Vietnam Recap, Part 3

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Feb 242010

What else is there to say? It was a good vacation for me. I didn’t worry about anything. Well… because I didn’t worry about anything, my mind made up all sorts of stuff to worry about.

This is where we stayed, at the Thanh Kieu Resort (84 0773848394). Because it was Vietnamese New Years, we paid triple, or about $45 a night to stay in an un-air-conditioned bungalow on the beach. But all-in-all, it was good. I would go back. The hotel staff were not professional and only the daughter of the owner (who was on a working vacation, visiting from her home in Hochiminh) could speak English. But they were good to us.

I think the town and harbor of Phu Quoc is very quaint, but like much of Vietnam, is very poor.

BTW, you may notice that many of the pictures seem dark, even on the beach. We tried to keep the kids out of the sun during the day and only went into water in the morning and around 4 PM. On our first day to Phu Quoc, we got excited and went into the water, then got sunburned. And then Akiva and Haga got a “sunburn fever”.

We went on a snorkeling trip. Kenaz went in the water a little, but Akiva really got into it. For me, it was probably the best, prettiest coral I have seen. Akiva loved it, but he would not shut his mouth.

“Daddy, what’s that?”
“Daddy what’s that?”
“Another type of Coral”
“Daddy what’s that?”
“Sea Urchin. Akiva, keep your mouth shut and just look”
“Daddy what’s that fish looking thing?”
“A fish. Akiva I can’t lift my head here to talk to you because then I’ll sink and touch the coral.”
“Why can’t you touch the coral?”
“Because that is not good. Just be quite and watch”
“But why can’t you touch the coral?”
“Because I will scratch and cut myself, like I just did. So just put your face in the water and look around and stop talking please”
“But daddy why did you cut yourself on the coral? Is it dangerous?”

The only problem with this trip was coming home. We didn’t book a return flight from Phu Quoc in advance because we did not know if we would like it or not. So when we arrived, there were already no airplanes back to Hochiminh city. There were no boats available either until 3 days after our return-to-Shanghai reservation. Vietnamese all travel home during Vietnamese New Years, just like Chinese. All the sons and daughters of Phu Quoc’s fishermen live and work in HCMC. We had to fight for a boat ticket. Then we took a boat from Phu Quoc to Rach Gia, then a 7 hour bus ride, at the back of a van, over bumpy roads, to HCMC. And when we got to HCMC, they couldn’t get the luggage compartment of the bus open, so we waited another hour until past midnight. The next day we went to the airport at 11PM to catch a flight at 1AM, which was delayed until 2AM, to travel back to Shanghai. The kids both got fevers and were tired out, but luckily we got through health quaranteen in Shanghai. We are mostly OK now, though still a little weak and tired from the last two days of the travel.

FYI, this is going to be the last post here for about 2-3 weeks. We are going to switch from the Blogger blog-posting system to WordPress. There are several reasons for this, including that the Blogger tools are blocked in China, and also that Blogger will stop providing FTP support (so it will not hook-up with our blog server) anymore. So we are going to do a redesign, but hopefully keep everything intact.

To all our friends and family, we miss you. We hope on our next vacation we will get to see some of our loved ones.

 Posted by at 10:49 pm

Vietnam Recap, Part 2

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Feb 232010

So we went to a small island of the West coast called Phu Quoc. Phu Quoc is about 70 Km long. Its main industries are fishing (famous for squid) and the preparation of black pepper and fish sauce.

View Larger Map

We arrived on February 14th. Originally, we did not have a return ticket because we were not sure if we would like it or not. We liked it though. We did the usual things we do when we go to islands during the Chinese New Years holiday. For example, we played in the water.

We hunted for crabs and treasure

We built fortresses

We made new friends

Of course we ate all sorts of food at the night market

In the next few days, I will post Part 3, which includes exciting action photos, more boating action, and a retelling of our Vietnamese New Years escape from Paradise Island.

 Posted by at 9:32 pm

Vietnam Recap, Part 1

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Feb 222010

We got back this morning. But more about that at the end. Originally I was going to post daily updates from our Vietnam trip. But the computers in the hotels we stayed at had problems, as well as the memory card for my camera. So here is the rest of the the first stage of our journey, in more-or-less chronological order.

2/13 Mekong river trip

Its not actually called the Mekong river by the Vietnamese. They see it as one of several main rivers. Actually, I would characterize all of Southern Vietnam as one big city (Hochiminh AKA Saigon) which extends out along rivers and highways. Along all the many rivers and highways, there are shops the entire length. Larger towns have buildings behind the shops. As you travel on the road, you would pass bridges over rivers, which show where the town forks out in other directions. Most of this big, forking city was – economically speaking – poor. But anyway…

We did a one-day tour, with our guide, “Stiffler”. We went up to see the floating market, but it was mostly closed because of Vietnamese New Years.

Stiffler showed us a few things which people do along the river, including…


Bee farms

Walking around in the hot sun

Make rice paper-wrapper

Ride around in row boats…

Along another muddy river

When the trip was over, we returned to our hotel, where the kids befriended the cute front-desk girl

Speaking of which… we stayed at NHATTHAO guest house (35/4 Bui Vien st.,Dist.1, HCM City – VN Tel : (84-8) 8368117 – 8368214 Email : ) We paid $25 (I think that was a high Vietnam New Years rate) per night for an air-conditioned room. It was bare-basic, but it was also clean, quite, and in the middle of the tourist area but away from the street. HBO / Cartoon Network included. Staff was very friendly. I recommend.

