A Travellerspoint blog

Kingdom of Wonder

Cambodia

sunny 32 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

Cambodia is very much worthy of it's official name: Kingdom of Cambodia. I like it even better in French: Royaume du Cambodge. My first stop in the Kingdom was it's capital, Phnom Penh via bus from HCM; I would have liked to enter by boat to have a different perspective, but the e-Visa that I had prepared online was restrictive of my point of entry. After a 6.5 hour bus ride from HCM and a fairly smooth border crossing I had arrived. Not much stood out (initially) to differentiate it from the neighbouring Vietnam. Streets are a still chaotic, and oddly enough perhaps due to the wealth of the capital I found there was an abundance of cars on the streets. Smiles are still quick and easy to appear and instead of being asked for "motorbike?" (which still occurs but much less frequently), you're being asked for "tuk-tuk?"

The 2 biggest stand outs for me were the unique architecture and it's equally ornate written Khmer (pronounced Khe-my) language. I am utterly hopeless when it comes to deciphering the scribbles, and my eyes constantly scanned for recognition of either the alphabet or Chinese characters (which surprisingly there were quite a bit). Honestly? How do you decipher the following? It's just pretty swirls.
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As for the Khmer architecture I'll let you see for yourselves.
A beautiful ornate gate, with peeps of elephant statues inside.
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I don't know what this building was, I believe it was possibly a hotel or something privately owned. At first I couldn't stop taking pictures, because it felt like I fallen down the rabbit hole and everything was a feast to my eyes; the colours, the structures! After an entire day of walking around, you become bit less in awe (not much) and stop clicking away like a dead give-away tourist (not much here either).
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This was along the wall of a building which stretched for at least a block.
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I was walking all around and saw these dominating red peaks from afar and was obviously drawn to it.
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I discovered it was the National Museum, it had an immense collection of Khmer arts, bronzes, ceramics which was interesting but more than anything I appreciated the fact that it brought me much needed shade for 2 hours.
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This was the inside courtyard.
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This was the single photo that I took while inside the museum, as there was a policy to not take any photos. Thinking back, this was very loosely adhered to by both the tourists and the security guards themselves. I have no idea what this was, but I enjoyed the pretty reflecting colours against the muted wood.
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I love these pedestal temples, nearly every household have one, even the families that live in wooden huts.
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This one is a bit like "Where's Waldo?", the temple blends into the backdrop but I promise you it's there.
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Here's another gem that I visited, the Royal Palace. It took me a good 30 minutes to find the entrance as the entire compound took up probably 4 or 5 square blocks.
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I kept seeing these beautiful ornate doors but couldn't get in, but in the end you can never go wrong when you follow the train of tourist buses. A lot of these sights do not allow you entrance unless you have covered arms and legs, so no tank tops and no shorts above the knees... obviously I'm covered head to toe and any skin I bare have been caked in sunblock.
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This is Pentacme Siamensis. It protruded flowers off the trunk of the tree rather than off the ends of branches. I found it both beautiful and ugly at the same time.
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Here are some of the exquisite buildings once I found a way into the Royal Palace grounds.
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Prior to entering the many temples inside the Royal Palace we were asked to remove our shoes. Let me tell you what more people MUST do - take care of their feet! Seriously! I don't think I'm easily repulsed, but after visiting all these temples I now have a fear of feet.
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Inside the temples they were strict on not taking pictures of these sacred spaces. So I can only describe that they were always adorned on every surface with tall voluminous ceilings, giant golden buddhas, murals, painted columns, decorated ceilings and floors. Smell of incense filled the air (thank god, for there were a lot of bare feet!)
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I found the 4 sided faces on the spires a bit unnerving, it felt like you were being watched.
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He was one of the many royal kitties I found lounging about in tall nooks and crevices, this little guy rather than lounging was guarding the premises.
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I was explained just the other day that boys (as young as 7) and men can join the monastery, but they are not expected to take a perpetual vow to remain monks. I was also informed that monks are prohibited from eating after noon, so they only have 2 meals a day. I have fallen in love with their bright orange draped cloth, I guess you can say it's my new fascination in Cambodia.
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Decorative iron door.
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This one of the walls enclosing the the Silver Pagoda, the entirety along the premise were paintings of tales & legends.
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Here is it close up
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Another glimpse along the same wall, there were 4 outer wall murals in total.
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The Eastern grounds of the Silver Pagoda.
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Such intricate details.
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This is another well known sight of Phnom Penh, the Independence Monument. It was located in the heart of the city that was a round-about with barricades and a police guard as you are meant to view it from afar. It's shape was inspired and modeled after a closed lotus blossom.
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Here's the aforementioned chaotic traffic, during rush hour in busy intersections without traffic lights, they station a traffic cop. Can you see him in the traffic?
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Here he be.
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One of the oddities I keep forgetting to ask locals about is why the lower portions of trees trunks are painted white; this was also the case in Vietnam or at least I recalled in HCM
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Here's Wat Phnom (Hill Temple), which the city was named after. As with most touristic sights, it's free for the people of Cambodia but a small entry charge for foreigner visitors.
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One of the structures adorning the 4 corners of the temple.
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Upon closer inspection I found this little guy snuggling with the divine.
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This gives you an idea of what an interior of the temples look like, albeit beautiful, it's 1/10th of the decadence of the temples found inside the Royal Palace.
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Offerings to the Buddha, flowers & fruits are most common and often times, they are removed after the prayer.
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Charitable contributions are often made, I like how these are weighted down with flower buds
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The back of the buddha
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Lotus bud pedals in water, so pretty it doesn't need to be scented.
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The following are for you dog lovers, as you know I'm on Team Kitty.
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This was something I've never seen, raw meat offerings to the Gods and how it was placed in the mouths of these statues. I also like the little egg placed at the foot.
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This was a small roasted pig being offered, I think the strangest part was the positioning of the pig. But I guess logically you present the head to the Gods, rather than this view that I snapped.
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This gentleman initially caught my attention because he was stuffing all the birds from 4 cages into one. I don't know if he had true logic behind his actions but it created a lot of attention from a passing tourist group whose guide then explained that you can pay a dollar to free 2 birds. Cambodians believe upon their release and flight to freedom they have absolved their sins. Oh you should have seen how many of the tourists jumped on this band wagon. Perhaps this man knew exactly what he was doing after all. I'm more intrigued on how the birds were trapped, they looked like your common backyard sparrow.
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I found this along a side path to Wat Phnom, it's still exquisite even with its exterior location. Perhaps it was recently restored, I wasn't able to read the squiggles.
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And there goes the roasted pig after it's been offered to the Gods.
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I witness this little boy's struggles and finally succeeded on his 4th attempt.
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Yes, there are many children that are put to work in Cambodia, I'll have more to add to the subject in another blog.
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This sight is not uncommon, most modes of transport are heavily packed with locals. These are refered to as minibuses and consists of 4 rows behind the driver and are "intended" to seat 4 across, for a total of 18 passengers including the driver. Ha! Most minibuses that sped past me had so many faces looking out at me and on quick count I wouldn't be surprised if they squeezed in 30! I felt for them, the heat, the cramped space and the long distance on badly paved roads (they're improving I'm told). Little did I know, I would soon be experiencing this first hand.
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Two things to note:
1 - market on old tracks
2 - local outfit of Cambodian women
The older generation of women tend to dress head to toe in loud prints that look like they are wearing PJs, while the young are heavily influenced by the Western culture and do not quite stand out to me.
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This is the beautiful Art Deco New Market of Phnom Penh.
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The colourful roof tops.
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This one still boggles me a bit, why so many shoes? And why on the roof top? I get the feeling that the gentleman is also contemplating the meaning of these shoes.
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One of the staff at the hostel I stayed at told me that he's only ever seen his home town and Phnom Penh, a distance of 50 km. He was probably in his late teens or early 20's and said that he first got a job in a restaurant for $60 a month and was able to get 1 day off a month. But he was happier with his job at the hostel because he earned $70 a month but had to work everyday; unless he was really sick. Let me just re-emphasize: EVERYDAY. This made me feel very awkward and spoiled upon receiving the information, as here I was parading around and visiting his country, not being able to speak the language and living large at $8 a night. He told me that in his village, everyone was a farmer, and everything was done by hand or with the aid of animals. He added that there was one farmer who was quite wealthy and was able to purchase a machine to help him in the fields. He eagerly shared that his house had 6 cows, but one recently died and that they were like family members to them. I could see it in his face how he felt. He said that they celebrated cows in a holiday late in October and everyone prays to their cow and provide them with delicious fruits and food during that time. A good cow can be purchased for about $500 US, he noted that you want them strong and preferably more white than brown. Everytime I see a cow, I think of that young man. I think he would have thought these cows were worthy of $500 each.
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I'll wrap up with the one thing that was an initial culture shock for me, but am now more or less desensitized. Public urination. Everywhere. At all times. This was right by the corner where the traffic cop was placed.
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This little guy also did the deed, but he's a toddler, he barely has control over his balance let alone his bodily functions.
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I first took a picture of this woman because I wanted to show you how most Asian woman dress and let you see that I'm not considered weird because I cover myself up in the sun.
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Then I was like, dear god, she's putting on another layer!
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DEAR GOD, she's peeing. You know how when you're finally introduced to something and then you notice it everywhere because now it's part of your consciousness? I witness 2 more urinations that same day from women using this exact method of what I've coined as "vanity cloth". Afterwards, she climbed back up the stairs while folding up her vanity cloth, business as usual.
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But the best way of ending any kind of day, full of surprises (both pleasant and not) is with the best surprise of all. Rainbows! (Oh imagine if it was a double rainbow?) To you my friends - I wish you all "Double Rainbow All The Way!"
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Posted by chang2n 06:03 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

