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The Big-Mouthed Vietnamese – Part 2

Two Happy Buddhas

Two Happy Buddhas

Ok, so it’s not just me that has been the target of the big mouthed Vietnamese.  Yesterday, on two separate occasions, people called Dad “happy Buddha;” once at the market, when they were bargaining for something (not only did this lady called him happy Buddha, she also took one of the baguettes we had bought), and once at the restaurant, when he was going down the stairs:  “Be careful happy Buddha,” the waitress said.  Dad seems to find it pretty funny, which is good.


The Burning Question, or The Big-Mouthed Vietnamese

Compared to Laos (the most bombed country in the world) and Cambodia (land of the “Killing Fields”), the Vietnamese have done quite well “forgetting the past, so that they can focus on the future,” as our guide mentioned.

I’ve been quite impressed with how modern and prosperous (relative to other SE Asian countries) Vietnam  is, and seeing a communist country like this embrace capitalism and flourish makes you wonder if communism is really all that bad.  But I digress.

Anyhow, so with Vietnam’s more progressive culture also comes a cheekiness that has amused Mom and Dad Sale, Tim and me.  We’ve been taken aback by the Vietnamese’s inquiries about our personal lives as well as unapologetic and constant glaring.

I noticed that during our border crossing trip from Cambodia to Vietnam, the staring and questioning was becoming more prevalent.  Although I get stared at by pretty much every local here, the situation is even more common  in Vietnam.

Ok, I get it:   You don’t  know what to make out of the giant Asian (I am twice as tall as everybody else and wear XXL here) who wears shorts (we’ve been told that real Asians don’t wear shorts), sometimes sits with her legs wide open, and walks around with a white man (the local women, in particular, cover their open mouths in surprise as they repeatedly ask me “HE is your husband?” as if I wouldn’t know how to pick out my own husband in the  middle of the other hundreds of white men here). Continue reading

The Guilt Factor

Now that Tim’s parents are here, we’ve pretty much have been living the the rich and famous.  Well, not really, but we are staying at a 4-star hotel by the river ($50/night) and just got back from a wonderful dinner at a very nice restaurants ($5 per person).  And even when we were “roughing” it, we always stayed at decent places and were able to do pretty much everything we wanted to.

Though I’m thoroughly enjoying the nice life, I can’t help but feel guilty, because everywhere we  turn there’s poverty.  Utter poverty, as some of us have never seen before.

Throughout our travels in SE Asia, it’s hard to not feel undeserving of everything we have when we see old people rummaging through the garbage while we eat at a nice restaurant; whole families doing backbreaking work in the rice fields  while we sit by our hotel pool, petite men and women, being castigated by the scorching sun, pushing carts filled with heavy loads while we pass them by in your first class bus; kids selling souvenirs at 9pm while we sip wine at a bar; people working day and night while we walk to our hotel, knowing that our nice room with electricity, hot shower and clean linens is always there when we’re tired of being adventurous and need a reprieve.

And as Diesel and approach our our eighth week of traveling, we feel a bit more callous when it comes to succumbing to the pity buy, excessive donations, etc. because as sad as it may be, it is a world of haves and have-nots, and the little that will do will not make a big difference.  I don’t think it’ll ever become easier to see the things we have seen, but amidst the misery, hard work and sometimes hopelessness, there are glimmers of hope, happiness and most of all, kindness:  images of dozens of little kids taking their raggedy clothes off and jumping into the river  for their communal bath, diving, swimming, splashing around and laughing; the animated chatter of extended families sharing a meal together; the gentleness of the people we’ve met in these beautiful lands.

That’s what I’d like to remember.  And as for guilt, I’d rather be hopeful.

The People’s Choice

The people have spoken.  And the poll results are in:


By a LANDSLIDE, the consensus is NO BEARD!  I had to throw away the vote from Mr. Beardsareawesome  and also not count Chris C’s comment, because I couldn’t quite figure out if his vote was a “yay” or “nay.”

Diesel was a bit offended by the comments about the sparseness of his beard.  I do admit though, that for somebody who is as hairy as he is, his beard-growing abilities are surprisingly, well… lacking.

