Sunday, November 30th, 2003 – Day 285

Sunday, November 30th, 2003 – Day 285

Hmm, I did not get out of bed until 2.00pm. I was shattered. I haven’t had that much beer for a long time. I felt like crap but took a taxi to the Army Museum. It was 10,000 Dong in and it was worth it. I had a war buff and I have never seen so much material from anti air craft guns to M16’s. They had everything on display like helmets from US airmen shot down during the war to the letters of introduction airmen give to locals when they are shot down asking for help, offering rewards.

This building opened in 1959, presents the Vietnamese side of the country’s struggle against colonial powers. There are three buildings of odds and ends from both the French and American wars here, including evocative photos. Most interesting, though, is the actual war equipment on display, including aircraft, tanks, bombs, and big guns, some with signs indicating just how many of which enemy the piece took out. There is a tank belonging to the troops that crashed through the Presidential Palace gates on April 30, 1975, Vietnamese Liberation Day. Outside there is also a spectacular, room-size bouquet of downed French and U.S. aircraft wreckage. Also on the grounds is Hanoi’s ancient flag tower (Cot Co), constructed from 1805 to 1812. The exhibits have English translations, which makes this an easy and worthwhile visit.

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Hanoi – Army Museum. (30-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Army Museum – the tank that smahed into the Presential Palace in Saigon in 1975 (when the North surrendered to the North unifying the Country). (30-11-2003)

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Hanoi – Army Museum – Old USA Bombs. (30-11-2003)

Ot was really good and it was great to see the War from the others sides perspective with lots pf pictures and exhibits.

I then walked to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. It reopens on December 1st when his body comes back from Russia where its maintained.

In an imposing, somber granite-and-concrete structure modeled on Lenin’s tomb, Ho lies in state, embalmed and dressed in his favored khaki suit. He asked to be cremated, but his wish was not heeded. A respectful demeanor is required, and the dress code mandates no shorts or sleeveless shirts allowed. Note that the mausoleum is usually closed through October and November, when Ho goes to Russia for body maintenance of an undisclosed nature. The museum might be closed during this period as well.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Army Ho Chi Ming;s Final Resting Place. (30-11-2003)

remember when I mentioned that a boy was sold for dog meat a few days ago. Well, today it was mentioned that a man paid for petrol with nephew in Cambodia.

A Cambodian who found he had forgotten his wallet after filling up his motorbike with petrol ended up paying for the three litres of petrol with his nephew. The Kampuchea Thmey (New Cambodia) newspaper said on Monday the nine-year-old, who it named as Dy, had been on a trip with his uncle in March 2002 to try and track down his father in a nearby province in the war-scarred southeast Asian nation. However, their motorbike ran out of petrol before reaching their destination and, after filling up with three litres of gasoline from a roadside stall, the uncle realised he had no money. Eventually he convinced the old lady selling petrol to take his nephew as a guarantee he would return with the cash — 87 pence, the paper said. Nearly two years later, she is still waiting — but has opted to keep the youngster. “I have decided to take care of him and raise him as my own grandson,” she told the paper.

I called into Sinh cafe and booked a tour to Halong Bay. Monday is a good day as all museums are closed. You can pay between 10-20USD. The higher price will include lunch, the 60,000 dong boat trip and a smaller group. I unfortunately paid the higher amount. It was to call to collect me at 7.00am. I also checked some hotels in the area. My guesthouse called the Lotus is 6 USD per night but the room is barely OK. You can get rooms with satellite TV and ensuite hot water for the same amount if you shop about.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – The City Celebrates as Vietnam Draw 1-1 with Thaialnd in Soccer. It is part of the 22nd South East Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi. Vietnam is hosting the eleven-nation SEA Games for the first time. (30-11-2003)

Friday, November 28th, 2003 – Day 283 to Saturday, November 29th, 2003 – Day 284

Friday, November 28th, 2003 – Day 283

I was up at 9.00a, and but decided to take advantage of the nice room which I have but have used so little. I watched Chris Farley in Black Sheep. Its a funny comedy and I did not know he committed suicide in 1997 (he was 33).

Anyway after a good shower etc., I finally starting packing my bags at 11.45am. When I was packing my day pack where I keep my passport, I could not find the money belt. It has little money in it (some Hong Kong Dollars) but has my International vaccination Certificate. It has some business cards and photos as well. I did not want it missing. I looked high and low, and though one of the cleaners had nicked it.

I went down to reception and explained. I did not lose the head but asked she look into it. I headed down to Sinh Cafe to get the telephone number of the hotel in Hoi An I stayed in, but I was 95% positive, I had it in this town as well. Anyway, I rang them and they had seen no sign of it so I headed back and went through my bags again. I found it at the bottom of big back pack underneath some laundry I did at the last hotel. Relief. It took nearly two hours of stress. I It was now 1.30pm. My bus was at 5.30pm. Off to Hanoi I go.