The Mekong Delta

A Watery Jungle

sunny 34 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

I took a mini trip out to the Mekong Delta just prior to leaving Vietnam. After a 2 hour bus ride heading South, we then switched off and hopped aboard a motorboat. It looked identical to this one.
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We started out on one of the main arteries which was heavy with traffic; mainly transporting material goods, some fishing and then the obvious getting from point A to point B.
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I liked how this was a mini operation of the above.
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I couldn't capture this image properly but the boat was pushing along a giant mound of sand/dirt. Below only shows about 1/5 the actual length of the cargo.
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Fine balancing act
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On the tightly scheduled itinerary we were to make stops at a brick factory, a coconut-candy factory, motorbike through the local village, lunch and more meandering through the delta. The brick factory had ample workers scurrying about focused on their task and ignoring the stream of tourists with cameras. This was what we walked into upon entry, the drop in temperature was drastic once you're out of the direct sun. This was a mountain of a fine powdery substance with plenty of ducks and chickens loitering about, keeping cool. I lost the guide at this point so I could only guess that this powder must be a component of the brick making process.
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It was a very large hut, and hard to decipher where you were in this maze of brick stacks.
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Once again, I'm guessing this would be the cement mixture used to mold the bricks.
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This I know for certain, as I overhead another guide explaining to his group in French, is one of the many giant oven huts where it would take a month to dry the bricks before it could be sold at 600 Dong each, about 3 cents. He then stated that you must be very wealthy in order to build a home with brick.
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These ladies were taking a break, I like that bricks were used to hoist up the table and acted as a foot rest.
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This little guy was also taking a break from the heat, I can imagine his little house being made of brick.
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The wide river forked off into smaller and smaller estuaries where the edging fauna started to tower and lean over the waters. The jungle feel became apparent and seeing other boats became less frequent.
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This picture below truly reflected the latte coloured water.
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We reached our next destination, the coconut candy factory. A bit of a misnomer as the "factory" was in fact a 3 lady show.
Step 1 - you crack open the hairy kind of coconut, and there's this hand rotary machine that cranks and squeezes out the milk out of the solid white flesh. (Sorry! I forgot to take a picture)
Step 2 - the milk is then heated and reduced while being stirred constantly
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Step 3 - Once reduced, it hardens to the texture of toffee/caramel as seen below in the centre foreground. It then gets pressed and molded into long strips and cut into individual squares.
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Here's a clip highlighting better what I couldn't articulate.

