Monday, December 29, 2008
After lunch we got a taxi to the War Remnants Museum. It was interesting and quite depressing really. Paul noticed that things were left out of the story here and there. So the history of truths exhibit did not really tell the whole truth. The next exhibition was probably the highlight for me which was a tribute to all the journalists from many countries that died during the war. The exhibition showed many images and stories from these journalists and photographers. It was interesting to think about their lives and how many of them were freelancers here for the AP or UPI. They were putting their lives in danger for the sake of the story or the images. It was really interesting. Again, I must say that this is the highlight for me. Something I have always thought would be a cool job to work as a photographer for some big news circuit. Not sure I would want to jump in the line of fire or anything, but it would be an interesting job to be able to share life with others. I took a picture of a quote that sums it up for me. I have always wondered if it is hard to take pics of extreme tragedy or hard things in history. His words said it all for me. He felt his job was an opportunity to contribute to sharing what others are going through, not to necessarily capitalize on grief, pain or tragedy.
I was pretty sad after the museum. At the end of the exhibits there are many images on the people and kids who were affected by the chemical warfare here in Vietnam--agent orange. I know this affected both the Americans and the Vietnamese. It just makes me think there has to be a better way that putting innocent people in harm's way. They did not ask for it or volunteer to be in the center of a conflict yet they were there and suffered. Paul and I had some good conversation about war and politics on our walk to the park for coffee. After this trip, I am really not sure where I stand on many things that have to do with this subject. I don't know what I know or how I feel. I just know that right now, today, I have many questions and want to learn more about this time period and what really happened. I want to read and find out. I want to be able to come up with some explanation, if possible. I am not sure that I can or will come to that place, but I do know that the history of this war, regardless of what story you hear, makes me sad and reflective.
We had coffee in the park before it began to thunder and get really gray. We decided to needed to head to the hotel and get an umbrella. Halfway there, the sky opened up and the rain came down. Thankfully we were near some covering where we waited for a bit. Then we somehow managed to wave down a taxi and get back to the hotel. So fun! We had two more stops to make before being finished with errands. The first stop is this cool shop with art work and all sorts of goodies. I got a fresh, new t-shirt to wear home tomorrow. All of the ones I have are not so fresh anymore. :) Then we got some dinner at the gourmet grocery store.....so good. The sandwiches are AMAZING!!! I could get used to having them more often for sure. After dinner, I went to the Dong Du Salon about the Qing bar for a manicure, pedicure and 70 minutes foot massage. It literally was the best part of HCMC for me. I left the place feeling so relaxed. Wonderful!!! Paul had gone to Gloria Jean's Coffee around the corner to play DS and sip the good stuff. My total bill for my treatments were $22. It was great!!!
We had evening beverages at a little place across the street called Mojo before making our way back to the hotel for the evening. We have to pack and sort ourselves out for the return trip to Seoul tomorrow afternoon. So fun!!! We heart Saigon!!!
Here is a website that honors some of the work of the photojournalists that were killed in Indochina.....
Upon attempting to get ready, there was no hot water. Ugh. Oh well, I took a washcloth bath, cleaned up my face, then put on a hat. I am sure I will live and Paul says that I don’t smell. C’est la vie! We went back to the gourmet grocery store we found last night for lunch. So good. I had a parma ham and gouda sandwich in fresh baguette. Paul had an Italian chorizo with some kind of cheese that is like camembert on a baguette. We were in heaven and savored every bite. J We could so easily live here. No worries.
Then we tried to go to the War Remnants Museum which was kind of far, so we got in a taxi. He took us way past it and then told us to get out. As soon as we got out and started to walk in the right direction it started to pour. Go figure! Paul’s patience went from 10 to zero in no time. There was no place to stand under either to at least regroup and figure out a plan. We walked a few blocks and then we were done. We stood under a taxi umbrella and got one back to the hotel. We will try tomorrow. We got back to the hotel, changed shirts, and headed out for a small coffee shop called Java just across the street from the gourmet grocery store. Paul is playing his DS while I blog and journal. Heineken, my favorite beer, is cheap here too. Most are about $2USD. CHEAP!!! I also went across the street to a little rattan and bamboo shop……love it. I love the stuff here! I found a vase, tray and small bag there. I did not buy anything yet, but I think Paul has banned me from buying anything else. We just cannot carry anything else. I love Vietnam and the artsy stuff here is great. SE ASIA ROCKS!!!
The other cool thing here is that they use both Vietnamese dong and US dollars. It is weird to me that they accept and use both, but they do. We only have dong, but we could easily just US if we had it. It makes things easy though.
When we got hungry and it became dinner time, we headed back to the Japanese place. Wow, wow, wow. We had two plates of tuna sashimi that was AMAZING!!! We also had a roll, gyozas, and beef tataki. It was phenomenal and so cheap for the quality. Only $30!!! Nuts. Then we headed to the Lion Brew House which is a German like beer house. We had beers while we watched the soccer match of Vietnam vs. Thailand. Thailand scored in the first half and I was worried and began to lose hope. In the last minute of the game Vietnam scored to become the champions of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2008. It was crazy when they scored. The bar went nuts. Some of the waitresses were banging pans on the bar and people were shouting. We paid the bill and then went into the streets. It took some time, but the streets were crazy too. People on scooters yelling, honking their horns, and waving flags. I took some video of the madness. We went for coffee at Gloria Jean’s before making our way back to the hotel. We did have to cross the massively nuts streets. It was fun and we even shouted with all the locals. It was crazy, but totally fun!!!
Now we are back in the hotel, settling in for the night and watching movies on the TV. Paul and I have had a great holiday in Vietnam. We have really grown to love this country!!!
Once I finally got moving we ate lunch at the Green Leaf Café and I had eggs benedict for lunch. YUM! We walked up and down the main shopping strip in town on Dong Khoi road. There are many cool little shops. Thankfully it was not raining. Then we ended up at Ben Thanh market which is crazy. Stuff everywhere along with people. Rows and rows of stuff----lacquer ware, bamboo stuff, shoes, clothes, rattan stuff, buffalo horn stuff, food stuff, anything and everything can probably be found here. Paul even found a stall selling the deodorant he uses. At the back end of the place there are tons of food stalls with all sorts of things. Paul checked them all out and made a mental list for reference. He is so cute when it comes to food.
