On my way out to Halong Bay to visit our boat, The Emeraude, the highway was peppered with these women who sell french bread. Some sit passively as this woman in the photo, but some stand and try to wave down cars or motorbikes passing by.
With all the dust and pollution from the highway, I can’t imagine what that bread tastes like!
On the Bright Side,
Hellooooo! It’s Sunday afternoon and I am sitting in the Tamarind Cafe, a favorite vegetarian restaurant I discovered when I was in Hanoi in May (Sara – You’d love it!). I’m working on my second cup of coffee (delicious) and I am hoping to meet up in a bit with my friend Pete who runs the hotel I stayed in in Sapa. He’s in town for the weekend opening a cafe with his business partner. I’ll probably take a long walk around the lake at some point today, too. I have refused to even look at work stuff today – I need a mental break.
I spent yesterday at the office and last night at Kurt and Anna’s home watching a movie. Kurt and I haven’t really seen each other for almost two weeks. He was at a luxury travel trade event in Cannes (lucky bastard!) and I was in Saigon and Hue this past week. So it was good to catch up and hang out. Kurt also asked if I was still happy to be here in Vietnam, if I still feel like I’m doing the right thing. And you know what? I really am.
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind for sure. I am meeting new people left and right. I’m soaking in all sorts of information about my new company, new job and the tasks in front of me. I looked for and found my new home; a lovely apartment in Tay Ho District. Hopefully I will be getting settled in my new place next weekend – I can’t wait!!! I will have to discover where to buy linens, housewares and even furniture, as the apartment is sparsely furnished. I’ll need to buy motorbike (and helmet!) and find some time somewhere in my busy schedule to get more and more familiar with Hanoi. It’s all very exciting, but taxing at the same time. In some moments, my head feels like it will burst!
I spent the last week in the Southern part of Vietnam…Saigon and Hue. In Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, take your pick, is where you’ll find the main Apple Tree offices. I flew in for a visit with the owners, the CFO and the IT Director, among other key people. Then I was off to the ancient city of Hue, the home of our very stylish and popular hotel, La Residence. Here, I became familiar with every aspect of the hotel and much to my delight, even the spa! Fabulous! I was also keen to explore the other hotels in the city, to check out the competition, so to speak. But I can honestly tell you that La Residence is one of a kind. The history of the property, combined with the art deco style and richly appointed rooms, sets it far apart from the other hotels in town. It is a unique property, indeed, and I can’t see how I would have any trouble selling.
I was also able to take a private tour of the Citadel and Forbidden Purple City. Hue is the city in which all of the Emperors of vietnam resided. You can tour the grounds of the royal palace, visit tombs of three famous Emperors and take in numerous other points of interest. The cuisine in Hue is some of the finest, as the Emperors demanded their meals never be repeated within a calendar year. This forced immense creativity in ingredients and presentation. La Parfum Restaurant, named after the Perfume River (another story), has an extensive Vietnamese menu. I love that my job requires me to try numerous items so I can speak of the Chef’s talents when I am selling the hotel! I learned a lot about Hue, and especially the Emperors, and fell in love with La Residence.
The holidays are approaching and I while I do feel a little sad that I won’t be home to celebrate Christmas, it’s not the first time, so I’m ok with that. I can SKYPE my parents, and be there through cyberspace! Plus we have lots of celebrations at the Press Club and I am very excited for the New Year’s Eve Party on the Terrace. Should be a good time! That Terrace sees a lot of terrific parties!
I hope you have a very festive holiday week. I’ll post again once I’ve moved into my home and have some more stories to share. I’m sure there will never be a shortage in Vietnam!!!
On the Bright Side,
November 25th, Dad and I went to the US Post Office with 10, perfectly wrapped and labeled boxes. Inside were some clothes, my CDs, household stuff and many of the gifts I received from my friends in Japan. We anticipated sending the boxes via surface mail, which usually takes a couple of months. But upon arrival at the post office, we were told that that surface has been canceled. So we opted for the cheapest – 10 day priority mail. And paid on average $130 per box. Ouch.
I don’t have much in life – in terms of ‘things’ anyway. In fact, aside from what you see in this photo, I have an antique dresser and table, and 8 plastic bins in storage, mostly filled with childhood mementos and oodles of photos. Oh – and I refuse to throw away my high school and college formal dresses. Just can’t do it! But that’s it. Before I left for Japan, I had a huge yard sale and felt so liberated in getting rid of my ‘stuff’. And I lived pretty simply in Japan. I like to keep it that way. I did manage to collect a few things in Japan, and certainly was given a number of beautiful gifts upon my departure. I also packed up keepsakes from my travels, college and more. The items in the boxes are my favorite treasures.
In the suitcases were all of the things I felt that I would need sooner rather than later. And I packed so that all of my business clothes and shoes were in the blue suitcase, so that I could have easy access. Good plan. The suitcase system has worked out well, since in my dinky hotel room, I have no space to open all three suitcases.
As I am moving into my new apartment later this week – I am looking forward to spreading out and unpacking. Except that my boxes have still not arrived. It’s been nearly a month. And I am trying to stay calm and not panic, but I’ve heard too many horror stories now. A large part of me will be devastated (not to mention angry) if I never see these boxes, if the contents have been invasively examined/unwrapped, stolen or damaged. I am also afraid of what taxes I may have to pay, simply because it’s a good chance to make some money, not because I am actually brining anything new or valuable to the country. I also have to laugh because I hope they don’t open the two vacuum bags of clothes – won’t that be a shock for them when the stack magically poofs up to 4x the size! How will they get those clothes back in the box?
I’m not holding my breath, but I will hold out hope that these boxes arrive soon. I’m having Dad check with the US Post Office to see if they were logged in in Vietnam. After that, there’s really nothing else for me to do but wait. Patiently. Please. Toto, we are SO not in Kansas anymore!
My worldly possessions – My suitcases and boxes, safe and sound in my parents’ living room. Can you guess which four items have made it to Vietnam and which ten haven’t?
On the Bright Side,
On my tour of the Citadel and Forbidden Purple Palace, I was waiting for my tour guide to park his motorbike. I took a few shots of the citadel with the huge flag and then turned around to find my guide. I saw four Vietnamese ladies getting prepared for a photo shoot. The one in the purple was getting the one in orange prepared. At first I didn’t think this was a great photo, but now that I’m looking at it again, I think it’s a good candid!
On the Bright Side,
There was an interesting knock on the door this weekend. A young man said he was from Angus Steaks and that they had a surplus of steaks and fish, still frozen in the cooler in the back of his truck, did we want to buy any? Um…no? Who buys meat from the back of a truck? No, no thank you.
But in many parts of the world, this is an acceptable practice. It reminded me of the day I was in Thailand and had to go to the Burmese border to renew my Thai visa. The group made a stop at a small village. As we were walking around, we heard the driver of the truck in this picture beep his horn as he approached the village. He parked and waited. We did too. What would happen? What’s for sale on this truck?
Women and children came out of hiding and purchased produce, fish, dinner for the evening. Like any child in the world, the little ones begged for sweets and toys. This mobile grocery store carries everything!
At the time, I remember thinking that it was a nice benefit of living in a remote village – the market comes to you! So why oh why did it seem so unnatural this weekend when that young man came to the door selling steaks and fish? Yeah, yeah, I know. We just don’t do that here. Why not? Wouldn’t it be cool if the local farmer’s market had a mobile unit that came to your neighborhood everyday? I think it’s a brilliant idea!
On the Bright Side,