(Loren with her friend Alex...preparing to ride the best taxis in town -- mine and Huyen's motorbikes.)
Last Thanksgiving at my 10 Year High School Reunion (Jesus, I'm old as hell!) I reconnected with Loren Abbate. I told Loren about my plans to move to 'Nam and she said that she was attempting to get a grant to go to China to teach art. Loren and I made big plans to get together in Asia and well, nine months later they've come to fruition.
Loren just finished her month long stint in China and took a trip down to 'Nam with her new friend Alex. After having shown about a dozen people around Hanoi so far I decided that it would be more fun to take a road trip with Loren (although Huyen and I did give her and Alex a motorbike tour of Hanoi). I had heard about a beautiful little town called Tam Dao that the French used to vacation in during the summer because of it's cool climate and fresh air. I threw the idea by Loren and BAM we were on our way.
Alex being the brave man that he is (he's a ridiculous rock climber...see below) rented a motorbike to drive himself. This meant Huyen got to ride the back of #6 (my bike) and Loren got to ride Alex's bike. Some of the highlights from the first day included:
1. Taking a wrong turn which turned out to be a) faster b) more scenic c) have the friendliest restaurant owner in all of 'Nam. We stopped in at this little spot and I swear the owner shook my hand no less than six times and drew us two different maps to get to Tam Dao.
2. The best mango shake I've ever had. There is so much good fruit in Vietnam but this shake was heads and tails above any fruit drink my lips have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
3. Watching Huyen negotiate a 600,000 Dong room rate down to 300,000...only to find out that the reduced rate didn't include stain free or hair free sheets.
4. Buying a bunch of fresh fruit at the market. When I say "bunch" I actually mean "ten bunches." We just wanted a few bananas but were told you had to buy the whole banana stalk. We literally bought 50+ bananas for ninety five cents. We ate about twenty.
5. Washing off our road trip dirt under a big waterfall:
7. Watching Alex climb the rocks to the right of the waterfall without a rope. The rocks were completely vertical. He climbed them like spider man. It was scary to watch. I mean, it was really scare. About thirty Vietnamese people stared in awe as he darted up wall. Finally one man came over and asked me to ask Alex to climb back down because they were scared the rocks would dislodge and kill people below. Frankly, I was happy to have an excuse to tell him to come down because I've been to a Vietnamese hospital and well, I'm pretty sure they're not any better out in the country.