|Flight from Denver to Saigon.|
|First day in Saigon|
|Trip to Beach Resort|
|Last day in Saigon before trip to Can Tho|
|Arriving in Can Tho|
|Flower Shopping in Can Tho|
|Tet the Luna New Year, Feb 16 2007|
|Visit to flower farm owned by high school friend of Frances|
|Trip to cousin Ven's house|
|Trip to cousin's house in Cao Lanh|
|Sunset at the river in Can Tho|
|A day in the park|
|Doing things around the house|
|Street party after the nightclub closed|
|Reunion party for the men that built the house|
|Brunch at Riverside Cafe|
|Around the house, New car, Dinner boat cruise|
|A visit with brother #4|
|River views and farewell party|
|More party time then a trip Frances' farm the next day|
|AC repair, last night there, trip back to Denver|
|New baby boy in the family for Frances' nephew|
Feb 6, 2007
Monday we are all packed and ready to go. We had four bags to check at 50 lbs each and two carry on bags that would not fit under a seat, but were OK for overhead.
I called cab for a 5:50 am pick up for an 8:30 am flight, estimated cost $40. At 5:00am on Tuesday the driver called and said he would be there at 5:20 am. Of course, he spoke in a heavy accent so I knew this was going to be trouble. I got that straight, but then it took three more phone falls including two from his dispatcher to find the house.
We left the house at 5:00am. He asked if we wanted to take E470 or Tower road to the airport. I suggested E470 so he turned east on Hampden to go to E470. After about a mile I asked him if he had change to go on E470. It takes exact change only. He did not and neither did I, so he made a U turn on Hampden and headed back west towards Tower road.
During the drive to the airport Frances called her sister to she doing OK with the plan to meet us at UAL ticket counter at 6:30am. She was being driven by a cousin named Danny. Her sister goes by several names such as, #7, Nancy, Anna and I can't spell her Vietnamese name but it sort of sounds like "yam". At 6:00am they called to say they were already there. We were still five minutes from the airport but then the driver went the wrong way and ended up in passenger pick-up instead of passenger drop-off. He insisted we could get out there with no problem and walk up to the ticket counter. Right...... I'll just tell Frances to help me with these 200 pounds of bags on the curb to get them upstairs. I refused to get out of the cab and told him to drive around again to the right spot. That, plus the trip up and down Hampden probably added $10 to the bill.
We finally got to the right place and unloaded. Taxi fare was $57.00 and I only game him a $5.00 tip and that was too much. We found Anna and Danny, got our train load of luggage together and went to the counter. I had checked us in online (added 500 miles each to our Mileage Plus credits) and went up to the girl to show her my home printed boarding passes. I could not understand a word she said. I asked her what country she was from and she replied "Africa". OK... if you don't know a country from a continent we might have a problem here. She raised her had for a supervisor who came over and told me the girl was telling me to enter the confirmation number printed on my boarding pass in the touch screen computer in front of me. So I did that. After a few entries the luggage bag tags were printed. I did the same for Anna and away we went.
Frances and I made our reservations before Anna so we did not have seats together. Other than temporally loosing Frances' visa and giving Frances a heart attack, the gate agent was very helpful with the seats. On the flight from San Francisco to Saigon she was able to move Anna to one row right behind us but still in a center seat.
The flight arrived in SFO right on time. When we got off the plane Frances was surprised to hear Vietnamese music on the PA system. I told her maybe we had boarded a space ship by mistake and we were already there. We found push carts things, then to used the bus to the international terminal. The Vietnamese music followed us and then I realized that the portable speaker system with built-in MP3 player had gotten turned on by something in the bag hitting the switch. It was way too much trouble to find it and turn it off in the rush to catch the bus. In the airport one could barely hear it but when loaded on the bag rack, right behind the driver, in the quieter bus it sounded very loud. After providing entertainment on the short bus ride for everyone we finally got to the terminal where I could unpack the thing and turn it off.
Everything was on time and we boarded. Just as Anna was getting into her center seat in the row behind us two men traveling together came in. One was in the window seat next to Anna and the other was in the window seat in our row. Frances was in the center seat and I had the aisle. The man that was to be in the window seat next to Frances agreed to take Ann's seat so that put all three of us in the same row. That worked out well and I'm glad the gate agent in Denver made those seat changes.
