Our Final Stop in Vietnam - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 29, 2016

Our Final Stop in Vietnam

Ha Tien

Ha Tien, Vietnam

Our Final Stop in Vietnam

December 29, 2016 - January 1, 2017

The town of Ha Tien came highly regarded by everyone we had met who had come through it. In Ben Tre we met William and Yasmin from Britain - also cycle touring. [Check out their website for wonderful writing and photos - https://williamjefferies.com ] We had a really nice evening with them and during the course of our conversation they told us they had come through Ha Tien. I noted the twinkle in William’s eyes when he told us that Ha Tien was the sort of town one could spend a few days. I figured whatever interested an architect would also feed my visual appetite.

As the calendar would have it, we sort of had to stay somewhere for a few days. Previous experience at New Year’s in a Cambodian beach town (fully booked) told us to stay in Ha Tien until January 2nd. We found a nice hotel and negotiated a lower price for a five-night stay. The staff were very nice and Ha Tien was literally a colorful place. We desperately needed some time to at least try to catch up on this travel journal of ours as well. And, lastly, we really liked Vietnam and were reluctant to leave. We needed a few more days to savor the Vietnam experience before we rode into more known territory for us - Cambodia.

The last place, and only other place, where we stayed for five nights was Hanoi in order to watch the U.S. Presidential election. That turned out to be one of the most depressing times of my entire life! That was at the beginning of our journey south so it was somehow appropriate to bookend our journey down this long long country with a few days stay at the southern end too.

Andrea's new love.
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Ice man.
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Colorful clothes too.
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In a nutshell, the architecture in Ha Tien was nothing extraordinary. There were some nice, old, well-preserved buildings but the striking element Ha Tien boasted was paint colors. The colors were mostly muted pastels but even the bright colors were muted somehow. They were hues which we just don’t use in the U.S. and it made for quite an array of beautiful colors. The other thing was that most of the buildings had been painted recently and didn’t have a lot of moldy mildewy dark lines running down walls. It was simply a joy to look at rows of colorful buildings.

Ha Tien, Vietnam
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Typical buildings around town.
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Buildings added on to.
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By the waterfront and around the central market many of the large buildings had been newly constructed and each painted a different color. Most were new hotels. Positioned right in the middle of the town (where it always should be in my opinion) was the central market. The major difference from other markets in similar sized towns was that the city planners obviously worked together with architects and came up with an unusual plan.

Rather than one large building for everything that is normally sold in a market, there were five buildings. The one closest to the waterfront was the fish market - makes sense since fishing boats docked right there. The market building furthest from the waterfront was for clothing. It sat next to the main road which also made sense since I would think most clothing would be transported by truck. One building was for dry goods, one for produce, one for meats and then there was an equally large square left open for more sellers of fruits and vegetables, maybe the one not wealthy enough to pay for a stall inside.

Coordinating with the other colorfully painted buildings in town, each architectural element of the market buildings were painted different colors, the outcome being a rich visual experience which, I would think, helps make for an enjoyable market experience. I know I enjoyed going to the market for our daily papayas, oranges, bananas and mangoes more than I normally do.

One of five of the colorful market buildings.
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We found many good restaurants in Ha Tien but it wasn’t until the last day that we found the cheapest and best food to be right in the market. Because foods that we have experienced in Vietnam are regional we were reduced to eating com tam many times in Ha Tien. We love com tam which is simply barbecued pork on top of a pile of rice along with some cucumber slices and possibly a fried egg.

Com Tam
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Pots of food in the market.
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But we were eating a little too much com tam so one night, after we learned the word for ‘vegetarian’, we went to a vegetarian restaurant. It turned out to be one of the strangest meals of my life. Andrea agreed. It consisted of a bunch of crispy crackers that had been dipped in sugar and salt. They were piled on top of rice! Seriously?!! In my travels I’ve had bad meals. I’ve had meals that were dirty. I’ve had meals that made me sick. I’ve had meals that just didn’t taste good. But this meal was the stupidest meal I’ve ever had. It was so bad that we walked directly to a com tam restaurant to wash the stupid experience from our brains. Unbelievable. It was like a joke meal; a bad joke! What were they thinking?

Center of town.
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A com tam restaurant. Woman frying the pork.
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The streets really come alive at night.
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These computer/phone stores are in every town of size in the entire country. An amazingly successful Vietnamese company.
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Ice cream man.
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We also tried out various coffee shops and all were excellent. At one the two young girls of the owner were trying out their English on us as they peeked at us from around columns. Eventually they got more serious when they realized that they were actually communicating in another language. I could see the realization on their faces and that’s when they got more serious. Andrea wrote down a couple of questions for them on the piece of paper the older one was using to teach her younger sister a few phrases. I don’t think they knew what Andrea had written but they will find out from their teacher. Cute, smart girls. The next generation in Vietnam are going to be really the first ones to go for English in a big way.

When the sisters were shy and silly.
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When the sisters were very interested in learning English.
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Ha Tien was a great place to spend a few days waiting for the masses to leave Cambodian beach towns. The people were friendly and the town was one of the more mellow places we have been in Vietnam. The layout of streets, spiderweb fashion, made for interesting walking because we always got lost. And it’s not a big town! We didn’t do a whole lot in Ha Tien because we were trying very hard to catch up on our journal. We did make good progress but failed to catch up entirely. I’m not sure it’s possible. There is always too much to report.

lovebruce

An inside-the-market restaurant.
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