tribe.

There was also a special exhibit that displayed the stories of many victims of trafficking. Many of the stories told of people who trusted their friends to go somewhere to get a job, only to be sold by these so-called friends to someone in China to work in factories, in the sex trade, or work as a wife. There were also stories and pictures of people who were victims of domestic abuse. It's great to see some of these issues exposed, because I wonder how much trouble they have with the government in attempting to censor some of this...

At the end of the night, I headed back to Hanoi Cinematheque to try and catch the showing of "The Searchers" but ended up coming at the wrong time...lest I want to watch True Grit a second time. Ended the night early to catch up on sleep. Tomorrow, I take a night train to Sapa, Vietnam.

At the front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Street Food - Glass noodles with tofu, ground pork, pork cake, and vegetables

Traditional Marriage Attire

Various Tribal Garb from Around Vietnam

Various Tribal Garb from Around Vietnam

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 30 - Wandering Aimlessly Around Hanoi

Today was a very relaxing DIY tourist day. I got to walk around the city and go wherever I wanted at any time of the day. I only hired a motorbike once, and instead, decided to sweat it out most of the day.

In the morning, I walked around the Old Quarter District of Hanoi, which is a maze of streets full of vendors specializing in different trades, each situated on a specific street based on what they had to sell. One street was full of shoe stores, another full of light bulbs, another full of headstones, etc. I went to see a traditional tube house and tried to visit some of the other sites from my lonely planet book, but being as it was outdated, I got shut out of two different places because it was a Monday. It seems Monday is a rest day where many attractions are closed, including restaurants. I ended up walking to the Hoan Kiem Lake to just sit on the benches and watch the reflection of the city on the lake. The lake is situated in the center of most of the tourist areas in Hanoi, but is also a popular gathering place for locals at night, where people go jogging, sit around the benches, play badminton, or do group aerobics together. I walked across a bridge to the Den Ngoc Temple and then walked around the lake some more, before settling on lunch and some ice cream afterwards.

The city is full of hidden shops and stores as I mentioned in my previous post. Walking around, (finally with the help of a lonely planet book) I found an awesome art house cinema called Hanoi Cinematheque that plays different films every day of the week. Today they were playing True Grit and The Searchers (starring John Wayne). I bought a ticket and ended up watching True Grit in a theatre with only about 6 other people. It was really intimate. The movie theatre staff explained to me that not a lot of people come because they are only allowed to send notification emails to members, due to the non-profit nature of the theatre, and they also can't advertise in any way. It had something to do with governmental restrictions, which I didn't inquire further into. 

After that, I took a motorbike to the Temple of Literature, which served as a place to worship Confucius. It also served as a place for higher learning in the past, and there are stone engravings of scholars who passed certain national examinations in the past. The entire place consisted of numerous temples, courtyards, and pools. Afterwards, I walked to a restaurant and cafe that were suggested by Lonely Planet, but they were also closed on Monday! Hungry and sweaty i settled on KFC for the first time on the trip. I can't say whether I like the chicken better here or not, because I'm so used to the delicious flavors back home, but it definitely tasted different. 

Cooled off and stomach fed, I walked around some more and bought two lonely planet books for my next destinations (Philippines and Laos) for only 140,000 Dong. Then stumbled across the opening night of a photography exhibit depicting heroin addicts in Vietnam and the stories they wanted to tell. I didn't really see the effects of drugs on the population through my travels, so it was good to be exposed to some of these stories. Countless stories were told of people attempting to quit, only to relapse numerous times. Many of the stories told of men who ended up being motorbike drivers to make cash, sometimes to fuel their addiction. I wonder if I've assisted any of them...

More stumbling around at night in Hanoi led me to a cafe that had an open mic night where Vietnamese youth were performing "Chris Isaaks' Wicked Game" with violin, piano, and guitar.  There is just so much more art here than Saigon, at least from all that I have witnessed. I think it is regarded much more highly here. Then after that I walked to a Jazz club that performed jazz every night with no cover. It was again, intimate, with a small audience, and I ended up staying, enjoying the music after everyone else left. It was a moment I wish I could have shared with someone else. I won't lie, it gets lonely traveling alone, and it'd be nice to have a friend here to share in these moments.

