Our morning started floating down the Perfume River of Hue Vietnam on a small wooden boat. OK…Houston, we have a problem…our guide speaks about 10 words of English. How exactly are we suppose to learn about what we are touring when our guide doesn’t speak our language? It was actually kind of comical as he would think he was speaking English but we could not understand him…is that mean? Giff and I would take turns pretending to nod our heads at him while we really understood zero of what he was saying. It was actually a little painful because when we would tell him we didn’t understand what he was saying…it really got us no where fast.
Our first stop was right off the river at Thien Mu Pagoda (the tallest in Vietnam) originally built-in 1601, it has since been renovated a few times. The doors were closed so we couldn’t go inside but there were seven successive tiers…each representing the steps to enlightenment. We saw a giant bell as well as a large tortoise statue with some kind of inscription. As we continued walking around the property, we saw a building…we walked up to it and a big happy Buddha statue sat smiling at us. A monk would walk up to some type of brass bowl and bang on it to make it ring like a bell every few minutes. We took a few pictures and then walked down the small road where a few locals were selling food, that is when we finally saw the fruit we had been looking for everywhere…mangasteen! It is one of the healthiest fruits and one of the most sought after in the world. We had been looking for them everywhere as we moved through Asia but it seemed the season was already over until now. We stopped and bought a couple to have our very first taste. They have a hard purple shell which once peeled reveals a sweet and tangy white fruit. This fruit is native to SE Asia and most attempts to cultivate it in the US have failed. We were super excited to taste it and of course reap the benefits of the rich antioxidants.
Our driver picked us up and drove us to the citadel, a walled in fortress and palace which back in 1805-1945 was the capital city of the Nguyen Dynasty. It took about 30 years to build and was the most massive structure built-in Vietnamese history. The land total stretches 1,284 acres and is organized into two parts…the citadel and the forbidden city (only the royal family could enter that area) in addition to the mansions and apartments. Most of the buildings were destroyed in the Vietnam war but what remains are now being preserved and restored. We took our time walking around looking at the very eastern architecture. The colors were colorful and very detailed with figures like the dragon. There was also a museum which we walked through and a little art gallery on the side selling art paintings done by art school students on both rice paper and canvas. We took a few minutes to look through the pieces and ended up buying two small pieces painted on rice paper because….how cool is it to have rice paper paintings from Vietnam?
After the citadel we stopped for lunch at Lac Thien, it was a restaurant run by a deaf family and known for its good food. We sat upstairs on the patio looking over the busy street while we ate. First we ordered a couple local beers which were opened by a thin piece of wood with a nail on the end of it…interesting. Stuffed savory pancakes seemed to be the specialty so we ordered a couple which were more like an airy crisp taco stuffed with chicken, beef, shrimp, sprouts and an amazing sauce. The pancake tacos were oh so good. We also had some spring rolls amongst other yummy dishes. It was fun to drink our beer as we watched the busy chaos on the street below.
After lunch, we walked through the tomb complex of Tu Duc who ruled from 1848-83. He had over 100 wives and concubines (mistresses) but still was never able to have a son…he did end up adopting one who took over as ruler but died after only seven months. The entire tomb area is about 30 acres and has about 50 structures…gates, buildings, terraces and pavilions. It is set inside a pine forest and also has a couple of ponds with fish. Interestingly…his primary wife and adopted son were both buried on the tomb site but Tu Duc was actually buried in a secret location which is still undiscovered. The 200 workers who buried him were beheaded so no one would know the burial location…historians are still trying to find the real tomb.
After the Tu Doc tomb, we had one more important tomb to visit, Emperor Khai Dinh. It was set on the top of a steep hill so we climbed 127 steps to the main area plus a few more to reach it. Everything was made of concrete and stone, there were statues in a line facing the courtyard and the walls of one of the staircases looked like huge dragons. Once we got into the actual building…every inch of space was ornately decorated. The ceilings and walls were decorated with colored glass and porcelain and the floor was made of enameled flowers. In the back room was a statue of Khai, his altar and tomb. The architecture in general was very different from other tombs…it had both European and Asian influence and took 11 years to complete.
After our busy day of site-seeing, we went back to our room to relax a bit before heading to dinner. We found a place down a small street which had a big building set in a garden. There were 4-5 people playing local music with their instruments, and we ordered a few different dishes along with a hot-pot meal we had seen everyone order. It was basically boiling broth and they added raw seafood with noodles to it until it was cooked at our table. The taste was actually a little weird but we ate it and enjoyed the music…then got back toour hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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One Reply to “Day 319 of 400: Hue – Vietnam”
Hilarious video!!! You just keep nodding your heads! LOL!!!