Cambodia and acquiring a son

Arriving in Cambodia and acquiring a new son.
We depart from the floating hotel around 9 am to cross the border into Cambodia, it is a fairly short boat ride and the boat docks on a mud bank.Time to move the luggage once again, there are young boys who will do it for you and then say “money” as if you weren’t going to tip anyway. The guide has all of our passports and the $22 fee which is $2 more than the actual cost. The whole trip was arranged through Delta Adventures.

We wait around and after awhile take a walk in this border town, if we hadn’t seen and encountered poverty and squalor before, here it was spread out for us to see in all its misery. After an hour we are getting antsy, the guide returns with our passports but a Frenchman whose passport has yellowed, is being questioned exhaustively, finally he is permitted to enter. We change boats and interestingly enough once we have crossed the border the landscape changes.Cambodia is actually prettier with rice field along the banks of the river.

Then it is time once again to schlep luggage off the boat onto a bus, where we get a non-stop patter and spiel about the various guesthouses to stay in. If the boat and bus were any indication of the quality of the guesthouses we vowed to stay clear of them. We arrive finally in Phnom Penh and are surrounded by Tuk-Tuks. Somehow we manage to break free and thanks to my gallant companions my luggage is taken care of. We end up at the Spring Guesthouse, where I go for broke and pay $14 with A/C, without it is $9. We all meet 30 minutes later and eat at Mama’s which is just up the street and apparently a popular place. The food was good the owner very amiable and his children totally adorable.

Since it was already quite late we all decide to explore the nightlife, or at least go for drinks. The Green Vespa is a recommended place, 5 of us take a Tuk-TukAcross the river and arrive to a totally empty bar. Drinks were very cheap but the bartender was really obnoxious and unpleasant, a total blacklist for me.
The next day I went to the Genocide museum, and made it in time for the documentary movie. The movie is very well made, there are some scenes where an artist who had been incarcerated shows one of the guards some of his paintings and asks the guard if they are realistic. The guard also talks about his experiences. As I walk around I come to a room where there are photographs and stories of people who were Khmer Rouge. There is also some text that talks about the therapy, and research that has been given to the victims, but none to the perpetrators. By now I have seen enough and have no desire to go to the killing fields.

I hail a Tuk-Tuk to take me shopping. I had read about a jeweler whose rubies were very reasonable. My daughter wanted jewelry, so I thought good idea let’s check this out. Well the author’s concept of reasonable and mine were not quite in accordance. At least it gave me an opportunity to walk around, since I was very close to Independence Monument and an interesting temple decided to explore. First things first, time for lunch, there was a lovely restaurant with an outdoor area. I ordered the spicy Thai Salad with shrimps, this was S P I C Y my mouth was on fire and the Lassi I had ordered did nothing to put it out. Now I knew if it says spicy on the menu they mean it.

I wandered off into the temple area where obviously a party had taken place the night before, there were people sleeping all over the floor, dishes were being washed and chairs were still covered with silk coverings. Am not sure if there had been a Buddhist festival or a funeral, sometimes it is hard to distinguish the two.It was time to go to the Royal Palace, walking down Norodom Boulevard you pass many of the embassies. This part of town is very scenic with large boulevards, grassy plots and lovely plantings. It is hard to imagine that you are in a very poor country. The palace is quite magnificent, as are the grounds. It was rebuilt in 1866 and there are several buildings including the Pavilion of Napoleon III. As I wander around I meet quite a few monks in their saffron robes I take their pictures as they whip out their digital cameras to take mine, they all seem to speak English and are very approachable.

As I enter the Silver Pagoda, so called because of the sterling silver floor tiles, it is also called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha. There were so many golden buddahs encrusted with diamonds and precious stones that I was flabbergasted.As I was walking around I encountered yet another monk and we struck up a conversation. He told me that none of the diamonds were real, they had been replaced many years ago. We then got into a conversation on Buddhism, of which I am very ignorant, he explained that in Asia there are several different kinds of Buddhism, in Cambodia they practice Theravada. We then spent several hours walking around the grounds, having recently read “Eat, Pray and Love” I wanted to know if he had problems meditating at times, it seemed not. We also discussed my reluctance to go to the killing fields, and he asked me what my inner fears were, which of course I knew what they were.

I was then invited to see his temple which was very close by, as we leave a street urchin with her brother on her hip, approaches me for money and as is my habit I said no, but I will feed you. So off we wandered to find some food, we came to a shack were the children bought rice and a hot dog with ketchup, while the rats ran around. As she sat down to eat, she got up very suddenly and said “Thank you” in such a gracious way, that I got teary eyed.