Walked home from the bar down empty streets, a stark contrast to the daytime action. It was a perfect end to the night, with the lake on my right side, french architecture to my left, and the headlights of all the motorbikes in front of me. 

Old Quarter, Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake

Temple of Literature

Music Performance at the Temple of Literature

I Spy the Smallest IKEA I've ever Seen

Afternoon Break in the Hidden Alleys of Hanoi

NOT Vietnamese Street Food

Face-To-Face with Drugs Photo Exhibition

Entrance to Hanoi Cinematheque

Hanoi Cinematheque

Front Row Seats at the Jazz Show

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 29 - Hanoi, South China Sea Protests, Fine Arts, and a Water Puppet Theatre

We arrived in Hanoi at around 8am and were left at a bus station away from the main part of town. My GPS wasn't working on my phone so I couldn't gauge how far away we actually were to the epicenter. Another moment of vulnerability for the foreigners on the bus, and we were, of course, attacked by the mob of motorbike drivers hoping to get business. There was a guy there that sold us some information on an available hotel, and I ended up just booking it because it was cheap and I wanted to get out of there. Turns out, after I checked into the hotel, I noticed that 2 of the other groups of foreigners also ended up booking here. A switch in power between buyer and seller when we are lost in the city...

Hanoi is a big enough city to explore for days, but small enough to make the exploration on foot, if you'd like. It is bursting with life, art, music, and culture. The former capital of Vietnam as well (Before HCMC and Hue), there is so much French influence penetrating throughout the city. All the old governmental buildings and landmarks have elements of French architecture. It's also much cleaner than HCMC.

A random fact that I read in my Lonely Planet guidebook was that many of the homes and shops in the area are not wide, but very very deep, which explains why they call these structures "tube houses." In the past, the government would tax the property based on the size of the front of the building, which is why the facade of each house was very narrow, but very deep - a way to cheat the system. Nowadays, when you wander the streets, there are plenty of narrow, dark alleys you can explore. Some lead to homes while others lead to restaurants and other businesses. Each address could have many different businesses, each with a letter to separate each structure deep in the alleyways (e.g. 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D Hang Buom Street).

I spent the morning reading through my guidebook to plan my trip for the next 4 days. Many of the landmarks had strict visiting hours, and most of them were closed on Monday. I came on a Sunday so I had to plan it all right so that I could see what I wanted to see. I ended up booking a ticket for tonight to see the famous Water Puppet Theatre show. It was a "must-see" in both the guidebooks I was using.

On the way to the theatre, I happened to be right at the frontline of a protest and march against the Chinese regarding the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. A couple hundred people were marching the streets with signs saying "Chinese Government - Peace in Speech, Violence in Action," "Justice for Vietnamese Fisherman," "Vietnam and Philippines Together Fighting for Justice!" and "Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands Belong to Vietnam."

Afterwards, I headed to a couple museums, and there are a ton of museums here, to check out some Fine Arts. I was used to seeing a lot of relics and artifacts uncovered, but it was nice to take a break from that to see some other contemporary arts - mostly propaganda, silk paintings, oil on canvas, and lacquer paintings. The museum was only allowed to showcase government approved art, so everything inside was only things the government wanted you to see. There were plenty of pro-government and pro-military paintings that showed only positive interaction between the soldiers and the villagers.

From one museum to the next, I went to the Museum of Vietnam Resistance, which showcased all the resistance movements that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, from resistance from the French to the Vietnam War. There were plenty of original documents, weapons, and pictures, but I didn't really get much of it. It was probably a good time to hire a tour guide..

Walking around the city some more, I saw that at every park I wandered to, people were playing badminton or using their feet to kick those "birdies" over the net. Headed over to see the Water Puppet Show, which was a 50 minute performance with an orchestra on the side. The stage is basically a pool of water, and little puppets are controlled by people from behind the stage. The entire show was narrated and performed in Vietnamese, but it was fun nonetheless to witness this unfamiliar art.