And finally, Step 4 - it gets individually hand wrapped with a sheet of rice paper (thin, clear and edible) along with the outer package paper. Hand wrapped! This was the most tedious step, so the Step 3 lady often comes and helps, while the Step 2 lady, cranks for more coconut milk to reduce. Et voila! Coconut candy factory. The ladies were quite delightful off camera, I just happened to capture these depressed and hostile looks.
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There were passing around the end nubs that were awkwardly shaped for us to sample since they couldn't package it. Fresh, chewy, warm and overall amazing! The ones we sampled had chunks of peanuts thrown in and were still warm as the batch was very fresh. So I bought 2, at $1.25 each, the top is chocolate, the bottom is the peanut. Peanut wins this round.
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There were ample coconut enterprises around, below is just a sampling of what I saw.
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We were then packed onto these...
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With 8 person sitting face to face per modified bike, this may have been considered spacious when it comes to the small statured Vietnamese. When fitting 8 foreigners (let's not forget I'm a giant freak in comparison), our knees intertwined with the person you're facing, and all points of sticky skin contact had to be endured.
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And away we go! It was a bumpy ride even on a decently paved road and the metal crate and seat didn't help, but it was a blast!
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We stopped for and uneventful lunch; the vegetarians and those traveling solo were asked to sit at one table. I was essentially branded as the ultimate freak, not only was I vegetarian, I was single. Bahahaha! This the only thing that stood out about our meal. I believe they were either called "elephant head" or "elephant skin" fish. Or maybe, it was both, "elephant head skin" fish... another freak like me. I had never seen scales like it, or maybe it simply wasn't de-scaled prior to being cooked. We all thought they were piranahs due to it's tiny mouth full of spiky teeth.
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After lunch we went on much smaller boats in order to meander through the capillaries of the delta. It was manually rowed, and we fit 4 to a boat.
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We encountered a much larger boat in the waters. As you can see in the background, the canal was very narrow as trees from the banks were able to create a near complete awning. Our rower had to pull us to the edge, and manually push against the other boat to prevent it from demolishing us.
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He was not pleased; perhaps both from the boat and from my taking his picture.
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After this excursion we hopped on the bus which took us to stay for the night in Can Tho, one of the larger cities in the Mekong. We arrived at sunset, and I didn't dare wonder too far in the night for my hunt of Bun Bo Hue. I was out of luck and settled on some fruits, breads and milk from a grocery store that I stumbled upon.
The next morning we went to a floating market, where they signaled what they sold on a make-shift mast.
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I really like how this woman is talking on her cell phone. Modern luxuries, meeting ancient culture.
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We then stopped at a fruit garden and I delighted to see how these exotic treats grew.
This was a surprise for me, take a guess at what this cactus blossom will yield?
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Dragon fruits!
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Love apples, mountain apples, wax jamun, bell fruit are just some of it's common English names. I know it as Lambu in Taiwanese.
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Mandarin oranges, not much larger than a loonie. You can buy these in Vietnam for about 0.40/kg, and all of them are so sweet! It's as if they were injected with sugar.
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These are mini versions to our genetically modified giants
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This was just a bit longer than your index finger, and the flesh was a deeper yellow.
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This is a Jackfruit. Johnny introduced me to it for the first time in HCM. It's the monster version of the stinky Durian and actually quite nice in flavour. You can barely see the small trunk of the tree this was growing from, I can't get over how the fruit overpowered the tree in girth.
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On our way to catch the bus back to HCM city, we encountered some boat troubles and this was creating some loud sounds & smells that no one felt good about.
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Whatever he was doing here didn't resolve the problem.
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Then i spotted this:
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I didn't see him remove his clothes, nor did I hear him jump into the water.
Success!
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He had saved the day!

ps I was told by the guide at the start of our trip that whatever you do, do not put your hands in the water as there were alligators. Not sure if I truly believed him, or more importantly sadden that I didn't witness the man who saved the day fight off alligators.

pps I polished off an entire pack's worth of the coconut candies by end of day... waaahhh!

Posted by chang2n 08:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

ho chi minh! Ho Chi Minh! HO CHI MINH!

aka Saigon

sunny 35 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

FAT. That's the impression that Ho Chi Minh has left on me. I have never felt so fat. Yes, I'll fess up to my gluttony, but it's the first time in my life that I've been surrounded by SO many tiny women who make me feel awkwardly large. This was evident when I landed in Hanoi, but even more pronounced since my arrival in HCM; the city of miniscule women. However rather than feeling sorry and succumbing to the pressure of being anorexic, I've plunged myself into the loving embrace of food... as I always have. And it's been an absolute delight! Food is so incredibly inexpensive here and everything is made available at on average 1/3 of the price in Canada and often times even less.

Here's my partner and advocate in crime, Mr. Johnny Ngo. He has been showing me how to live large in HCM (unfortunately not just figuratively) at very little expensive to the pocket. This was us at a Japanese concept pizzeria, Pizza 4P's, Platform of Personal Pizza for Peace - a bit much for a name but they've earned it! Our first attempt at this popular restaurant had an hour wait so we made a reservation on our 2nd attempt.
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This was the Quattro Flowers Pizza, $7.00CN for a 12". I heard the angels sing when I took a bite of this.
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This was the Margherita Pizza, also $7.00CN for a 12". It was heavenly!
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I had to get creative with these external images above as most of my pictures took place AFTER the deliciousness was mostly ingested, for example the amazing lava cake below:
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In Johnny's words "I don't know what's happening in my mouth, I've never experienced this before!" It truly was the best lava cake I've ever had, and trust me, I've sampled plenty! For you $3.00 CN. This is what it looked like before I started devouring it.
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The service was impeccable. They not only personalized it with a hand written reservation card for the table (as noted in my first pic), but included this on the back as well.
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They were very attentive and actually bent their knees into a squat so that they spoke to you at eye level rather than looking down. At the end of the meal they also walked us out of the restaurant for a proper send off, waving at us while we drove off on the motorbike. Seriously!? Serious. But then this was considered higher end dining at $10 per person.
Lately I find myself browsing their website at night, so that I can have sweet dreams. Go ahead, have some pleasantries yourselves Link to instant sweet dreams...

Here are some of my conquests below:
Snowee's ice cream, a billion flavour combinations for $3.00, I might have had more than a couple... on multiple occasions.
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Best street vendor goodie to be eaten out of a bag! I can't explain what it is (seriously, the name just doesn't stick) but I know it's a favourite amongst the poor students as this can be somewhat filling at 50 cents per serving... and that's the expensive end.
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Sweet sticky rice balls - a different kind dessert but oh so lovely.
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Dessert selection at MOF which stood for Ministry of Food - a bit ominous for a name but perhaps why the abbreviation. A Japanese cafe, the theme below was Red Beans & Green Tea - the most ingenious combination ever invented! Drooolllll.
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Even more Green Tea goodies...
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Here was a hot-pot restaurant, named MK located in the Vincom centre complex, adorned with your usual brands of Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Versace etc.
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I found the ladle interesting, as I've never seen it shaped like a mini urinal.
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What was even more interesting was the impromptu dance that the staff performed in the middle of our meal. The music was suddenly cranked up to an unbearable level and the staff positioned themselves for a choreographed dance which involved only their arms. It lasted no more than 5 minutes and I was able to capture a bit of this absurdity. (My apologies in advance for the shaky quality... I'm still learning)

