I am going to preface this post by saying that I don't think I can really communicate how amazing my parents' visit was, so just imagine this:

You have been in a foreign country for 4 months. It is supposedly Christmastime, but doesn't feel like it. Your parents come for a week and you get to show them all your favorite things about your new life, impress them with your horrible language skills, and travel to a couple places you have been wanting to see. Mostly, you just get to be with them. Also, you don't have to pay for anything...

My parents arrived Monday night. I worked that day, but was nearly useless. I was so distracted that I was halfway home when I realized that I had forgotten to wear my helmet--a blatant violation of MCC policy. Ah, well, I'd like to think it helped me to blend in more to the culture--no one wears a helmet when riding a xe dap (bicycle). Fat chance, right? Sorry, I digress. Point is: I was really excited.

Tuesday: Super-condensed tour of Ha Noi--Calah's-life style. As in, we didn't go anywhere touristy--Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum or Museum, Museum of Ethnology, Turtle-Sword Pagoda, etc. Instead, we slept in as long as their jet-lag allowed, then walked around Hoan Kiem Lake (ok, I'll admit it--that's touristy) till we got to a little resataurant (at home we would call this a "hole in the wall"; here we call it "street food") that serves my favorite kind of noodle soup, my van than. Its a very Vietnamese breakfast; Mom and Dad's chopstick ability was less Vietnamese, but their efforts were valient. Or they were very hungry.

Then we made a short trip to The Gioi Publishers, then headed to the MCC office for lunch, where they got to try bun cha, a northern-Vietnamese specialty.

That evening, we had supper at my house, and my parents got to experience a very important component of my Vietnamese life: eating excessive amounts of food regardless of whether you're hungry or not.

Wednesday: A van picked us up at our hotel at 8 am and we began the 3-hour drive to Ha Long Bay. This is one of the places that everyone says you must visit in Viet Nam; in fact, it's one of the 28 finalists of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature" project.

We spent 2 days and one night aboard this boat.

Except for when we stopped to visit a fish farm/village, to kayak, and even...

...to swim! (All the other passengers were quite impressed with us, because the water was freezing.)

Thursday: We got back to Ha Noi just in time to rush to Derek and Ana's house for supper, then to West Lake for the Christmas Eve candlelight service, a joint effort by Ha Noi's two international congregations, where I got to introduce my parents to some of my friends from church. I think they were happy to have some faces to put with the names that constantly came up in our conversations. On the way back to our hotel after the service, I was able to disprove with considerable certitude the statement that I had heard so often: Vietnamese don't celebrate Christmas. Maybe they don't get holidays from work or school; maybe they don't have gift exchanges; maybe Vietnamese Santa Clauses sometimes hold giant beer kegs instead of small children; however, they do honor the occasion with traffic jams such as this one:

We were stuck for an hour, then finally got out of our taxi and walked--or rather, waded through the mob of people filling the entire courtyard in front of the Catholic cathedral--to our hotel.

Friday: I had intended for us to have a restful morning before we went to the airport in the afternoon, but when Co Van found out that we didn't have any plans, she offered to take us to breakfast. So, Co Van and Chu Hung picked us up and took us to breakfast at a particularly famous pho (noodle soup, specialty of Ha Noi) shop. Then we went around and saw the essential sights that we had missed on Tuesday--Ho Chi Minh's Museum, Turtle-Sword Pagoda, etc--and took about a million pictures. Each of my two moms kept insisting that the other one get in the pictures with me.
That afternoon we flew to Central Viet Nam and began our (more relaxing) stay in Hoi An, a quaint (touristy) little town well-known for its silk, tailor shops, food, and the nearby beach.

Our stay in Hoi An can be summarized quite briefly--as I'm sure you're glad to hear given the length of this post--as follows:
Eating: Hoi An is in a different part of Viet Nam than Ha Noi, so there were lots of different dishes for me to try, and believe me, I wanted to try them all! This is me eating some kind of sweet, black bean pudding --its name slips my mind--at the market.

Biking to the beach: The beach was about 4 kilometers away, and the bikes were about 4 feet too small for us. But the water was perfect.

Eating: Aside from needing to try all the new dishes, we also had to try all the cool-looking restaurants, a few of which were charity-based--giving us an even better excuse to patronize them. :) This one is called Streets and is like a culinary-arts school for street kids. They are employed, taken care of, educated, and prepared for future jobs in Viet Nam's booming hospitality industry.

Shopping: As I mentioned earlier, Hoi An is known for silk, so my parents did some late Christmas shopping.

Eating: This restaurant was right across from our hotel and was great--delicious and cheap. I think the man who owned it thought all we did was eat. Clearly, he wasn't too far off.

Other than all that, we talked. A lot. More than I thought three introverted people could. In fact, I'm pretty sure we actually talked and laughed more than we ate.
If you want to see more pictures from our trip, check out my parents' three facebook albums:

1 comment:

  1. My favorite part:
    "maybe Vietnamese Santa Clauses sometimes hold giant beer kegs instead of small children; however, they do honor the occasion with traffic jams such as this one"

    HAHA! You're awesome Calah :)