Trip of a Lifetime: Central & Southern Vietnam

We left Northern Vietnam {read all about our adventures here} and flew to Da Nang.  We arrived and drove a half hour or so late at night to Hoi An.  It was dark, we were tired and so we joined the resort’s New Year’s Eve celebration in medias res and barely made it to 11 o’clock.  All we knew was that we’d made it to the beach.

Boy were we in for the most wonderful surprise the next morning.

We awoke to breakfast by the water to start an incredible day.  Hoi An was once Vietnam’s most active trading center for centuries, and the architecture of the city reflects the influence of Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, French and British traders.  We all couldn’t stop taking pictures wherever we went!

We spent our first day on an eco-tour of the local farming and fishing communities, and had a great time.  We first started out on bicycles, where The Cuties promptly teased me for missing my beloved mamachari and having to actually pedal on my own!

bicycles

We then met up with a local farmer who graciously gave us each a ride on his water buffalo.  We may go down in history as the first women in monograms and Lilly Pulitzer to ride a water buffalo, but it was quite fun, despite my intense fear that the beast was going to toss me into the water!

waterbuffalo

We then went to a local farm where the cutest 74 year old woman taught us gardening skills.  She also smoked me in her ability to carry two loaded watering cans and use them in harmony while I shuddered beneath half the load she carried and splashed about franticly.  I loved her.

wateringgarden

As we continued riding, we passed all the local farmers working hard in their rice paddies while our guide explained the rice crops of the different regions of Vietnam.  We then arrived at the Cua Dai Sea and boarded a boat to start our fishing tour.  First, we took a little side excursion in traditional round bamboo basket boats.  There was much showing off amongst our two crew members as to who could performer the best tricks while steering the boats.  But The Cuties’ favorite part was the accessory-making out of coconut palm fronds!

basketboats

We then met an adorable couple who had been married and fishing together daily for forty years.  They brought us onto their boat and taught us to cast and retrieve the homemade nets and The Cuties even caught a few!

fishing

For the record, I’m pretty sure we hadn’t even had lunch at this point in our day!

We then rowed onto the beach and learned another fishing technique and each had a few tries at casting the nets from shore.

casting

The next day we explored amazing Hoi An and just simply fell in love.  It’s such a cute little city filled with color and charm at every turn. hoianstreets

For me, however, what I loved most about Hoi An, were the amazing silk lanterns hanging from nearly every shop.  In many of them, families were sitting making them right there ~ bending the bamboo frames, gluing the silk and in a few cases hand-painting the silk with scenes of birds, bamboo, temples and more.  It should come as no surprise that I made my way to a local post office bearing more than a dozen large lanterns I’d bought to ship home with the hope of someday hanging them from trees in a backyard back in the States.

lanterns

One of the things Hoi An is known for are its custom tailors and custom cobblers.  People travel there from all over the world to have things designed or bring favorite items to be replicated in a quick twenty-four period.  Keeping this in mind, and knowing our long-standing struggles to fit Big Cutie in shoes {her CP causes her feet to be two different sizes}, we thought it would be a special treat to let her have a pair of dress shoes designed.  After much thought and many leathers to choose from, she got the cutest pair of silver pointy-toed flats.

flats

And in true form to my daughters’ individual personalities, when we then turned to Little Cutie and asked her what she would like, here’s what she picked ~

cowgirl

She will be styling during horse backing riding at camp this summer!

Our last day in Hoi An we found craft classes! Seriously, did you ever doubt me?

We started the day learning traditional Vietnamese ink painting.  While a little similar to Japanese sumi-e, it was different enough for me to be just as frustrated as The Cuties and my husband that we couldn’t make our brushes do what we wanted.

paint

Then we each made a mini silk lantern.  Which only gave me greater appreciation for the lanterns I loved all over town, as it was ridiculously hard to make and by the end, all of us had managed to snip a small hole in our silk while trimming our edges.  I seriously wanted to cry.

lantern

After craft classes we headed to Da Nang to climb the Marble Mountain.  At the top were several beautiful temples and pagodas and an amazing view of China Beach.  Little Cutie and I continued the hike a bit more with our guide and went into a cave that had served as a Viet Cong hospital, while Big Cutie and her Dad climbed down and checked out the amazing carved marble shops in the surrounding area.

marblemountain

After Hoi An we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, colloquially known as Saigon still.  In Saigon we toured the Reunification Palace, which was an interesting contrast to Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts in the North.  We ate delicious Pho for the first time, and were lucky enough to sit at the same table President Clinton and Chelsea did for their visit {I suspect our visit will not be memorialized in photographs on the walls to the same extent!}.

The next morning, we boarded a boat on the Mekong River {notice a theme?  anyone keeping track of just how many boating adventures we’ve had so far?}, and traveled South to Cai Be, the agricultural heart of Vietnam.  We first stopped at a coconut candy making establishment and had a snack of the local treat and then for lunch, where we had the local specialty, elephant ear fish served whole.

elephantearfish

As you can see, we kinda liked it!

fishbones

We went down river a bit further and arrived at a local family’s guesthouse, where we spent the night!  We learned how to make and roll our own spring rolls and slept together in a communal room.  Look at us with our cute host family!

hostfam

{check out Little Cutie with her flowers ~ she turned the Big 10 in the Mekong Delta, continuing her streak of birthdays in exotic locales!}

On our last day in Saigon, we headed West to Cu Chi, where we toured the extensive network of underground tunnels.  I think it was one of the more interesting lessons about the War for The Cuties, gave them some perspective, and many things to think about.

cuchitunnels.

Although as always, I adore the innocence and brilliance of children, and appreciate the simplicity of Little Cutie’s question: If no one really wins a war, and people on both sides lose so many lives, why don’t people stop fighting them and just skip to the peace talks?

Yeah, why don’t they?

Next time…Cambodia!!!

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8 Responses to Trip of a Lifetime: Central & Southern Vietnam

  1. karen0221 says:

    Absolutely love your adventures – makes me want to go back and follow your itinerary exactly. Can’t wait to hear and see about Cambodia. You sure did pack a lot into your vacation!

  2. Kay says:

    I can’t wait to hear more.

  3. Amma2013 says:

    I vote for Little Cutie as President! I always knew she was brilliant! Can’t wait to read the next installment.

  4. Anna says:

    That is a very good question. :)

  5. The Husband says:

    I really showed excellent fishing form…

  6. Hai Nguyen says:

    ” simplicity of Little Cutie’s question: If no one really wins a war, and people on both sides lose so many lives, why don’t people stop fighting them and just skip to the peace talks?”. Little Cutie’s question is very profound, not simple and here’s a simple answer from Vietnamese perspective: because it takes 2 to tangle, peace talks often can’t start until there’s a relative balance of powers.

  7. Your information about tour and travel is really good. Get more info about tours and travels at http://www.vietnameasytravel.com.

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