So that’s it for Part 1. I will try to get Part 2 up tonight or tomorrow night.

Here is a preview, from 5:00 AM on 2/20/10:


 Posted by at 3:15 pm

Pho in Vietnam

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Feb 122010

We are in Vietnam from 2/11 – 2/22. Our goals are: 1) have good Vietnamese food, specifically Pho, 2) warm up, 3) see a beach.

Mission 1 status: Accomplished!

Bonus Objective: Eat Crap Soup, BBQ pork rice noodles (Haga’s goal). Accomplished!

Mission 2 status: Accomplished!

The traffic is really bad here. But we already accoplished 2 objectives, so we are good.

On Sunday we plan to go to an Island called Phu Quoc. I’m scarred of riding the airplane, and scared of having to get up at 4:30 to get to that airplane. But we will see. We must get objective 3 done!

 Posted by at 10:02 pm

Hello world!

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Feb 112010

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

 Posted by at 1:31 am

Happy Birthday Akiva

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Jan 262010

Well. Akiva is five. Everyone always says they grow up fast. I can’t believe it. He is still my little boy. But he is becoming more of a big boy everyday.

We had 6 of Akiva’s friends over for a party last Friday. All well behaved Chinese boys and (one) girl. We had cake, them games.

They have lived their lives in China so far. Generally speaking, this is a good thing. They speak 3 languages. They play with Chinese and Japanese children (and in the future will eventually play with more Americans). They live next to their school, which they really enjoy going to. Akiva is learning how to write English and Chinese. They are happy.

At the party, Akiva played host. Neither freaked out about other children playing with their toys. I would even say that Akiva was the leader of the bunch.

The party broke into about two to three sub-groups, centered around the play room, games in the living room, and whoever wanted to run around playing Ultraman. Notice how many toys my children have! I think its a little over-the-top. We (and by we, I mean grandparents) spoil the children.

It sounds sad, but I think many Chinese kids don’t play board / table games. None of them have seen “Hungry Hungry Hippo”. Personally, I sort of feel I should get rid of this one, because Kenaz always starts crying when playing this (and 50% of the time jumps on Akiva and starts hitting Akiva). We also played this fishing game, which makes me get dizzy. We also did hand-tattoos.

It was a fun party. The children liked et. Haga organized it. No injuries , fights, or crying (except Hungry Hippo related incident). We are proud of our little boys.

By the way, this is the view from our new place. We get to see Akiva and kenaz’s kindergarten.

 Posted by at 4:48 pm
Jan 202010

This is just a follow-up on previous posts about our new Wintertime health-food; mushroom hotpot.

Something about the hot chicken broth with weird mountain-mushrooms can make us feel… high.

This last time, we ordered mushrooms to protect us from sickness, as well as to help make women prettier. Haga mentioned that since we started eating mushroom hotpot, it seems that she has no grey hair

Actually, we are all a little sick now. But so is the entire population of Suzhou. Maybe if we were not eating mushroom hotpot once per week, we would be much sicker.

The green noodles which we eat at the end of the meal are really great.

 Posted by at 3:30 pm
Jan 102010

Big, late New Years update

First of all, for all those who follow my family through Facebook… I’m sorry… I cannot usually access Facebook. Its blocked in China and to access I have to go through my VPN, which is really slow. So…if you want me to respond to comments, please go to my blog chat, or directly email me (

So its been a while since the last post, and some have complained about this. Where to start?

The following has occurred since the last update (not all of which is in chronological order):
On Christmas we went to a school party. Haga made Tofu brownies and everyone ate them up. Akiva sang some ecumenical Christmas songs.

On Christmas day, we ate lasagna. This is the first time we started our new Christmas day tradition…to eat lasagna. Haga made it. Very delicious.

Haga made a custom-made down-jacket, which makes her look very cute.

The kids and Haga got some stomach virus/flue on Dec 30th, so during our New Years vacation they were inside all day, eating rice porridge every meal. Akiva and Haga threw-up and had diarrhea for several days. Kenaz just got sick for 2 days. I was really worried about getting sick, in part because I had to do a training on a new performance management system for my customer, as well as have big important meetings with so-called important people visiting from HQ. Fortunately, I did not get sick. So… we watched a lot of “The Lion King”, and some Hayao Miyazaki films (Totoro, etc)

I’ve been working about 11 hours a day, without procrastination. Its pretty cool.

We had mushroom soup hotpot… twice. Expensive. But supposedly very healthy.

The restaurant is on ShiHuiFang (师惠坊… on that food street across from Blue Marlin). We ate mushrooms that were supposed to reduce coughing, increase immunity, and make our skin better. After we ate mushrooms, the waiter adds home-made delicious noodles. Great stuff, but we spend around 250 RMB when we go there.

We saw “Dance with Wolves – 2010” (er…”Avatar”). Somewhat entertaining. Visually great. But it’s the usual story about a white American who goes to live with the natives, learns their ways, then uses his superior organizational skills to lead the natives in revolt against the rich corporate types. Although the story was derivative and predicatble, at least the move was put together by someone who knows how a movie should be put together (unlike Michael Bay).

 Posted by at 2:37 pm