Monday, November 30, 2015

Visiting with Family: Trip to Dong Nai Province and the City of Long Kanh (Thao'sHometown)

Friends, those are shrimp that Thao's
parents and Leanna are holding!
Everyone is Vietnam seems to love their home town and our friend and TDTU student Thao is no exception.  This past week-end Thao and her man friend Kenny escorted us up to Long Kanh in Dong Nai province where we stayed with her parents at their home and we had a moving experience.  Thao's parents have a business of their own that they have developed over a period of  years: they have been in Long Kanh for 26 years after moving down from "up north".  Thao's father is from one of the provinces south of Hanoi. They provide top quality fresh, caught the same day, sea and fresh water food to restaurants and markets in the area as well as caterers (weddings are one of the major events for catering) and this means they work lonnnng hours.  Her parents plus an uncle go to nearby ocean and river fishermen/women and buy sea and fresh water products.  This means work days that can start at 2 am to 3 am. With their refrigerated truck they make deliveries to the markets, cafes and caterers. In addition, they sell at a daily central market to retail customers.  When we arrived on Saturday at noon we had a lunch of tasty seafood: shrimp, fish, rice and a hot pot after which we drank some tea (leisurely cups of tea with conversation a a northern tradition) and took a nap.  Note the HUGE shrimp to the left -- it was like eating lobster (often cooked with fresh coconut).

Parents meeting and enjoying life!
Later in the afternoon we walked around downtown Long Kanh with Thao.  She showed us her High School, a beautiful Buddhist Temple and then a large Catholic Cathedral just down the street.  It should be mentioned that where ever we go across Vietnam we have found that there are many temples, pagodas, and churches -- the Communist government does not oppress religion and folks are free to choose as they like and as far as we been able to observe everyone gets along just fine, believers and non-believers. It is interesting to see a Church or a Pagoda right next to an office building or police station flying the Gold Star on a Red Background Vietnam national flag and the hammer and cycle flag of the Communist Party. Before we went home to rest a bit more I purchased a Sim card for my unlocked smartphone and the necessary memory unlimited data -- unlimited data for a smart phone is about $5 per month -- think about that and how we in the US are being ripped off by the big phone companies.

You get the impression all we do is eat and take naps?  Let's tell you about two other delicious Vietnamese foods -- com tam (I think I have it correct) which is "broken rice" served with grilled/barbeque pork and bahn khat.  Bahn Khat is yet another regional version of pancake that is small and delicate, fried batter (mostly egg like a little cup) served with shrimp, greens and dipping sauce.  Take it from us, eating and napping are lots of fun in Vietnam!  In-between there are lots of great conversations and sights!

Thao's parents have a beautiful 3 story house - you can see the painted wall panels in the front room downstairs in photos posted below.  It was a wonderful week-end to relax in a smaller town and get to know Thao's family.
Hollis can't resist a good Nuoc Mia
stand so enjoyed cane juice
a picture. 

After dinner Thao, Kenny and the two of us went out to have "cafe den" at a local coffee shop, Torinos, where they also served delicious smoothies: blueberry, kiwi and strawberry kept us happy. Us two old folks went home while Thao and her friends went out for kareoke.  With enough stamina and naps we're hoping to be part of a crowd at a Vietnamese Rock Concert next Sunday night in HCMC with Thao and her friends.

The pictures below are from our Sunday visit to Van Mieu Tran Bien temple that honors Literature and Learning in Ben Hoa.  This is considered to be one of the most important Temples in Dong Nai province.  Besides the temple building the grounds cover many acres and there were a lot of people enjoying the park.  We observed one wedding party going on and heard the noise from a bird owners contest.  People bring their singing and happy birds to the park for contests where they showoff their pets.  This temple is visited often by entire schools so that students can learn about the Vietnamese culture and traditions of learning and scholarship -- and pray for success at exams.  Currently there is a special exhibit at the temple about the scholarship of HCM and important academic and cultural writers from Dong Nai province.
A long view of the Temple across a large pond and beautiful grounds.

A lovely bonzai tree -- you will probably have to
make it large to see it well.

Tortoises are honored as great
holders of knowledge.
The teacher Ho Chi Minh in the
Temple Meeting Hall

Horses and Thao's 20th
Birthday Decoration

Water Buffalo and Motorbikes

Phoenix Birds in Thao's home.
Driving through Dong Nai province we saw both older and new large industrial parks, young and older rubber fields.  The area is well known for guava, custard apples and star apples -- all delicious! Both on the van from HCMC to Long Kanh and then back into HCMC we rode on the brand new expressway which is limited to car and truck traffic.  Traffic congestion, especially in the growing cities, is a major issue (along with pollution), so expressways, special "over passes" to route cars and trucks around major intersections and rail projects are all important infrastructure plans here.

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