Friday, January 24, 2014

Vietnam 2014 – Day 18 – Back to Hai Phong

Alas, this beautiful trip is coming to an end. I enjoyed a slow trip across the Cat Ba island (20 km), the short ferry trip, then across Cat Hai island (another 20 km), and the longer ferry crossing to the mainland. Then it was dog eats dog through the port and into the city of Hai Phong. I knew I wanted a hotel along the big canal, and after snubbing a couple of more modest hotels ended in a middle class hotel by about noon.
After gladly leaving behind my parked motorcycle I took a wonderful walk along the canal, enjoying the window shopping. Eventually I came to the market and started weaving through its narrow passages. It was all you could ever dream about an Oriental market, with shops offering everything from flowers to motorcycle parts, dried fish to shining fruit (they even have durions for sale!), and New Year necessities, such as gilded globe lanterns and horse-shaped piñatas (which I presume tell us that the coming New Year, about a week from today, will be the Year of the Horse.
I have solved the mystery of people carrying trees in their scooters. It seems that for the New Year celebration people like to have a decorated tree in the house. Most of the ones that are bare branches are actually flowering trees, which just about now are starting to bloom. On top of the natural flowers they will get gilded ornaments and ribbons, just as we do with our own Christmas trees. On another variant, small potted orange trees are trimmed to have the pointed shape of a Christmas trees, and the small oranges are selectively picked so only a few remain, just like gold ornaments.
In a corner stall I stopped at a small eatery, where I enjoyed a pig’s foot (cold and dipped in a delicious sauce) and a noodle soup with deep-fried pork skins. Very yummy.
Finally, after a very long walk I came back to the hotel for a break. I have a great TV with about 100 cable channels, so I holed down planning to see a movie and enjoy a well deserved rest. In reality I used the time to prepare my first lectures for the Spring semester, which starts three days from now.
At around 7 pm I went out again, to take a look at the lights, the crowds, and the dancing fountains in the park that is immediately in front of the hotel. The crowds had diminished somehow, but there were plenty of people on the go, doing whatever it is that city folk do after sunset. I worked an appetite walking around, and started stalking the street stalls looking for a bite to eat. I settled on a torta or sub of pork gyros style (pretty good except that the lady put some sort of thin ketchup on it that was totally unnecessary), followed by a Vietnamese churro. Yeap, I could certainly get used to living in beautiful Vietnam!

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