After the market, we were both totally pooped out and shopped out. We went back to the hotel to regroup and rest. We ended up taking naps for about an hour or so. Totally what we needed, but when I woke up though I was grumpy and easy to be upset. I don’t know why, but it is me. Paul made the decision on dinner, thank goodness. We ate Indian at a place called Tandoor. Then we walked down the road, Hai Ba Trung. I had seen this cool lantern shop I wanted to go back to. They are the assembly lanterns that are made of many smaller plastic pieces. They are put together like a puzzle and can be made into many different shapes and sizes. They are really cool. We bought some pieces and they were reasonable. For all the pieces we got it all cost only $8 USD. Fun times! I cannot wait to put them together. I was feeling much better after having food in me….surprise! So we ended up walking around the area---street after street of stuff. It was fun and we found many good restaurants and shops. We finished the evening out at Sheridan’s Irish Pub for Kilkenny beers…..so yummy! I love the stuff! Paul had never had one and he liked it. We walked back to the hotel and ended the night watching the movie, Inside Man, on cinema before calling it a night.
Today was a great day! We know that we could live here. We went in a few local like grocery stores then even found a couple gourmet ones. We have come to the conclusion that it would be much easier t o live here than in Seoul. We had found many things that we would need or would be nice to have for food stuff and other things. The best part is that HCMC is a cheap place. The meals we have had are cheaper in general and the quality is great. So depending on what life brings, we might be looking into the schools here when the time comes to decide where to next….
Here we come Vietnam!!!
Again, we found ourselves sitting on bus #152 waiting to go to the City Center of HCMC. No smoking driver this time, but it was warm here. So far it was not raining, but that would soon change. Ugh. We got off the bus and hailed a taxi to take us to the hotel. Now it was raining….ugh. Why??? Paul and I both are tired of the rain. It just makes exploring difficult and not as much fun. Not to mention that Paul does not have as much patience in the rain, but I on the other hand am not patient when hungry. So I guess it all works out. The hotel is nice. A step up from the last place and is located in a great place in the city. We were both hungry and went around the corner to Pho24. This place is a chain, but in all the books it says the pho is good. We figured we would try it since it was close and it was raining. The pho was ok. Nothing crazy good or anything, but better than the normal I guess. We also got spring rolls which were also just ok. All the ones we have had have been just ok. Most of them have been the fried ones. The best fried ones we have had were the ones in Hanoi at the place we had bun cha. The fresh ones in Hoi An were the absolute best so far. Totally yummy!!! After dinner we went to Gloria Jean’s coffee to hang out. They do have decaf coffee here which is a nice change to Seoul. J As we sat there Paul and I realized that last Christmas in Melbourne we sat in Gloria Jean’s when it was raining hanging out and having coffee.
So, 3 years ago today is when it all started for Paul and I. Our first date was on Dec. 26, 2005. We went to Pei Wei for lunch and then to see a movie which was Family Stone. It is nuts to think it has already been three years. The next year I was in Houston for the holidays, we were engaged, and went to lunch at Pei Wei then to see the movie The Holiday. Last year, we were in Melbourne. We had lunch at a little place called Lamb on Chapel (greek food) and then saw the movie Darjeeling Limited. Now, this year we are in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We had lunch at Pho 24 and then saw the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. It is our little tradition that we try to eat asian (if possible) and then go to a movie. Greek was as close as we could get in Melbourne. This year we kind of did our little tradition twice b/c we were not sure if we would find movies. So on Dec. 23rd while in Hanoi we had dinner at Restaurant Bobby Chinn and then saw an indie film at the cinema downstairs from our room, Owl and a Sparrow. We did end of finding English movies here in Ho Chi Minh, so it did work out. We just had our date two times this year. Fun times!!!
After the movie, we were walking back to the hotel and we decided we were hungry. We had walked by quite a few Japanese restaurants. We walked into one, and the food was great. Not the best, but definitely doable. Much better than Seoul, Paul says. J Paul had tuna sashimi, a spicy tuna roll, and we shared beef tataki and I had gyozas. Paul was also excited that the place had oolong tea….he loves this stuff. The best part was the entire meal with my beer included was only $22 USD.
The crazy thing is that we have both decided that we really love Vietnam. HCMC is a great place---good food, great shopping, history, and an amazing vibe! After much talk and discussion, we would seriously consider living here. I would love to go back to Hoi An to volunteer at the shop, Reaching Out, which they do. If we lived in HCMC, it would be possible since it is only a one hour flight. There are coffee shops everywhere and tons of free wireless internet. From people I have talked to, the school here is a good one and is part of the big Eastern Asian school organization. J
Paul arranged for a hotel in Ho Chi Minh city and then we went out for lunch at Light Candle Restaurant. We had cao lao which is becoming my favorite thing to ear here in Hoi An. We made a pit stop at the tailor and then went shopping in old town. So fun! We walked the streets and looked at lots of things. I had wanted to stop back at this shop called Reaching Out. The shop helps disabled locals learn crafts and then sells the good in the shop at fair trade prices. It was so cool. Paul and I did almost all of our Christmas shopping at this place. The best part is that they even ship to America, so we already shipped the goodies to the US. Fun times! We had so much fun shopping here and supporting a wonderful cause. We even got to walk through the workshop and see artists in action. Some were making lacquer ware pieces; others were doing embroidery, some making metal works, and others working on stitching table runners and things of that sort. It was a really great experience.
On the walk back to the tailor, Paul and I took pictures of textures on walls and other patterns. It was fun! We also took some fun pics of each other. When we got to the tailor I got to try on the clothes she made for me. I am not overly impressed with the pants, but they will work. My favorite piece that she made was my new wool coat that is dark olive green. It is gorgeous and fits great. I cannot wait to wear it in Seoul. Paul had two pairs of long shorts made…he does not really care either way. He was just happy to have some shorts to wear since the weather has been so wet and drippey.
We went back to the Hoi An day spa again. I had a deluxe manicure and pedicure with the works which was nice. It was nice to relax and sit there and be pampered. J Paul had more neck, shoulder, and head massages. He was in heaven. It was great.