We then proceeded on to the Temple where I was to see the holy water. An older man opened up the shrine and dipped what looked like twigs tied together into the water where a lotus flower was floating. He then sprinkled me in what almost looked like Catholic Benediction movements, while chanting something, at the end he poured water into my hands that I then patted my hair with. By now it was getting late and I had to get back. So I said my goodbyes, we exchanged cards, and that was when the surprise came, the monk was the executive director of the Temple. He had dispensed his monks out for the day to talk to tourists and see if they could get volunteers to come and teach at the school he has established. It seems that Cambodia’s social system would not exist without the monks and their good works at least that is what the newspaper said.I have since received e-mail from him and it turns out that he adopted me as his “Good mom” which is rather nice.

That night 5 of us went out for dinner to a Khmer Restaurant, then it was time to go clubbing. Remember I am with people in their 30’s. We started out at a club on a boat that was very quiet, don’t remember the name, we ended up at “Heart of Darkness” which was an experience in itself. I counted 45+ prostitutes one of the bouncers said there were 100+. The place was packed and the music rocked, I have not danced this much in years, my last two rounds of drinks were club sodas, and I couldn’t understand feeling that tired next morning, forgot that I sampled everybody else’s Mojitos, we finally called it a night around 3 am.
What a day in contrasts, I was really sorry to have to leave the next day for Siem Reap, we all agreed that Phnom Penh is a city to linger in and it deserves more than a day or two. The others decided to stay on for an extra day and we would meet up later in the week.

Took a minibus to Siem Reap and am met by the driver as arranged and taken to Angkor Holiday my home for next few days. After I had settled in I wanted to go find Samot the fabled restaurant. Nobody had heard of the Alley, it was not marked on the hotel’s map and the Tuk Tuk driver did not know where it was. We proceed down to the area, me thinking I would find it but no such luck. I then ask for a Cambodian restaurant that is not touristy, he takes me to Borey Sovann Restaurant where all the tour groups eat. I have a less than mediocre Chicken Curry and return to my hotel. Am picked up at 8 am next morning by my guide and we go to Angkor Wat. Poor guy he didn’t get to do much guiding since I spent most of the morning in the bathroom, fortunately the attendant had some Imodium which really helped. I had found the telephone number of Samat in the phone book and we tried to call them, only to be told that the service had been discontinued. So I figured the restaurant is closed and that was why I stopped looking for it.

That night I went to Foreign Correspondents Club and ended up sitting with another New Yorker who was stranded because of the airport shutdown in Bangkok. We are sitting next to the guitar player, who was German and had been drifting around the world for many, many years. He invited us to come to Dead Fish Tower the next night where he was playing. It seemed like an excellent idea so that’s where we met up again. It turned out it was a fund raiser for an orphanage, one of the volunteers an Australian girl stood up and made a public plea for funds. You could literally hear her knees knocking from fright and she sat down as quickly as she could. I knew that she was not going to get any money this way, I borrowed Peter’s hat and did the rounds. We collected $175 which would buy a generator, but when I saw the list of what was needed I felt like crying. Such simple things that we take for granted, like warm blankets and clothing. Pens and note books, a dry toilet. The needs are endless.
To be continued



Meet some fellow travelers who steer me to a hotel called Hahn Hoa Hotel on Pham Ngu Lao Street in Ho Chi Min City or Saigon as I prefer to call it.. They have two rooms to choose from one for $30 with a view over the park or $20 with no window, I choose the window. I get

an enormous room with two queen sized beds, flat screen TV and a computer with internet connection. This area of Saigon is apparently and obviously home to all the back packers that are visiting. Since it was quite late when I arrived, went out for dinner almost next door to

Pho 20, Pho is the national dish of Vietnam, a soup which can contain many different ingredients, but always noodles. Pho 20 is a chain of restaurants where they have 20 ingredients to choose from. It was quite good, and inexpensive. Wake up the next morning to the sight of people exercising in the park across the street, through my picture window.

What is it that makes one react to cities as to people, you can feelan instant attraction, be lukewarm or even not care within seconds of meeting. Of course the instant attraction may not survive a closer relationship. However that was not to be the case with Saigon. I knew

it as soon as I arrived at the airport, I could feel it even as we sat in traffic for over an hour. Even my funny cavernous room felt good, then to be greeted each morning as I come down for breakfast "you are so beautiful, " how can one not be in love, or at least in like. Wrinkles and bags under the eyes seem to recede, as I venture out, somehow I am slimmer and yes prettier. We should all wake up to be told we are beautiful. This by the way became a daily routine said by the lovely receptionist, and confirmed by the chambermaid.

