Vietnam & Cambodia this August!!

We are very excited about our upcoming tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. Traveling to this magnificent part of the world is a treat to the senses from the beautiful sights to the lovely music and the amazing landscapes. All this and kosher too!!!

You can find our itinerary here

and read about the tour here and here

Vietnam and Cambodia are photographers’ paradises. I am including just a few more photos, but I could have easily added another 50. Please come and join us on this fantastic tour!

My email is

Inside the grounds of the Temple of Literature

Traffic in downtown Hanoi

Walking beside rice terraces in the north

Girls talking in the market

Rona & Aaron’s Excellent Adventure, Part 3

For what happened before, look here

Although I was of college age when the Vietnam War was taking place and people were demonstrating, some of them obsessing about every day’s battles, I was oblivious. I remained oblivious even when I got married and moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where my husband was serving as a chaplain in the US Army. Sure, I knew that we had guys being shipped out to ‘Nam, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the news, being somewhat self-absorbed. So, all I knew of Hanoi was that it was where the bad guys were and there was a woman who they called, “Hanoi Hannah” broadcasting nasty, morale-breaking things to our guys

Well, the Hanoi that I have come to know and, yes, love over the last couple of years is a bustling, busy city filled with interesting sights and sounds. During our day there we went to visit the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. It is a tasteful building into which people enter after passing through full security and leaving their cameras checked. People file in a single line, taking off their hats, walking silently into the building , ascending the stairs to the left, turning right and then right again and filing past Ho Chi Minh who is lit dimly and appears to still be alive. We walked the length of the coffin, then turning left, across the front and then turning left once again along the other side, filing out of the room, making two rights, and then going down the stairs. Something about the silence and the dim lighting with the soldiers standing at attention made the experience feel very dignified. Although he was a formidable foe, in the way he is revered in his own country, there is a sense of honor. Always depicted in photos and statuary as being with the children, he is seen as “Uncle Ho” who loved the children.

Ho Chi Minh's Tomb

Ho Chi Minh's Tomb

His tastes were simple. When he gained power, he was entitled to use the magnificent palatial edifice erected by the French when they were the colonial power. Instead, he lived in three sparse rooms for a period of several years until those around him explained to him that it was not an honor to the country for their leader to be so humbly housed. Then they built him a house on stilts, characteristic of Vietnamese architecture in the countryside. It also was quite humble, with just two rooms upstairs– an office and a bedroom– and eating and reception space exposed to the elements beneath it. It was fashioned of fine wood and is very attractive, but not at all the type of home one would expect for the head of a large country. Vietnam is now, by some estimates, a country of 87 million people!

On the grounds of the complex that housed his two homes and the palace, there was a pond where carp were raised. He would clap his hands and the carp would come to the surface to eat. There were also trees that bore fruit and the people of Hanoi were permitted to come and pick fruit.

Adjacent to Ho Chi Minh’s home is the One Pillar Pagoda, an interesting structure with a similarly interesting story. Around the entire area are beautifully landscaped gardens.

After leaving the Ho Chi Minh complex, we went to the Temple of Literature. It was there in the early 11th Century that Vietnam’s first university was founded. You can read more about it here. As our group walked through the front gate, Mrs. Mai, the woman who heads up our operations in Vietnam and Cambodia arrived to talk to me.

Entrance Gate, Temple of Literature

Entrance Gate, Temple of Literature

The group proceeded with the local guide and my husband. I stayed behind to talk to Mrs. Mai and to try and work out our plans. She had to have me sign permission for her people to pick up the luggage when it arrived from Hong Kong. It was due to arrive on the same flight as we had arrived on the day before. That meant that it would likely not be ready for pick up until at least 5 p.m. and with traffic, getting it in time for our people to be able to repack — getting out their winter clothing and putting it in their small luggage– in anticipation of our weekend train trip up north was problematic. I also was worried by the fact that she told me they only had paperwork on 11 of the 14 suitcases because I had not given them my baggage stickers until after they had done the paperwork– so although they had stickers for 14 suitcases, they only had paperwork for 11! I told her that it was really important to get specifically those bags because we had packed a substantial amount of food in them including our challot for shabbat and other essential food supplies that we needed to take with us up north. She said, “If there is food in your suitcase you will not get it.” I said, “I won’t get the food?” She said, “You won’t get the suitcase; they will just not send anything.”

She left with the papers. I left with the worry. But would they find the food? If so, would they send the suitcase? and also, why was it that on that Thursday, everywhere we went we saw brides? The answers to these questions (well, to a couple of them) and some pictures of the brides in the next exciting episode.

To continue, go here

Fireworks in Hanoi

The last time I visited Hanoi, we had come back from a side trip to Halong Bay, a most magnificent place that I will post about in the future. We spent the day touring the Temple of Literature, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum area, seeing the homes he lived in and the One Pillar Pagoda. After a cyclo ride around the old town,

Two cyclos in Hanoi

Two cyclos in Hanoi

we transported our people to a small hotel to have a chance for a shower and change of clothes before dinner and the overnight train to Lao Cai. After everyone was settled in their rooms or decided to take walks, I stayed in the lobby to get the address of the restaurant where we were to eat that night. I was then to take all of our equipment (pots, woks, cooking implements, knives, cutting boards, dishes, silverware, etc.) to the restaurant and work on the cooking of dinner.

As I stood in the lobby, all of a sudden, I saw a flash of sparks. It was already getting dark and it looked like nothing so much as fireworks. I looked to see where it was coming from. It was coming from the top of a utility pole down the block from the hotel. It was sparking like a giant cake decoration sparkler. I turned to the desk clerk and said, “Maybe you ought to call the electric company.” She just stood there. I said to my English speaking Vietnamese guide (we always have a local English speaking guide with us), “Perhaps she didn’t understand; the electric pole is sparking (everyone could see that– people in the street had stopped to watch) and if someone doesn’t come, it could make all of the power in the area go out.” He went to the desk clerk and she again did nothing.

By then, it was time for me to go to the restaurant, about a fifteen minute drive away. My guide stayed to load people onto the bus and bring them later to the restaurant.

The people at the restaurant were lovely and cooperative, something that we found to be true of every place we prepared food in Vietnam and Cambodia. They had the fresh fruits and vegetables waiting for me and the whole fish ready for my inspection. Although it was a busy kitchen, they set aside an adequate area covered with tinfoil for preparation of our food completely separate from the other food that was being prepared that evening.

When our people arrived about an hour later, they came with their story of an adventure: they had just gotten to the lobby and were about to leave when all of the lights went out– in the hotel, in the shops nearby, in the streets. Fortunately, they just proceeded to the bus, but they left the entire neighborhood in the dark.

Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

One of the more impressive places to visit in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature. Originally built in 1070 as a Confucian Temple, in 1076, part of the complex became Vietnam’s first university. Its purpose was to educate the ruling class– the bureaucrats and the nobles and other members of the elite.

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

During the time it functioned- from 1076 to 1779, many of the students were not successful in passing the final examinations. The names of those who succeeded were engraved in a stone stele and over the entire period, only 2,313 students’ names were recorded.

The temple is constructed with a series of five courtyards and three paths lead through it. In older times, only the king would use the center path. There are a number of attractive buildings, manicured gardens, and ponds on the complex.

Garden view

Garden view

Statue of a phoenix next to offerings in the temple

Statue of a phoenix next to offerings in the temple

The day we visited, we saw many Vietnamese high school students, dressed in their graduation robes, having their pictures taken against the beautiful gardens and buildings.

Students in their graduation robes

Students in their graduation robes

We also were treated to a concert of Vietnamese music played on traditional instruments. Altogether delightful!

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