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Published: March 12th 2011
So here we are, almost to the end of day two of the conference, and as usual, it's been a whirlwind.
Last night, we headed to Wild Lotus. And so much for me saying that there are no accidents here - we saw one on the way to the restaurant, with two people on motorbikes injured. A bunch of other people on motorbikes had gotten off their bikes to surround them and keep them safe from other motorists while they were being attended too.
The restaurant was really beautiful and peaceful. We were shown to a private room upstairs with one long table - that's one of the nice things about being in a small group. Often, we're small enough that we can all sit at the same table. It can make it a bit difficult to talk to each other - you can usually just hear the people right next to and across from you, but it gives you a nice feeling of togetherness.
The food was excellent - there's one thing I can say about the events planners, they've been very efficient about telling each of the restaurants that I don't eat seafood or fish, so
I always get a special meal (since most of the dishes are seafood). Last night, we started with a soup - mine was chicken, and reminded me of shark fin soup because the broth was very gluey like shark fin soup is,
Then, they began bringing us a number of family-style dishes (mine were separate though). I had some chicken, some pork, some spring rolls and rice - it was all delicious. For dessert, we had fruit - I really love mango (the fruit, not our guide, though he's very funny) but I just can't seem to get good mangoes in the states. So I always try to eat as much as possible when I'm in Asia.
For dessert I had a piece of mango, and a piece of watermelon - very refreshing. Then, finally, we were able to go back to the hotel and to bed! I feel that I will sleep for days when I go home.
This morning, we began with a speaker from the Vietnam Lawyers Federation. He spoke in Vietnamese, but there was a bit of a hiccup with the hotel not realizing that we needed a translator as well as as
translation booth, so we had to get our Vietnamese lawyer to translate for him instead. But it was a very interesting presentation, which of course I'll be recapping next week on my professional blog.
After another presentation from our host firm on local electricity projects and opportunities, we headed to lunch. We were eating at Ginger Restaurant, which I learned when we arrived is the sister restaurant of Wild Lotus.
The restaurant was similarly beautiful and peaceful, and we were again led to a private room upstairs, which had a very zen feel to it. I again had a special meal - we all started with a broccoli soup and despite my aversion to green vegetables, I actually quite liked it.
After that, they brought me a plate with rice, some type of beef wrapped in leaves, and duck. The duck was a bit fatty, but actually quite good, and the chicken was very lemon-y. The beef was strange, so I didn't eat much of that, but I'm getting quite adept at eating rice with chopsticks, along with everything else.
Following lunch, we were off on a real adventure - a bike ride in the countryside.
We drove an hour outside of Hanoi, and it was the first time I'd seen the "modern" construction that everyone's been telling us about. I can really see how in twenty or thirty years' time, things will look very different here (though I hope they keep some of the charm in the center of the city). We drove along their new highway, where motorbikes are not allowed.
There isn't much car traffic because it's so expensive to buy a car. To get a Honda, which would cost about $18,000 in the US would cost $36,000 here, plus 20% tax. So it's not worth it to drive - much better to use a scooter or motorbike. As we started to reach the village, it was reminding me a bit of India, with a lot of garbage along the side of the road. But that was about where the similarities ended.
We picked up our bikes and headed along our way - and the bike ride was both treacherous and enthralling. There were some hills which were tough on our gearless bikes, but we had a lot of laughs navigating the streets and trying not to be hit by
passing cars and motorbikes. I felt very much like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love as I tooled around the rice paddies with the group.
As we got a bit further away from the village, it was so beautiful and peaceful. The people were incredibly friendly as well - everyone smiled at us and many of them waved. The kids all said "hello," generally followed by "give me money!" I heard one young kid singing a Justin Bieber song - he really IS everywhere!
The kids were really adorable and very excited to see us. We also saw a LOT of dogs, some puppies, wandering around. They weren't too thrilled about the squeaking of the bike brakes as we headed down some steeper roads. We rode on some paved roads, but mostly dirt ruts which were very bumpy and exciting. Some of them were fairly narrow as well, causing some near misses a couple of times.
Everyone had a really great time and we were quite thrilled with the afternoon. But it was nice to get back on the bus and rest for a bit.
Tonight, we're off to the Ly Club for our final dinner,
which should be very nice. It's been a wonderful, intimate conference, and I think everyone's really enjoyed themselves! But I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and snuggling my puppy again soon!
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