Since the Cho Ben Than market is very close by I start out by walking there. This is the largest market in Saigon with again everything you can imagine except electronics sold there. The prepared food stalls are intriguing as are the fruit stands, and the varieties of teas and coffees sold. A large part of the market is dedicated to clothing, linens and house wares and on the periphery are the meat and fish merchants. Though I am approached I don't feel myself as hassled as in other markets. The bargaining is as fierce as anywhere else, but I do find that embroidered articles are less than in Hanoi. I can only take so much of any market, and decide to explore the Chinese Pagodas, and China town.

Saigon is a very large city area wise comprised of 12 districts. I am staying in District 1 and Cholon the Chinese area is in District 5.The Cyclo's and Moto's are lined up outside the market, vying for mybusiness, somehow they seem less persistent and annoying than theirHanoi counterparts. Since I wouldn't dare to go on the back of a Motoand it is too far for a Cyclo, I take a taxi. By the way a Moto is ataxi scooter and a Cyclo is a bike with a seat in front like a rickshaw. Spend the better part of the day looking at Chinese Pagodas.They are different from the ones I have seen in China or at least Idon't remember seeing ceramic friezes. These are decorated with veryintricate scenes of clay or china figures on top of the lintel or roof as you enter. They remind me of Neapolitan nativity scenes minus the crèche, or perhaps an elaborate stage set. Inside the temples are also very decorated, one of them has a life size horse that is supposed to ring good luck to travelers. I light a stick of incense just in case.

It is getting hot and time for an iced coffee, stop by a coffee house where there are a lot of men and even some women having drinks. Why I noticed the women, have no idea, order my Iced Coffee which is delicious and sweet, it is made by adding sweetened condensed milk to

very strong coffee. I am also served iced tea, which is totally different and very good. After reviving I am starting to look at my surroundings and the waitresses, they are all very cute, young, dressed in black, some with the skimpiest shorts, and there seemed to be a lot of them for such a small place. Several of the girls sat down with the customers. It could be that the men were regulars, and they just sat down to chat, I didn't notice any goings or comings so I don't know. I had more important things on my mind, the Iced Tea I wanted to know what I was drinking. The Madame or was she a Madam, comes out and very graciously gives me some dry tea, writes down the name of it as well as what it should cost, as usual a great afternoon.

Am now trying to find the Chinese market, which according to Lonely Planet should be directly west of the strip of herb shops. The herb shops, they make you almost want to become a herbalist, seeing sacks and sacks of totally unknown things, that are displayed, the way we usually see rice and legumes, sitting on the ground, there are strings of mushrooms and twigs in bundles. Shops where everything is very neatly bundled in stacks to the ceiling, many of the sacks are labeled for medicinal purposes unfortunately my photo of one of them was too blurred. There is a lot of roadwork going on and I proceed to walk towards the market. I don't think I reach it but instead am in the middle of the auto parts market, then metal workings, cook wares and basically heavy metal stuff. Am unable to find the recommended Chinese restaurant and take a taxi to Quan An Ngon, the same restaurant where I had had that great meal in Hanoi, a different branch only. Had a very very good barbecued steak and a Papaya salad.

I feel that I have put in a good days work and head home, prepared to get ready for this evening's spectacular eating experience. The elements are not cooperating the heavens open up and I go for Indian food around the corner. The next day I decide to explore a different part, walk up Le Loi past the market and see some very elaborate Christmas decoration, it is almost Thanksgiving, am so lost in my own time schedule that dates and months become meaningless. Walk down Pasteur and am trying to find some shops by the river, it is hot and against my better judgment I succumb to a cyclo, we agree on 15,000 approx 90 cents, since it is quite close, a taxi would have been 10,000. We arrive and now he wants 150,000. I offer him 20,000 since I don't have change. Oh no, he wants his 150,000 I told him he could take what I offered or nothing, it was up to him. I had no more time to argue, of course he took the 20,000 and left. This is the problem with the Cyclos you agree on a price and then it changes, I heard some really awful stories of people getting fleeced.

The place I was looking for was no more but I found Ngyuen Freres, which had been so elusive in Hanoi, where I was finally able to buy some great gifts. Coninue my amblings, walk by many beautiful stores and come to yet another market, this one is an open area, obviously not geared for tourists, with the usual mix of meats, fish,fruits, vegetables and wines and spirits. This was a new for me, had never seen alcohol sold at any of the markets.

