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28 December 2016 @ 07:57 pm
Wait, it's Wednesday?!  
Mom summed up today very well:

Food
Speaking of Food, Rats: They're What's for Dinner
The Vietnamese are remarkably catholic in their food preferences, which means that they'll eat just about anything (more on the only exceptions later). In the countryside, most people raise chickens and pigs and grow vegetables -- especially rice--to sell for income. Many rats reside in the rice fields. Bad place to settle, as the farmers catch the rodents and flip 'em on the Weber grill or dump 'em in the curry pot. Rats also live in the coconut trees, and these creatures join their equally unfortunate kin on the dinner table.

Now to the exceptions: during the New Year (Tet), people will not eat crabs or ducks. Why, you wonder? Well, crabs move side to side and ducks waddle slowly, and people want to move forward and fast in the coming year.

Pho?
The Vietnamese in Saigon tend to go out for breakfast, and their version of a bagel and a schmeer is Pho. Now, I knew this, but I did not know that the word us pronounced Fo? with an upward inflection. The drink of choice is iced coffee or sugar cane juice with a shot of lime or other fruit juice.

McDonalds: clever marketing
McD has positioned themselves as a family destination center, featuring playgrounds and drive throughs. Very savvy, Ronald.

Lunch: Laurie hates Vietnamese Food and It Hates Her
Again with the huge lunch and nothing I can or will eat. Every single dish has either shellfish or pork, and since this was a blow out banquet, every dish but one had both. The exception was a monster whole fish, mounted upright, studded with scales. And it was fried. And I swear it was staring at us in an accusatory manner, as if to say, " What did I ever do to deserve such an ignominious end? Or, it could have been thinking, "I'm looking pretty spiffy, don't you think? Charlie the Tuna ended up in a can but I get to be the centerpiece. Ha!" I got some plain rice, as rice is as ubiquitous in this country as motor scooters. You want good food? Israel is the place for you.

Now, to be fair, Vietnam has gorgeous vegetables and fruits, virtually none of which we can eat because the guide told us repeatedly not to. I ignored him. Not a smart life choice. -- side note: I (Sam) am fine.

Bread
Vietnam bakeries have superb bread, especially baguettes. Thank you, French occupiers. Yes, I have already been to the food store and it really impressed me.

Coconut: nature's most perfect food
This country likes its coconut. Like Armour, they use every part but the squeal -- drinking the water and the milk, eating the flesh, drying the husks for fuel, using the fronds for roofing material, making soap, etc.

Transportation
Need a Ride?
Vietnam has Uber, and it's quite popular. The catch? Your ride is on motor scooter. Speaking of motor scooters, about 15 years ago, the Vietnamese switched from bikes to motor scooters. Here's how it happened.

The "Honda Dream" was the Cadillac of scooters, going for $3,000, a fortune. Families saved 20 years to afford one. Then came the knockoffs, which sold for $300, and so the average person could suddenly afford to buy a scooter. Vietnam has a population of 92 million; 42 million people own scooters. Harley Davidson just broke into the market. Should be interesting to see if they catch on, as their hogs as so much larger than these roads and crowds can accommodate.

Bumper Cars On the Mekong River
A lovely trio of boat rides on a lovely, albeit sadly polluted river. The first and third rides were in a small ferry-like boat; the second, in a four-seater canoe. The rowers played bumper cars with the other boats, to jockey for space on the narrow inlet rather than for sport. Thanks to the overhanging palms and melodic bird cries, I kept thinking I was on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney, which shows how Disney has both aped reality and subsumed it.

What Time Is It Really?
This question becomes even more confusing in Vietnam, as the people follow both the western calendar and the lunar calendar, at the same time.

Trivia
Our guide uses the CIA website the get the facts he gives us, as the information produced by our government is far more accurate than the information produced by his.