The fourteen hour flight was smooth and no problems at all from SFO to Saigon. Prior to our trip I had recorded quite a few shows from the history channel for my Zune video player and other shows that Frances liked for her iPod video player. For Frances I had copied some of her favorite Vietnamese shows from DVD. I didn't know Anna was going to sit with us so Frances was the only one that could plug her headset in the iPod. I looked over and had to laugh when I saw Frances and Anna sharing the ear plug speakers. Frances had the left one and Anna had the right one. They were sort of like joined twins. One could not move with effecting the other one.
We arrived in Saigon on time and should have caught the connection flight about one hour later. However, due to bad weather in Chicago we had to wait for a connecting inbound flight that was three hours late with 146 connecting passengers on it. In addition to that, the delayed flight was oversold and they were looking for volunteers to miss the flight. We were offered a free hotel, meals and a flight the next day leaving at 4:30 pm with business class seats, plus a voucher for $300.00 cash that we could cash in in SFO on our return trip. After talking it over we decided to wait for the delayed flight and not take up the offer from UAL.
Anna wanted to call friends in Saigon to tell them she was late. The pay phone would only take credit cards and she did not bring hers. She bought a phone card for $8.00 for 50 minutes of talk time but we could not get it to work and they would not refund it. So I used my credit card for her to make the call.
We boarded the flight and it was very nice. Because Frances has 100,000 miles on her mileage plus they put both of us in business class with seats that recline almost level for good sleeping. The seats are so far apart that one does not bother the other behind it. That really helped a lot for that leg of the trip and the last two hours went very quickly. Anna was stuck back in row 52 and we had to wait a long time for her to get off.
We got down to baggage claim and all the bags made it. However, when the bags went through customs the four bottles of Jim Walker Red showed up in the x-ray. The girl came over and asked what was in the bottles. Frances was honest and said "whisky" and customs let it go. Then Frances told me she thought a bottle was broken because she could smell it. I disagreed because I knew I had put a LOT of bubble wrap around each bottle and I didn't think they would break but I'd have to wait until we got to the room to check. We don't drink, the acohol was gifts for family and friends in Vietnam from her brother.
We checked into the hotel with no problems at all. They were still holding our reservations and the room was just absolutely delightful except it was a twin with two beds. They promised to change rooms for us the next day. However, we were in the room for about twenty minutes when I asked Frances where the room key was. The room key, of course, was a credit card like device that fits in a slot in the door. She said the bell hop put it in a storage slot right next to the door. I pulled it out of the slot and all the power in the room went out, including the air conditioning. At first we did not associate the removal of the key with the loss of power because it is not unusual to have a power loss now and then here. After fumbling around in the dark for awhile we did figure it out and put it back in the slot and all the lights came on. That was a new one for me. I suppose it is a way to save energy when one is not in the room because when you pull your key out of the storage slot inside the room there is no power being used when not there.
OK, we woke up the next day and went to a hair salon for Frances to get her hair done. This was going to be a five hour job and I had nothing to do. So Frances suggested I get a shampoo while I was there. Well. that turned into a one hour scalp massage, and some sticky stuff being put on my face that burned until they washed it off. That was fun but Frances still had hours to finish. I started with little walks around the block to get my bearings and I began to venture farther and farther away each time. One bothersome issue was the bike taxi drivers following me around asking me if I wanted a ride. No... if I wanted a ride I'd ask you for one. They could be very persistent, following me everywhere and keep asking. I even went the wrong way on a one-way street but that didn't even slow him down. I don't think the street directions signs there mean very much.
I found a nice little park about three blocks from the hair salon and thought I'd walk around and look for some photo shots. I sat down on a bench relaxing. Oh my, I had just gone from a moving target to a sitting target. People would come up to me that could not speak English so I had no idea what they were saying. One man parked his scooter, got off and sat right down next to me and did speak some English. He said he had some advise for me. I asked what. He said, "Watch you camera case, never let go of it.". I had already removed my watch and put it in my pocket. I thanked him for his advise and got up for my walk back to the hair salon.
We got back to the hotel, exhausted and feel asleep. About 6:00pm Anna called because she wanted to go to dinner. I told Frances, "No way - I am dead tired and I'm going to stay here and sleep". She wanted to be polite and go anyway so I told her to go and let me rest. She was happy with that compromise, got ready and left. Ten minutes later she was back in the room, saying she didn't want me to be all rested next day while she was tired.