This was a to-die-for Vietnamese vegetarian dish at a restaurant named Loving Hut, a vegan Chinese chain. It promoted "clean & pure" eating (their exact words) and requested customers not to bring in any meats, foods or specifically "cake with egg" into the restaurant in order to "keep a pure atmosphere".
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Caramel custard tart and a chocolate milk shake at La Fenetre; oddly enough the menu was only in English & Japanese, nothing on the menu consisted of French cuisine as it's name would suggest nor did it have a single word of Vietnamese. Doubly weird.
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Bun Bo Hue! This was truly the best discovery for me, and I will sing its name over and over until the end of time. Never again will I order Pho when there's BBH to be had! Spicy, lemony, tangy, savory with thick round rice noodles (smaller than udon) - and I fell in love with the fishy & meaty broth. I'm a carnivore incognito. Cost: 50 cents to 85 cents for no meat. $1 - $2 with meat.
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Below was a translation error - English errors used to ubiquitous all over Asia but they are now harder and harder to spot. "Shakes" became "Birth Factors". The funny part was they had 1 written correctly, Avocado Shakes.
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For those of you familiar with Beard Papa's, let me introduce you to Chewy Juniors, a small cream filled puff that's just in every way BETTER. I know. I never imagined myself betraying the Papa, but that day has come as my taste buds have taught me other wise.
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This is their actual logo, a happy face and a line reading "You Gonna Love It" - you don't need much more than that.
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This was a childhood snack that I decided to revive, buttery sticks that you cover in a chocolate dip. They've upgraded these by putting animal images with corresponding English phrases. Take a guess which one of these doesn't fall into pattern below and therefore became my new favourite line! It goes hand in hand with LG and LTD!
What a line!

What a line!


I'll wrap up the foodie portion by showing you a bill from a Sushi restaurant. The x's indicated what Johnny ordered, and the check-marks indicated what Mr. Chang ordered. Dear God. Pure display of gluttony. I need get the beast back under control. But hey, it was the Holidays. Shall we all make a New Years Resolution together?
Feeding the beast

Feeding the beast

Speaking of holidays, I tagged along with Johnny and a group of his students from the Melior School of Business where they organized and volunteered their Christmas day to creating a fun filled afternoon for under-privileged kids. We took a trek out to the country side:
An oddly placed gate.
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A lone boat anchored with no housing near by.
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The event was held at an elementary school, this was one of the many classrooms.
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For some reason all the garbage bins were removed, leaving behind the lids.
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Hand sinks outside of the toilets.
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The children coming in, they were between the ages of 5-8, there were approximately 50 of them.
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There were 4 game stalls set up whereby they receive a gift when they perform it properly (lots of help was given to ensure they all walked away with a prize). This game asked them to fish the prize with a fishing pol. It was so lovely to see their happy faces and how eager they were to participate. What a special Christmas it was for me as it was truly filled with genuine joy that was experienced from both the children and the volunteers.
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Happy little guy eating a sandwich from the 3 food stalls.
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This beauty was resting and munching away happily.
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Everyone helped with lighting these candles on the ground which proved quite difficult as it was a windy nigh. So we snuggled and huddled to prevent the candles from blowing out. Even though the whole thing was short lived, the overall effect and how it was ultimately achieved was lovely.
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Before we set up the stalls in the centre courtyard, we were forewarned about a flood that would occur in the evening. I had trouble imagining it, until it took place. I'm still uncertain where it came from but as you can see, it started small and grew in size.
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The children didn't react outwardly at the flooding, as they just happily trudged through. I'm given the impression that this occurred frequently or perhaps was even a daily event?
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Upon leaving the school grounds parts of our same journey home was also flooded. I'm at a loss. This is just how things are.
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I visited the War Remnants Museum in HCM, its previous name was Museum of American War Crimes which I'm guessing didn't quite have the all embracing ring to it. I know the Vietnam war took place, am somewhat knowledgeable about some of the atrocities that occurred, the violence, the casualties, Agent Orange to name a few. But seeing it all put together with the colossal military equipments, graphic photographs, actual artillery, personal stories, the reproductions of cells... it was all too much. It's unimaginable that this beautiful land was ravaged to such an extent. Even though the war ended nearly 40 years ago, the blatant aftermath is visible everyday. Before I went to the museum, I noted a lot of oddities in limbs, eyes, faces of the Vietnamese population, some minute, some extreme. Only after the visit did it dawn upon me the 2nd and 3rd generations from the initial attack are still suffering from the chemical warfare. To what end, we'll never know. My heart ached and my face streamed tears while being educated at the museum.
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Tanks

Tanks


M48 Patton Tank

M48 Patton Tank


Explosives

Explosives


To give you a better sense of perspective, the smaller of the 2 cages had the following dimensions 1.6m x .75m x .4m and they would force in 2-3 prisoners, the larger 5-7 prisoners.
Tiger Cages

Tiger Cages


I really did not enjoy the visit but I left with knowledge, and as they say, one can not truly understand joy and happiness without understanding pain and suffering. The Ying and Yang of life.

So it's the dead of Winter, and in HCM the day time temperature usually hovered between 33 - 35 Degrees; and when you factor in the humidity you hit the 40+ scorchers. I was always curious over the men who tend to loiter around on street corners and the methods they lounge. This was seen throughout Vietnam, but it made the most sense in HCM because the moment you think about moving, you're covered in full body sweat. To keep cool was to seek shade and not move a single muscle.
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The one main difference to note with the markets in Vietnam versus Hong Kong or Taiwan, is that rather than being on foot, most customers weave through, browse, barter and purchase all while still on their motorbikes. My revelation: man and bike are fused as one! Hence everything operates just like a stroll in the park, walking and motorbiking are one and the same!
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This is why these men comfortably work in and about a manhole in traffic as everything simply flows by.
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Going head on into traffic just doesn't have the same implications as it does in the Western culture. Here they are rolling the scaffolding in the road, head on.
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This is probably the flimsiest ladder I've ever seen in my life. I do not doubt for one moment that it is actually used, even though I didn't bare witness. I just know.
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I like how the trees are used to somewhat hide the monstrous wires
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Johnny believes to be an electrician in Vietnam you have to have a PhD, I also concur.
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Recycling is done manually, you see carts of cardboard, metal and plastic. I'm happy to know there's order in all the chaos.
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Mini buses. How insanely mini is that?
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The above photo was taken near one of the busy round abouts in the heart of HCM. I'm wrapping the blog with a video of my suicidal street crossing in what was considered light traffic. Note how the motorbikes keep squeezing by when I'm nearing home stretch; there is no such thing as a right of way for pedestrians.

ps One final mini posting on Vietnam about my trip out to the Mekong Delta.
pps My mind is working overtime with handling of so many different currencies and exchange rates. Can't I just Phase 1 = collect underpants, Phase 2 = _______, and Phase 3 = Profit? For those of you confused, take a 10 second peep at this (though no promises that it'll provide more clarity)

Posted by chang2n 06:08 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

The Trek Down

Hanoi - Hue - Nha Trang - Ho Chi Minh

sunny 34 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

Oh haaaiiii! Sorry for dropping off the grid but I took a mini vaca from my open-ended vaca. I can already feel the repercussions from everyone on how illegal it is for me to say those words, but it's true, I needed some normalcy from all the travel on the road. Since my arrival in Ho Chi Minh and courtesy of my friend Johnny Ngo, I've committed 2 of the 7 deadly sins: Sloth & Gluttony. I'll also fest up the following to the lethal combo:

  • 8 luxurious hours of sleep daily - it seriously doesn't get any better than that
  • Watching movies - Mission Impossible 4 set me back a whopping $3, and surprisingly matinees are even cheaper
  • TV shows - who knows about Junior Master Chefs??!, look into it, and it's a guaranteed new addiction
  • Reading - I polished off 3 of Dan Brown's novels at a rate of a book every 2 days and thank God! that I didn't have any more Dan Brown books on my e-reader or else I would have been out for another 2 days.

