May 182011

Last night (not really last night, but the hypothetical Wednesday of the trip…you understand.), we said our goodbyes to the bike support team.  BUT we still had a couple “dates” with Mr. Khai and Mr. Tuan!  I’m glad we didn’t have to say goodbye to them yet!

We met Mr. Khai in the hotel lobby for a short tour of Hoi An.  We visited a Chinese temple and a historic house in the downtown area.  It’s amazing all the stuff Mr. Khai knows about Vietnam and really just lots of places in the world.  I would NEVER survive as a tour guide in the U.S.  Nope, not at all!

After the tour we split up to go shopping.  Many of the girls went to a local tailor shop to get dresses handmade.  Next time I go back to Vietnam – this is definitely on the to-do list.  The clothing was beautiful and you could get tailored things for cheaper than something from a box store in the U.S.!  Incredible!

I wandered around with Jen.  We went to her favorite tailor (she’s got one of those since she lived in Vietnam for 2 years…awesome!).  We looked through a ton of fabrics and picked out colors and patterns for different shirts, shorts, and a pair of lounge pants.  (By the way, Jen had most of these things done by THE NEXT DAY.  Talk about fast work. And the pieces looked great.)  Anyways, then we went with her tailor to an alley “warehouse” type building.  It was a small building like the shops, but it just had shelves and shelves of scarves, earrings, necklaces, postcards, bags….you name it, they had it.  This was the place that supplied all the shops that everyone else was looking in on the main stretch of roads.  So, we shopped from here….for less!  I got some amazing beautiful scarves from these ladies.  LOVE them.

We met back up with the group for lunch at a restaurant called Morning Glory.  We had another unbelievably delicious meal.  I was really getting better at the whole chopstick thing.  And then…THEN we had to say our goodbyes to Mr. Khai.  It was all so bittersweet.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel for swimsuits and to hit the beach!  Wow.  There’s nothing like relaxing on a lounge chair while looking at the South China Sea in Vietnam.  It was such a perfect day.  We were lounging at one of Jen’s favorite spots.  It was a lounge/restaurant owned by a French guy named Denny.  It was literally on the beach.  Steve and Shireen decided to go for a run (silly!) while I’m pretty sure I spent most of my time thinking to myself “Please let me stay! Please let me stay!”

::fast forward::

On Friday (our last full day with everyone!), we got to spend some more time with some awesome kids!!  We got in the vans for the short ride to Da Nang.  This would be the same van ride where we finally saw a motorbike carrying two LIVE pigs.  I’m sorry to say I doubted it a little bit when I heard they do this…but it’s so true!  I saw it!

Anyways, we drove to the Kindergarden and passed out ice cream to all the kids.  They devour this stuff!  There was a group of kids I was hanging out with that were such hams.  They just wanted their picture taken over and over and over again.  And so, I did just that.  And they loved every second.  These might be some of my favorite pictures from the trip.  A bunch of kids and ice cream – it can’t get better!

Next we visited another Social Support Center that houses widows/unmarried older women and disabled children.  They also had a physiotherapy program here that was really inspiring.  Some of the kids were making such progress – learning how to sit up on their own, or to stand.  We were able to put some of these kids in wheelchairs and take them outside.  We rolled over to a field and watched John, Steve and Natasha play soccer against some of the Vietnamese guys that worked at Social Support.  Oh, and the GVN team won 3 -2.  That’s right!  Also, it was a scorching 95+ degree day and extremely humid.

We had lunch at the local GVN volunteer house and then headed over to our hotel.  I went up to the spa floor with Steve and Shireen to look into getting a massage/happy fun time.  We all decided to sign up for private VIP rooms for an extra couple bucks ($15 total).  This included a sauna, jacuzzi tub and 60 min massage.  Seriously.  All that for $15…and it was heaven!

In the afternoon we took the van over to Marble Mountain.  Marble Mountain is a cluster of five mountains/hills that represent the five elements: metal, water, fire, earth, and wood.  There are caves, tunnels, buddhist sanctuaries, and lots…lots of stairs.  You can climb to the summit of one of the peaks.  The view was absolutely gorgeous.  I believe we climbed about 500 steps up….so about 1,000 total!  The caves were incredible as well.  Apparently the caves were used as a hospital during the Vietnamese/American War.  It was a beautiful place.

For dinner we went to an amazing local seafood place.  It reminded me so much of the type of place you’d go in Maryland for crabs except instead of sitting at a picnic table, looking at the water, and eating crabs, we were at a metal table along a sidewalk in Da Nang eating shrimp, squid and the likes.  Okay, so maybe not really like Maryland at all.  But there was beer!  😛  (AND more dancing by John and Steve!)

The evening was spent at a karaoke place with Mr. Tuan.  Apparently karaoke is a must-do when you visit Asia.  They love it. We got our own private group room and had a blast singing songs. Caitie is a phenomenal singer by the way.  That girl’s got talent!  :)  By the end of the night, we were throughly exhausted and had to say our goodbyes to Mr. Tuan.  We headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep…the next day was Saturday….the end of the trip!


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