The best part of the day was the place we had dinner. The owner of the spa recommended it, and even had two ladies from the spa staff take us there on scooters. It was little cart in a dark alley with small plastic stools (a foot off the ground) with matching plastic tables. It was dark and very local. We were surrounded by local folks all of who were friendly and smiled as we sat down. Paul and I both had cao lao as the spa guy said this was the second best place in Hoi An to have it. The napkins on the tables were small squares of paper on a stick that you just pulled from the top. The cao lao was amazing! It had great flavor and a lovely amount of green including coriander that was fresh. Yum! It was so good that I had a second bowl while Paul tried the pho. He says that this bowl of pho is the best he has ever had and I do have to agree with him. I tried it and it was phenomenal. Not to mention the fact that we were eating in a very local joint…..so local that there was a rat sharing the alley with us. I know this sounds gross to most, but it did not bother us. It did not seem to bother anyone or the rat seemed to not care that we were there either. To be honest, it was one of the top three meals that we had in Vietnam. The coolest part yet was the whole meal---3 bowls of cao lao and 1 bowl of pho---was only about $3. Crazy!!! Total made the trip to Vietnam for us.
We went back to the Light Candle for evening beverages and snacks before going to bed. I tried Dalat wine which is made in Vietnam and I was not impressed. Paul had fresh spring rolls which were totally yummy and I tried a banana pancake. It is more like a crepe than a pancake that is filled with fresh banana. It was good. Then for dessert we got fresh cut mango. Gotta love Vietnam!!! We do.
Friday, December 26, 2008
after lunch i walked across the street to the first place i was going to try for tailoring. the shops are everywhere and i had really no idea where to start. i used some suggestions from lonely planet and tripadvisor to help me. the first place, to to boutique, which is listed #1 on tripadvisor was just across the way. i went in and asked about some pants i wanted copied. she said the best price was $20. which is good, i guess, but i could buy some for that brand new at the gap. i do consider that i don't have a gap in korea that i can shop at and these ones are made to me. ummm......i just could not justify it. so we walked down a few doors to a girl who was really excited to talk to me on the street. the best price she offered was $11. so paul and i decided to take the plunge. it was not a place on the list, but oh well. i ordered three pairs of pants that would be copied from the GAP ones i brought with me---dark brown, black, and grey. then i also had another pair of pants that i wanted copied---a light army green color. she made them from quick dry material so that will be good for europe. i had a sketch of a basic a-line skirt i wanted made in three colors---grey, dark brown, and an army green color. paul also requested some long shorts made too since all he brought with him was jeans. go figure. lastly i wanted a wool coat made. i have a great black one that i love, but i wanted one that could be worn with browns too. i chose a dark olive green color and i love it. it is gorgeous! i did look at orange or a bright leafy green, but thought it should be a bit more neutral. :)
after being sorted out at the tailor, paul and i went back to hoi an day spa for more massages. we got an hour long head, neck and shoulder massage. it was great. i also got some aromatherapy treatment too. it was great and all for $16 each. the folks that own the place are super nice and he lived in LA for 40 or so years before returning back to vietnam to open a spa here. the ladies that work there are kind and gentle. after our treatments they also offered us some banana wine. it was really strong, but had a good flavor. crazy. she claims it is good for stress.
we had dinner reservations in old town at a place called the cargo club. we made our way there and were seated out on the terrace overlooking the river. the set meal was $19 and had four or five courses. unfortuntately, it was a let down. we were both quite disappointed in the meal. teh main course did some redeeming with dessert that was ok. we just had higher expectations of this place. the reviews on tripadvisor raved about the food........too bad it did not work out for us.
on the way home we realized that the vietnamese football match was on TV. we found a little bar where we could watch the second part of the match. the vietnamese are in the finals and were playing thailand. it was good. vietnam ended up winning, but hoi an was much quieter about it than in hanoi. they play again on the 28th in hanoi, but we will be watching it on the TV somewhere in ho chi minh city. :) looking forward to it.
it was late and we were both getting tired. although we weren't really pleased with dinner, so we were a bit hungry by the time we got back to the hotel. we found a little place open across the way that was a dive. paul had some pho and i had cao lao again. yum!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
i did do something thinking though. in front of us sat two easter european men with vietnamese women who appeared to be couples. the men would speak in their native tongue and the women in theirs, and then there were moments when they would speak to each other in english. i have no idea what the deal was, but i am apt to think about the marriage business. i have no idea how these two worlds would have easily collided to make these two couples work. i could be way wrong, but none the less it made me think about life. i asked myself questions, such as is that really the best option? is it really worth it? is it hard? then i told paul that i think, i really do, that i would much rather be alone and happy than have to make something work unnaturally. if push came to shove, i would sell all my stuff and move to some country where the cost of living was next to nothing. choose a life serving God and helping others rather than selling myself to something i don't really want to be a part of.
anyhow, we got a taxi from the airport in danang to our hotel in hoi an. again about an hour's trip. we settled in, got a snack, and went exploring the town. hoi an is small and charming and pedestrian friendly. it is genuine feeling more than any other place we have been. the people seem to be real and there is no ritz or put on for the sake of spicing things up. we walked into old town which is a UNESCO world heritage site. at first glance, i asked why? then you walk around and take it in. it is old and has lots of character. paul made the observation tonight----clothes shops, shoe shops, bag shops, food shops, souvenir shops and then repeat over and over and over and over. getting clothes made here is huge and the lonely planet book claims it can be addicting. i am going to have my go at it tomorrow. i narrowed the list of places down to four or so and i will start with those. i brought some pants i would love to have made in various colors, a thin sweater too that is my travelling companion, and maybe another wool coat in a fun color other than black. i also have a sketch of a skirt too. paul might join me on the adventure and have some long shorts made and i might get him to have a wool coat made too. why not? when in hoi an, get clothes made. :) they getting shoes made here too is easy and cheap. not sure about that one yet, but will have a look tomorrow.
on the way back to the hotel, we stopped and had thirty minute massages for neck, head and shoulders. it was great and cost a whopping $15. nuts. we plan to go back tomorrow and i want a manicure and pedicure with the works. woo hoo!!! vietnam is fun!!!
