Vietnam ~ Easy Riders

Easy Rider Day 1


31.10.2008 – 31.10.2008 rain 0 °F
View My Exploration of Vietnam on Khandilee’s travel map.

Crazy House
Terraced Gardens
Flower Greenhouse
Silk Worms
Bamboo basket weaving
Silk Factory
Minority Village
Elephant Falls

What a full day! I will have tons of pictures to share with everyone once I get to someplace that has good internet.

What the hell was I thinking of going on a 7-day moto-bike ride through the hills of Vietnam? It”s been a fun and very tiring day. We started out at 0800 with the sun shining and just a bit of overcast sky’s. We have traveled over 150km today. The rain stopped only long enough to provide me a fabulous rainbow and I was soaked and tired to the bone by the time we reached the hotel tonight.

I wont go into details on everything because there is just too much to cover. I think that I have been on edge most of the day. One example would include the trek down to the bottom of Elephant Falls. It was quite treacherous as hopefully you can see by the photos. I was way to chicken to go all the way to see the actual falls from the bottom. I was somewhat intimidated by the rushing waters, slippery rocks, and my lack of coordination. The fact that I was alone down there might have something to do with it too. I just didn’t think that a swim sounded like a good idea!!

Another would include simply being on the back of a bike in the hilly roads with all the intermittent downpours that we had. The worst being the last 40km. I was certain that my driver didn’t have a headlight as the light from the sun was fading and he still had not turned it on. We were sloping up and down hills with hairpin turns about every 500 feet! Dodging ox-carts, bicycles and pedestrians in the rain. We finally made it to the hotel around 7pm (we were supposed to arrive around 5:30pm). I am exhausted, my ass hurts and my bed-mate is a cicada that I made the hotel guy take away!! My driver is supposed to meet me for dinner at 8pm and it’s now a quarter after and I’ve finished one beer and he has just arrived.

Annoyance: Rain, rain, and RAIN and the hundred times every minute that I have to hear ‘America is a very rich country’. I guess by the locals standards, we are all rich. However, I don’t feel very rich. I have to work hard every day to have what I have.

One of the highlights was the minority village. The children were so happy. Stephane (my driver) had to point out to me though that the color of their skin is ‘darker’ than his. I guess prejudice is everywhere….even Vietnam. Sad. We handed out some candy to the children and enjoyed taking their pictures. They laughed and smiled when they saw their pic on the camera. I wanted to give out the stickers (see Mike!) but Stephane had candy instead….next time! The boys were adorable playing on a bicycle that was hanging from the tree..

Life is good…..

Easy Rider Day 2


01.11.2008 – 01.11.2008 sunny
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Day 2 on the road with Easy Rider

It’s the end of day 2 and I am still questioning my decision to take 7 days on this trip. My driver is clinically depressed (my professional opinion), and I am getting sick and tired of hearing about how ‘poor’ he is and how hard he has to work. Fu*k! We all have to work….and I’m sure that he is making enough off of me to live for about the next 4 months! What most people don’t understand is that American’s are not rich but instead, most American’s live off of credit. If you take away all of the American’s credit….the number of poor will be evident. People will keep their cars instead of ‘getting rid of them as junk’ as Stephane thinks. People will lose their home and live with their parents (like many in Vietnam do), people will not have money to go out to eat/play/etc (like the Vietnamese) and will sit at home in the evenings watching TV (of which they will have only basic channels and not HBO/Cinemax and the hundred other channels that we have now. People will not have money to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on clothing and instead will wear what they have, fix the holes and buttons or make their own clothing (like the Vietnamese). People will not spend thousands of dollars on home computers and internet and will instead go to local internet cafe’s (just like the vietnamese do) and finally, people will be forced to work more than one job just to make ends meet…JUST LIKE THE VIETNAMESE DO!

