The work part of the trip (for the husband) is ending, and we're starting in on the part that is more vacation. The husband has added one day in Lund, Sweden to the itinerary that will be work-related for him, but other than that and some e-mails, he's slipping into a more relaxed frame of mind.
It's Tuesday evening as I type this. We left Hue on Saturday, a very bittersweet parting. After a month, it was time to move on, but at the same time there was a comfort to the routine we had there. The husband's students, who had their final exam on Saturday, held their own farewell party for the husband on Thursday afternoon. I had seen a number of karaoke bars in Vietnam but didn't know just what a big deal it was until I spent several hours locked in a soundproof room with the husband and sons, 21 Vietnamese students, and one Vietnamese teaching assistant. Those who know older son may be surprised that he sat through it albeit not with a smile on his face. I politely declined to sing, citing the very real cold I had and the very real possibility of losing my voice. Younger son said he would sing if the husband did (I knew they wouldn't let us down). The husband did "Lola," the lyrics to which were more than a bit altered. The computer karaoke program the students were using gave a score after each song, and the place went wild when the husband's rendition score a perfect 100. Younger son chose "Help!" by the Beatles, though interestingly enough the lyrics to it had also been changed. The food was good, watching the students was lots of fun, and the deafness was only temporary.
On Friday the sons and I rented bicycles to go photograph a sign we had seen on our earlier bike ride to a monastery and tomb. That's why I much prefer walking to cycling as a way to see a city. Cycling is fine if you're going one place. Seeing something, stopping, and taking a photo just don't work when you're biking. Too much trouble. Since we couldn't stop the first time the husband and younger son saw this billboard, we just had to go back and get the shot. If you're thinking the short fellow in the group looks like a condom, well, you're right. This was just too good to pass up!
Also on Friday was the university's official farewell dinner. They presented each UVa professor with a stunning stoneware tea set of tray, pot and six cups. The beer was free-flowing again, though there was also a special wine, supposedly the kind that Minh Mang used to father his 142 children. As at the welcome dinner, the food was excellent, and a good time was had by all.
On Saturday, while the husband did a review session, gave a final exam, and calculated final grades, the sons and I picked up the last of the tailored clothing, which means that I can offer a photo of younger son in his birthday suit. You know, the copy of the suit worn by the Joker in The Dark Knight. The jacket, pants, and vest are all done in raw silk, lined, just really nicely done. In regard to the raw silk, a couple of people have asked if it's sold by the yard or meter. It is, but I had been good, buying some raw silk scarves that could be given as gifts or could be kept for my own use; I knew that if I started buying yardage (meterage?) I might not be able to stop. My men, however, saw how taken I was when the bolt of purple came out for the suit and surprised me with ten meters of it. As a result, I am open to suggestions of how I could use that. I could always have a tailor at home make me something, though the price differential between home and Hue would, I'm sure, be very depressing. Oh, the price per meter for the silk was $3.00 per meter. The husband had been quoted a price of $4.00 per meter, but when younger son went to pay for it and pick it up, they smiled and gave him a cheaper price.
But I have digressed, so back to our last day in Hue. The other highlight of Saturday was the progressive lunch that the sons and I had through some of our favorite cafes. We started at Phuong Nam, home of the best fruit shakes we had. It is also home to Hue's cutest puppy. After two fruit shakes each, we moved on to Fancy for entrees. We finished at the New Space Art Gallery for coffee and dessert. The fact that we ate far, far too much was offset by the fact that we never ate dinner.
Our night flight to Hanoi was uncrowded and uneventful, and the taxi driver was waiting as requested. Hanoi's airport is about 45 minutes outside the city,and the ride in at night reminded me very much of similar rides through the outskirts of American cities. We were on a modern, multi-lane highway, going through industrial zones. There were few motorbikes and more private vehicles than we'd seen in either Ho Chi Minh City or Hue. When we got into the city, though, we were almost immediately taken back to our time in Hue. Our hotel was (and is, since we're back there now) in Hanoi's Old Quarter, meaning narrow streets, multitudes of motorbikes, brightly lit storefronts. The feeling of being Stateside quickly evaporated.
Our hotel, a partner of our hotel in Hue, has four rooms per floor, but in a rather unusual arrangement. Each room is on a different level. The tiny elevator stops on a floor, and you can turn to the right to the door of one room. Go up a few steps to the left, and you're at the door of the second room. Up a few steps to the left of that is a third room, while the fourth room is up a few steps to the right. Very interesting.
It was late when we arrived at the hotel and, with an early start planned for the next day, we saw nothing more of Hanoi. We knew that we'd have a day for Hanoi after the trip we planned to start the vacationing, three days and two nights on Halong Bay. That will be the next post, though it may take me a while to go through the photos and choose which ones I want to use.