After a chat about the island and how things have changed since 1967 when Roger was there, we had a tour of the house. I had been curious to see all the way inside one. In our strolls through cities and towns we could see inside the front rooms because the doors are open for ventilation. Many of the restaurants we visited were the bottom floors of houses and the toilets were the family washrooms. The first thing you always see is a shrine to their ancestors and to whomever their religions' honor. This house was actually a bit larger than some in the city where they go up not out but was still compact by our standards. They don't need a lot of space because they don't have the "stuff" we think is so necessary to live.
There is no fresh water on the islands except during rainy season. Drinking water is shipped over on boats and stored in individual tanks or five gallon jugs which cost 50 cents to fill. Propane has replaced wood and charcoal for cooking since the trees disappeared. The family included a mother, father, son with his wife and child and a dog.
One thing we have commented on is how calm dogs are in Viet Nam. You just walk by and they may or may not look at you. Once in a while one will follow you for a quick sniff but seldom bark. In his village, however, they were different. I guess strangers are not common and the dogs wanted everyone to know something was amiss. Another note on dogs: they do still eat them. I don't think we were served any in all the mass amount of food we were given. I did see one splayed out on the back of a scooter one day just as I had seen pigs. We also passed several truckloads being taken to slaughter. This got me thinking. Until recently dogs have been a part of my family. I didn't think twice about seeing truckloads of chicken, ducks, pigs, or cattle and since I eat meat, who am I to pass judgment on which creatures are used to sustain life.
The Nha Trang skyline is full of high rises with more under construction. All built after 1997. I get the feeling that Vietnam is hell bent on catching up with the rest of the world, damn the environmental impact. It is providing a lot of jobs and according to our most recent guide, making some officials very wealthy.
Bruce told us some of his story. His family were boat people after the collapse of South Vietnam and lived in refugee camps in the Philippines for eight years trying to get to the US. But, they didn't have $3000 to pay someone to write a letter saying they were politically or economically oppressed. Everyone that left was considered a war criminal by the new government until some made a bunch of money and wanted to come back to invest and rebuild. Suddenly, the doors opened up and in1989 he and his family returned.
Most of the world could learn something from the attitude about the past. I get the feeling that they acknowledge that bad things happened but today is a new day. Let's move on. The culture is built around family and food. Yes, there is some poverty, but that is true everywhere. The economy is booming with money being spent on infrastructure by both private and public funds and that means jobs, which means more spending and more jobs. Their middle class is expanding as poverty lessens.
We rested in the afternoon. I sat by the pool writing. It was quite breezy and anyone coming up to swim didn't stay once they felt the cold water and the wind. So for several hours I had it to myself. We had noticed “The Rancho” restaurant a few blocks away and decided to see how Russians make Mexican in Vietnam. The quesadilla was different than we are accustomed to but I liked it. A very tiny basket of nachos and two beers with the quesadilla was about $11.50. But, we also got to meet Mike, a young man from DC who is tired of the rat race there and after his four months in Vietnam he wants to move to Florida and open a restaurant. Good luck to him.
A stroll around watching the night time action brought us back to the beach and Central Park where we landed at the Lousiane Brewhouse. Our intention was to relax and have a couple of beers. A band called The Octopus started playing and singing in English. Bonus. Three women and one man took turns as lead singer. All were excellent. The Brewhouse is quite popular with the tourists from throughout Asia and Russia along with locals out for a Saturday evening social. The restaurant is huge and the servers were really hustling to keep the food and beer flowing. Our beers cost about $3 a piece.