We go up at 4:30 am and walked around the area for some exercise then had breakfast at the hotel, which opened at 6:00am. After that we watched TV some and then took a cab to a shopping center to buy me some sun glasses. Yesterday we shopped for them but they wanted $25 and Frances said that was too much. Today we found some but they wanted $36 but Frances said no. We keep walking around and each time the price went down some. We finally paid $18 for them and I like them a lot.
We were sitting down at a table having a coconut drink when a beggar came up. Frances always gives them some money so I thought maybe it was my turn. I found a coin in my pocket with "200" stamped on it and gave it to him. He looked at it like, "What !, is that the best you can do?". So Frances gave him some paper money. She told me that 18,000 dong is about one dollar and so 200 dong was not even a penny. I always heard that beggars can't be choosers but that rule has not made it to Vietnam.
After shopping we went to a large park with water, waterfalls and aquariums. Then we rode a cab back to the hotel and here we are. Frances is napping and I'm on the computer.
|Feb 10, 2007
Frances and I ate a big breakfast at the hotel then checked out for one day to go to a beach resort for two days. The hotel agreed to hold our bags until our return. Then we will check back in for two days before going to Can Tho.
We arrived at Long Hai Beach Resort at 12:30 after a 3 hour drive. Bad traffic congestion slowed us down a lot. A typhoon hit the resort last month and a lot of trees were lost. There is still some cleanup going on. Even so, the resort is still a beautiful place.
We unpacked and took a walk around. It seems that we are then only ones here. I asked Frances about that and she said that due to the holiday everyone wants to be home with their families rather than go some other place.
We had a nice meal and we were the only ones in the restaurant. The sea breeze was great, nice to get some really fresh air. Frances bought a new cell phone with bluetooth earbuds.
The next morning I got up about sunrise and took some beach photos. I picked up a few shells for Frances. A guard dog gave me a scare when he came running out of the bushes for me. I was a bit shaken until I realized he was chained.
Here are some photographs from the beach trip. The photos start in the lobby of the hotel. Then the taxi trip to the beach followed by photos taken at the resort.
Leaving Saigon today for Can Tho. Had a great time last night with all the people coming to town for the Tet celebration, Feb 17. Decorations are everywhere and people drive around until late into the night looking at all the lights.
I took the new scooter out for a spin and that was fun. At least I didn't hit anybody but it was close a few times. Frances and I drove around after I learned how to handle it by myself. I'm glad now that I had a scooter at home to practice with.
We went to a nice restaurant and had a good dinner for $5.00.
Slept good in our air conditioned room last night. The bed is just a mattress on the floor but it is comfortable. Got up early and did some computer work. The DSL connection here is very, very slow so I'll check today about getting a faster line. I went outside about daybreak and the weather was actually rather cool with a slight breeze.
Frances woke up and we went next door for a free breakfast at the restaurant. They don't charge us because they use the sidewalk in front of our house to park customer's motor bikes.
Good day taking it easy. Drove around some. Frances bought for flowers for the house. Went to visit her brother, #4. He cracked a bone in his foot and it is black and blue as well as swollen.
New Year's calibration. Thousands of people in the streets, fireworks. Frances meet an old high school friend she had not seen in fifteen years. She invited us to her house, said it was small so don't laugh at it. I told her as long as it was big enough to hold the scooter that's all she needed. Frances translated for me and she liked the joke. Many people park their scooters inside the house at night.
Foggy morning. I drove Frances to see her High School friend and family. They own a flower farm and it was a very nice experience to see everything there. Very quiet day. I took a nice nap in the afternoon while Frances did some work around the house and visited friends.
We took a long scooter ride to Ven's house. It included a ride on the ferry across the Mekong River. Frances bought some land near his house last year so we looked at that too. I did not take any photos of the land. It is currently being used by Ven to grow red hot peppers.
The ride was a bit scary at times. The road turned into a path with narrow bridges. If I saw a bike coming I'd wait at the end of the bridge for them to pass and the people behind me did not like that. But I made it OK with no accidents.
Frances and Anna were gone about four hours, visiting friends. I stayed home and sleep.
