Monday, October 6, 2014

Can I have a photo?

Sunday morning we decided to rise early to see the sunrise. We got up at around 5am and headed down to the beach, thinking we would be one of the few in the town up that morning. To our surprise we walked out the door of the hotel and saw hundreds of people! They were all exercising on the sidewalk and on the beach. Doing aerobics, playing volleyball, swimming, stretching, doing sit-ups…it was amazing! There was music on the loud speakers and it seemed like everyone was up! I couldn’t believe it! The day was quite cloudy so we didn’t really see the sunrise, but we spent quite a bit of time observing all of the people. It was so strange to see so many people up and active at 5:30am. I guess it makes sense…it gets really hot during the day so you might as well be up when it’s bearable out…but still…wow!

After our morning surprise we went up to the hotel to have some breakfast at their buffet. It was gorgeous! So many things to choose from and such lovely staff. We even had one of the managers come up and ask about our stay. She was from Estonia and spoke great English. She had only been in the country for 4 months and she gave us some great information about the culture. Once we finished getting our fourth round of food (haha) we decided to go up and swim in the rooftop pool. It was sprinkling rain by then, and the water was a bit chilly but basically like bath water. As we were swimming we noticed 8 couples out on the beach taking photos in wedding clothes. They were twirling and running through pigeons, dragging their lovely dresses on the dirty wet ground. A bit strange, but kind of neat. I’m sure the photos turned out great with the birds flying in the air and the beach with dark clouds in the background.

Once we were done swimming we showered and went to tour Lady Buddha, a large statue at the edge of the peninsula. We took a taxi over and got dropped off at the base of the steps. There were multiple temples with marble statues scattered all around. The main statue was of lady Buddha and it was ridiculously tall. At night the whole thing lights up and you can see it from most areas in the city. Apparently you can go inside and it has 17 floors…but we couldn’t find any stairs. So we took a few photos and then decided to try to find a cab to get back to our hotel. As we were waiting in the hot sun, watching all the full taxis pass by us as they went further up the mountain, I got a tap on my shoulder…”Can I get a picture?” Yeah…you read that right. A girl wanted a photo with me? And if that wasn’t strange enough, another group of boys came down a few minutes after and asked for a photo as well! It was right when Andrew had finally nailed a taxi but we jumped in the photo with them really quickly and they were all so excited. They said we were so beautiful…very odd.

After visiting the statue we packed up and took the afternoon to work and read at the hotel rooftop restaurant. Around 2pm we decided to take a cab to check in to our next hotel, the Luxury Hotel, that is further in to the city. We are staying here until Saturday when we depart for Cambodia. We got to the hotel and it was definitely a change of atmosphere. It’s like we were in a whole new country. The city atmosphere was different and the hotel was much more modest. As we went to go up the elevator the power went off…lovely. Not a great first impression. So we went upstairs and the rooms seemed pretty nice…nothing special. They have really firm, uncomfortable beds and pillows, and horribly spotty internet, but at least they have air conditioning! When you look out the window you can see the Han river and my favorite bridge, the Dragon bridge. It's a newer bridge but it's really cool. At night it changes colors and on Saturdays and Sundays it does a bit of a show, breathing fire and spitting water. Unfortunately we didn't get to see that because it rained and they didn't do it :(

After checking in, we decided to go for a walk and check out the area. We walked up and down the river and popped our head in to the local mall and a few other shops. On the way back we noticed a tacky looking bamboo bar that was filled with white people watching rugby, so we decided to go check it out. We ordered a Tiger beer each and started to make friends. The bar was filled with people from Australia, Ireland, England, and America – the expat bar. We sat and watched the rugby game for the next few hours to kill time before we met up with my coworker and our partner. It was so much fun! We watched the game and the rain as it poured outside. When we left we knew we would be back…Andrew decided it was going to be our watering hole for the week haha.

Around 5pm we went to the hotel lobby to meet Nancy, the Executive Director of our partner, Children of Vietnam. We took a cab together to go pick up my co-worker, Rebecca, who was just about to fly in from her extremely long trip from Albania, where she was visiting family. Once we had Rebecca we decided to go get food at a restaurant called Apsana that serves traditional Vietnamese food which was actually Khmer (Cambodian) food because long ago, Vietnam was part of the Khmer empire. They had a huge menu, and we had no idea what to get, but we all decided on something and were pleasantly surprised by the result. We ended up sharing and had a nice variety of beef that we cooked ourselves in a hot vinegar, some sweet and spicy pork, and a few other Vietnamese foods. While we ate we were entertained by live music and even a dancer! Pretty neat! And all for only $30 USD for the four of us! We had great conversations and got to know each other a bit before turning in early for bed. The next day started our visits…the main reason for this awesome adventure…

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