At the end of the night, I walked the night markets trying to find new sandals because the other sandals I bought in Hue were making my feet blister. The street vendors in Hanoi are harder to bargain with! I've purchased sandals twice in Vietnam, once for 40,000 and once for 60,000. The starting price that they offered was 100,000 dong, and I bargained 40,000 but they just said no...not even counteroffering. I did this about three times before I started getting antsy. Some of the shop owners didn't even care to make a sale, just sitting there watching me peruse through the goods. This was something I was not expecting. I ended up settling on 85,000 for my pair of sandals after an hour or so of sweating and walking in pain...

South China Sea Protests

The view from the City View Cafe towards the Old Quarter

Lenin Park, Hanoi

Fine Arts Museum

Fine Arts Museum - "Children At Joyful Play" (1972) - Nguyen Tu Nghiem

Fine Arts Museum - "Young Girls and the Sea" (1940) - Nguyen Van Ty

Hanoi Opera House

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 28 - Last Day in Hue

Sometimes I like filler days where I prepare for transportation to the next destination, sometimes I despise them. For one, it gives me a chance to recuperate and just relax in the city for however long, before the bus/airplane arrives. But at the same time, I am left without a hotel room to shower in after check out.

Today was one of those days, where I had to check out of my room at 12, and wait for the bus to pick me up on my way to Hanoi at 5pm.

I spend the majority of the morning sleeping in (finally!) and catching up on writing post cards for some friends. After checking out, I headed to the post office to deliver the post cards, before hailing a cyclo to take me to the popular street market in Hue called Dong Ba Market. I got into a little trouble with the cyclo driver over the cost of the trip, which was a 5 minute ride across the river on a bridge. I negotiated "10" to the driver, assuming that we were referring to 10,000 Dong (50 cents). I failed to specify that I meant Dong, and when I paid, he demanded 10 DOLLARS!...yep for a 5 minute cyclo ride across the bridge. It was funny trying to reason why him about how outrageous such a price was for such a short distance, but he insisted because it required a lot of energy to drive a cyclo.. BULLSHIT. I argued with him so more about the distance and how I meant 10,000 Dong. Of course, his cyclo-driver friend who was nearby agreed with him on the price. I called my friend Quang who talked with the cyclo driver and was able to lower the price to 30,000, but then I further negotiated it down to 20,000 dong.

I don't know how I feel about these tactics. I know they people are trying to make a living, but I just feel cheated sometimes when they try to scam me for something as outrageous as $10USD. It just angers me... I'm glad I made it out without having to shell out 200,000 dong... ridiculous! And what makes things worse is, even though he is trying to survive in this world, it makes it less likely for me, or any other person to want to hire cyclo drivers again...

After this debacle, I walked around the market to kill some time before being picked up by the bus. Luckily, this bus was of better quality than all the other buses I've taken so far. The back of the bus didn't have a row of 5 beds side-by-side. A perfect situation for the longest bus ride so far in Vietnam...13 hours from Hue to Hanoi.

My awesome $1.50 Hue shirt...after one hand wash.

More Bun Beo

Day 27 - Nguyen Dynasty Tombs/Mausoleums

Another early day again to check out some of the many Nguyen tombs and mausoleums scattered throughout the city. Many of the emperors had these places built while they were still alive, adding their own ideas on how they should look.

Most of these tombs consist of five common elements. One, there is a stele pavilion, where the accomplishments or biography of the emperor is presented. Two, there is  a temple for worship. Three, there is some sort of structure that holds the emperors' remains. Four, there is a courtyard with statues of horses, elephants, and military personnel. Five, there are usually lotus ponds surrounding the area.

The most interesting, and least traditional of the tombs that I visited was the tomb of Khai Dinh, which mixes European and Vietnamese architecture to create a somewhat gothic structure that does not appear very inviting. Once you enter the sepulchre though, it is a definite contrast, as the room is filled with colorful mosaics made of pieces of glass and ceramic, gold plated statues, and intricate columns. Once we got back on the bus, the tour guide gave us a little bit of Vietnamese Gay history. Apparently, Khai Dinh was gay, and he did not have any sons with any of the concubines. There is speculation that the "child" that he claimed was his, and who took the throne after him, was actually his nephew. 