we arrived and weren't sure if we would get a table. from the outside it looks quite small, but it is designed that way. we sat at the bar while we waited for our table. i had homemade ginger ale that i watched the bartender make. so fun! i was really hoping for some relief from this lovely beverage. the chinese believe that ginger soothes the stomach. it was not necessarily working all that well, but i had a second trying to rally for the event. we were ushered to our table which was a booth. the place feels so cozy. it has been partitioned off with red silk drapes for a more intimate experience. i also learned on the website that the walls are padded with foam to help minimize the excess noise. i was totally taken by the place.....clean, crisp, simple, but asian. the menu is entertaining for sure. he has made all these rules about his restaurant and the things on the menu. a great read! i went with the filet mignon and paul chose the lamb shanks. after ordering we were brought "snacks" that were served to us on shells. it was a little chicken kebab that was wonderfully seasoned with lemongrass. wow.....i was anxious to see what would come with dinner. they set the plate in front of me and i thought i was in heaven. the aromas were outstanding. i deliberately ate my meal slowly to savor each and every bite. it was phenomenal for sure. the meat was perfect and the mashed potatoes melted in my mouth. there was a mushroom red wine ragout as well. OH MY!!! about two thirds of the way through our meal, a guy not in the uniform walked up to our table to ask us how the meal was and if everything was ok. yep, it was him, bobby chinn, in the skin!!! i could not believe it. he was wearing jeans and friendly as can be. paul and i have never discussed food the way we did at this meal. it was crazy. to top it off we had dessert. i chose chocolate pudding which might sound so so to some, but not this one. it came beautifully presented on the plate. there was a scoop of ice cream and a small brownie looking heap. when i used the spoon to scoop into it, warm (perfect temperature) chocolate pudding oozed out. wow!!! the dessert was great. paul had a creme brulee trio that he enjoyed very much. after dinner, i insisted that we buy the book....yes, autographed by the man. this meal by far is my most favorite to date. i would love to go backo hanoi to eat at this joint again. a jillion stars!!!
tummy full of absolute goodness with a heart that was soaring we walked by to the hotel. it was the perfect end to a time in hanoi. i did end up feeling much better once i got some steak in me. restaurant bobby chinn is AMAZING!!!
Monday, December 22, 2008
after lunch we did some shopping and i bought some goodies. as we walked up and down the streets paul and i were discussing the fact that we have not been very touristy this trip. we have only been to one sight and one event officially. we are ok with that. we really are interested in resting and being here. we did shop our way to the fruit cup street where we stopped for a snack. we also bought this stuff from a lady on a bike. it is white and tastes like potato. we think it comes from the inside of a bamboo stalk, but we aren't quite sure. we gave the rest to the folks running the fruit cup stand.
after going in a few more shops here and there we made our way back to the coffee shop we love---la place. here we sit sipping our coffee, playing DS and reading. the life of us is really laid back which we are both thankful for. :)
then we went on a hunt for a power plug for the DS that can be used in the 220v outlets here and in korea. we walked and walked and finally happened upon a little store that had what we needed. paul also bargained the guy into a R4 for my DS. for those of you who don't know what that is here is the deal. it is a memory card that you can download DS games onto from the internet. lots of games, to be honest. paul has one and loves it. we also found an english-korean translator you can use on the DS if you have a R4. it was a deal and now i have one too.
we had dinner at this little mediterranean restaurant that was more italian than any thing else. we had carpaccio and i had a calzone while paul had tuna. it was good and we also got to have some wine too. we sat near some teachers that i ended up introducing myself too. one of which works here in hanoi---the other in ho chi minh and the other in doha, qatar. it was interesting to say the least.
after dinner, we went to get some coffee before we made out way to the water puppet show. supposedly this is a huge deal and the art form of puppetry has been here a long time. we had quite a few people tell us to make sure and see them while we were here. we did....it was neat, but paul and i weren't as impressed as we expected. we did it though. the puppteers wear waders and everything is done in the water. it is interesting to watch.
the real excitement started though when we left the theater. the street outside was FULL of people and many, many scooters. it was absolute nuts! the scooters and cars were all honking their horns and people were waving the vietnam flag like mad. at first, we had no idea what was going on. then we were approached by a guys selling mini flags. he shouted, "vietnam football #1!!!" then it all made sense.....the vietnamese soccer team had won the match we saw on a TV in passing earlier. we hurried up the balcony of the coffee shop and i was able to get some of the madness on video which i will post. lots and lots and lots of people waving all sizes of flags and chanting, "Vi-et-nam!!!" it was totally crazy. i waved my little flag which made people we walk by smile and say, "Go Vietnam!" it was a fun walk home no less. lots of crazy soccer fans most of the way home.
we got home and attempted to go to sleep. my stomach was churning from 1) too much coffee, 2) too much dairy, or 3) all the new food. who knows but i had a hard time sleeping. i was tired, just could not get comfy. then at about 2am i heard a pow and then we lost power. the entire guest house lost power. no one seemed to be doing anything about it. i finally got to sleep and then about the time the sun was coming up i heard some banging and a rooster. not much longer after that the power kicked back on. the music started playing in the courtyard and the normal "buzz" of the guesthouse was in full swing. crazy night.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
After the bridge, we got a taxi back to our hotel. We sat downstairs in the courtyard cafe having drinks and eating some french fries. It is so cool that we can do that. The cinema was busy, but we weren't interested in seeing any movies last night. There is an indie film showing Monday night that we are going to see called The Owl and the Sparrow. It's Vietnamese with English subtitles and has won many awards. We relaxed in the courtyard before calling it a night.
Paul booked our tickets to Hoi An for Tuesday and also began the process of looking for a hotel there. It was not an easy task because many of them are booked. Argh. He did find one this morning and we are hoping that it will work out.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
After lunch, we found a coffee shop to set up in for a while. We wanted to sit down and figure out the plan for Hanoi and how long we would stay. So we went to Moca Café near St. Joseph’s Cathedral. I had a Heineken and Paul had an iced black Vietnamese coffee. I made a list of the things we want to see hear and looked at the map. After getting together a plan, we hired a cyclo (a bike with a bench on the front) to take us to the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. This is the prison where the US Pilots that were captured during the war were kept. This is also the place that many Vietnamese were kept during the time when the French were in power here in Hanoi. Lots of history here and lots of things to read about the past. They have a room dedicated to the US Pilots that includes pics of John McCain when he was captured. He was shot down over a lake and then rescued (I guess) by the Vietnamese and then kept here. His flight suit is on display. I am sure that their time here was not ideal, but it was not as depressing as I had expected. I am sure the story is a bit jaded since the museum was made by the local people. Paul and I have learned that the images and stories represented are not the whole story. I am definitely interested in learning more about the war and Vietnam. It is a fascinating time and a time also filled with devastation.