It collected us on time but it was not a Sinh Cafe bus. As there were only 5 tourists we were passed onto some other company. Within an hour, the bus was full of locals. It was noisy and stuffy. The journey was OK but I did not get any sleep.

Saturday, November 29th, 2003 – Day 284

We arrived at 6.00am and it was cold. We were dropped off on the middle of no where and there were many touts about. I decided to walk to my chosen hotel but I did not feel comfortable in the he dark. I hailed a moto taxi and off we went. He got totally lost and it took 25 minutes to get there. The hotel was OK and had an OK room for 10 USD. I decided to drop down and book into a 6 USD a night hostel 20 minutes away. It was 7.00am when I got there. I decided to rest and it was 11.00am before I woke.

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, ranks among the world’s most attractive and interesting cities. It was first the capital of Vietnam in 1010, and though the nation’s capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802, the city continued to flourish after the French took control in 1888. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam’s capital once again. The remnants of over 1,000 years of history are still visible here, with that of the past few hundred years marvelously preserved.

Hanoi has a reputation, doubtless accrued from the American war years, as a dour northern political outpost. While the city is certainly smaller, slower, and far less developed than chaotic Saigon, and there are some vestiges of Soviet-influenced concrete monolith architecture, there are some beautiful, quiet streets and neighborhoods in Hanoi, and such placid air gives it a gracious, almost regal flavor. It is set amid dozens of lakes of various sizes, around which you can usually find a cafe, a pagoda or two, and absorbing vignettes of street life.

At 11.00am I decided to walk around the cities old quarter.

Old Quarter & Hoan Kiem Lake

The Old Quarter evolved from workshop villages clustered by trades, or guilds, in the early 13th century. It’s now an area of narrow, ancient, winding streets, each named for the trade it formerly featured. Even today, streets tend to be for either silk, silver, or antiques. It’s a fascinating slice of centuries-old life in Hanoi, including markets that are so pleasantly crowded that the street itself narrows to a few feet. Hoan Kiem is considered the center of the city. It is also known as the Lake of the Recovered Sword. In the mid-15th century, the gods gave emperor Le Thai To a magical sword to defeat Chinese invaders. While the emperor was boating on the lake one day, a giant tortoise reared up and snatched the sword, returning it to its rightful owners and ushering peace into the kingdom. Stroll around the lake in the early morning or evening to savor local life among the willow trees and see elders playing chess or doing tai chi. In the center of the lake is the Tortoise Pagoda; on the northern part is Ngoc Son pagoda, reachable only by the Bridge of the Rising Sun and open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Women Work Hard here. Carring a cart during rush hour. (29-11-2003)

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Hanoi – Old Quarter Shop. (29-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hanoi – Statue. (29-11-2003)

I was wearing my Irish Rugby Jersey and I was stopped by a chap in the street from Clonmel. After a while talking, we decided to meet for a few drinks that night. He was spending 3 weeks in Vietnam after spending a year in New Zealand (a place he said he was glad to leave).

I walked around and got totally lost on the outskirts of the city. I was well lost and had to get a moto taxi back in. I met rob at 9.00pm in the Funky Monkey.

Funky Monkey (tel. 04/928-6113) has music, pool tables, pizzas, and a cool black-light menu.

We had a good time and a good few drinks. He told me of his first day in the city. He had been ripped out nearly a dozen times. He was over charged from the airport into town. They delivered him to a hotel that charged 18 USD per night for a shabby room (normal prices are between 7-12 USD), he used moto taxis which charged 2 USD (normal price is .50 cent). Worse of all he went to a club last night called Apocalypse Now.

Its a down and dirty joint with black walls, a thatched-roof bar, and lights with “blood” streaks on them. Everybody comes — backpackers, locals, expats — and it’s all somehow great fun. Plus, it’s open later than practically any bar in Hanoi, until 4am or so — this is definitely an “end of the night” place. While they don’t serve food, they do serve up great music and beer for US$1. There’s a pool table and a small dance floor as well.

He met a local girl and they went back to his hotel. Its well known that 99% of Vietnamese hotels will not allow guests especially Vietnamese ones. They had to book into a hotel for 40 USD. In the morning she asked for taxi money. Fine, says the Clonmel man. How much!! 300 USD she says. The boyo from clonmel was shocked and finally bargained her down to 35 USD after cashing some travelers cheques.

Anyway we went to another place called Monicas until 4.00am, when I had to call it a night. I was wrecked!! We met five Irish girls. We thought when they came into the Pub they were an English hen party such was there dress. We spoke to them and it turnrd out they were from Dublin. They were on da way to da beachesss in Thailand. no offense, but it was like they were transported directly from inner city Dublin to here. Everything was . do ya know what I mean. The accents were panomine.

Thursday, November 27th, 2003 – Day 282

Thursday, November 27th, 2003 – Day 282

I was up around 9.00am. There is a school across from the hotel and in the morning they shout across. When a half dressed tourist goes to the window to see what the fuss is about, they come across 20 kids screaming and laughing at them.

