As mentioned in the previous post…

… Amin is pretty much irreplaceable as friend.

When I asked him, “What about me?”

He sent me a picture named “replaced.jpg”

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Why does he actually look like me?! Ahh!!! It surprised Amin too, he was just going to scribble but then it came out looking like me!

I call my brother “SO UGLY!” at least 3 times a day (seriously) … is life trying to tell me something? Oh nooos 😦 😦

Family pictures…

… during our last night in Phung Hiep! So sad!

These pictures were taken on August 16, 2010.

We invited all the cousins over to hang out and sleepover for one last night. We also had them over the previous night… too funny with lots of memories ❤

The night before, we played a lot of “Truth no Dare” to pry secrets out of everyone, that was interesting. Also played random games like Wink Murder, charades,  and talked well into the night.

On the 26th, my sister and I arranged a few games beforehand. We had slips of paper, each with someone’s (a member in our family) name on it. And we have a huge family, so plenty of rounds before the game gets tiring. Everyone had a name taped to their back and had to go around asking ‘yes or no’ questions to try and figure out who they had. That game got boring kind of fast and we moved on using the same slips of paper. This time, we picked out names and had to either verbally or physically imitate who we had so the others could guess. Frick’n hilarious.

At one point, we also wrote notes and folded origami for each other… aww!

When it got late, my siblings went to sleep. Hia Bo, Cuoi, Phuong, Thanh and I decided to just stay awake the whole night and talk. Thanh unwillingly surrendered soon after 1:00am when she fell asleep and couldn’t be awoken. The other 3 decided to scribble stuff all over her legs and feet… don’t think she was too happy about that when she woke up. Ahem.

So the remaining 4 of us just stayed up and talked, and talked, and talked until dawn. It was so bittersweet! *Tear*

Early morning came, Phuong and Thanh had to say good bye and head to school. The 2 guys went home to wash up – Cuoi came back over to drive me around to videotape Phung Hiep.

Finally, around 9:00am, we said our tearful goodbyes before getting into the van that would be taking us to Saigon. Chet Vu and Chet Quang accompanied us to Saigon, where we stayed the night at Cau Bao’s house. The next morning, on August 18, they saw us out to the airport and sooner than I knew it, we were headed back to Canada. Arrived back in Ottawa on time (actually, we landed early, and no one had arrived to pick us up yet… lol) at 11:30pm on August 18, 2010.

Family dropped us off then stayed at our house to eat (pizza… mmm) and catch up until 2:00am. Di Nam (mom’s sister) stayed overnight to help my mom unpack, LOL.

Hover for captions, click for larger!

We ate out…

… quite often as it was so cheap!

This was on August 13, 2010… when my mom decided we should go for an eating marathon. We didn’t last too long, 3 places to be exact! First had banh cong (sample picture here), then fried ice cream (omg, delicious), then a whole grilled meat meal. Yes, in that order. So full, could barely walk.

I did have something to brag about though. I was wearing a dress that night and didn’t get bitten by a mosquito once. My mom who was wearing pants, on the other hand… we’ll you can see what happened below.

We actually did the same thing the following evening… =D Except this time, Hia Bo was able to join us and instead of having Banh Cong, we had Goi Cuon (sample picture here). We also had a second dessert – deep fried banana fritters. OMG. Droooool

May’s (Chet Em’s daughter) birthday…

… on August 12, 2010

My mom made Che “nhieu” (technically, it’s supposed to be “3”) mau, meaning a che with lots of colours because of the large number of ingredients – Multi-coloured che! We also bought her a cake and helped celebrate her birthday at my grandpa’s house.

My siblings and cousins gave her a birthday present she seemed to love – hair scrunchies and clips! Hahaha

Hover for captions, click for larger!

Visiting LANG SEN…

… on August 11, 2010.

Ong Cau Ut Do and his son, Cau Duy, came out to get us in Phung Hiep via his small boat. Before leaving, my siblings and I went into the market to buy 20kg of trai chom chom (rambutan fruit) and some flowers. Lang Sen is a place where my mom’s family used to live, however, much of that property has since been gifted to Ong Cau Ut Do and his family. My grandma’s (mom’s mom’s) grandparents’ (her mom’s parents) tombs had been relocated to this property before my mom’s family immigrated to Canada.