Maybe I’m just tired, but I am tired of hearing about it. That and I SMOKE!! He knew this when he was hired and I’m tired of hearing about ‘you smoke a lot’ , ‘you can smoke now’, and how ‘no one in Vietnam smoke Marlboro’ Bullshit! There are Marlboro to be found everywhere! I find it interesting that he feels like he needs to give me permission to do anything…guess it goes back to my being independent. He tells me when I can smoke, when I can eat, when I can take a piss, when to wash my face, you name it and he tells me that I can do it. I KNOW I can smoke/eat/drink/piss! I’ll do it when I feel the need!!! OH…while I am complaining…for some reason, I need to find a husband! Why? Because my driver thinks I do!! I hear about that about every 5 seconds too… I guess this must have to do with the Vietnamese culture? Although, I do get the same from many people back home too….so maybe it’s just me that’s fu**ed up?

I am also tired of hearing about the Vietnam/American war. I know that there was some bad shit that happened then but I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE. I didn’t cause the ‘war’, I didn’t fight in the war, I know that a lot of people died and I’m sorry. Just like I am sorry for all the crap that is going on in the middle east right now. I don;t claim to understand any of it and I wish that we could all live harmoniously together….but we don’t, that’s life, there WILL be war and whether or not we like it…it will happen!

Wow…that was quite a rant! I do feel a little better now…..

I think that the Vietnamese Diet that I spoke of in an earlier post is still holding true… Today I ate:

Badly cooked eggs (half) and a dry piece of crusty bread
Noodle soup of which I consumed about ¼ cup
1 Banana (one of the little ones that they grow here, about half the size of the ones in USA)
3 oz package of almonds (brought with me from US
3 small veggie wraps with rice paper
½ of a fruit shake (scared to eat more as it’s made with tap H2O ice)

My stomach is making all sorts of weird noises and I am uncertain if I am trying to get sick or if I am just rumbling out of hunger! I would love some cheese and crackers right now!! ;o)

Then to top things off, I got extremely sun-burnt today. Only on the back of my neck and my arms (going to have a farmers tan for sure now). It is hotter than hell and there is no such thing as aloe lotion or anything that I can find to put on it to stop it from burning (guess the Vietnamese don’t sunburn). So right now I have a cool , moist towel draped across my neck and over my arms….feels much better. And, before you ask….I have been wearing sun-screen!! I guess 9 hours riding in the hot sun is more than my skin could take. Tomorrow, I am wearing long sleeves and I am sure that I will roast to death, but I cant get sun-burnt again!

I’ll fill you in on the sights later….been a long day and I am going to bed now!

Life is good ?? ………..

Day 2 with Easy Rider


01.11.2008 – 01.11.2008
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Day 2 we traveled from Lak to Buon Ma Thout. It was a short distance but we were still on the road for most of 8 hours.

The first part of the day was spent touring through the villages and seeing the coffee plantations. I was in heaven! If I haven’t mentioned it already….I LOVE the coffee here. “milk coffee” please! Mike and Kim and I even tried our hand at making our own but alas….it isn’t quite the same!

I made Stephane stop along the road so that I could take a few pictures of the rice fields and I stopped a lovely lady from her work for a couple of shots. She just kept smiling and after I was finished she went straight back to her work.

Took a quick stop to watch them make sugar candy. Again, the workers were all smiles and went straight back to work after they took a peek at the pictures I took. There were thousands of bees milling about. Unfortunatly, the pictures don’t really show them. I managed to leave unscathed!

Went for a short hike to two different waterfalls. Dray Sap and Gia Long. There were HUGE spiders everywhere! I tried to capture a few of them on film but it’s difficult to show how large they are. I swear that they were as big as my hand! I enjoyed Dray Sap the best of the two. I even got to cross a suspension bridge….a little scary! It sways and moves with every step and dont even think about looking at the construction or the boards that your walking on. There is no way that they would ever let people on this thing in the US! I just tried not to think about plunging into the churning waters below, held my breath and went for it.

Stopped in at a small farm and got to see how they grow mushrooms. It seems that everyone has several things that they grow here. For most, it’s coffee and a second job/crop ie mushrooms, silk worms, peppers (will go into that on day 3), sugar making, basket weaving, etc. It really makes me stop and think about the traditional skills that we are quickly losing in America. It’s almost a shame that things have become so commercialized and most of us would starve if the microwave quit working!

The further away from the tourist track I go, the more I feel like an attraction to the locals. They are all very friendly and want to try to talk to me (we do pretty well with sign language and of course, it helps that I have Stephane with me to translate). They all ask about my children, which makes me miss them even more. I wish that I had brought some photos to show. Everyone likes to have their picture taken and see it on my camera. No one out here has cameras…except the occasional cell phone camera.