After the museum we decided to get our tickets to see the water puppets. This is a huge thing on the “to do list” for folks when they come to Hanoi. On our way to the theater, we stopped for another fruit cup. This time we sat and enjoyed. Everyone sits on little stools out front and eats. So fun!!! Although there were a few times I thought I would get hit by a motorbike. I did not though. J We could not get tickets for any show until tomorrow evening, so we went bag shopping and are now sitting having another coffee. Go figure. The view from the coffee shop is nice and I took some video of the traffic from above. I have decided that Vietnam is the land of honking horns. Alex told us that taxi drivers feel bad if they are not honking their horns. ?!?!? Ok, cars, taxis, scooters, cyclos---they all have horns or bells and use them constantly.
We are both getting hungry and are trying to figure out what we should eat.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel and were going to see a movie. It was AIDS week at the theater and we were going to see Philadelphia, but when Paul went to get tickets we realized that we were a day off. All day we thought it was Thursday, but it was really Friday. We had missed the one showing. The next movie was a Spanish film. We had coffee in the courtyard and then went up to the room. I badly wanted to go to sleep, but couldn’t. We ended up watching a movie on the TV in our room, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. (I think that is what it is called) I then went to sleep while Paul played DS.
We checked out of our hotel and then arranged for a taxi to the airport. Upon arrival we started looking to book our tickets to hanoi. Paul had looked online and saw that the flights went all day and we did not make booking before b/c we figured no problem just to show up. It was around 11:30am when we arrived, but quickly discovered that the next flight we could get on was at 4:30pm. Argh. We made the booking and looked around for a place to sit. We got up early this morning b/c some lady upstairs had on some loud clippity clappity shoes. It was nuts. So we are tired and have four hours to wait at the domestic terminal. We found some chairs inside and got out the laptop. We decided to watch prison break. We got through 2 episodes before the battery was super low. Then paul went hunting for an outlet. With no luck, we went to the international terminal and found a restaurant to sit at. We ordered iced coffees and spring rolls. The spring rolls were nasty! The only thing that made them worth eating was the soy sauce on the table. We watched two more episodes of prison break before packing up to get to our flight. J
The flights was simple and two hours. Upon arrival in Hanoi, we realized that we were in a bit of a pickle. Hanoi is known for hotel hustling. We arrived after dark and weren’t really keen to wander around and take our chances. With all this in mind, we decided to really splurge and go with a big name hotel for the first night. Crazy times led us to the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, yes it is crazy nice! We used Skype to call them and ask for an airport pick up. This is the best route to go. We met the contact guy at the airport and he arranged a taxi for us. I don’t think the driver was thrilled about this, but he did not seem to mind too badly b/c he agreed to take us.
The taxi ride was a bit weird. It felt like he was going to drive us all the way to cambodia. We drove forever and I really began to wonder about the whole situation. I did get nervous at one point, but kept trying to be reasonable. Worst case scenarios kept spinning in my head and I had to put a stop on my imagination. We finally arrived to the hotel. A total gem with a price to go with. Here we are in total backpacker mode and walk into this nice, swank hotel. Paul had one jeans and a t-shirt and I had one my thai pants and a stretch t-shirt with sandals. Both of us with backpack in tow. Nuts. Paul had done some research online and we knew the price that was listed. He had to take out the laptop and how the guy otherwise we would have paid more money. So we figured this was our Christmas present to ourselves…..at $231 for the night. NUTS!!! The room was gorgeous and the bed amazing. The bathroom was superb and a totally nice retreat for a hot shower. We could not believe we did it. We did look online and this really was the best option considering the situation. Total pampering!!!
Then we had to eat some dinner. At this point, we were both starving. The hotel has three restaurants—french, italian, and a vietnamese one. We took a look at all three menus before deciding. We went with the french one. Again, totally under dressed, but what can you.
Paul was in heaven! He chose the chef’s menu with matching wines for the five course meal. Happy Birthday to him! He was so excited and thrilled to have such gourmet food and the wines to match each course. I had lobster (a cheaper choice) and a glass of wine that they waiter suggested. The meal was nuts and amazing all in one. I also had a royal gala apple dessert that was really nice. It was nuts. After dinner we went
Thursday, December 18, 2008
we began day #2 sleeping in which is not really that surprising if you know paul and i. :) then we got out and went to this little, authentic french restaurant near the city center called la fourchette. the meal was great and all but two other people in the place were speaking french. it was really cool and the food was incredible. all for a whopping $41.50. crazy times.
after lunch we walked and walked and walked some more. we walked around the city center and just took it all in. this place is vibrant and bustling. i got a manicure and pedicure today for only $6. it was simple and no frills, but the place was super relaxing. paul had a beverage downstairs in the bar while i got pampered. the salon and bar are the same place, so when we paid the bill it was all on the same ticket. who knew?!?! too funny. i hope to have another when we come back to HCMC before going home. so nice to be pampered.
later, we had iced vietnamese coffees while watching the scooters go by at a place called cafe terrace. scooter & traffic watching is one of the things to do here i n HCMC. it is fun and there is never a lack of things or people to watch. it started to sprinkle so we went inside this mall like place called saigon centre. interesting and much smaller than expected. the cool part was that the more we see, the more we think we could live here. there are lots of things here that make life easier than seoul. just from peering in a small grocery store inside this mall the cereal choices are three times what they are in seoul. sad, huh? there is also lots of places for home like things here. i know we are weird when comparing cities. the things we look for are probably nothing that you might think.
after the mall, we were on our way back to our part of town and strolled through a night market. interesting and lots of fake goods. paul got a t-shirt that is cool.
then, we walked back to the area where we are staying that is backpackersville. lots of cheap eats and cheap stays. it is a cool little niche of town. we went back to the hotel to freshen up and then walked around to find a place for dinner. we sat across the street at le pub for a bit trying more vietnamese beers. then we went strolling for dinner. we had a late and big lunch, so we were looking for something light and easy. we made the block once and then settled for a place called allez boo. it is a bar/restaurant that is located on the busiest intersection in the area. last night we had coffee across the street. we had dinner which was ok. nothing to write home about, but we got to try more vietnamese beers and people/traffic watch. one of the waiters was friendly and spoke english well enough. we had interesting conversation with him through the night. he asked me if i loved jesus and then we talked about jesus the rest of the evening. he and paul looked some things up on the touch while i sipped my beer. it was fun and we had a great time getting to know the ins and outs.
