The name of our lunchtime restaurant today was Hang Me. "Do you know what that means in English?", I asked our guide. "Hung Mee?" he replied with a questioning look on his face. No, I said in English we would pronounce that "Hang me!" He got it, and and mimicked tightening a noose around his neck. We had a good morning with our guide, Vu, he was a last minute stand-in, as our appointed guide had come down with a high fever.
Hang Me, is definitely not a place we would have wandered into on our own. It was the kind of local restaurant that was in the wrong place and looked a little too grungy from the outside for me to even go in. We ended up at Hang Me because our guide had asked us whether we would like to go to a tourist restaurant or whether we would like to try some good local food. It may have been a bit of a leading question put that way, but we opted for the local food, he had earned our trust so far today. The local specialties include Banh Beo, Bahn Nam, Tom Cha, and Bahn Ram it. Need I say more? All of these were variations on a dumpling like theme. A rice flour mixture with prawn and or pork. They were OK, but in the end they all kind of blended together in a gooey-rice-mixture-with-prawns kind of way.
The Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda
We worked up our appetite by climbing 173 stairs to the Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda. At this point in the trip it might be easy to say that we are "pagodaed out." But, that is not the case today. It was a bit of a journey to get there but it was well worth the trip. This Pagoda is set on an island in the middle of a quiet lake surrounded by high hills (they actually call them mountains here). After driving through the trees and countryside you arrive at a little parking area, from there you have to hike a bit more on foot before you come to the boat landing.
Since it is winter here, the water levels in the lake are a bit hight, and our boatman made the suggestion that we wade a bit to get to his boat. But our guide quickly convinces him that is not going to happen. So we do a little balancing act on a 2x6 to get on the boat and he pushes off. He starts the boat with a hand crank. The motor has two settings, forward and stop. The throttle is controlled by a string.
When we arrive at the island we disembark and hike up to the pagoda and monastery area. It is just beautiful. Aside from the two buildings, one for chanting and one for meditating, the setting is just unreal. We wish it wasn't raining, because the colors must be incredibly vibrant in the sunlight. Even so, we feel like we could be on a movie set for some jungle adventure. The whole time we are there are only see two other people which just adds to the experience.
A Postscript about Football
Not American football, English football. Its amazing to me what a global league the English Premier League is. Here I am finishing up my blog post about today while watching Liverpool play Sunderland on TV at 9:00PM, the game started at 7:45PM. Of course back home this came would be the "early" game at 6:45AM. We have struck up conversations with most of the hotel bar staff as well as the bellman, it was the bellman who knew how to get the lobby TV to the right channel. Our guide today knew the names of every member of the Arsenal Invincibles as well as all the current members of Manchester United.