Let me rewind and get back to where I last left off: I was preparing for my slow decent from the North of Vietnam to it's much warmer, in fact, scorching South. My last few days in Hanoi I did what I loved the most, getting lost in the streets and just observing. I freely roamed around Hanoi's many sights, with no true route planned out other than walking West ward toward the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The following picture depicts what I think is a military museum, I can't be sure as I didn't go in.
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But I do recall right after I took this picture, a woman got off the back of a man's motorbike and feigned like she was looking around before she approached me. She was very sweet and inquisitive. Asking where I was from, how long I've been in Vietnam, how I've found my travels thus far and told me she found me pretty (I'm starting to think that this is the first phrase one's taught when learning English in Vietnam; why else would they constantly throw that out there?) She also pointed me in the direction of the museum's entrance informing me that it was very good. The man on the motorbike stayed close by and finally without much more to add to the conversation she then told me she was a student and was working for the red cross. She pulled out a laminated paper which stated just that, and took out her ID to show me at the same time. She then asked me for money, perhaps for a contribution or just simply for her own pockets, to which I responded that I didn't have any and wished her luck with her fund raising. This is where she pulled a "Gollum" on me. At first it was my precious this, my precious that. Then when I told her no money, she showed me a true colours. She practically bore fangs when she threw back at me in a low and firm voice "You have money!" I ended the fiasco with a thanks and a fake smile and walked away. I kept envisioning her running after me, jumping on my back, scratching my face and perhaps gnawing off my ear. Sometimes the imagination becomes over active.

This is the one pillar pagoda, built in 1049. None of the informational signs mentioned anything about restoration efforts and I'm still boggled by the fact that it's nearly 1000 years old! A millenium! What a lovely little find. And even better, the mausoleum that I was seeking was just minutes away.
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The simple yet powerful flag of Vietnam. I find it quite beautiful, and I was shamefully ignorant that Vietnam was under the communist regime until 2-3 days after my arrival. I guess on a positive note, it's interesting to learn something everyday.
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There were many officers stationed on the outskirts of the Mausoleum, this was one of the lucky few that had permanent shade. As you can see he was working very hard.
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Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, just my luck the day I came it was closed to the public. I guess I was destined to have more exciting times ahead.
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This was the day I met Doan. An older gentleman who spoke English extremely well and after a good 10 minutes of him showing me a notebook of fellow travelers from all over the world who left sweet notes indicating how knowledgeable Doan was as a guide, I succumbed to his efforts. I think my time in Hanoi would not be complete without jumping on the motorbike of another stranger. I pulled out the camera & snapped a candid shot and he actually requested me to take another photo so that he was prepared and better posed - how endearing!
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He took me out 10km to a silk village named Van Phuc, which showcased the entire process from the silk worm cocoons to being weaved on the loom. Every step was intriguing but the most incredible part were the encoding sheets for the loom to create different patterns. It was just like the movie "Inception" but in real life... or did someone plant this dream in my head?
Silk worm cocoons

Silk worm cocoons


Silk factory

Silk factory


Wooden Mechanics

Wooden Mechanics


Secret codes

Secret codes


This last picture was alcohol intended for medicinal use. I don't know whether or not you'd eat the worms. Nasty!
Silk Worm Concoction

Silk Worm Concoction


I treated us to a $3.00 lunch (for the both of us) as I really enjoyed his company. At my request he showed me how tabacco was often smoked in Vietnam. This was a communal pipe that he ordered a teenage boy sitting near by the restaurant to go hunt on his behalf, and a small satchel of tabacco (about the size of your palm) was about 25 cents and would last about 30 individual smokes. He mentioned that packs of cigarettes were too expensive at $1.00 per pack. Wow. Did your mind explode like mine?
Smoking a pipe

Smoking a pipe


I wasn't expecting his look of pain and for about half a minute I witnessed him scrunching and cringing his face; finally in a raspy whisper he explained his head was in the clouds and that he was in fact feeling great.
Doan Flying High

Doan Flying High


If you ever find yourself in Hanoi needing the service of a happy local who speaks decent English, please consider Mr. Doan.
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My last day in Hanoi I agreed to spend time with my friend & hostel owner Longho (yes, I now know his name) and thankfully we are completely able to joke about his undying love for me without any awkwardness. I happily jumped at the opportunity for another ride on his motorbike. This is us in traffic and I quickly snapped at these 2 ladies on a bike, going against the flow of traffic which is essentially the norm.
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Longho took me out to an old bridge, this woman's bike was carrying one of the heaviest loads I've seen. Moments later she gave up riding it and continued the trek on foot.
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The bridge was probably 1.5-2.0km in length and there were still multiple street vendors. This one was selling corn, we stopped to have it freshly and lightly grilled. The woman in red was the vendor, the other man and woman were on foot and stopped to have a cob. Evidently her business is booming.
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I volunteered to help out with the lunch that the staff at the hostel was to have. Here was our working kitchen. One of the staff was cleaning & washing dishes while I was overseeing the chopping.
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This was my chopping station, a bit wobbly because I had to balance it on the strip, perhaps not ideal when it comes to handling a large knife.
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I'm no longer shocked at the fact that food preparation is mainly done outdoors, near the ground so I decided to up the ante by drinking the tap water in Hanoi as well. So far no side effects! I shall soon increase my immunity and be omnipotent! (Insert evil laugh)
This was the room that I previously described when I first joined them for lunch. This time the entire meal was made vegetarian on my behalf. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!
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Mr. Chang dines with the boys. We sat & ate for nearly 2 hours, a usual custom for the Vietnamese to take a long lunch. But I can tell you that my legs started getting quite cramped and numb within 45 minutes of sitting cross legged - that was my max. I don't know how the men endured 120 minutes! (For those of you wondering, my friend Longho is a bit camera shy - so no pics)
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Hanoi --> Hue 653km.
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Most North Americans would agree with me this trek would probably be 6-7 hours. Well, you'd be grossly wrong in Vietnam, try 14 hours. 7:30pm departure and 9:30am arrival. That's even longer than my flight from Toronto to Seoul. I think I'm now mentally prepared for how tedious traveling by bus will be for the rest of my journey. These are the sleeper buses, surprisingly it had enough seating for 42 people. My first trip was packed to 47, there was the driver, 3 additional locals and let's not forget the master & commander.
Sleeper Buses!

