If you look at a map of Vietnam, It’s a long thin country with a blob at the top with Hanoi, the capital, in the center, bordering on China. Hanoi was the center for the communist North Vietnam and is still quite old and charming. At the bottom of the country is another blob with Ho Chi Minh City located in the center. Ho Chi Minh is the old Saigon, the center for the South Vietnamese which is the part of the country that the US assisted in the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese today insist that the war was between Vietnam and the United States and that the US lost the war to the Vietnamese. Of course the story in the US is that we were assisting the South Vietnamese and that the partnership lost the war. It was not a pretty war and not a happy memory in our US history. Ho Chi Minh City today is modern and industrialized.
Da Nang is in the center of the country. Quite a beautiful city along the seashore as a large river empties into the ocean. They are building big beautiful, exclusive resorts along the ocean. We arrived here about midnight on a hot, humid night exhausted after about thirty hours en route expecting to be met by a representative of the Minh Toan Galaxy Hotel. No hotel driver and the phone number we had didn’t work for the hotel. after waiting about an hour we grabbed one of the last cabs to the hotel. The cab driver dropped us off. Exhausted we grimly schlepped our bags up endless marble steps. No bell hops at that late hour, only to find out that we had been dropped off at the wrong hotel. So we schlepped back down the stairs and traipsed up the bumpy deteriorated sidewalk what we were told was but a short block. Wrong! Three very long, deserted blocks.
The Minh Toan Galaxy is a very new hotel, perhaps only a week in business. Flashy marble, but built in typical Home Depot, do-it-yourself style. Nothing works very well. Last night we got caught in the elevator with four young Vietnamese (super small elevator with no air conditioning) for about 15 minutes. Couldn’t go up, couldn’t go down, couldn’t open the door. We kept ringing the alarm. Finally we were rescued. The employees are all young and new and inexperienced, but trying so very, very hard to do everything right, and all wanting to practice their English. I can’t tell you how many times I got asked, “Where you from? When you get here? How long you stay?”
Dinner at the restaurant took over three hours as they brought each person’s order out separately about 10 minutes apart from the other orders, the main course, followed by the starter. The food was great! We each ate our meal while the others watched starving.
The workout room has no equipment…..so I decided to get a massage ($25 for an hour massage). I made an appointment. I arrived precisely on time and was told to sit down. They brought me a yummy teapot of strong ginger tea. And I waited and waited. I think they had to call the massage person from the other side of town. Finally a young man came and started asking me the prescribed questions. Then he disappeared, but came back and waved me down to what I assumed was the massage room…a massage table with no mattress and a large bed mattress on the floor. He told me to take a shower and lie down on the bed…no covering blanket or sheet….and he left. About this time I was ready to slip back out the door and return to my room. Just then a tiny young girl arrived. I thought, Oh dear, this is going to be a whimpy massage for my 350 dong. To my surprise it was the best massage I’ve ever had. Worth every dong.
Sunday we had a marvelous tour. Went to a Protestant Church, jam-packed with people and a choir of about 60 people who sang their hearts out in unison. The women were dressed in a colorful array of traditional Vietnamese dresses. We then visited a Cao Dai church and a Cao Dai missionary told us all about their very interesting religion in quite understandable English. It was a Cao Dai graduation of some kind. Everyone was dressed in long-sleeved white robed outfits with white hats, men, women, and children. There were probably 500-600 people packed into a very hot humid auditorium.
Then we went to climb a “tall” granite mountain full of caves of every size and shape. This mountain was used as a hospital for the North Vietnamese during the war. It was beautiful. They had built shrines, pools, fountains, and sculptures everywhere and the views of the countryside were breath taking. How in the world they had done it in this amazing granite mountain is beyond me.
We finished the tour with a Catholic church called the Rooster church with a rooster on the top instead of a cross and finally a fascinating museum with relics from the Cham people who were very early inhabitants of the Vietnam area.