Day 3 on the Road with Easy Rider


02.11.2008 – 02.11.2008
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Started early again today with a hotel buffet breakfast which, like all buffets was too expensive and poor quality of food. I dont think that the Vietnamese distinguish between breakfast foods and lunch or dinner foods like we do in the US. The breakfast buffet included noodle soup, bread (of course) and other assorted rices and noodles. There was also some sort of potato and carrot stew. The stew was wonderful (mostly because it reminded me of home). The only truly great thing about the buffet was ALL YOU CAN DRINK COFFEE!! I think I had 4 cups and would have had more if Stephane wasn’t so eager to leave.

I have to say that my ass doesn’t hurt even a little bit until the moment I sit on the moto-bike.

The day included:

more coffee-related sights
a catholic church (according to Stephane, the French introduced catholicism and it is progressively popular the further north you travel)
a war memorial
local market (just like the rest of the local markets)
A stop at the pharmacy and chat with the pharmacist. I guess in Vietnam (esp the smaller villages) you can ‘buy’ your license to sell medicine. The lady that I spoke to seemed very knowledgeable and states that although a prescription is needed to purchase medicine, she will many times give medicine to the minorities given the symptoms that they describe.
more Rain
An overly friendly bus driver (I thought he was going to break my neck for the picture)
A reprieve from the rain
A typical squat toilet experience (not my first but the first that I remembered to take a picture). Thank god for Charmin travel packs!!
A lovely coffee stop at a local pepper farmers. The ‘house’ bird became very friendly and sang for us.
Random photos of locals being locals as I tried very hard not to squirm in my seat.
Walk through a Rubber Tree orchard. The process of sap collection is quite unique. Hopefully, you can see in the pictures later.

We arrived at our hotel about 5:30pm and decided to meet for dinner at 8pm. I decided to venture out on my own for a little bit to find an internet cafe and instead found a computer store with a very nice Vietnamese girl named Sen. She let me connect to the wireless internet for free and I purchased a set of headphones for my Skype for a mere $50,000 dong (about $3 usd). She was very nice and though neither of us spoke the other’s language, we managed to make a little small talk. I met a very nice Vietnamese woman from the US, here visiting family. I am horrible and can’t remember her name. We chatted in the lobby a bit and she is here visiting her family that live here and own the hotel where we are staying. She lives in Beaumont, TX. I enjoyed talking with her until Stephane rudely interrupted us and stated ‘I’m hungry lets eat’, so in order to placate my driver I said my goodbye’s and we went to dinner.

The Vietnamese Diet continues:
Hotel Buffet for breakfast
Noodle soup for lunch (some sort of celery soup with noodles)
Chicken BBQ for dinner. This was perhaps the skinniest chicken I have ever eaten. There was barely any meat on the thing and it was fried not bbq. Very greasy and nasty with pink rice….YES, pink! It too was pretty nasty. Stephane stated that he ‘loves to eat here when he is in town’ Ugggghhhh!!
Ok, I cheated! I’ll be honest. When I was out earlier, I stopped at a small local store and bought some Pringles and some honey roasted cashews. I ate half of each!! It was so good to have some ‘normal’ food for a change.

The remainder of my night was spent online updating my blog and emailing. I wasn’t supposed to have a connection at the hotel but I was able to get a signal from the hotel across the street!!

I ended my day with about 30 minutes of Yoga (thanks Kim). Had to stop because I was lost on what I was supposed to be doing while following the podcast that Kim saved for me.

Life is good…..

Day 4 on the Road with Easy Rider


03.11.2008 – 03.11.2008
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Today was a good day. The weather cooperated and we had slightly overcast sky’s all day. No sunburn and not drenching wet from the rain. A great day to be on the moto-bike. The route today started from Pleiku through Kon Tom and Dak To and to a small town just north of there. The mileage wasn’t much today but we still arrived around 5:30pm to our hotel.

I was late this morning due to making some phone calls. Had to talk to my baby girl and check in on Aco. Both seem to be doing fine and I miss them both terribly! Haven’t heard anything from Corey, I’ll try to get in touch with him on Thursday or Friday when I next have internet.