Sleeper Buses!


It's a common practice for locals to be picked up at any point the driver chooses to, as it was an opportunity for them to get additional cash. I witnessed one local being booted off by the master & commander within 30 minutes of getting on board. Whatever their disagreement was over, the local ended up in the middle of nowhere at around 1am in the morning.
Locals Sleeping In The Aisles

Locals Sleeping In The Aisles


I somehow got stuck towards the back and kept having to cover my nose in my clothes throughout the night when the brave souls would venture into the toilet. I did it as well - it wasn't as bad in condition as it was in smell.
Back Of The Bus = Toilet Seats!

Back Of The Bus = Toilet Seats!

It rained the ENTIRE time I was in Hue and it brought about eeriely calm patches throughout the city.
Rain And The Empty Streets Of Hue

Rain And The Empty Streets Of Hue


In the midst of the wet and grey I gave myself a little treat.
Veggie Restaurant!  For you $2.75 CN

Veggie Restaurant! For you $2.75 CN


In My Belly You Go!

In My Belly You Go!


The Citadel is a famous point of interest, it's a physical enclosure with a moat that used to be reserved for the Nguyen Imperial Family.
The Citadel

The Citadel


After a while, you learn to accept and be happy in the rain. However this would be a completely different story if sneakers and socks were involved.
Wet Feet

Wet Feet


Temple Outside The Citadel

Temple Outside The Citadel


Run Down Temple

Run Down Temple


Mini Elephant Statue

Mini Elephant Statue


Moments after entering in the Citadel a man on a motorbike approached me. From our conversation he shared that he too lived in Vancouver for a few months, helping out his uncle's restaurant and had 2 other uncles established in Toronto. He was a mathematics teacher but also taught some English on the side. Long story short, he wanted to invite me back to meet his wife and kids so that he could continue our conversation and practice his English. I obviously declined and we played a game of back & forth. In the end I yielded.
This is a collage of the happy family, him & his wife of 7 years had 2 children and it was evident how much they were adored.
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We chatted, laughed and discussed anything and everything. From how they met, his work, her family, Canada, my travels and then I was invited to dine out with them for dinner. After dinner we went to Karaoke, the 3 of us sang, sang and sang, where as the 2 kids, ran amok and danced, danced, danced. (The picture below is L-R wife, son, husband and his sister, his young daughter hid)
The Nguyen Family

The Nguyen Family


When you're on a motorbike in the rain, you don a giant hooded rain coat that nearly reaches your toes. A practice here in Vietnam was for the secondary or tertiary passenger to hide themselves underneath the large garment if they themselves didn't have a rain coat. I thought it was a funny observation until I had to actually participate in the custom. It was a strange feeling not to know where I was going. Look closely to decipher that there are 3 riding on the bike and sharing one rain coat; me taking the picture from behind, the father driving and the child sitting in the front.
Motorbiking In The Rain

Motorbiking In The Rain


Before driving me home back to my hostel for the evening, the family urged me to come back the next day so that they can take me around and see the sights since they consider me part of their family now. We met up again the next morning at 8:30am and the wife told me that it was easier for her husband to hold my money as a Vietnamese he would be able to purchase most things cheaper compared to that of a foreigner. On hindsight, this is where alarm bells should have gone off, but I wholeheartedly handed over the remaining cash I carried on my person, 700,000 Vietnamese Dong or about $35.
There were many tombs in Hue, I guess this was their trademark. The rain made it less busy than usual and mystical. I found myself at times utterly alone with just the sounds of rain to keep me company. Mr. Nguyen didn't want to spend money on seeing these sights as he had already seen them several times so he told me he'd wait outside and grab a warm drink. My mind told me that this was strange, because essentially he became a hired motorbike, but I made some excuse and chose to ignore it.
Tu Duc Tomb

Tu Duc Tomb


Rainy Day At Tu Duc Tomb

Rainy Day At Tu Duc Tomb


View From A Pavillion

View From A Pavillion


Reworking The Tiles At Tu Duc tomb

Reworking The Tiles At Tu Duc tomb


Nature Prevails At Tu Duc Tomb

Nature Prevails At Tu Duc Tomb


Run Down Walls At Tu Duc Tomb

Run Down Walls At Tu Duc Tomb


We had agreed to meet back at the entrance after an hour and I was surprised to see that he was still there. The thought of him running away with my money occurred but I felt angry with myself to have even toyed with the idea. I let him take me to another tomb.
Khai Dinh Tomb Main Chamber

Khai Dinh Tomb Main Chamber


View Into The Mountains

View Into The Mountains


I overheard that these were Monk from Tibet. I liked how they all had cameras not just the simple point & shoot, but the pricier DSLRs. Perhaps certain materialistic things have value in the spiritual realm.
Monks Visiting The Tomb

Monks Visiting The Tomb


After this visit I communicated that I did not feel comfortable with him waiting for me at each and every stop. I stressed that touristic sights like these are pleasant and interesting but were not top priority for my travels. We happily agreed on a change in itinerary. We dug deeper into the country side, taking these flooded roads that looked more like rivers than road. The picture below includes the road we took, but utterly camouflaged into the surrounding waters.
Not Quite The Sea; An Imposter

Not Quite The Sea; An Imposter


We stopped by this mini town which boasted a 700 year old ornate bridge, and strolled through its streets. At one point I really needed the use of a washroom and he simply went from door to door to ask whether they would mind me access to their toilets. I was embarrassed and didn't want to bother anyone and just concentrated on holding my urge to pee. On the 3rd try: access granted! He raved about how much he loved small town people and their hospitality. I couldn't agree more! Yet my intuition kept telling me that something was off about our day.
Old Japanese Bridge

Old Japanese Bridge


We came across men singing at the top of their lungs drowning themselves in beers. They just wrapped up celebratory wedding lunch across the street and started calling out for us to join them.
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I was taken back by this show of welcome and asked Mr. Nguyen whether he knew them, and his face was just as happily shocked as mine. My total lack of Vietnamese made me feel not only incompetent but now vulnerable. We agreed to join the group. During this sitdown, Mr. Nguyen kept reaching out to hold my hand and telling me how happy he was. I pulled away only to see him later reach out and hold these other men's hands and sharing genuine happy smiles. My logic didn't seem to work anymore. He also brushed hair away from my face and even though I flinched away, it was half-hearted as a part of me thought he was just an affectionate person as I had just witnessed him pulling one of the other men's face to be cheek to cheek to his.
Mr. Chang And The Karaoke That Never Ends

Mr. Chang And The Karaoke That Never Ends


At one point Mr. Nguyen told me that was leaving to buy a case of beer to repay these men their welcome and generosity. I was left alone, actually stranded, with countless strangers. My heart started to pound. Was this the ultimate plan?! Was I lured here to be thrown into the sex trade?! I couldn't help but notice that one of the men kept throwing me repulsive lewd looks. What the FUCK did I get myself into?! A new song starts and ends. Another starts. It felt like an eternity passed by before he reappeared with a case of beer under his arm. A wave of relief washed over me, at least I've known this man for nearly 24 hours!
All Strangers...

