The DMZ, Vietnam’s demilitarized zone, divides the North from the South. Tunnels dug during war times to protect Vietnamese people from bombs and ground troops can be found here. After passing through on a sleeper bus, the 1st stop was the beautiful beach at Nha Trang.
I woke up and looked out the window of the sleeper bus to the sun rising over the rice fields and this beach. The scene enticed us to stay in Nha Trang for a few days, even though the original plan called for us to move on. We did not regret the decision as the white, clean beach spoiled us for 2 days. Sunning from our memory foam beach chairs, we were served fresh pineapple and mango from local vendors. I did not go to 1 museum, art gallery, famous statue or temple. I simply vegged on the beach with my book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, for a much-needed chill-out session.
Incidentally, the American travelers we had met in Cat Ba Island named Travis and Katie had the same idea. After running into them on the beach, we dined together over wine at “Good Morning, Vietnam,” a restaurant run by an Italian chef. This was the 1st time while traveling in Southeast Asia that I have eaten food that is atypical to this area of the world. Needless to say, a salad and calzone never tasted so good chased with red wine.
During a sweaty 5-hour bus ride, we zig zagged our way up to Da Lat, a farming village in the hills known for strawberry fields and coffee plantations. French architecture abounds, transforming the typical Vietnamese feel to a quaint European experience.
After a day of patrolling Da Lat’s French bakeries and flower gardens, we looked at the map and thought it would be a good idea to rent a motorbike to drive to Lake Lak, which seemed only a short distance. After 5.5 hours of driving, we reached the scenic lake and saw an elephant bathing, just in time to turn back around for Da Lat. 200 miles later, eyes bloodshot from all the bugs flying at us, clothes damp due to rain storms, and tail bones bruised from the hard seat, we rolled back into Da Lat. “I don’t think we were supposed to do that,” joked Jason while we scarfed down dinner. We just started cracking up, thinking about the movie, Dumb and Dumber, and how they ride to Colorado on a motorbike for hours. The whole trip had taken us 12 hours- we were really dumb and dumber not knowing the actual distance before setting out.
Above: Motorbikes flood the streets at rush hour in Saigon.
The final destination in Vietnam is Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City. I love it here and have extended my stay by two extra weeks, after being offered a position to do freelance copy editing for an English magazine. I am thankful for this opportunity to diversify my resume and replenish my checking account before moving on to India sometime after May 1.
A friend from San Francisco, Zeus, just moved here in January and has introduced us to many of his friends. Sometimes when we are out at lounges or restaurants with these people, I feel like I am in San Francisco until the bill comes and it’s a fifth of the price! The entertainment scene is amazing, boasting 3 story tapas joints and classy roof deck bars. One night, we randomly spotted a friend from the magazine on our way to dinner and he invited us to join him instead for crab at Quan Ba Chi. The chef at Quan Ba Chi steams a hand-picked crab in a cast iron wok on the street corner outside the restaurant. Then he concocts a reduction sauce using oil, tamarind, and sugar. The sweet sauce is good when soaked in bread and the crab is to die for.
After feasting on the seafood, Geoffrey and wife Thuy, the owners of Black Cat ( a restaurant specializing in a burger weighing one full kilogram and home-made Western style sweets) invited us to come back to the restaurant for a drink. Discovering Geoffrey had owned restaurants in the Bay Area before moving to Vietnam with his wife 6 years ago, we chatted the night away about San Francisco and their current businesses in Saigon.
Here in Saigon, many expats meet for networking at posh restaurants, to discuss entrepreneurial ideas and job opportunities. I am surprised how many US companies are just starting here in Saigon, hiring English speakers right and left for positions people could only dream of in The States. The economy is excellent here and I am guessing Vietnam will be a huge vacation destination and business center in the next few years.
Another industry we have enjoyed learning about is the modeling industry. We have been a part of a corporate shoot for Getty Images and a sportswear shoot for Asia Life. Earning a bit of cash is a bonus and seeing everything that goes into the coordination of these projects is impressive. Who knows where our faces may end up! Scary.
Above: Jason and I after posing for a tennis shoot. The photographer is peaking in behind us.
Above: I get ready for the yoga and aerobic beach shot. CHEESY!