Vietnam: New Year, New Country
The last week of 2016 was jam packed with new experiences and the beginning of 2017 was no different. Waking up in a foreign country was a bit surreal, but we continued on our journey with a day spent with family I never knew I had. Instead of following along with the tour group, we decided to go on our own adventure with our family as the local guides around the city.
Since breakfast was available at our hotel, we ate our meal before my cousins arrived to take us around town. The first point of interest was Chua Tran Quoc, a Buddhist temple built in the 6th century on a small island with numerous shrines. You get waterfront views wherever you go and the shrines were beautiful.
We were also taken through a few back streets to get to another temple, Phu Tay Ho. I faintly remember driving along the water on a narrow street before reaching our destination, but the views were spectacular. This temple was much livelier and vibrant - the colors, the offerings to the gods, and the patrons were bustling throughout the grounds.
After touring temples, we returned to my aunt's bakery, where she provided a few samples and snacks to take with us. My parents splurged on a few items, especially these sesame balls. The ones I usually get back home are filled with soybean, but she also made a variation with a meat filling. It came with a dipping sauce, but they were SO good on their own. I ate through a dozen while we waiting for our next destination.
Once we bagged up our goods, we walked around the city and the open markets along the street. I didn't buy much at this time, but it was nice to venture around the city. I always felt cautious walking across streets in Vietnam, but the drivers (both car and mopeds) will navigate around you. It's a crazy experience, especially on a busy street!
As we built up our appetite, we arrived at a family gathering on my dad's side. It felt like the entire came out for dinner and contributed to the feast. We had hot pot with all the fixings from corn, cabbage, tofu, beef, braised pork, vegetables and sweet rice. Their hospitality was unwavering and although first time meet-n-greets are usually awkward, it was enjoyable and was a warm invite when we visited.
After dinner, there was still some time to spare before the evening was dark, so we ventured out to the Porcelain Village. There were so many options and there was room to barter as long as you have a local with you or someone who knows the language well enough to get a deal. It wasn't a huge discount, but I did pick up a few souvenirs to take home. I was really intrigued in a few tea sets, but unfortunately, I didn't have much room to take home a big thing. Once we wrapped up on shopping, we were taken back to our hotel to rest up for the next day.