It is time for lunch again walk for what seems like miles to find Bibi a French restaurant that has moved from its previous location to 17 A Le Than Ton Street. The prices have also gone up a Pris Fixe on weekends is 250.000 and weekdays 200.000. The daily specials didn't appeal so instead I had Japanese Sashimi next door.

Went to the Ho Chi Min museum and have now seen as much of the American or Vietnamese war, depending on your nationality, as I care to.

Continue strolling around and all of a sudden it is 4 pm and I am on my way to Lang du Lich Binh Quoi. One can get there by taxi or public bus, I opt for the bus #14 from the main bus station. Pay 3000 dong and am on my way, the bus rides through some pretty seedy parts of northern Saigon, am getting a little apprehensive but figure the worst that can happen is I stay on the bus and return to the city. 45 minutes later the ticket taker indicates that I have arrived at my destination. I get off at this beautifully landscaped area and have arrived at food nirvana. Every weekend there are 80 kinds of Vietnamese foods served in this beautifully landscaped place. You pay $8 entrance fee and then you are free to sample as often and as much as you like from different food stations. This was the absolute best food I had had at any time in Vietnam. I have different barbecued skewers, grilled clams, fish soups, rice dishes, noodle dishes, wraps, desserts and lots more. The seating is open in this lovely outdoor space and I end up at a table with a Taiwanese man and what I presume to be his 3 daughters. For once I keep my mouth shut and discover that one of them is his girlfriend and the others her girlfriends. When I can eat no more take a walk around the gardens. There are several party pavilions where people seem to be having a grand old time. It starts to sprinkle and it is time to return to Saigon. Since the buses stop running fairly early I grab a taxi and arrive in yet another rainstorm.

Saigon and boat trip on the Mekong

Saigon and overnight boat on the Mekong!

The morning is glorious, I receive my usual wonderful greeting from the staff and wander off in search of I don’t know what. Saigon is a city made for exploring, and I still have presents to buy. I walk up Le Loi to the Opera House, admire the wide boulevards and lovely plantings. Amble down side streets, and backtrack until I get to Parkson’s a very fancy department store. The ice cold air feels good, but there is nothing enticing about the store, at least I have now seen it.
Continue down to the Tax Department Store on the corner of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi. It was once known as the Russian Market and it has a kind of faded beauty about it. I go up to the souvenir floor where all the prices are fixed and many of them at the same or better price than at Ben Thanh Market. I purchase a few items and it is time for another Iced Coffee at the cafeteria in the store.

While I am sipping my coffee, there is a woman obviously a tourist looking out the window I can not tell if she is crying, but her demeanor is a little off. Since I am next to her I ask if she wants company, and she eagerly accepts. I have willingly let myself in for this so I listen to her story. She was not crying but suffering from jetlag, having arrived from London this morning. All the same she had a troubled tale to tell. She was divorced from her farmer husband who was very vindictive, her children who are in their 20’s have not spoken to her in years. Her father’s hand had been cut off mowing her lawn, he could not get the proper help because of all the immigrants in England had used all the available resources. After awhile I excused myself, since this was a litany that I have heard too many times in different geographic locations. When are we as people going to stop blaming the minority immigrants, for all the ills in our society? Better not go down that road or this will stop being a trip report.

I had purchased some items in Hanoi, that I thought I had lost on the way and since I wanted these same items I returned to Ben Than and haggled them down to a very reasonable price. Then it was time for lunch, which I ate at the market, what delicious foods they served. Managed to buy the tea that I had sampled the previous day and felt the day had been spent profitably.

Now it was time to plan for my trip to Cambodia as much as I was loath to leave Saigon. Before I even started this journey, I knew that I wanted to go by boat up the Mekong to Phnom Penh had also read that Delta Tours operated a trip. Went in and booked my ticket 2 days and 1 night $55 using the slow boat.
What could be nicer than drifting up the river in a leisurely pace?

The bus picks me up at 7 am the next morning, we drive around to various hotels picking up people and then we circle around for an hour because 1 couple were either lost or mis-communicated. Finally left Saigon at 8 am and arrive at Cai Be a few hours later, where we transfer to a boat. The passengers are split up depending on whether they are returning to Saigon or continuing to Cambodia. We are supposed to see the floating market, which is a joke, since the market starts at 6 am and it is now 11 am. Even if we had been there at 6 am it would not have served us, since you need a small boat to explore the market, which seemed to be wholesale anyway.

