Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

We had the good fortune to start our vacation on a major national holiday - September 2nd is Vietnam's 4th of July, the day they freed themselves from French colonial rule, and also the day Uncle Ho chose to croak in 1969. How very apropos!

Saigon was covered in Communist flags, and squares and parks were being decorated for speechifying, but as is true of national holidays everywhere, the most important part was that everyone got the day off! BookInHandTraveller and I made it to Nha Trang by midday, to find the beach town kind of sleepy. Only us whiteys on the beach. But by about 5pm, the beach was FULL of locals - all enjoying the evening breeze and beautiful views.

By this time, I had been pedicured by not one, but two nice old ladies, while reading my book on the beach. They alarmingly offered to (unnecessarily!) wax parts of my person and claimed I was getting ugly, and attempted to sell a massage by kneading me seductively. It was a cornucopia of ineffective sales tactics, which I always enjoy watching.

Aside from the hard sell, the ladies were also dressed for a midwestern winter - only their eyeballs were showing through the long sleeves, gloves, long pants, hat, facemask... and it actually made sense that the locals only came out at night - as one lady put it "Vietnam hate sun." What she means, is that Vietnamese (and many other asians, apparently) have such a strong aversion to dark skin, that they will swelter to avoid it. I have been surprised here by who is referred to as "dark." Also, drugstores sell "whitening" potions (from respectable brands) that will mildly bleach you. And your loved ones.

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