things here are great. HCMC is bustling and never quiet. lots of things to do and see. many cool little places to eat and have coffee. it is fun! we have talked many times this evening about living here in HCMC could be fun and exciting. we definitely would have lots of things to see and do.
tomorrow we are going to take a flight north to hanoi and then work our way down the coast back to HCMC. we cannot wait!!!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
i think about the people here and wonder what their stories are---what have they seen, experienced, heard, came back from, and had to rebuild. the place is bustling now and is not in too bad of shape. i mean it is no american city or even seoul for that matter, but the people are vibrant and moving around. there is no evidence to me from what i have seen so far (which truly is not that much) that can help me imagine that 30 years ago this place was a wreck and riddled with war. not too far from here is where the US base was stationed from what i read. i just sit and wonder. i look into the faces of people, both young and old, and want to ask questions and hear them share. i know these stories won't all be pretty or flashy, but it is who they are. it makes them them. just like all my history makes me, me. their history is obviously more tramatic (in my opinion) than mine in ways since i have not lived somewhere where war and unrest happened in my front yard, so to speak. i sit and my brain spins.
then add to that spinning and curiousity, the faces of western men i see here. they are a part of the generation that vietnam conflict was, at least from my age guess. many of them are aged, you look at them and see that their lives have not been a walk in the park. this is all my speculation, of course. i do have to wonder though about why they are here. have they ever left? does anyone know they are alive? did they return for closure and then never return to where ever home is? did they return to find their kids they learned about after the war was over? a war time romance they could not leave behind? what is their story? most of them sit solitary sipping on cold beers and others sit with comrades. many of them have the forearm tattoos that were part of that military generation. i am curious. i have questions. i most likely won't have any of them answered the way i imagine i would love to, but i can think and wonder. that is part of the great joy of having a brain and being wired to be compassionate for others. it would be such a joy to me to be able to share a drink with some of the old guys and hear what they have to share. are they bitter? upset? happy to be here? did they fall in love with this place or have compassion for a country so broken?
tonight at dinner paul and i were sitting just inside the closed glass doors of the restaurant we were eating at. on the front porch, there sat a man....older, aged, sipping a cold beer. he sat alone. he was people watching (at least i think he was). he also wore an united states marine t-shirt. was he a marine here? behind me sat another man with a local lady who had tattoos on his hands. he was western, most likely american and from the same generation of folks that would have served in vietnam. i sat and wondered. towards the end of our meal, one more american guy came in. he was more dressed up than the others which is not to say much really since it is a tropical culture where flip flops are the norm. he wore a collared polo like shirt with khakis. he walked in and spoke to the waitress in vietnamese. he also had a sleeve of tattoos on one arm and then some solitary forearms on the other. again, questions spun.
it would be really interesting to find out these guy's stories. some may be more heartfelt than others. i am sure i might be digusted by some, cry at others. it would be great to come back, hang out and just listen. take notes, take pics, do some sort of photo documentary on their stories and the country now. that would be cool.
feel free to post comments, thoughts, questions, or email me too. i am really desiring some good dialogue about my thinking. pipe up people....
after selecting a place to stay (saigon comfort hotel), which is only $26 a night, we rested for a bit before going out again. in this time is when i posted an update and such. yes, the hotel is safe, clean and reasonable. we are not staying in a rat hole. i promise, mom! i have taken pics that i will upload later.
we both changed into some cooler attire, and we went out to walk about to see what we could find. we were getting hungry, but did not want to go to the first place. we walked down this street that i had read had many options and figured we would troll and see what looked good. we went for italian at a little place called stella. it was good. we were both pleased with our meal which ended up costing less than the travel guide book for both of us. nuts. we each tried a local beer--paul had larue and i saigon red. we both decided we prefered the larue.
after dinner, we walked toward the city center but did not get too far as we both were getting tired. we ended up at highlands coffee and each had an iced vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. amazing! we chilled in the comfy chairs and watched the activity outside. the streets are non stop place of action. crossing the street is totally nuts....i took video of two people doing it so you all can see the game of frogger in real life.
since we have been out walking around i have been pondering some thoughts and questions which will be in a seperate post. i am anxious to start some dialogue about my thinking and see what people think, feel, and want to discuss. more on that later.........
don't forget to check out my flickr page for photos.......
here are some of our first thoughts/impressions when entering vietnam---
- it's hot....i mean REAL hot!
- the people are quiet, not smiley like in thailand, but helpful when you ask (sometimes too helpful)
- lots of honking horns---buses, taxis, scooters, you name it---they use it!
- many taxi drivers asking, "where you go?"
- we sat on the bus waiting for it to leave and were sweating like mad
- "vietnam is more like thailand than seoul or manila, but different"--paul
- lots of scooters--everywhere!!!
- the bus driver sat smoking in his seat while he waited to leave. he had his feet propped up on the steering wheel near a sign that said, "no smoking." too funny.
- many people wear flip flops even in a uniform
- many ladies at the airport were wearing the traditional Vietnamese dress which i don't know how to spell
- people on scooters cover their faces with scarves and face masks....they even wear gloves.....protection from the dirt, i guess.
- the traffic here is nuts---have no idea how it even works....our bus would honk at the intersection and then go right through and the oncoming traffic would yield?!?!?!
- crossing the street is what you imagine if you were playing real life frogger......crazy!!!
dewey, you are amazing!!!
Monday, December 15, 2008
hoping to have a good day!!!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
i am going to snuggle with the kitties on the couch.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
i am hoping to be better by tomorrow. paul and i really want to go to cirque du soleil. it opened in october and we still have not managed to get to the show. we plan to go early since i seem to feel better then. i am going to stuff my pockets with cough drops and tissues. :)
being sick sucks!