Took a 45 mile trip to Cao Lanh to visit a cousin. At first, Frances said we were going to the mountains to a nice photography area. However, once we got started they all decided to go to Cao Lanh to visit a cousin who grew up with them. They had not seen her for 20 years. After the visit there the driver would not make another stop unless we doubled his fee of $100. It was getting late so we decided to come home.
I've got a chest cold and a runny nose today. Frances used the scooter to visit friends and shop for a waste basket while I took a nap and did some computer work. Later we went downtown about sunset and I took some boat pictures from the river bank. I used a tripod so the telephoto shots would be a little sharper. While taking pictures a nice couple from South Africa came over and talked to me. He also had a Nikon D80 and we had fun "talking shop" about using the camera. I wish I had taken their photo to share with you.
Anna and Frances went to Ven's house for the day. I stayed home but made a bike ride out to the riverside park to take some pictures.
Went for breakfast this morning, sat down and ordered. Sat there for about ten minutes then they told us the cook did not show up so we went someplace else. Fan's sister, husband and baby came over for a visit. A friend came over for us to follow her on our scooter to a good saloon for Frances to get a shampoo and I got a manicure. I left Frances there to finish and the friend brought her home.
Frances' Niece, Lone (pronounced "Long") came over with some friends and we went to a night club. Took night photos after we returned to the house to get my camera.
Frances and I went to a portrait studio to have some pictures made. Before having the photos shot they told us the pictures would be ready before we had to return home. After the work was done and she had paid, they said it would be two weeks instead of one so now the photos will have to be mailed to us.
Frances spent all afternoon with her childhood friend and I went alone to the park on the river to watch the boats. Also used the time to copy photos from the night before to a CD and took them to a photo shop. These were picturesof Long and her friends from the night before. I got them printed for Long to give to her friends.
Very quiet day. House cleaner came over and did her thing. Frances took off for a few hours to run around with her buddies. I went for a scooter ride. We both took a nice nap in the afternoon. Ven went to Saigon for the day and Fan was here only in the morning.
Fan does have some sort of allergy on her face. She went to a witch doctor and he drew black lines around each red spot and some sort of design under her eye. She left before I could take a photo.
After sundown, the men that built the house came by for a little party and good eats. Ven's niece, Tram came also. She is 23 years old and majoring in computer technology. We had a nice conversation about using the internet.
|Feb 26 11:16am (Denver, Feb 25, 9:16pm)
Frances and I got up about 8am, got ready and went downtown for breakfast. Another couple she knew joined us for breakfast. I like to walk around after a meal, so I excused myself from the table and took a 30 minute stroll. Got back in time to pay for everyone's breakfast then returned to the house. Her cousin Ven was here then he and Frances went to his house to visit. I'm happy to stay here in the air conditioned room and relax.
I found that radio station 850 in Denver has many of their programs stored in mp3 format for download. I'm planning to download about 15 hours of people I like, such as Gunny Bob (retired Marine with entertaining views I like) as well as Mike Rosen, a political talk show host. I'll then have fresh material to listen to on the flight back, as well as the many Beverly Hill Bellies shows I have on my Zune.
Went to bed last night with a terrible chest cold. Before leaving Denver I packed Sudafed and anti-bacterial medicine. I don't want to get strep throat here so I started taking it right away.
Frances had some business to do for a few hours so I went downtown to a nice cafe on the riverfront and had a good lunch.
That afternoon Frances and visited a home of a school friend. It was an interesting scooter drive on very narrow paths with people darting in an out on foot, bicycles and motor bakes. I didn't take my camera, at the request of Frances, but I wish I had done so.
Frances had a bad tooth pulled today. It cost 100,000 Vietnamese Dong. That is $6.25 in US Dollars.
Neighbor got a new van. He will open a business driving customers between Saigon and Can Tho. We will be his first customer but he wants me to drive. I don't think I'm ready for that.
Frances and I had a nice dinner on a floating restaurant.
Well, March is already here. I'll have my birthday on the 14th and be back in the USA. Lot's of visits planned for today so I might have more family photos to add. My cold is somewhat better but I've almost lost my voice. Good thing I don't have to talk very much here.
We went to a windy restaurant and placed our order. After a long wait Frances called the waitress over to ask what was taking so long. She came back and said the wind blew the order away that she had placed on the cook's table. So we re-ordered and I told the waitress that I hope the wind does not blow my money away. I told Frances I think they did it on purpose because we didn't leave a tip yesterday but Frances said it is OK not to tip. However, she did leave a dollar this time.