Then we proceed to a factory for making coconut candy wrapped in rice paper, lots of souvenir shops and in general a cheesy atmosphere. We finally leave and continue to An Binh Island for lunch. I share a dish of deep fried Elephant fish with Elaine. The dish was very nice, I don’t recall the price. By now we have started to make friends, I have partnered up with Stephanie from California but lives in Raleigh N.C., there are Ian and Elaine from Ireland and Charlotte and Erwan from Paris. They are all in their early to mid thirties, and continuing on, except Stephanie who is going back to Saigon.

We are back on the boat after some people played with a boa constrictor and others rode bikes. The guide is doing a very hard sell on upgrading to the fast boat, he makes the slow boat sound so uncomfortable and inconvenient that I buy the upgrade. We have been informed that we will have private cabins on the boat and Stephanie and I will share.

Back on the boat and then a bus on to Sadec where we and our luggage get off. After a fair walk, with our luggage, we get to the house which Marguerite Duras either owned or her Chinese lover owned, it was never quite clear. We wait here for the boat to arrive. Now it is time to schlep the luggage again to the boat. Surprise, there are no private cabins, we all sleep on bunk beds in one large cabin. By this time I have decided to make this a 3 day 2 night trip, and I am really glad that I did, final cost $90. The reason for my decision was mainly that on the 3 day trip you do get to see a few things, whereas the 2 day trip is mainly bus travel. We all get settled in while waiting for dinner, I discover some Vietnamese wine, my travel companions are all beer drinkers, but a German lady of my vintage is willing to share a bottle with me. I don’t recall dinner, so it couldn’t have been too bad, the wine however was less than memorable but by the time we finished the second bottle who knew.

We are awakened at 5.30 am to a glorious sunrise, breakfast and transfer to our floating hotel in Cha Doc. This time we have a private cabin and the boat/hotel is actually quite nice. It is berthed or anchored next to a small island opposite Chau Doc and Victoria Hotel. Sitting on deck watching the river traffic is everything I had imagined and more. There are fishing boats, rice barges, river taxis and general daily life passing by. I don’t know why the Mekong has such a pull on me, more so than many other rivers but it does and I am savoring it to its fullest.

Now it is time for the touted tours, we pass by what is designated a floating village which is no more than shacks on pontoons, the majority of houses seem to have fishing boats or nets attached. We proceed onto the Cham village which was one of the most distasteful visits. The Chams are a moslem minority, the purpose of the visit is ostensibly to visit the mosque, which is closed. It really is to see their sales room and be hassled by the children to buy waffles. The children were most aggressive, as we are walking back to the boat I stop by a doorway leading into a house to photograph a cat, not until I have taken the picture do I notice it had just killed a large rat. Then we proceed to a fish farm where the catfish is kept in bamboo cages in the water. The owner pours in some fish pellets and a feeding frenzy occurs, the water literally boils with the fish fighting for the food. Next door is a factory for what we were told was fish food, which I hope is correct, they were grinding up fish heads, bones and offals and mixing it with some substance, all in all so far a pretty unsavory morning. It does get better.

We are now on the way by bus to Sam Mountain and Cavern Pagoda. The bus ride goes by some very pretty landscape and interesting sculpture parks. We arrive at the mountain and start to climb the stairs until we get to the Pagoda,
Where we admire or not the various Buddhas, go into the cave and then climb up some more stairs to admire the view. We are all barefoot, I step out on the wet tiles and take a flying fall, land on my back and head all the while holding my camera high, all I can think of is saving the camera. Fortunately I am alright, have a lump on the back of my head and some soreness, otherwise I am fine.

That afternoon after lunch we head up the river again, it really is a highway, ferries crossing with scooters and their drivers, fishing boats, drifting by, cargo boats, women doing their laundry, people bathing and a few outhouses here and there. We are on the way to see a rattan mat factory and a silk factory. After a 2 hour ride up river we arrive to where they weave straw mats. If ever I thought to haggle for any of those products never again. It is a mind numbing job, dangerous as well, as the reeds are hand fed into the loom. We never did find out how many accidents there are but can imagine quite a few. Then we proceed onto the silk factory, where the silk thread is put onto commercial size spools. This is where we saw child labour, pretty skilled, but still young children, their daily wage is just over one dollar. Many of the children will work all day and if they are lucky attend school in the evening. It was a very sobering sight.

