Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Evening

Wound up sleeping most of the day. We woke about about 6:45 and went out in search of water. The area we are in feels a lot like a Vietnamese Times Square, with uniformed security guards personnel (not sure if they are police or the equivalent of security guards) frequently visible on the street. Crossing streets is very interesting with the high traffic and lack of traffic controls. Given the drivers awareness that I mentioned last night, you can pretty much just wade right in regardless of the traffic and they will avoid you, but it still takes a lot of nerve to do so! We hesitated during a particularly heavy cluster of traffic, and one of the police / guards came from the corner without a word and waded right in to help us more or less escort us across, even though we would have been happy to wait a few seconds for traffic to clear. This took about 10 seconds, so it's not like we were even having trouble crossing!

Our hotel was out of currency for exchange (it is Sunday), so we found a currency changer and exchanged $100... At the current exchange rate, minus about a 2.5% exchange fee, we got 1,570,000 VN Dong. Talk about an exchange difference! Still getting used to the math to do the exchange, since it's about 160 Dong per cent (not exactly even math). The exchanger had free Internet, so took a quick opportunity to email home. Not sure if the etiquette will allow us to use it without doing other business there, so we will see. Also won't allow us to upload files, so we will have to find other Internet when we want to email photos regardless.

After that, we went in search of water. The hotel provides two bottles a day, which are about 1/3 liter, not nearly enough, and with sleeping today we did not get room service to replace what little we get. It is just understood that the tap water is not drinkable unless boiled. (I suspect it is the same in Korea, as the drinking fountains in the airport had signs saying that it was safe to drink.) Regardless, we have been warned to be careful taking showers, to drink bottled water, and to be careful of fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in tap water. I'm pretty sure the water served at the hotel restaurant would be OK, but we are still being careful even about that.

So we found the shopping area that is about a block from the hotel. It has a "supermarket" which is much more akin to a very small (and crowded) Super Target. Groceries, luggage, hardware, clothing, perfume, you name it! We spent about $3 on 9 liters of bottled water, much cheaper than the US. Plenty of familiar brands and products (such as Pepperidge Farms cookies), but those seem to be about the same price as in the US. (Not really surprising.) Found some bagged candies that are six months out of season in the USA and some other products that are not available to us in the USA anymore, so kind of wonder what route exactly they took to get here. Also walked by a vendor selling movies, including "Ocean's 13," which just released to the movie screens last weekend! Needless to say, we will not be buying movies here (not that we planned to).

Just got back from dinner. The restaurant in the hotel is pretty good. We got a complimentary meal upon check in, so we used it tonight. We had:
- ceasar salad (which neither of us ate much of - combination of not yet being in cycle for the travel and a little concern about the water)
- minestrone soup
- fettuccine Alfredo
- fruit plate of pineapple, watermelon, and a local fruit (I think dragon fruit)
Everything was good and the service was very prompt and courteous.

Shannon's addiction to trash TV is even fulfilled here. She managed to find "Fear Factor" in a local language! (We don't think it was Vietnamese or Chinese, but couldn't tell for sure.) TV also has HBO in English. All the "comforts" of home I guess...

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