I just visited one of the places on my bucket list and it was truly amazing. Vietnam is a magical place. Many people of my generation have mixed emotions about this country in Southeast Asia but I found it pretty wonderful. The best part about traveling in the third world is how disconnected you are from all your gadgetry. I really needed to be somewhere I could not be found and it met that expectation perfectly. In addition the countryside is beautiful, the food is excellent, fresh and healthy, the people are friendly and it is CHEAP!
One of the best things about my trip was traveling with my niece, Leah. She is an English teacher in Taiwan and has been there for two years. She is a seasoned traveler in Asia so I did not have to be in charge. She is adventurous and game; from surfing lessons to sliding down sand dunes at daybreak with a beautiful sunrise, to photographing beautiful food, to trying a dozen different fruits for the first time, we were great traveling companions.
Her friend Angela is also an English teacher in Taiwan. She hosted us in her lovely apartment, made us the best “white coffee” we had anywhere and took us tooling around, 3 on a scooter.
The fruit is quite amazing. Most of it I had only seen on episodes of “Chopped” on the food network, usually followed by an exclamation of “what do I do with this???”. We tried mangosteen, rambutan, dragon fruit in two varieties, star fruit, passion fruit, green oranges, a custard apple, jack fruit in fresh and dried form and the very stinky durian but only in ice cream and candy. The ice cream was interesting and even kind of good as long as we ate it side by side with coconut and chili chocolate. The candy was definitely a taste we did not acquire.
My favorite was dragon fruit and I had the red, the white and the juice. It is not very sweet, more vegetable than fruit and tastes a lot like jicama. It is grown in orchards like our blueberries but the plant looks like a cactus and the fruit is big like a grapefruit and dark pink. Inside it is usually white with black specs like black sesame seeds. The seeds have a great texture and don’t get stuck in your teeth.
I could have stayed at least another week basking in the warm sun, swimming in the warm water and enjoying the lovely bahn mi sandwiches and pho soup with fresh herbs. Lucky for me I live a few blocks from the “Little Saigon” section of Sacramento where I will be exploring soon. Unfortunately there is no wide expansive and deserted beach or cute Aussie surf instructor either. That is why we need to take vacations.