The Day after Christmas: Day 14 in Vietnam

In my last blog entry about things people carry on mopeds in Vietnam, I forgot to include this bird-tastic picture:

Yes, it’s a bird pet shop on wheels. The three yellow cages look like they’re filled with dozens of birds all squished together, but I can’t be sure. It’s unnerving. And the three little cages on the bottom. *shivers*

Anyway, onto Day 14 of me being in Vietnam:

The first thing that my mom, my mom’s friend, my brother and I did after breakfast was go visit a house for blind/partially blind children because my mom wanted to show us that Vietnam is not all fun and games. Um, duh, mom. And here I thought this country was a visual paradise.

So we went to this house run by nuns where my mom (with some of my aunt’s money) made a hefty donation to the place. I felt sorry for the kids, but I wasn’t sure if this very large amount was going to the right people in charge (more on this later).

I felt guilty taking pictures but my mom said I should document this. Plus, she said, these blind kids couldn’t see me taking pictures anyway.

Here is one kid studying. Half of them are partially blind while the rest of them can’t see anything.

Most of them, however, are making trinkets to sell in the gift shop. Yes, there is a gift shop.

Remember a few entries back where my mom bought a beaded vase and asked if they were made by blind children? This is an authentic one:

This absolutely horrified me. These kids are blind and they are being forced to make souvenirs to sell to visitors. And this nun (above right) whom my mom said was “kind,” was telling the boy in the green shirt, “You’re doing the beading all wrong. The beads should go  under instead of over. Now I have to take it all apart and you have to do the whole thing again because it’s all wrong.” I was like, WTF? These children can’t even see.

So that made me really incredulous about the fact that my mom was making a huge donation to this place. It almost reminded me of that scene in “Slumdog Millionaire” where the guy uses poor kids to get money from tourists. In response, my mom said, “Look, there’s no welfare or government aid in this country. These kids were born blind and were abandoned by their parents. This place took them in, and well they have to earn their keep somehow.”

But I don’t know…one time my mom made me go to a fundraiser for blind, Vietnamese children and the host, in his imperfect English, said “blinded children” instead of “blind children” and I was like, “Yeah, I bet they were blinded.”…Wow, I’m a horrible person, aren’t I?

After that heaviness, my mom wanted to cheer us up by taking us to see something less disturbing and sad, so we made plans to go to a building down the road where children with nerve disorders were forced to lie in bed all day, paralyzed. But the breakfast I had that morning suddenly came back to thank me and give a massive stomachache.  And so I went back to the hotel while the rest of them went to the children’s place. So there’s no pictures or stories of the paralyzed children.

A few hours later, my brother and I met up with our cousin, Vivi, and we went shopping. Yes, nice transition there.

There were some nice decorations:

And we went to the street where the brand names had their real stores:

We also went to the Zen Building, which is a narrow, tall building that houses Tommy Hilfiger and a bunch of other expensive brands.

But in actuality, most Americanized stores in Vietnam are rip-offs:

There was even a big lingerie store we would often drive past called “Angel’s Secret” and right below would be a smaller sign saying, “We carry items from Victoria’s Secret.” Too bad I didn’t get a picture.

Then we went again to the Vincom Center, a high-end shopping mall that sounds suspiciously to me like “Viet Cong Center.”

Okay, after typing that, I’m kind of nervous about some shadowy Vietnamese organization trolling my blog.

Anyway, the Vincom Center’s bottom floor was composed of eateries, much like the Macy’s building in San Francisco.

You know what else reminded me of San Francisco?

Although honestly I have never actually seen a Bud’s ice cream shop in San Francisco.

Then we went home, got changed and met up with the rest of my aunt’s husband’s family at this:

“Nha Hang Ngon” means Delicious Restaurant, or Great-Tasting Restaurant. Clever name. Just in case you’re a tourist and you ask your taxi driver, “Take me to a great-tasting restaurant.”

I would say that over half of the patrons here are Westerners, and I can’t blame them. The place is clean and gorgeous, and it has multiple levels, even more palace-like than our former king’s palace. The restaurant had hundreds of seats and I think I saw four different kitchens.

Okay, I know those pictures are all out of focus and do not do any justice to the restaurant’s opulence.

The dishes here were not that expensive. The prices were average, which surprised me. Then when we got the food I understood why the prices were low–the portions are tiny! Even by Vietnamese standards. So most people had to order an extra portion.

And I know I should’ve taken pictures of the tiny portions but for some reason I just thought my iced tea was pretty so I took a picture of that:

Then after that, all of us who are in our twenties and teens went bowling at a place that ripped us off even more than the lanes in America. And I thought of taking pictures, but honestly, if you’ve seen one bowling alley, you’ve seen them all.

By the way, I just discovered that to change my blog’s fonts on WordPress, I have to pay $30 a year for the customization option. What the hell kind of shit is that? Sorry, excuse my language.

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