Breakfast was at a corner coffee ‘shop’. Which was actually just part of the sidewalk with a tarp to protect from the weather and little tables and chairs all facing the road. It was a pleasant way to spend the morning. Watching the traffic, listening to the local men discuss whatever it is they were discussing (cant understand a word of Vietnamese…still)! I did feel a little like the town spectacle. First, I am the only ‘white girl’ around and EVERYONE notices! They all look and stare, somewhat like I suppose I do to them…. Then jI am sitting in a group of all men (women don’t seem to get to sit around drinking coffee like the men), on these little chairs that are perfectly fit for someone 5ft or under with my knees in my chest! No problem, it was still enjoyable. My faith in Stephane was restored a bit this morning. He complains all the time about the ‘rich and poor’ and to be honest, I am getting pretty sick of it. During our morning coffee, a group of three blind people sat at a table in front of us and Stephane made some pleasant conversation with them and paid for their coffee. A nice gesture.

It seemed to take us forever to get out of town this morning. We stopped and had coffee, then we stopped and had the moto-bike washed, then we stopped and chatted with someone that Stephane knew…… While Stephane was getting his moto-bike cleaned, I tried to make friends with a local boy…..he was very shy (see pic). I gave him a sticker and tried to show him what it was and he must have thought that I was going to take it away so he ran and hid behind his mother! He did come up to me again before we left and warmed up a little bit.

So we are finally headed out of town and Stephane stops in the middle of no-where with two busses blazing up our rear….’GET OFF’ he shouts! Damn….I’m off!! He scared the hell out of me as I tumbled off the bike on the curb side of the road as the busses rip past us with horns blaring…wtf? Flat tire….. I hadn’t even noticed but we certainly did have a very flat back tire. Fortunatly, there were two moto-bike shops within about 500ft of us (coicidence?). The first one was closed and the other was up a small hill. So, I helped Stephane push the bike up the short enbankment to the bike shop. It only took a short while and we were back on the road again. School was out (they go in two sessions from what I understand. With a quite long break in the middle of the day). The bike shop owners daughters were delightful. I think that they enjoyed talking to me and practicing their english. The smaller one, Me was very shy but she warmed up after her sister Phe’ talked to me a little while. They told me that they were both 10 years old but I am not sure how that can be….unless mom had them back to back or they are twins?

We passed by a wedding with the bride and groom in front of the reception tent and I snapped a couple of photos. Stephane thinks that the woman is beautiful and the man ‘ugly’. I wonder if the happy couple will chat about the crazy white girl that sped by taking pictures when they discuss their wedding day?

Random things:

Sea Lake: very pretty
A quick picture of a woman cutting up the bark of some sort of tree to sell for medicinal purposes.
A ride through a small minority village and viewing of the Rong House in which the village gatherings take place.
Beautiful wooden church, built by the french.
Music Man
Traveled part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail along the highway.
Catholic and Buddhist graveyard
Charlie Hill and an old airstrip.


Talking with Me and Phe while the flat tire was being fixed.


My driver and ‘take picture, for my picture-book’ Before agreeing on taking the trip, I was able to look through two different picture books that previous travelers had made and sent to Stephane. He asked me at the beginning of the trip if I could make one for him and send to him. He offered to pay for it. I dont mind at all making a book for him, but I am very tired of hearing ‘take picture now’. It would be nice to determine my own pictures and in my opinion, would make a much better book than having the same pictures as the other two books….so, in my stubborn way I have not taken the pictures that he told me to take and instead, have determined my own pictures.

Tonights hotel is a true shit-hole. It’s only $8usd/night but still not worth even that. I tried to feel pissed that I am staying in such a place but found that thoughts of what I have seen have shown me that there are much worse places that I could be staying so I am going to be content with my room for the night. I am getting some use from my sleep sheet that I bought because just sitting on the bed made me start to itch! Hopefully I will sleep well and wake refreshed in the morning. At least I have electricity so I can type on here and bitch! haha!

Vietnamese Diet:

Bread and Laughing Cow cheese with coffee for breakfast.
Rice and some sort of spicy chicken for lunch.
Hot pot with noodles, shrimp, vegetables and two Tiger beer for dinner.
And the remainder of the cashews for a snack.

