Sunday, March 13, 2011

A glimpse of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

On the way from a short trip to Vietnam, I saw an inflight video, “Hereafter”, in which an overwhelming terror of tsunami was showed. Now I can’t believe my eyes to see  exactly the same thing is happening here in Japan.  I am OK but it’s heart-wrenching to think of the sufferers and aftermath. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Before the memory of the trip is fading away, I’m writing down some. Well, the first thing we noticed on the way from the airport to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City was a chaotic traffic of the motorbikes. There were few signals except the busiest intersections, still a large number of motorbikes of helmeted and masked drivers together with two or three on a single motor-cycle, were surging forward within an inch of cars with constant honks. Interestingly it seemed chaotic but somehow functioning well at the same time. The flow never ceased from morning till night. Ho Chi Minh City was a bustling city.



The street in front of the hotel. On the right side of the street runs Saigon River. 
  I couldn’t get up enough nerves to cross the street to take the pictures of River view due to a constant flow of oncoming motorbikes. They never stop. Later I learned “to move slowly across the street at the cross walk” so that drivers tactfully pass through in front or behind me, and better yet, to find someone else to cross together with would work, you know, “safety in numbers”.




One of beauties of a trip is; to enjoy country’s cuisines. The breakfast in the hotel was far more than satisfactory. I tried not to eat more than I should but they were irresistibly delicious starting with rice noodle soup with rich clear broth to dessert, fruits and coffee. Vietnamese cuisines use a wide range of herbs, fresh vegetables, beef, pork, chicken and various kinds of seafood. I love the way they were served; colorful and beautifully arranged.




Banh xeo, a type of crepe made of rice flour with shrimps, pork, sliced onion, mushroom or whatever stir-fried.












On the second day, we visited the town of My Toh at the side of Mekong River, one hour and a half drive from the center city. The warm weather and fertile soil at Mekong Delta help produce abundant variety of fruits, vegetables and live stocks.






 Cruising on the Mekong River, (it was like an ocean but the color of water was not ocean blue but muddy) took us to an orchard islet where we enjoyed tropical fruits.





The temperature reached around 35℃ in the daytime, so a ride on hand-rowed sampan through small inlets under a lusty green canopy of water- coconut trees made us feel cool












 
 
 
The rooftop of the hotel made an excellent place for elevated views of the city, without feeling threatened by the motorbike. After a brief sprinkle, I could see a rainbow arched over the Saigon River.








Thursday, March 3, 2011

A woman like Ume blossom

A return of the cold weather these past few days is making Ume blossoms flinch? Maybe not. Ume blossom shows itself at its best in the time of hardship.



In the history of women, there’s one woman embodied the essence of Ume. Her name is Umeko Tsuda(1864-1929), originally named Ume. In the field of education for women, she was a trail blazer.

At the age of 6, as a youngest member, she went to the States as an exchange student along with another four ladies. She studied hard till the age of 18 there. After returning Japan, however, she had to confront societal and domestic pressures that demanded that she should behave in line with traditional gender role.


Later she went to the States again and during her stay she met with Helen Keller or Florence Nightingale in England and got inspired a lot. Through them she was convinced there should be diversified choice of life for women including marriage. In 1900, she founded the Women’s Institute for English Studies, current Tsuda College, for improving the status of women. It remains one of the most prestigious institutes of higher education in Japan.


“Ume blossoms are seen as an example of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. More recently they have also been used as a metaphor to symbolize revolutionary struggle since the turn of the 20th century” says Wikipedia.



Last Sunday, I walked for Ume blossom viewing. Pedometer showed 26000 steps, about 18km, to and from there. Good walk!












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