Friday, December 12, 2008
we leave tuesday for ho chi minh city, vietnam and i am praying that this all passes before then. total bummer for vacay if i am still sick. pray that somehow i can be rid of this junk before tuesday.
i hate being sick.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
although on friday night i was helping joann with the holiday bazaar sale at the middle school christmas concert. she has been heading up the bazaar that raises money for three different places we support. i was stationed upstairs with the snacks and had two of my students who were there to watch their sisters sit with me. the sisters were scheduled until the end and they did not want to sit through 12 acts. i told them they could help me and hang out which they did. it was nice to get to chat with them, talk to them, and just be ourselves. these two boys are great and very down to earth. they get my jokes and are responsible and mature for their age. it was great. i laughed and they were great help to me selling food items. it was a highlight of the week for me for sure.
today paul and i both slept in which was awesome! i was exhausted last night when i got home from the sale and stuff. i did not go home after school, but right over to help joann in her room get ready. i left the house friday morning at just before 8am and got home just after 10ish. it was a full day and i felt like i deserved a day of sleeping in and resting which is exactly what i did.
this next week will be nuts as well with the holiday only 5 days away. i have one student that is already gone on holiday and i have a few that leave thursday. tuesday and wednesday are the two big days this week for 4F. tuesday we have our christmas party which is an all day, literature enriched day. we begin by coming to school in our pajamas and reading the book, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Then we have math that involved problem solving situations from the book, followed by making reideer christmas ornaments. Lunch is potluck from the parents that includes yummy desserts. After lunch, we sip on hot chocolate and chocolate treats while we snuggle and watch the movie. It will be a great day and my kids think it is extra special that we are doing it. They have already publicly claimed that 4F is having the most special Christmas party in the fourth grade. Too funny. Wednesday we have two Christmas plays to go to. It will be fun..........just super, uber busy all week.
Hopefully your holiday season is restful and not too crazy!
Monday, December 01, 2008
we are thankful to not be in thailand at the moment. we were just there and would have been some of the folks that are now stranded in the airport in bangkok. pray that all this unrest will be resolved quickly and peacefully.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
after we bought the new computer, we headed for lunch at the COEX mall. we had a snack when we arrived and then stood in line for tickets to the new bond movie. once we had our tickets, we did some meandering in the mall. we looked for a sleeve for the new computer, shopped for leather shoes for paul, and i got to walk around the english section of the big bookstore--bandi & luni's. i had fun! it was the best. when paul found me i had four books in my hands and he said, "do you want to buy all of those?" i told him that i was collecting and browsing to then find a seat on the floor to look at the books i chose. he had gone off searching for a spot for dinner while i soaked up the bookstore. i just had not found a spot to sit yet and was still walking around taking in all the books. i know i am a dork. i did end up with two new books to add to my reading. one of the books i got was on the clearance shelf.....score!!! only 3,000. the other was 17,000 which is normal for english books in korea. completely nuts!
we ate dinner at the intercontinental hotel in one of their restaurants called the grand kitchen. they had a dinner buffet which we both enjoyed. paul stuffed himself with a wide array of meats. we both did have some turkey in honor of the american holiday.
after dinner, we went to the movie. good stuff! if you have not see the new bond movie, you should. lots of action and it is bond.
we made our way home and we are both pooped. long day of shopping, walking, meandering, and hanging out. we both enjoyed the day of just spending time to hang out with each other.
happy thanksgiving to all!!!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
i miss all my family and friends that are in the states or around the world! i wanted to let you know that even though i might stink at keeping up via email or other communication means, you are thought of often! i think about you and wonder what is going on in your neck of the woods. how life is treating you and what you thinking about. :)
had to share that with you all.....
i keep reminding myself that God is in control and He is able to make the impossible possible if it is in His will for me to teach art here at SFS. it is working on my heart though to be honest. i want to know now and not sit in limbo for two and a half months, but i guess again i am being reminded that it is not in my timing, but in God's. i am thinking about many points that Tara Leigh spoke about at the faculty retreat in september. one thing she said that stuck with me is that trust is our gift back to God. so i am diligently trying, really.
i had wednesday morning devotion before i went to thailand. the monday before i was awakened before the alarm went off thinking about proverbs 3:5-6 which says, "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." i realized that i needed to trust God to take care of me and He will. another verse came to mind which is jeremiah 29:11, "for i know the plans i have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
with all that going on in my head, i am choosing to trust God with all of this art position stuff. i know that He can make it happen if it is suppose to be. i trust that He knows best because He knows me and my heart. i do ask for your continued prayers.
school is going well. the next few weeks will be crazy. this week we have thanksgiving holiday, so we only have three days of school. so nice. we are not going anywhere, but plan to rest and hang out. might have a tv-watching marathon of the office or pushing daisies. who knows? we also want to see the new bond movie which is out in seoul at the moment.
the weather has gotten really chilly. it has been freezing or darn near close this last week. it even snowed a bit on thursday. brrrr.......
tuesday my class has their thanksgiving party with turkey and all the fixins. it should be fun! i look forward to sharing this meal with my kids and talking about being thankful. so cliche-- i know, but we have been thinking about service all this month. it does make a nice tie in.
speaking of service, my kids have been working hard on our craft projects for the holiday bazaar we have each year. my friend joann organizes this deal each year. the money made benefits the TB care center in north korea that SFS supports, the river of grace orphanage here in seoul, and the high school service trip to the philippines. it is great and i love helping out. my kids made accordion books which are really great. i also taught them how to crochet and we made java jackets which are the same at the cardboard deal that the coffee shops put on your cup to protect your fingers. instead of using the cardboard you would use a java jacket. surprisingly, my kids are loving it. it has been so fun to share this with them. i will have to take some pics for you all to see.
after this week there are only two more before the winter/christmas holiday. i cannot believe that it is already here. crazy how the year is sprinting by. it will be crazy at school with all the holiday events we have planned and going to. the time will fly! at the moment, paul and i are planning to go to vietnam and cambodia for the christmas holiday. we are working out the details with our travel agent. we are excited to experience more of southeast asia after loving thailand so much. should be great and not to mention warm!!!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
we ate dinner at this chain like thai place. i had curry and paul had favorite soup like stuff. it has coconut milk and lemongrass. it is good, but a little spicy for me. then we went to the night bazaar. a little overwhelming at first......i did not know where to start. i knew what i was looking for, but it was hard to decide. so many choices.......cameron helped me choose some thai fisherman pants. i got 4 long pair and 1 short for about 15 US bucks. it was incredible. i also got a cool bag that is very bohemiam looking. i love it!