Life is good….

ps: my driver is certainly Depressed!

Day 5 on the Road with Easy Rider


04.11.2008 – 04.11.2008
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Last night at dinner I had an argument with my driver, Stephane. I have decided that although it’s been a good trip that I am beat and just want to get to Hoi An. He seems to be a fair man and didn’t want to cut the trip short. I dont know if it’s because he thought that I would cut him one day pay or what but we finally came to an agreement. We were supposed to stay one more night after tonight prior to reaching Hoi An. Instead, tomorrow we are going to take the less scenic route and go straight to Hoi An, and he is going to take me to My Son. I already knew that I wanted to visit My Son so this works out great for me as I wont have to hire yet another driver in Hoi An to go see it.

Although I am exhausted and my driver a bit disappointed, Today was an amazing day. Our first stop of the day was at a local school. The children were wonderful and completely intrigued by the ‘westerner’ in their midst. The school administrator and most of the teachers sat over tea and talked with me. Only one of them speaks any English, and her and I discussed the classes, schedules, and the community in general. She was lovely to talk to. I had discussed with Stephane prior to going if we could give/take something to the children (not candy). He and I decided on a donation of $200,000 dong each to give to the school. This is only about $12.50 usd and it was very well spent money for me.

When we arrived at the school, the children all gathered around and the excitement could be felt. Most of them could at least say ‘hello’ and ‘what’s your name’ in English. Stephane arranged the donation with the administer and while the rest of us sipped tea, one of the teachers drove off on her moto-bike and brought back bottled iced tea (for the adults) and several stacks of writing books and pens.

After the adults finished chatting, I was allowed into one of the upper classes (I think the children were around 9-12 y/o). I passed out the pens and writing books and there were smiles all around. The excitement in the eyes of the children at the simple gift of a pen and book was astounding. It really broke my heart that $12.50 usd could bring so much happiness and encouragement to the children. With the help of the English teacher, I talked a little about my job as a nurse (basically,that I am a nurse and that I try to help sick people get better), the fact that my job requires a university education and that they should all study very hard. Thank you’s and good wishes were passed between me, the students, and the teachers and we were back on the road.

I obtained the mailing address of the school and hope to send them some children’s books that I have at home that are gathering dust. Talking with the English teacher about this, she was very excited. She stated that it is very difficult to teach the children English because they don’t have the funding for any books and the ability to practice with the children is limited. I am very excited to have had the opportunity to see first hand the struggles and hardships and hopefully a means to help them if only a little.

In comparison to American schools, the schools here are very primitive. There is no bus system and the children walk up to 4km to and from school in all sorts of weather. The school has three sessions (if I understood correctly) and some of the children go home in between and make the walk several times a day. About 2/3rds of the children don’t return for the afternoon/evening classes as they stay at home and help their families in the fields or at home. From what i understood, it is only required that they attend basic education (morning classes) and they have an option to return or help their families. I didn’t really notice any major segregation in the number of boys vs girls going to school. It was pretty equally divided between the sexes.

Our next stop was at a minority village just a few kilometers north. This is a different village than those that attended the school we visited. Upon arrival into the local ‘store’ we were nearly immediately swarmed by the villagers. They all stayed back a bit and simply stared at me as I interacted with the store owner.

I met the village Elder and his wife and the ‘patio’ was cleared and made way for a wonderful feast with rice wine all around. The villagers became much more friendly and interactive as the rice wine and food was passed around. I felt like a visiting queen!! The rice wine tastes something like I would guess turpentine would taste, although i have never tasted turpentine! The food was actually very good (if you like your pork with huge amounts of rind and fat). Fresh green beans with pork, grilled fish, and rice. One of the women that was sitting next to me kept filling up a shot glass and handing it too me for a toast! How can you refuse when your being treated like royalty? As the hour passed, the sun started to bear down on my shoulders and the women of the group all moved and insisted that I move out of the sun…. I guess that I wasn’t eating enough, because several times as I turned my head chopsticks full of beans and pork were stuffed in my mouth by one of the women! There is no way to be sanitary here and I hope that the rice wine killed any possible germs that I might have consumed! Chopsticks and shot glasses alike were used by many….