All Strangers...


We parted after about an hour and continued our ride home.
Still No Idea Of Where I Am

Still No Idea Of Where I Am


He brought me out to the sea where the waters were chocolate and raging. He mentioned that he had never see this beach utterly empty, we were alone. He reached out and try to kiss me! WTF?! I pushed his puny 5'2 frame away from me. He shared that he informed the men at the karaoke that I was his wife and that he loved the idea. I told him that I wanted to go home. He replied that he couldn't take me home as his wife was preparing a vegetarian dinner in my honour. He asked me to forgive him and to go back and see his wife & kids as they adored me and he didn't mean to make this silly mistake. I pondered what this meant. I didn't want to create any trouble. He kept apologizing and admitting his error. I generally see myself as somewhat intelligent, but I stupidly agreed to make one last showing for his wife & kids. Or perhaps it was my own gluttony that was my downfall, as my stomach rumbled on.
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To end this whole fiasco, we returned to his home and dinner was not on the table. His wife told me that she was awaiting my return as she thought I'd enjoy the 2 of us going to the market together. I jumped at the idea to get away from her husband. "I need more money for the market" were the neck words out of her mouth. My brain exploded. The 2 tourist sights he took me to cost $5 combined. Him and I stopped for a lunch that probably came to $3 max. I replied to her that I left my bank cards at the hostel and she quickly steered her motorbike in that direction. The entire ride back I felt angry, stupid, used but more than anything sadden by the outcome of the day. I got off her bike and handed back to her the helmet and the raincoat and said to her the following,
" I hope you and your family have some use of the $35 dollars I gave to you, evidently you need it more than me. It's too bad the two of you felt it was necessary to cheat me as our friendship would have valued much more than money. Even though this happened I still wish your family well, I am sorry for everything but I am no longer willing to excuse this behaviour." (This was the more eloquent version).

Every step I took from that point on became lighter and lighter. It was as if the dark cloud dissipated around me to be replaced with light. Surprisingly the very next day the sun came out, after what felt like a week's worth of rain & cloud. I stepped out with my backpack and walked towards the sleeper bus station 5 minutes away. On my path I saw this which was practically in front of the hostel but I only took notice when the sun came out that day. 2N is back in full effect!
What?  For Me?

What? For Me?

The sleeper bus down to the beach town of Nha Trang was much easier to take now that I'm mentally prepared for it. I spent my days at the beach but fully clothed because it wasn't warm enough for me at 23 degrees. The waves brought in quite a strong wind. I was now a bit more jaded and quite adamant to be 100% on my own for the next little while. I plugged myself into the iPod and sang along loudly to hits of The Beatles.
Still alive and pondering

Still alive and pondering


Here was the view before me,
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and the one above,
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followed by the view to my right of a woman hoping to make some money.
On the clock

On the clock


Mix it all together with the happy tune of life you get...
A view from reality

A view from reality


I haven't mentioned too much on the neglect of people not caring for this beautiful land, but it is fact. I saw it in the Amazing Caves, graffiti on the natural wonder, garbage strewn in the cave crevaces, in the beautiful waters of Halong Bay. It breaks my heart, but I believe that this nation will at some point in the future take positive action to mend it. In fact even as I strolled further down the beach it was a different picture all together.
Footsteps

Footsteps


Fishing

Fishing


I kept seeing these little holes everywhere.
What is this?!

What is this?!


Only once the sun was setting did these night crawlers become active. Shocking how quick they can move and find their way back to the exact same hole.
Mystery solved!

Mystery solved!


The one odd quirk that was restricted to the city of Nha Trang... Foil = Christmas?
Different.  To each their own.

Different. To each their own.


Inspiration for next Christmas

Inspiration for next Christmas

I left the sand and the foil behind as I boarded yet again another sleeper bus to Ho Chi Minh. Distance = 450km. You can do the math for the length of time.

P.S.

I learned how to upload videos! Genius! I'll try to incorporate more live action in the blog going forward. Here's one from way back of the Taipei Zoo panda. Recall that he was a blob
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and this was him active.

Posted by chang2n 01:31 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

The Wonders At Halong Bay

overcast 20 °C
View Forever Summer on chang2n's travel map.

Seeing that I did absolutely no research as to what I should do in Vietnam, my hostel informed me that Halong Bay was not to be missed. After a quick google image search I immediately asked to part take in the 3 days/2 nights tour for a whopping $95 (that was the largest amount I had spent on anything so far, outside of flights). Perhaps you'll be as surprised as I was to know that this encompassed, all the transportation costs, meals, entry fees and accommodations (1 night on the boat, 1 night in a hotel). The only downside to entire tour was exactly what I had already anticipated: Total Tourist Mayhem. "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore", in a matter of seconds the sea of Asian faces became a melting pot of Western college party kids still hung over from the night before, backpackers with their 65+ Liter bags that make them hunch over, older couples with maps and guidebooks in hand and hippies that roamed around in their flowing clothes and dreads.

The mini tour bus departed at 8:30am and our tour guide Tinh took up the next 45 minutes with an awkward speech and intense eye contact that had the 10 of us squirming in our seats. Examples:

1. Ok everyone, the tour starts now. No more complaints - OK?! From here we only happy, no complaints because it's my and your destiny that we enjoy Halong Bay together.

2. For me, I am younger than 33 because I'm not married and have no kids. In Vietnam, if you have 3 daughters and no son, it's like you have no kids at all. If you have 1 boy and 3 daughters, then you have 4 kids. No son, no kids.

3. I have been tour guide for 7 years. If you don't remember everything I tell you, then I unhappy. You must remember everything Vietnam I tell you so that I am happy. (Oh, how can I forget?!)

Perhaps this was his method of getting the 10 of us on tour to bond together. We all tried to factor in the broken English and our own misinterpretations that might be lost in translation... but it was difficult not to share some laughs on his account. Often we found ourselves being scolded, we'd be thick in conversation when he comes up and states "OK, no more talk. Dinner time. Please go sit down, no more talk." I still think he was a very good person and enthusiastic guide... at least that was what I wrote in the review of the tour, while he stood over my shoulder and blatantly stared at what I wrote. Classic!

OK. No more talk! Look at pictures, Now!