Somewhere in between all the tomb-hopping, we stopped at a Vietnamese Martial Arts school, where we got to see some of the traditional martial arts performed by some young kids. It was very impressive to see some of the stuff they could do. One of the students was a champion in the country and he performed something very shocking. Two spears were pressed against his neck, as he pushed through them, and we could easily see the bamboo sticks bend through the pressure. The sharp edges didn't puncture his neck, and while he was doing this, he took a glass of water to drink. Another student broke about 7 layers of ceramic bricks with his head. Both of them performed some sort of ritual to gather their energy internally before performing such stunts. 

Here is some video footage of one of the student's performances:

At the end of the day, I walked around the town and tried some more Hue delicacies, before settling on a small restaurant to have some beers. There, I met the waitress who spoke very good English. We struck up an interesting conversation about her life, aspirations, and views on love. She was a short, and dark girl, but attractive, in my opinion, in U.S. standards. She said that she doesn't feel wanted in Vietnam because most of the Vietnamese guys want light-skinned and tall Vietnamese girls. I asked her what her "type" of guy was and she said she liked tall, blonde, curly haired boys. She said she knew she couldn't find someone like this in Hue because most of the foreigners she meets are only here for a couple days, so nothing serious could ever happen. I asked her when she thought she would marry, and she said something that was similar to what I think most people in the U.S. would say. She said she didn't have a specific age, but only wanted to marry when she knew she could support herself and live comfortable. Not the traditional answer that I would have expected, so maybe there is a greater sense of independence with the women in Vietnam. She then explained that she knew that even though she has a specific "type" of guy that she wanted to marry, she knew that anybody could come into her life and she could fall in love with him, flaws and all. 

She seemed to have a pretty difficult life. She worked two jobs, as a waitress in the restaurant I was at, and as a receptionist at a backpacker hostel. This only made things worse for her in finding someone to like her. She said most Vietnamese men get jealous when she is around so many foreigners, who hug her or give her a kiss on the cheek goodbye when they see her. But she enjoyed her jobs because it gave her the opportunity to learn more English, which she loved. This particular day, she worked 14 hours. She said she used the money to help her family out, which is what most of the young Vietnamese do once they find a job. She also used the money to pay off the bank loan she took out to purchase a motorbike, which is around $1,000 USD. With all of this, she had aspirations of doing something involving cooking, but not be an actual cook, because it lacks the interaction that she so loved at the jobs she had. She hoped to someday move to Australia.

I asked her if she was generally happy. Surprisingly, she said she was, because even though she had so many obligations, she was somewhere comfortable, and close to family. Her jobs weren't necessarily difficult, even though she works long hours, so that helps, but she doesn't have much time for herself. She knows that if she were to move to Australia, it would be lonely.

I asked her more about her interests, and whether she would want to be a tour guide because you could meet a lot of people that way, but she said it wouldn't be possible because she hated history, which is a prerequisite to becoming a tour guide. This confirms what was told to me yesterday by my CS friends. Vietnamese youth don't like to study history. Such a shame since there is so much that is interesting about this country and its struggles!

At the end of the night, I took home more valuable  knowledge of the views and opinions of Vietnamese youth, who share some of the same views as I do about life and love.

Stele Pavilion at one of the tombs

Lotus Pond at one of the tombs

Pavilion with statues of elephants, horses, and military personnel

The steps to the Khai Dinh tomb

The front facade of the Khai Dinh tomb.

Inside the Khai Dinh tomb.

Vietnamese Martial Arts

Vietnamese Martial Arts

The young man just broke through the ceramic tiles with his head.

Making incense sticks with cinnamon

Banh Beo - Flat rice cakes with minced shrimp and a crouton

My new waitress friend, Mo (and my awesome Hue tee-shirt)