We took another overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang. This one was a bit more comfortable as we had our own compartment… but still no turn down service or individual bathroom. Our time in Da Nang is going to be quite a bit different from our other stops thus far – we are not going to be doing a whole lot of tourist things, but will be spending a good amount of time working (including homework) and hopefully getting to know some folks a bit better, learning some Vietnamese, teaching some English, and fixing some teeth.
For our month-long stay in Da Nang, we anticipated finding an apartment or long-term hotel or homestay, but I was not able to find exactly what I was looking for in the price range that I wanted, so we have been doing a bit of hotel hopping. Sadly, the clinic had us at a 4-star hotel the first few days, so moving out of there was depressing. But, we are seeing more of the city this way! We stayed by the beach for a few nights and even went swimming a couple times.
Our first time out to the beach, all the boys swam while I sat on the beach enjoying the coolish breeze. Out of nowhere, a couple of women came up to where I was sitting and sat down on either side of me – literally, right next to me – while the husband and child of one of them went off to play in the waves. They struck up a conversation and we chatted for quite a while. As you may know, I am not much of a touchy-feely person, so it was a bit uncomfortable for me to have these two sit so close. They treated me like I was a close friend and they kept touching my arm when they wanted my attention. I have to say that I was initially somewhat suspicious too. But, I went with it and ended up having a really nice, somewhat strange, conversation. Bich (pronounced Bic, like the lighter) told me that she learned English in school, but never gets to use it unless she runs into tourists. Both girls compared their skin color with mine and asked if I like brown skin or white skin. I said I liked when my skin was brown, but they thought their skin was too brown and really wanted to have white skin like mine. Apparently, in Vietnam, white skin is a sign of wealth and beauty and people with darker skin are judged to be poor and ugly. When all the boys (mine and theirs) were done swimming, Tsao (pronounced Kay) took a selfie with me and we said goodbye.
During this first week, we quickly found out that Da Nang is not a major stop for tourists (Lonely Planet even comments that one day in Da Nang is sufficient for most people), which means there are not nearly as many people here that speak English. There are also not as many menus that are translated into English, which meant that we had a bit of a hard time for a few days trying to figure out what to order. On our second night, we walked around the corner from the hotel and tried to sit at an outdoor cafe and order. No one working or eating at the restaurant spoke English, but a couple of people walking past came by and tried to help us with their few words of English. In the end, it just didn’t work out. We drank our beer (bia in Vietnamese) and soda and promised to come back and try again.
Thankfully, our friends, Lee and Snow, came for a visit from Ho Chi Minh City over the weekend and introduced us to a variety of foods that we probably never would have ordered on our own and gave us a few lessons in Vietnamese so we could at least know what to order. They also introduced us to nước mía (sugarcane juice), which has become a quick favorite of RJ’s. We also visited a stone- and marble-cutting factory and a cave in the Marble Mountains and then went to the village of Hoi An and had lunch on the beach. Lee and Snow also translated what people were saying as we walked by and told us that one girl had declared her love for Tyler and claimed he had won her heart!
On Sunday, we visited a large market that sells everything from pig ears and dried squid to silks and shoes. We sampled some dried fish and tamarind/ginger candies – neither of which I particularly enjoyed – and purchased bracelets for Ray’s young patients. Snow also bought us some coconut crackers, which we devoured! We ended the day with another lunch that would have never encountered on our own. I will include some food pics and descriptions below. Overall, we had a very nice visit and were introduced to a variety of new foods and drink!
The boys and I had lunch where this was served. Although not sure what some things are, we have all been willing to try just about everything. This particular morsel was quite tasty, although I’m still not sure what it is.
Han Market pics…
Chicken, pigeon (quail?), and shrimp
Pig ears and feet. Oh, and congealed blood on the back left of the photo
Some part of a pig, I think.
Sweet soup, again with that strange looking vegetable. Although this juice does not look particularly appetizing, it was quite good!
RJ checking out the cobra/scorpion concoction.
This cute, little, banana leaf-wrapped package…
…opens up to reveal a shrimp encased in a gelatinous sort of material.
Which I did try…
… and swallow…
…but did not totally enjoy. Many times, people eat the whole shrimp, peel and all. I did not realize when I bit into this morsel and began chewing that the shrimp had not been peeled. Ty has taken to just biting off the head and tail and eating the rest of the shrimp without peeling it. I think it might take me a while to get used to that practice.