The harbour was an immense hub for the trillions of tour boats catering to the trillions of tourists. The unbelievable part is that this was considered low season; I don't even want to think about what it would be like any other time. My photo doesn't capture the number of ships, but you can at least see all the masts in the skyline.
Harbour

Harbour


Even though we were in water, everything mimicked what you'd see on the streets of Vietnam. Lots of honking from the ships, not horns, but honks, lots of hand rowed boats did their best to weave in & out of the larger ships. And my favourite, I heard the familiar sounds of a car alarm coming from a ship.
Pirate ships!

Pirate ships!


Hello room!

Hello room!

Did you know that Halong Bay very recently became one of the Natural Wonders of Asia? News to me as well!
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These were all from the same day, but the angle of the sunlight completely changed the feel of the water and the surrounding islands. We truly were lucky to have had the day we had, as entire week leading up it was either raining or overcast.
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One of the many water vendors that was setting out toward another harbour after stocking up their goods for a day's work.
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We also got to see the Sung Sot caves, which translates to "Amazing" caves. Once again I was more than thankful for it being low season, as this gave you a bit more room and time to truly explore. Otherwise we would have been herded in a single file like live-stock.
One of the main cave chambers

One of the main cave chambers


I could have done without the coloured lighting, which I think they used for drama. But we were already inside the Amazing caves?! They themselves should have been sufficient.
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I loved seeing the pools of water, the entire experience felt directly out of the BBC series, The Planet Earth. If you don't already own the series, drop everything and buy it! Hours of beautiful adventures and mind-boggling information awaits you inside your home.
Fresh water

Fresh water


Stalactite, Meet Stalagmite

Stalactite, Meet Stalagmite


Each chamber that followed was surprisingly larger than the next.
Magnificent cave chambers

Magnificent cave chambers


Playing with shadows

Playing with shadows


We then exited to have a lovely overview of the bay. With more and more tourist boats arriving and departing so that schedules and tourists can be kept both contained and happy.
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Every view is spectacular

Every view is spectacular


We often found our tour guide Tinh lagging behind the troop on a phone call, and when approaching him with quizzical looks, he'd just wave us ahead. This was the gang trying to find our ship.
Parking

Parking


These ladies were below the bridge we were standing on and sold fresh crabs to our ship's crew. The sent up the bagged crabs in a net attached to a long stick, and money was placed into the net in exchange.
Selling the day's fresh catch

Selling the day's fresh catch


Our boat

Our boat


Kayaking adventures!

Kayaking adventures!


Closer inspection

Closer inspection


Clear waters

Clear waters


A rest from kayaking

A rest from kayaking


Mini Prayer Temple

Mini Prayer Temple


Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo


The art of the tides

The art of the tides


I don't like the cold, and I especially don't like cold water. I had to psych myself up quite a bit to make this jump off the ship, 3 other guys jumped before me and Mr. Chang was the only "girl". What an awkward frog-like position I took, non? hahaha.
Mr. Chang jumps!

Mr. Chang jumps!


IT'S COLD!!!

IT'S COLD!!!


More water vendors, you'd be surprised how much English they speak as it's part of their jobs.
Water Vendors

Water Vendors


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Good night Sun!

Good night Sun!


The hues of a gorgeous sunset

The hues of a gorgeous sunset


The ship anchored for the evening, and for fun we agreed on karaoke. Tinh was the only one among us that was disappointed to not find "My Heart Will Go On" among the titles so that he could kick off his vocal skills and dedicate the song to us. We sang and sang... and surprise, was told that karaoke was over when 9:30pm came around. Oh Tinh - you learn to love the little man.
We continued on further to Cat Ba Island to trek in it's national park the next day. Even though it was clouded over with much less visibility, I sad on the deck for quite sometime not comprehending just how miniscule and insignificant we are in this vast planet.
Tiny glimps of one of the Natural Wonders of Asia

Tiny glimps of one of the Natural Wonders of Asia


Peaks and peaks

Peaks and peaks


Lonely water hut

Lonely water hut


We were told that our final destination was the Red metal Tower on top one of the peaks. I was taken back at how awkward the climb got at times, it really involved stretching our your limbs and reaching for extreme points.
Red Tower

Red Tower


Self satisfaction is always quite high when you reach the top, gasping for breath and water.
Stunning view at the base of the tower

Stunning view at the base of the tower


The tower had a 5 person maximum limit, and the sound of the metal creaking wasn't the kind of invitation I had hoped for. I kept getting angry at myself for being too scared, then talking myself out of it because I still haven't purchased travel insurance (please,... no scolding, I know, I know). More and more people started reaching the tower, and just when I had made up my mind to be rotated into the next round. "Ok. No More. We go down now" was for once a welcome interjection to my ears.
Tower of death

Tower of death

We continued on to our next destination of Monkey island, and came across a water village. I was told that some of these people have never stepped foot on land (or maybe I just made that up...)
Water World

Water World


We took a smaller boat to get to the next island, I liked that it blended in with the water.
Green as the Water

Green as the Water


Beach front

Beach front


Supposedly these monkeys have learned to enjoy beer and alcohol. This one must have been really drunk as it was the only red faced monkey I saw.
Drunken Monkey

Drunken Monkey


Aptly named - Monkey Island

Aptly named - Monkey Island


No Explaination Necessary

No Explaination Necessary


I had initially refused to do another trek, as we did one early in the day; but then was informed by a couple from Holland that it was quite the short climb and the view was quite lovely.
View from the top

View from the top


This climb though short, was even more difficult than the first. Partly due to how congested it was, but mainly due to how jagged and sharp the rocks were. I noticed only afterwards a big cut in my palm.
Treacherous Climb

Treacherous Climb


Jagged Rocks

Jagged Rocks


Top of the world on Monkey Island

Top of the world on Monkey Island


Below is the hotel we stayed at, and beside it was another hotel being constructed. I happened to be given a room that had windows facing the work sight. Imagine my surprise when I had pulled down my pants to use the bathroom when sounds of laughter and men pointing through the barely frosted windows. They were literally less than 5 feet from me. Out of shame, I immediately got up, with some lame attempts to cover myself. Waaahhhh! My dignity!!! Another girl experienced the same thing a floor down... Not sure if that makes what I endured any less humiliating.
Hotel on Cat Ba Island

Hotel on Cat Ba Island


This was on our way leaving the island. Men having to cook the tar for paving the roads in these giant canisters.
Cooking Tar

Cooking Tar


The mini bus we took, we ended up picking up more and more tourists at random to head back towards Hanoi.
Full Capacity?

Full Capacity?


There were folded down seats that could be converted... so I learned not to expect a comfortable seat.
Full Capacity.

Full Capacity.

Up Next on Forever Summer:
Another stranger's bike
Sleeper buses
Being conned & molested!

Cut to commercial.

Posted by chang2n 18:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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