In this particular village, if a man and woman like each other, they can request to the Elder fo the village, to spend a night at the Rong (communal) house to ‘talk’. I am told that if someone gets pregnant after a night at the Rong house, that the couple is married and a fine of 3 pigs is paid to the Village Elder! Upon hearing that I am single, one single gentleman promptly asked the village Elder if he could share the Rong house with ME tonight….I kindly explained that I was not looking for a husband and that there are many beautiful women here in the village for him to choose from!! Whew…..I think I saved myself! There was a good sense of humor around the situation and lots of laughter. The young gentleman decided that I needed to eat lots of food and persistently kept adding to my rice bowl and stated at one point that if I didn’t finish it, I would have to spend the night with him….I finished the rice!

Upon request, I was ushered to the toilet by the shop owners wife (whom tirelessly worked while we were there cooking and making sure that everyone was comfortable). I wish I had thought to take a picture as I was taken to the back of the house where the pigs are penned and right next to them, there was a downslope and drain out of the pens. She pointed to the hole and fetched me a pail of water (to ‘flush’ and wipe)! I’m sure that I looked like a fool and wonder how many of the children were sneaking around back to watch the ‘western girl’ pee!! I was horribly uncomfortable….but ‘when in Rome…’

I have tons of pictures and even a video (if it turned out), but you will have to wait as internet is a thing long gone for now…..

We were blessed with partly overcast skys with only one downpour during the last 20km of our trip today. My clothes have been washed and are hanging under the fan to dry. I feel like I feel like I stink terribly (although I shower every day) and my clothes are all musty smelling due to not drying properly before putting them into the backpack in the mornings…. I can’t wait to get to Hoi An and have my laundry done properly!!

Life is good….

Edited to Add:

I think I indulged in too much rice wine. At dinner, I took about two bites of great tasting venison meat over rice with vegetables and I suddenly felt very sick. I quickly found out where the bathroom or ‘toilet’ was and hoped that I would make it. I did….and nothing happened. I went back to the table and told Stephane that I was sorry, but I had to leave as I was feeling sick. He was pretty much a jerk and told me to ‘eat’. I dont know if he didn’t understand or what the problem was but I simply walked out and started back to the hotel.

Thank god it was raining as the umbrella served as a great hiding spot as I proceeded to vomit along the side of the road! I was so embarrassed! I don’t really think that anyone noticed and my being sick certainly didn’t stop Stephane from finishing dinner. In fact, the next day he told me several times that it was a shame that he had to EAT ALONE!! WTF? What about me NOT eating at all and being sick? I guess I am starting to understand why he is single….

Anyway…don’t worry. I am feeling much better (although still a little peeked). I have been able to keep food and water down today (day 6).

I’ve Arrived


05.11.2008 – 05.11.2008
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My final day on the road and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a great trip in many instances and yet miserable at times. I have to say that I am glad that I decided to take the trip, although I dont know that I would recommend 7 days to anyone. I think in retrospect, 3-4 days would have been plenty.

Today was not so exciting and we really didn’t see much as we were headed the ‘not good’ route to Hoi An. We did stop in several small towns/villages along the way and had some rewarding interactions with the local people. I still find it interesting that many of these people rarely see tourists. In one instance, we were only 12km from Hoi An and I still felt like I was a novelty. Surprising that many of these people haven’t even traveled the 12km to the tourist area of Hoi An.

I received two more marriage proposals today, an offer to take one woman’s children (she has three and I can choose any of them), and one offer to borrow another woman’s husband!! I don’t know how serious any of these offers are, but it’s a little scary!!

I am happy to report that I am still single….only have two children…and have not ‘borrowed’ anyone’s husband!!!

I’ve arrived in Hoi An safe and sound and soon to be done with my depressed driver. He is taking me to My Son on Friday and in the meantime wants me to recommend him to any travelers I meet…..I think you know my answer on that one!

Life is good…..

Vietnamese Diet:
– Bread (plain due to sick stomach) for breakfast.
– Noodle soup (for lunch), I only ate the broth.
– Crab soup (out of this world), and grilled fish in banana leaf for dinner. I am getting pretty good at eating fish that is cooked whole, and it’s actually not that difficult once you know how to do it. I can even eat it with chopsticks!! ha ha !!