Arrived home and guests were waiting. A mother and daughter. The mother is married to Frances' sister's (Hai) husband's brother. The other daughter is now living in Denver at Hai's house.
Very quiet day. Frances was gone about five hours visiting her child-hood friend and I sleep most of the time except for an hour spent at the park for lunch and a few photos of the ferry boat.
Some good ole drinking buddies of the family came over. While they were here Frances' brother called from Denver and asked me take some pictures of the guys so that's what's in this album, other than the few from the park today.
I am feeling a little better, I'm getting over my cold.
However, when I cough it really hurts because my chest is so sore from all
Woke up feeling much better today. My cold is winding down. We went to the pharmacist and got two types of cold medicine. "Neo-codion" for my cough and "Izac" mints for to ease the pain. I looked them up on the internet. One is from France and the other from Thailand.
Frances did not have a tooth pulled today. The dentist just filled it. I didn't go with her because it was so hot. I don't mind driving the scooter when it is hot, the hard part is what to do when I get to the destination. There is no cool place for me to wait so I seldom go anywhere with Frances when she is doing errands. The malls are air conditioned to a degree so I can go there. She went to the dentist with her friend and got back very quickly.
We were invited to a night club by friends. It was air conditioned and there was a live band. It was billed as "big band" and played older songs, which was fine. I did have fun when they played the twist. However, most songs were cha-cha-cha or rumba type music, which I do not dance. We danced a few slow songs but, as I told Frances, the slow songs were the slowest, slow songs I had ever heard. Do you remember how The Fonz would dance on "Happy Days". He would just stand in one spot. Well, this slow music would have been perfect for him.
They stopped playing at 10pm and the group wanted to go eat. I went with them but the restaurant was like a small street deal, with people sitting on little plastic stools about three inches high. I passed on that and came home. Not long after, Frances was home after a short scooter with her highschool friend.
When I got home "the boys" were in the court yard having another beer party. I think they use our house as a get-away from the wives. These are the same men from the pictures from yesterday (Mar 2) with a few more. One lady was in the group. She is very pretty and has some heritage from India. When I was ironing my shirt she took the iron from me and did the job. Brother #5 called as they was leaving and he gave his regards to all.
Frances is now home (10:45pm) and she wants to go scooter cruising.
Got back OK, but fell lucky. I say lucky because some idiot driving a bike with three people almost hit us and he was going very, very fast. I think he was drunk.
The boys came over for another party. The next day I have fun on the bike then we went over to the farm that Frances owns.
Left Can Tho at 8:30am with five people, van driver, Frances, two family friends and me. Took ferry ride across the river and picked up Ven and Fan for a total of seven people. Half-way to Saigon we dropped off the two family friends near their home and then they took the bus the rest of the way. It sure was crowded to have five people in the back row that was designed to carry three but they didn't seem to mind. I was ridding in the passenger seat up front so it didn't bother me.
Arrived at hotel in Saigon at 2:15 pm. Very nice and comfortable. I went to sleep while Frances, Anna, Fan and Ven went walking around. Frances returned about 6:30pm and I was so sound asleep. I got the computer connected to the free broadband connection but it is even more slower that it was at the house in Can Tho. Anyway, I've already downloaded lots of mp3 files from my favorite radio talk-shows in Denver so I'll work on transferring those files from my laptop to my Zune. That will give me something to do while the others go out to dinner. I'm passing on dinner because I have so much to do and I don't understand any of the conversation anyway. There is a really neat restaurant here in the hotel and I'll go down later and have a plate of chicken fried rice, one of my favorite meals. I ate a lot of that in 1965 during my tour in Thailand in the Air Force. I could get a big plate of it there for 25 cents.
Left hotel at 3:30am for 6:05am flight. Got there, checked in bags, checked in for flight, left on time no problem. Arrived in Hong Kong at 10:30am (9:30am Saigon time) to catch a 12:40pm flight to San Francisco then on to Denver.
Arrived in Denver from San Francisco 30 minutes late at 2:45 pm. Anna's daughter meet her and took her home. Frances and I took a cab home. So good to be home. House is all OK with no problems.
I had a wonderful time in Vietnam. All the people were very nice to me.
Went to visit Frances' nephew and his wife to see their week old baby boy.