then we walked toward the river for some light festival action. the sky was lit up with lanterns. it was really beautiful. we watched people set them off and also let candles go on the water. it was so pretty. lots of fireworks too. we walked to a coffee shop and sat outside to take in the sights and sounds of chiang mai. lots of people are out for the festival and setting off loads of fireworks. it was nice to spend time with matt and cameron. we had fun catching up and sharing what has been going on in each of our lives for the last year and a half.
now we are back at the hotel and all pretty tired. matt and cameron have to lead worship again tomorrow. i think paul and i are going to dabble in thai massage. it is crazy cheap and they have recommended a place. cannot wait!
i am in love with thailand. it is such a festive and colorful place. the people are beautiful and friendly. we have enjoyed it so much in the little time we have been here so far. it is really incredible. i keep telling paul that i could live here. :)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
paul is struggling with a cold/simus stuff. he has the sniffles and sinus headaches. argh. he is a tropper though trying to be pleasant even though he feels bad. we had meds with us that he is taking for relief.
we have been in thailand for that long, but we love it. we hope to come back and spend more time in bangkok since we are only passing through on this trip. it is such a great place. the people are friendly, the scenery is pretty and real, and the food we hope to find is amazing.
we are currently in the airport waiting for our flight to chiang mai. since we are gold fliers with united we get the lounge perks here which is super nice. there is not much in the domestic terminal other than the lounge. we have had some fresh, tropical fruits and espresso since we have been here. paul is trying to get some work done while we wait on his laptop.
i am excited to see matt and cameron and be able to catch up with them in such a beautiful country.
i am taking pictures and will post them when we return home on monday morning. :)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
i found the class through one of my student's moms. she teaches ceramics in the after school program on thursdays at SFS. when i found this out, i almost attacked her in the hallway with questions about art and classes. she emailed me this guy's information and about a month later here i am. class one behind me with two coffee mugs and three small elephants made. it was so fun and i had a great time just doing something artsy.
after class i met paul in a coffee shop and then we explored some for dinner. we chose a pizzeria paul read about online. pricey, but good.
it was a great day!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
on saturday we left home at 7AM....yes, we got up early and made the trek across the city for day. the morning session began at 10am and the doors opened at 9am. we had to wait in line and then find seats. matt redman led the worship and the speaker was francis chan. he is from LA. it was good too. the verse here was from ephesians. he continued to speak about grace. that session ended to break for lunch. we had korean hamburgers and hung out in line. we were anxious to get better seats since the david crowder*band would be leading worship. i was pumped. jessica and i were the first ones in our line. they finally opened the doors at 1:30ish and jessica snagged fourth row seats this time. YEAH! the worhip was AWESOME! i love the crowder band. they are even better live!!! francis chan spoke again. about mid way through all three of us hit the wall......we were exhausted. totally worn out. after the second session there would be a longer break for dinner and we would need to wait in line yet again. so after discussing options we decided to head home. we got to see all three musicians and hear some good teaching and we all needed major naps.
it is amazing the movement that the passion tour has become. here are some things i made note of that louie giglio talked about---
- the college students and church in paris, france need major prayer. there are 700,000 university students in paris, but only 1,200 students came to the passion event. pray that God will use people to spread the good news there boldly.
- pray for tokyo, japan.....this is where the passion tour headed today. part of the passion deal is the people there pray for the next city on the tour. the interesting part about ours is the history between korea and japan. many koreans do not care for japan at all. this was a huge request for the koreans to pray for the japanese. so please pray for the koreans here, and the japanese students who will attend passion on the 12th and 13th.
it was a great weekend and i feel encouraged. it was so good to be able to worship and hear good stuff. here are some pics....
chris tomlin leading worship
louie giglio and his translator, benjamin
matt redman leading worship
paul and me
jessica and me in front of the stage
david crowder leading worship
david crowder's guitarist, jack parker, playing the rhodes piano....so fun!
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
after exploring some options to move to budapest, we have made the decision to stay in seoul another year. i sent out two letters with my resume to schools in budapest, but the doors aren't opening like i thought they might. we are okay with that and thought this might happen. we had decided to just put the idea out there and let God do the rest.
as of now, i am still seeking the art position. i am not sure what will happen, but would ask for prayers on this. i am okay with teaching fourth grade again, but would also enjoy trying art for a change.
at the moment, i am also kicking around the idea of working on a master's degree. there are many reasons, but need to lay some things out on a timeline to see what that looks like over the next year that we are in seoul. sfs will help with the tuition which is also something to consider. it would be a masters in instructional media (basically, techie stuff in the classroom). the program is online through wilkes university in collaboration with discovery education and would be 30 hours.
so much is going on...........school has been busy and i have been trying to figure much out in my head about what is next for us, me and paul. i am sorry that i have been out of touch with many of you. hopefully that will change soon........
saturday i had the workshop and it was so good. maggie moon, the presenter, used to work for teacher's college reading and writing project in new york at colunbia university. last summer i was suppose to go to a writing teacher's workshop there, but ended up having to change plans. over the course of the two days i felt energized and so encouraged as a teacher. great stuff!
saturday night we took a taxi an hour across town to meet vicki. we met her team mates for the race and had vietnamese for dinner. then her team mates went to wander for about twenty minutes while we caught up with vicki at the coffee bean. it was good to see her, hear about the things she is struggling with and celebrating, and get to catch up some. it was way too short, but great.
sunday night after the course paul and i took a taxi into an area called makati. more huge shopping malls. we had a great dinner at a swanky kind of restaurant and then spent the rest of the time walking the malls and checking stuff out. our flight did not leave until 12:30 so we had some time to meander. there was a GAP with normal sized clothes. it was fun and i did walk around taking it all in. i got some shirts. fun! then paul and i both bought some shoes....very fun! they are sandals that look like shoes....never seen them before. paul needed some new ones and i wanted a pair too.
we took a taxi to the airport and then waited for the flight. we did not know that we had to pay 750 pesos to leave the country?!?!? what?!?!?! yes, we had to pay to use the airport. we did not know this before so we ended up being without any spare money to do anything after we went through immigration. no cash machines and lots of stuff to do, but we could not. we sat and waited for two hours.......argh! it was tough. the manila airport is by far the lowest grade of airport we have traveled to so far. we made it back to seoul monday morning and got home just around 7:15am. we both quickly went to bed as we were exhausted. slept most of the day and then got back to life..........