Tag Archives: travel

Vietnam in 2000

We spent Thanksgiving in Ho Chi Minh City with Megan who was spending four months teaching English there. Kia and I flew in to Seoul South Korea and spent the night in a Korean style room with mattresses on the heated floor before boarding a plane to Vietnam where we would spend the next couple weeks. We shopped in Korean markets which displayed cell phones with color displays as yet unheard of in the states at the time.

Megan met us at the airport with rice hats. We took a cab to her house which would be the only time we rode in an actual car for the rest of the trip. The city runs on scooters and motorcycles.

Vietnam Taxi Ride
Vietnam Taxi Ride

We had clothes custom made for us, including some silk china doll dresses. There were plenty of pre-made dresses to buy, but none of these fit my 5’10” self. We bought material at a fabric shop while playing patty cake with the local kids. Then we went to a seamstress. She took our measurements, looked at some of the pictures we brought from home, them made us awesome outfits for $8-$10 each.Silk Dresses

We toured the Mekong Delta. But before that, we got food poisoning from an upscale Chinese food restaurant serving drunken prawns. I’ve never been so sick in my life. That night president Clinton made the first visit to Vietnam from an American president since the war. The streets were going crazy in celebration and I didn’t have the strength to stand at the window and watch. Still, it was cool to hear and witness that.

The museums in Vietnam show history from a different side than we Americans are used to. We lost that war. The museums showed atrocities committed by American soldiers and the damage done to that country rather than celebrating any freedom we had hoped to bring. It was a different story in Korea where the war memorial celebrated the various countries that helped South Korea escape communism. The Vietnamese museum was the first place I’ve experienced feeling like I was on the losing side of history. Helicopters from 30 years before still littered the airfield.

new old friend
new old friend

Kia, Megan and I got head massages. They lasted for one hour. It cost $1. It felt amazing. I looked like a Qtip after with my short platinum hair sticking straight up and frizzing all over the place after. Totally worth it!

one dollar head massage
16,000 vietnam dong head massage

Taj Mahal in 2000

Dad and I had arrived in New Delhi at night. The temperature had cooled so as the cab driver drove us to our hotel room, we watched the crowded streets as thousands of people flocked to the grassy fields and park areas for late night picnics. Before dropping us off at the Ramada Inn, our taxi driver taught us to greet the people of India. “Namaste” means “all of god’s goodness be with you.” It’s a beautiful word.

We toured the carpet factory as Suresh and Sushma led us through. Sushma was quiet, but she instantly felt like my friend. The guy in charge of mixing carpet dye was ancient and worked over a large kettle of liquid to which he would add the dye later mixing it with the wool for custom rugs. “He can smell the color!” Suresh told us with conviction.

After our rug tour, they sent us a driver to take us to Agra. It was a long drive. On the way we would see many trucks overturned, presumably crashed in order to miss hitting something in the road such as a person or a cow. There were many cows and monkeys roaming about. It was fascinating. Also, people all along the road for the 230km journey were seen squatting, defecating, and carrying on in squalid living conditions. It was sad and exhausting and eye opening.

The Taj Mahal was a beautiful building constructed as a mausoleum for the wife of some big shot. It was beautiful and ornate but much smaller than I had imagined. One must take off their shoes before entering. There are millions of visitors here. Fortunately we made it through without contracting disease to our bare feet.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal 2000

There were many people on pilgrimage visiting the Taj Mahal. One couple I spoke to had come for their honeymoon. Several people asked to take pictures with me and my dad. With my short blonde hair, his guess was perhaps they thought I was Sharon Stone.

I handed out candy to a few children who were begging. This quickly turned into a throng of children surrounding us with palms open and raised, begging for more. My dad tossed the bag into the crowd and we left.

There were beautiful people there, colorful, desperate, hopeful, talented, happy people there. I don’t understand India. I don’t understand the starvation while emaciated cows roam the streets. I don’t understand the filth and poverty that so many millions of people live in, nor the abundance of others. There were so many bright smiles there…and so many lost and desperate souls.