Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Few More Randomosities

I’ve been going through all the various scraps of paper on which I’ve written notes, on tours, from the guidebook, things I’ve been told. Here are some that I don’t think I’ve included in any of my other posts.

Virtually every tree you see is painted white at the bottom. We asked a lot of people about this, and only one was able to give us an answer. Our tour guide to the royal tombs said that the paint is a form of insect control.

Many of the bomb craters left in the fields here are now used as pools for water. Some have even become elaborate fish ponds.

An inexpensive way to get from Hue to Hanoi, one that we would try if we had the time, is the Sleeping Bus. It’s a double decker bus set up with individual beds. You leave Hue around 6:00 in the evening, and arrive in Hanoi 12 hours later. It costs $7.00. If we had more time, we would also consider getting to Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat) by bus from Ho Chi Minh City. It takes 12 hours and costs $17.00. Instead, we're flying from Hanoi to Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City at around $350.00 each.

The most people we have seen on any one motorbike at the same time is five.

Being here is at times like being in a time warp. Music played in restaurants is typically about 10 years old or out-of-season. We went out for dessert one night and listened to Christmas carols, some in English and others in Vietnamese. There’s also an element of culture warp, as in this shot I took of the wall of the Hot Tuna Bar and Restaurant. Yes, those are hieroglyphics at the top, and yes, that is Santa Claus underneath.

It is unlucky to burn two kinds of incense together. Burning one kind signifies the present. Burning three kinds together signifies the past, present, and future. Burning an even number of kinds together is considered unlucky. Incense is considered an invitation to the dead to come back and enjoy some time with the living.

When we went to dinner at the home of the director of Hue University’s Advanced Program in Physics, younger son ate all by himself at a table to the side. No, this wasn’t the put-the-small-kids-at-another-table deal. In the form of Buddhism that this man practices, a vegetarian meal is served totally separately from a meal containing meat.

There are five “holy animals” here. The turtle symbolizes longevity. The unicorn symbolizes belief in religion or, if shown without its horn, peace. The phoenix is the graceful woman while the raven is the powerful man; this is why the Vietnamese consider themselves the children of the phoenix and the raven. Finally, the carp symbolizes the scholar that never sleeps.

Not all veggie burgers are created equal here. Younger son ordered one at one bar and got something fairly similar to what we have in the States. He and I each ordered one at a different place yesterday; younger son also ordered "potato salad." His potato salad was essentially mashed potatoes with some diced carrots added. The veggie burgers? They were the mashed potatoes/potato salad in a bun. Carbohydrate loading lives!

There is only one industry of any kind in Hue. That would be the Huda brewery. Huda ... brewed with natural ingredients ... brewed by Danish technology. It's not bad especially given the just a bit more than 50 cents a can price. The local government decided that the brewery was fine but there will be no other industrial development here. Tourism will be the focus, not industry.


Caroline M said...

We went to Turkey last summer and the trees were painted white there. We did originally think that it was a street lighting issue and an attempt to stop mad motorcyclists hitting them but then noticed that even the trees in gardens away from roads were painted. We were told that it was an anti bug measure.

Debi said...

Five people on a motorbike...that must have been something to see!