Curiously enough, almost all women (with the exception of Leslie and Sarah) voted “no,” which was also quite a blow to our poor Timothy’s ego.  But he has survived!

Thank you all for weighing in on this very important debate, and most of all, thank you for helping me get his beard shaved off!  I love democracy!

Dalat – Nha Trang

My mother slept for over 12 hours but when you awoke, she felt much better, though still not good enough to try her hand at walking 9 holes. So, she stayed around the hotel in the morning as we went to a few “sites” in Dalat which include a “crazy” hotel, botanical gardens complete with minority band dressed in traditional garb and an impressive workshop for silk embroidery art (surprisingly interesting). Honestly, there isn’t much to the sites here – the surrounding landscape is really the beauty of Dalat and in the capitalist rush to make money from tourists, this is somewhat lost.

But don’t let that leave you with a bad impression of Dalat. It is a very pretty place to go, easily compared to some little village in the french alps. My father kept saying “I don’t know what I expected to see here in Vietnam, but I didn’t expect this.” Dalat is clean and bustling with activity. Capitalism is in full swing and yet it isn’t over the top. It is a nice place. If you do make it to Vietnam, I recommend staying 3 days to enjoy it. I just don’t recommend spending too much time on the “sites. Just walk around and maybe go off for a picnic in the hills or something.

Or play golf.

The golf course in Dalat is rated #1 by Golf Digest Magazine for courses in Vietnam and it is easy to see why. Surrounded on all sides by the city, the trees mask out almost all parts of city life and instead you easily feel as if you’re playing in the country. Mom didn’t play because she didn’t feel well enough to walk and that was a shame as it was a great 3.5 hours on the course.

We all got a caddy, clubs, 6 golf balls and some tees for the low price of $45 USD. A good deal for playing golf and actually the most expensive tourist activity Kelly and I have embarked on since we arrived. Bjut it was well worth it as the course is beautiful, the weather was perfect and ladies (all caddies here are female) were excellent cheerleaders and golf experts, constantly helping us with our club selection and putting .

I have no idea what we shot, but I’m pretty sure it was pretty poor. Dad says he shot a 56 on the front 9 but even that seems a bit generous. Being Kelly’s first time on a full-length golf course (we’ve played some executive courses before), she did amazingly well. I have this great video to prove it…

Continue reading


It has been a busy day. We got up this morning, ate breakfast and checked out of our Saigon hotel. We met our new guide and then headed off to Dalat.

Dalat is in the central highlands of Vietnam and one of the contributions of the French who realized it was a great place to relax and get away from the Saigon heat. It wasn’t really a part of the Vietnam war as both South and North Vietnamese used it for R&R and apparently it was one of those places that neither side tried to take. It is pretty here with a big lake and relaxed atmosphere.

But getting here was rough. Took about 7.5 hours including lunch and a stop for tea and coffee tastings and while the road isn’t too bad, it did get bumpy for an hour or two – enough to knock the energy out of my mom and also her lunch. She puked about 14 kms short of the city and has been laid out since we got here. Hopefully she will be better tomorrow becuase it would be a shame for her to come this far and then not get a chance to enjoy it.

We have a full day here tomorrow including a 3 hour tour in the morning followed by a round of golf at the “nicest course in Vietnam”. That’s right, a foursome here in Dalat. I can’t wait. We got a sweet deal on a twilight rate that includes clubs, fees, shoes and even a caddy. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Diesel has been strutting around and telling people (me and his parents) that he looks beautiful with his beard.  He also threatened to leave me for any Asian he finds here who will have him.  Usually, I would retort with “Nobody wants you anyway!  Only me!  Only meee!”  I know it’s a bit mean, but that doesn’t make it less true.  The job of a wife is to keep his ego in check, though around this part of the world, I think he might have a bit of a chance with so many women who are gold diggers or simply trying to leave this country.

Anyhow, after Diesel claimed that several people had commented that he looked handsome with his beard (and by several people he means Corinne and my mom!–as if moms counted), he has stubbornly decided to keep his beard.

So…we are counting on our friends to see if he should really keep it or not.  All votes count, and you can submit your vote anonymously if yoyuu think you might hurt his feelings.  But like I said, my husband does not have any self-esteem issues at all…

kelly-008And now for a close-up view