The Best of Vietnam

Well I think I saved the best for last. This past week has been great. I continued south and after a couple stormy days the weather cleared and it was sunny and hot for several days. This was fortunate because I stopped in a number of beach towns and had a chance to swim and stroll the beach before chowing down on shrimp, squid, octopus, clams, oysters and some things I did not recognize.

One reason the food tastes so good here is that they use all fresh ingredients. Vegetables are fresh, noodles are fresh, the seafood is fresh. Here’s a small sandwich shop I stopped in one morning where the people were chopping their spices and peppers for the day’s meals.

 

I stayed one night in the town of Cam Ranh. Next to my hotel was a restaurant that served Lau. I checked my translator and it said “hotpot”, so I ordered the seafood hotpot. I mentioned how sometimes you get unpleasant surprises when ordering food in a foreign country. Well sometimes the surprise is a good one. The lau was excellent. They bring you a pot of spiced broth and light a flame under it. When it heats up you add your seafood (shrimp, squid, and some other things.) Then you put in the veggies (lettuce, ┬ásprouts and mint leaves). You put some noodles into your little bowl then ladle the soup over it. Wow, it was so good. Here is a shot of the ingredients.

Some patrons at the next table with their hotpot heating up.

This little dog hung around my table for awhile looking for a handout. If I was a dog I would not be loitering near restaurants in Vietnam. Just saying.

I passed by this graveyard one day. The swastika is an ancient symbol that was in use in many different cultures for at least 5,000 years before the Nazis made it the centerpiece of their flag. Here, it is shown on some Buddhist graves.

As I mentioned I was held up for a few hours in one town due to a heavy downpour. When it rains here it can really let loose.

Rain rain go away, a short video.

https://vimeo.com/297454507

Ducks in a river. There are many duck farms (is that what you call them?) in Vietnam. It is a popular dish.

View from my hotel in the town of Ninh Chu.

I stayed two days in Ninh Chu because I had a great hotel in a nice peaceful spot a stone’s throw from the beach and great seafood restaurants. Did I mention fresh seafood? Here’s a short video of where I had lunch one day.

https://vimeo.com/298981741

Crossing a wide river, I spotted these two guys digging in the sand. For clams? Not sure.

Vietnam has many small microclimates due to the mountains and seas. I got confused at one point. Instead of wet rice fields I was in a desert! Where am I, the Middle East? Nope, a dry section of southeast Vietnam.

I got on a great coastal road one day. No traffic, great weather, nice views of the sea and a tailwind. Doesn’t get much better.

I had dinner in this restaurant and the owner came over to chat. He spoke good English and said he has a house in Maryland and has lived in the USA since leaving Vietnam in 1975, as Saigon fell to the communists. He was 18 when he left and still remembers interacting with US soldiers in the 1960s and 70s when he was a teenager. He said his mother recently died and she wanted to be brought back to Vietnam to be buried. The war disrupted so many lives, it’s terrible. But I said whenever I pass by school kids they are all excited and happy to see me. At least now the children can grow up normally without having to endure war.

My routine after checking into a hotel at the end of the day is to shower, wash clothes, shop for water or snacks, then get dinner. Frequently I pass by street vendors who lure me in to their stall. In this case I tried something I’ve never had before, called banh xeo, I think. This woman was frying up onions, veggies and shrimp in a pan then pouring egg over it, making some kind of omelet I guess. But then you put this omelet in a bowl of soup. It actually tasted great, and cheap: 3 of them cost about $1. Here is the woman, frantically trying to fill orders. She had four frying pans going at once.

At one point along the coast I was looking for a cheap hotel but the only ones around were expensive resorts. Then I saw a place called Lu Glamping which had bungalows but also camping spaces. I checked it out and the bungalows were a little expensive, about $17, so I opted to camp for the first time in Vietnam. it cost $1 and was right by the beach. In fact, when the tide came in later in the evening some waves came to within 20 feet of my tent.

So is glamping sort of like camping?

When I got there the tide was out so I sat around in these tide pools. Didn’t life evolve from there? Here I am evolving from a tide pool.

My only camping site in Vietnam.

Cows on the beach at dusk.

That evening I went out along the beach looking for dinner. As I approached this group they invited me to join them, that great Vietnam hospitality again. They had bowls of octopus and scallops, plus some noodles, so I joined them, drinking beer and eating. We had to use my translator but we managed to have a basic conversation. It was fun and they refused to allow me to pay for anything. Great people here.

One guy with his two year old, already addicted to a smartphone. Oh dear, how will this generation turn out?

Here I am with the guys.

Well that’s it for now. I am one day away from my last stop in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon.

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