Dinner that night was not included so the 7 of us decided to go into Chau Doc, we have a boat at out disposal to ferry us across, we are given the name of a restaurant, which we realize after having trekked through the rain is not the kind of place we were looking for. We finally find a local joint that seems to please everybody. We are not sure what to order, since nobody speaks English, so I go investigate a few tables and as usual am given a few tidbits. Chicken gizzards and liver is not what we want, though very tasty. I end up with noodles and seafood as do some of the others, there is also steak and fish. While we are waiting a decision is made that spring rolls would be nice for the table. but how do we communicate that? Yours truly says no problem, and proceeds into the kitchen where I explain to the proprietress what we would like, she understands instantly, and we negotiate how many portions. Kitchen language is really universal. The table that had treated me to a food sample now decides I should have Vietnamese Vodka so a glass is sent over. I think it is some kind of Rice Wine and we end up ordering a small bottle for our table. Tomorrow we cross the border into Cambodia and more adventures.


Hoi An
One of the advantages, or is it a disadvantage of independent travel is that you can change your mind and direction, even before you have finished walking down the block. Now if you are with other people plans are less flexible, decisions are made as a group and usually adhered to. I am sure that I have missed many “must sees” because I was tired, bored couldn’t be bothered and also because I had no daily itinerary, or anybody else to prod me along. Vietnam was deliberately not a very planned destination, wasn’t sure whether the elements would cooperate. As it turned out they didn’t, though I had a preliminary itinerary it had to be tweaked considerably.

I tried to go to Hue, though the weather reports were terrible, there were no flights, however I did get one to Hoi An leaving at 6 am. One out of two towns was not bad. I did manage to see the town, as well as having several pieces of clothing made from different shops. Was I thrilled with what I had made? I would say I had very mixed results even from the same shop.

Since I arrived at 7.30 am, by taxi from DaNang, to glorious sunshine, the first order of business, was breakfast, which was noodles with shrimp that I ate across the river. Then it was time for the market, it is an amazing market, everything seemed to be sold there. I walk by a vegetable stall and the woman looks at me and says “you are beautiful” those may be the only English words she knew, I didn’t care, it made my day. As I walked further in I get cornered by Kim who has a haircut shop and does $1 pedicures. I wasn’t in the mood for a pedicure but promised to return, which unfortunately I never did, since she was quite the character. It is time for lunch and I hit Cargo Club where I had my first all Western meal, a delicious perfectly cooked Hamburger, did that taste good. Go back to the hotel to unpack and watch the rain pour down, I did venture out a bit later, after a nap, with my plastic raincoat and umbrella. The rain coat selling women jump on me to buy, what did they think I was wearing?

HoiAn is a cute little town basically consisting of a main street where many of the antique shops and tailors are located, as well as some of the sights. The outskirts are very nice with rice fields and the river appearing every so often, it was appealing despite the downpour.

It came time for dinner and I decided to try Brother’s Café, after quite a lengthy walk I reach it to discover, that I would have been a solo diner, at extremely high prices, nixed that idea. Next door was DaoTien which supports disadvantaged youths. Do not consult my notes, which tell me this is the one restaurant to skip, don’t know where I got that information. Have a nice dinner with steamed Crab, for about $12. There were a few other restaurants that had been recommended but they were no longer in business. Since the rain had really picked up by now, I take a taxi back.

The next day the rain came and went, I explored a bit further and signed up for a cooking class at Citronella, which is across the Japanese Bridge. I was the only student and it was a hands on class. Made Shrimp Fritters, Squid grilled in Banana Leaf, and Crab Soup. The cost was $15 including my meal Did I learn something, yes that grilled Squid in Banana Leaf is not as good as plain grilled Squid. It was a pleasant enough evening and the food was tasty. Since the rain didn’t seem to ease I decided to move on to Saigon the next day. I had booked an afternoon flight, in order to visit My Son in the morning, while on the way to the airport. Well that didn’t work out since the road was closed because of flooding. My really sweet taxi driver, who was the brother of one of the shop owners where I had some clothes made, suggested Marble Mountain. Why not, I had a lot of time. We arrive, pay my entrance fee, receive a map with the caves and temples clearly marked and start climbing the steps. It is drizzling, I am all alone and realize that I must be insane even thinking of doing this, the climb looks interminable and I turn around. Take a few photos of the Marble Statues and we leave for DaNang, so the day shouldn’t be a total loss culturally, I do get to see the historic museum before we head to the airport and on towards Saigon or Ho Chi Min City.