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The Thy Tracker (continued)


May 15–23  Peranakan  24–25  27–29  Sireh  30a  30b  30c–31
Malaysia: Melaka June 1–2, Kuala Lumpur 3–4, Penang 6
Vietnam: Saigon 13–16  19-20  22  26  27 30
Nha Trang July 7a 7b, Hue 14a 14b, Hanoi 19–20
India: Pondicherry 31, Bangalore August 2–4, Kerala


July 14, Saturday

All my best intentions to write in Nha Trang disappeared when I discovered how much great seafood there was to eat. I'm also not sure where I got the idea that clean, uncrowded beaches would inspire rather than distract me.

I'm now in Hue, the imperial capital where once the country's artistic and intellectual community gathered. Although I was looking forward to moving north through the central highlands, I'm dismayed to learn it's the hot season here. Both Hue and Hanoi are locked in an unrelenting heat wave. While the south experiences cooling rains from the south-west monsoon, here the hot wind blowing from Laos, what the Vietnamese call gio lao, keeps daily temperatures near 100F and 85% humidity. Internet cafes are not air-conditioned here, probably because it's not worth the effort. How the machines keep working is beyond me. I've been setting my hotel room air-con to the lowest settings possible and my ceiling fan to the highest, but neither seem to make much difference. I keep chanting "this is good practice for India, this is good practice for India," but my mantra doesn't alleviate the stickiness.

Fortunately, there is as much good eating here in the imperial capital as there was in the Mekong Delta and in the fishing villages of the coast. But more later on that. In another circular time detour, I'll start filling in the gaps of the past (June 22, 26) to work up to the present.

By the way, I received a couple of explanations for why the familial numbering system starts with Number Two:

1) Buddha is the big Number One, so no one else should be called that.

2) You don't want the ghosts stealing your first-born. (Which is, by the way, why you might dress your son as a girl or why you should never, never compliment someone's child directly. Apparently, the child-snatching spirits aren't that smart.)

As intriguing as these explanations are, they're both totally unconfirmed. Feel free to offer other reasons.

I've also been told that it's only in the south that we skip Number One. In the north, the oldest will be called, for example, anh ca, meaning "all brother" for his responsibility in taking care of the whole family once the parents pass away.

More Hue >

July 2001