(it means hello.)
How are you all going? It's been a while since I wrote so I thought I would update you all on the latest happenings in Vietnam...
After the clothes/shoes buying frenzy in Hoi An (Dan and I are now lugging around an extra bag), we caught the train down to Saigon, AKA Ho Chi Minh City (officially, Saigon is just district 1, but the locals refer to HCMC as Saigon all the time). We found a cool place to stay - we have our own room, bathroom (with hot water and a good shower), air conditioning, a fan, cable TV (we're addicted to MTV) and a fridge, all for the grand price of US$5/night each! We can also use the pool table downstairs (but it's getting boring beating the pants off Dan all the time...)
(hope she doesn't actually read this)
We started off in HCMC by attempting to find a party posse for Dan's birthday on January 12th. We posted on the Lonely Planet forum, and contacted people we had met in Hanoi, and contacted people who we didn't even know (we had met an American guy, James, in Thailand, and he had just been to Vietnam and had met some random Vietnamese people in a park, and he gave us their e-mail addresses). So the "Random Party Posse", consisting of Me, Dan, Han (Korean-American from the Lonely Planet), Pavlo and Mark (Czech guys we met the night before in HCMC), Hien, Vincent and Yao Ting (Vietnamese-Australians that we met in Hanoi a couple of weeks earlier), Doug (random Canadian at the bar), Totti (not his real name, but he was French and oddly reallllly looked like Totti, the Italian football player) and Yen, Van, Jonny and "Commie Number 1" from Vietnam (the ones we e-mailed, who knew James). It was great!
We all went to bia hoi, and enjoyed the fresh (no preservatives, it's brewed and delivered to bars daily) beer for only 64c per litre. Yep, you read that right. Australian 64c per litre (8000 dong). It's not very strong, more like midstrength, but when you drink a few litres of it, it doesn't really matter! It tastes really good and goes down really easily. Learned some vietnamese too - Mot, Hai, Ba, YO! (1, 2, 3, Yo!), which you say instead of Cheers. You should watch out if people say "tram pham tram!" because that means 100%, and you are supposed to skull your entire beer!
It was a great night, topped off by the karaoke at the end of the night. Earlier in the evening, I took Dan out for dinner at a fantastic restaurant - "Grill 69 - The Essence of Meat". The essence of rosemary lamb with the essence of mashed potatoes, the essence of mixed salad and the essence of Diet Coke was awesome.
Since then, we've been enjoying the hospitality of the lovely Southern Vietnamese people. Yen (pronounced ing) and Van (pronounced Vong) introduced us to the rest of their friends, two of whom, Yen (pronounced ing, but going up like you are asking a question. Yen is a boy's name, Yen? is a girls name.) and Dng, are also medical students (Dng is 5th year and Yen? is 6th year). They have taken us all over the place (yes, on the backs of their motorcycles) and given us good tours of HCMC. They have also been really friendly and keep inviting us to their homes for lunch or dinner on the weekends! And of course, karaoke. Dan and I are trying to learn a vietnamese rock song. So far, I know the bit that goes "da da da da da da da". But we'll get there.
On our first day at Children's Hospital Number 1 (Bien Vien Nhi Dong Mot), we ran into another student from UWA doing her elective, Thanh! Dan and I didn't know her, but she recognised us and now we are hanging out together. She's fun and friendly (and does a mean material girl at karaoke), and can speak vietnamese, so we were actually able to take a patient history from a mother in the hospital! It was really random, we didn't know anyone else was going to Vietnam for their elective!
The hospital is nuts. They see 4000 patients per day in ED, and have 1000 inpatients. Compare that to PMH's 170 inpatient beds! They often have 2-3 children on each bed in the wards, and there are no curtains anywhere - who needs privacy? Apparently, even in the adult hospitals, and yes, even in the maternity hospital on labour ward, there are no curtains... Remind me not to have a baby here! The standard of medical care is quite good, considering all the challenges (SO MANY PATIENTS), and they have a lot of decent medicines and equipment. The neonatal ICU (brand new!) is VERY modern and fancy, the equipment is better than a lot of stuff at KEMH!
Dan and I are basically wandering around the ED and ICU, there are a few doctors who speak some english so they can tell us what is going on with each patient, and we occasionally examine or play with the babies. We are pretty much useless, so even though we start at 7am, we are usually finished by lunchtime. We're giving a talk in English soon, and we'll talk about the royal flying doctors and clown doctors, so hopefully that will be interesting for them!
Hm... what else? We take a xe om (motorbike taxi) to the hospital every day, each trip costs 10,000 dong (about 80c). Dan and I bought helmets yesterday, and our vietnamese friends laughed at us (why on earth would you want a helmet?). Dorky or not, at least we feel safer in the crazy crazy HCMC traffic!
I'll try to post some photos soon, but don't get too excited as I always forget my camera cable... may have to wait til I get home!
Hope everyone is well - send me some e-mails!
See you soon, take care
P.S. Totally forgot to mention Dan and I hitting 100% at karaoke for our brilliant rendition of Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio) complete with realisation that we ARE 23 and will we make 24 the way things are going we don't know... we won little doll things to hang off our mobile phones, w00t!
Oh, and I totally taught the vietnamese people how to use 1337 on the internet, so now they are all 1337 h4x0/5!