That day, we went to visit not only family and longtime friends, but our ancestors as well. This was the first time my mom and siblings visited the area, apparently I had gone with my dad back in grade 2.

Luckily, we got to see quite a number of people, including all 4 of Ong Cau Ut Do’s sons (Cau Song, Cau Nhan, Cau Han & Cau Duy). Even Ba Di Muoi, who lives in a nearby town, was able to come out and see us with her son, Cau Phong.

Hover for captions, click for larger!

We stayed until around lunch, which we politely refused, before returning back to Phung Hiep. This time accompanied by Ong Cau Ut Do and one of his other sons, Cau Nhan.

For any family members wishing to see more pictures of the graves in greater detail, they can visit THIS LINK.

Our short visit to Saigon…

… during our stay in VN!

(I’m using snippets of information from an article I found online and liked)

Bulging with a population of nearly seven million, Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam’s largest and most exciting city. While Hanoi is the center of government, Ho Chi Minh City is the nation’s economic heart, and money is on the minds of everyone here (Source).

We stayed at Cau Bao’s place (Intercontinental Hotel – *****) during our visits to Saigon. Thank you again for your hospitality uncle!

July 25, 2010 – Arrived in Saigon from Phung Hiep

July 26, 2010 – We were in Saigon because I had a 1 week elective in ENT department at the University Medical Center. I lasted 2 days. Days 3 and 4 I got sick. Days 5 and 6 I decided to skip out because I had seen just about enough during the 2 days I was present. It was… an experience. Definitely an eye-opener.

Mom and Di Maridam at Hung Vuong Plaza after my first shift at the hospital:

We went to visit Ba Hai (with Di Maridam, Mommy’s friend) on the 26th:

We also stopped at Cho Ben Thanh for some shopping.

Here, you will find practically every staple commodity imaginable except automobiles and real estate. If consumerism offers intimate glimpses of how people live, wandering among the tiny, packed stalls here will give you some unique insights into modern Vietnamese life. The food court here has delicious and very tasty local specialties. Produce, flowers, and meats are sold on the sidewalks surrounding the building.

We took the bus a lot during our stay in Vietnam… sooo CHEAP! Loves it. A bus ride costs about 16 cents CAD. You get on, take a seat, an employee comes to take your money and give you your ticket. He/she will also ask where you’re getting off and will call out the stop for you. In addition, most buses are air conditioned and are rarely full, as the majority of the population drives motorcycles/scooters. So easy to get around! (Hmm… I have a feeling I’ve said this before in a previous blog entry… oh well).

The poor employee is sweating buckets!

This was my coat and ID for working in the hospital:

July 27, 2010 – More hanging out with Di Maridam:

Highlands Coffee is everywhere in Saigon and quite tasteful, reminds me of a Starbucks or Second Cup except it’s more like a restaurant. You go in, sit down, and someone comes to take your order and bring you your food. I don’t drink coffee but they have the best freshly squeezed lime-ade I’ve ever had… not to mention their passion fruit cheesecake! Mmm, so good.

Stayed in and cooked dinner that night, with Cau Bao coming home early to join us…

July 28, 2010 – My birthday!

Super low key, my mom made a few dishes and we just had dinner at home. Cau Bao didn’t know it was my birthday so he didn’t come home in time for dinner. Had to wait til the next day to cut the cake!

Cau Bao’s place offers an amazing view of Saigon.

July 29, 2010 – I finally get to eat my birthday cake! Yum yum

July 30, 2010 – Exploration on foot!

Stopped by to visit Nha Tho Duc Ba (Notre Dame Basilica) – During October 2005, the statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral (more info here).

Then stopped at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for a drink and snack. So very tasty place and quite similar to Star Buck’s and Second Cup from the drinks right down to the prices!

We walked over to the Unification Palace, the former Presidential Palace occupied for nine years by Nguyen Van Thieu. Tourists stop at the front gate to snap photos by the thousands, but few venture inside. You might find yourself practically alone and wander from floor to floor as though you owned the place. Maps still hanging in the underground military operations rooms remind visitors how close the ‘‘enemy’’ was. On the top floor you will find yourself in a party room with a stage and a huge lanai. Below, lavish reception halls and office, a gambling room, and a private movie theater are all self-indulgent and tasteless reminders of why our side lost (Source).

We did go inside as well but I’m not posting those pictures because there are too many and it’s not all that interesting.

Back to Phung Hiep on July 30th!