Hoi An (and a funny thing in Vietnam)

Among the long list of funny things Vietnamese people do in Vietnam, perhaps my favorite of all is how they try to get you in the door of their shop. 

"Hey lady, you come eat here!" they'll shout as I walk by. At first I was like, wait what? Are you yelling at me right now?  But then somehow, oddly, you get used to it. Most times it's not so much an offer or question but a demand. 

"You buy something!" (Danny's personal favorite)

At restaurants there is always someone standing in the street. They yell at you when you get near, telling you to sit down, and watch you as you page through the menu. It was unnerving at first, having someone watch you so intently while you look to see if they serve cao lau. Sometimes they will nod or murmur in agreement as you pause at something on the menu. Yes yes fruit shake, they'll mumble as you scan the drinks. When we've decided to eat somewhere usually Danny and I will ask them how their food is just to hear their response. So is your pho good here? Yes yes! Best pho! Grandma make it in the back for you sit sit, sit down!

This marketing (?) tactic is especially apparent in Hoi An, which, we learned, only really started seeing tourists in the mid '90s. This is mind blowing to me, it is SUCH a touristy town. Am I making Hoi An sound kind of terrible? Because it's definitely not. It's actually been my favorite in Vietnam so far. I love its small village feel it somehow retains, how everything is washed in yellow, the picturesque alleys, and how the entire town is lit with colorful lanterns at night. If I were English I would call it lovely. Old houses now converted into restaurants and coffee shops line the streets, and some of the roads are gloriously blocked off from motorbikes and cars. Danny and I pretended we were in France for a while, like 10 whole minutes, until we saw a rat run by. 

On our last day we rented bicycles and rode to An Bang beach and were pretty upset we hadn't done it all of the other days before. By the way, am I supposed to be getting a tan on this trip? Because I'm definitely not. Our prerogative is to find shade, lots of it, with comfortable chairs near the water. And in close proximity to mango shakes, obviously.

Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang, I could just kiss you right now! Battambang is like Siem Reap's cooler, more relaxed younger brother. Or second cousin. 

We took a bus here, which didn't lack in adventure. Not one person on the bus spoke English so when we stop a couple hours into the bus ride, and Danny jumped off to get some water, I decided to stay on. The bus driver started yelling something in Vietnamese so I ignored, as I do. A couple seconds later the bus starts to move and I desperately look at Danny on the other side of the window and he looks at me like, idk?  We drive for a bit, me and the bus driver, and take a couple turns before we end up at some sort of hut selling mangos and Pepsi that was possibly someone's home. I was too scared to get off in case the bus decided to take another little cruise so I just sat there trying to play it cool (sunglasses emoji).  I still have no idea where we even went on that field trip but about 20 minutes later we looped back around and I saw Danny standing there, shining like a beacon of light. 

On that note, it's weird being in a different country. I really never know where I am, with no cell phone and at times no money (I never have pockets? I'm also terrible at calculating conversion rates in my head so I happily let young Daniel handle that). I pretty much always feel upside down.

So! What we've been doing:

  • Playing Jenga with the bartenders, who are REALLY EFFING GOOD and make you take a chili-infused vodka shot when you lose. Let's just say we weren't winners.
  • Watching the locals eat duck embryos, known as balut, which just so happens to be their snack of choice. These are straight up half-developed ducks that get boiled and they really really look like half-developed ducks too. You will see these getting eaten on every street corner.
  • Eating barbecued mice (see it right there! ^) This was all Danny. This was also 30 minutes after someone finished explaining how many parasites are found in mice so I spectated the situation.
  • Watching the local circus, which performs nightly and is similar to cirque de soleil but with less actual acrobatics and more fire.
  • Riding the bamboo train. See that little track below with the bamboo plank? This is Battambang's most popular attraction - hah! It was surprisingly really fun and unsurprisingly sketchy at times.

Probably the most defining moment of Battambang is when we caused some children to revolt. What? We heard that we would be stopping in a little village at the end of the bamboo train ride, so we bought some coloring books and crayons to hand out. But when we got there and starting giving them to the kids we were met with outright hatred because we wouldn't buy the bracelets they were selling.

Buy our bracelets! We don't want coloring books! I didn't get a crayon! Why did you give HER a crayon and not me?!

Cue complete outrage.

At one point there was a very dramatic moment in which ones of the older girls threw three crayons onto the ground with a fervor I never in my life expected. I remember looking around, surrounded by a horde of screaming children, thinking what in the hell is going on right now? In conclusion: we were not heroes. (Although I did take a rusty battery out of the mouth of the littlest girl, so at least some good was done.)