I confirmed my intention to take the night bus to Hanoi tomorrow night at 5.30pm. It is a 16 hour bus ride.

I spent the day walking around to different Pagoda (Buddist religious temples). They included:

Tu Dam Pagoda

Tu Dam Pagoda is located in Truong An, 2km south of Hue. A Chinese monk, Minh Hang Tu Dung founded it, at the end of the 17th century under Le Hy Tong reign. It was during the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri that the pagoda was given the name Tu Dam. In the center of the pagoda is a tree that was grafted from a sacred tree brought to Vietnam by Buddhists from India in 1936. In 1951, the Buddhist Association Conference was held at the pagoda. Nowadays, the board of the Buddhist Association of Thua Thien Hue province is located there.

Phu Cam Cathedral

Phu Cam Cathedral is located in Phuoc Vinh, in Hue. It was built in a modern architecture and designed by architect Ngo Viet Duc. In early 1963, the construction of the cathedral started and was basically completed by 1965. Phu Cam Cathedral was built using new concepts in which supporting pillars were attached to the walls and gradually bent ahead. Three supporting pillars in each corner stretched out to create a fairly large space for the altar. In one of the cathedral’s wings is the tomb of former archbishop Philippe Nguyen Kim Dien (1921-1988) and in the other, an altar to present the saint.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Note Dame Cathedral (27-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Manual Labour (27-11-2003)

Bao Quoc Pagoda

Located near the center of Hue city (in Ham Long Hill, adjacent to Dien Bien Phu Street), the pagoda was founded by Superior Buddhist Monk Giac Phong at the end of 17th century. In 1747, Bao Quoc Pagoda was noted in the list of national pagodas. Despite of a lot of restorations (1802, 1824, 1858, 1957), the pagoda has not lost its ancient architectural charm. Since 1940, Bao Quoc Pagoda has become a well-known Buddhist Training Center.

More information can be found here.


The pagoda is situated at 92/6/4 Dien Bien Phu street, Truong An quarter, Hue City. The facade is direct to the North-East, in front of it is Van Phuoc hill in which has Thien Lam pagoda, Van Phuoc pagoda, Tinh Do pagoda.At the back, there are Kim Tien, Tu Quang and Tuong Van pagodas. It was founded in 1932 by Bhikhuni Dieu Huong, Dieu Khong, Mrs Cong Ton Nu Thi Ban, Ton Nhan Ung Ban, Ung Uy, Ton That Tung. In 1936 the Main-hall of the pagoda was established. The pagoda has: a Main-hall in which a high altar is for Duc The Ton and Tam The. The lower alter is for Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, statue of Bodhisattva Te Chi. In the middle of the main-hall has a gilt dragon, lion, tortoise, phoenix carving escutcheon incripted “Dieu Duc Pagoda” Most Ven Phuoc Hue (Thap Di Da pagoda in Binh Dinh).

Dieu De

The pagoda is located at 100 Bach Dang street, Phu Cat ward, Hue city, Thua Thin – Hue province. It was built by King Thieu Tri in 1844 on the foundation of his old residence but badly damaged during the wars. In 1889, Most Ven. Tam Truyen was granted money by King Thanh Thai to restore the pagoda and once again it was badly damaged due to the typhoon in 1904. The present construction was made in 1953, on the ceiling of the main hall is a skillfully painted “dragon meeting cloud” picture. A 1.90m high, 1m wide stone stele on a 0.65m high pedestal stands in the stele house carved with King Thieu Tri’s poems chanting on Dieu De pagoda. Dieu De pagoda is the third National Pagoda in Hue and listed by King Thieu Tri as one of twenty beautiful sights in the Old Capital.

I also visited Tang Quang Pagoda and Notre Dame R.C Cathedral.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is usually called the Redemptorists by Hue people. In fact, it was the name of an order being built in the previous time, at the rear of the church. This cathedral was designed by architect Nguyen My Loc. This cathedral took three years to build (from 1959 to 1962). The interior of the cathedral is 38m wide and 72m long, always being lit by stained glass. In the bell tower, there hangs four bells, 30m from the ground. Located at the center of the city, this cathedral occupies a solemn position and is held in high regard to the Catholic followers in the region.

It was 4.00pm when I finished my days walking. I was exhausted. I had a beer and went on he NET for a while. I checked my site stats. It seems this November, I have the biggest monthly visitors, nearly 1,000 over the month. This beats the October record of 760.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Hue Military Museum – USA Anti Aircraft and Troop Transporter from the Vietnam War (27-11-2003)

I also bit the bullet today. Curiosity killed the cat or made it deaf. I got my ears cleaned Vietnam style. The Vietnamese believe that if you let your ears get dirty evil spirits will come and nest in them.

The barber chair is reclined to horizontal and made me feel like I was in a dentist and I hate dentists. Sometimes the guy might dress like a surgeon but my guy was finishing a beer. Not a good choice although it was clean and looked like a hairdressing salon which is there main business. The cost was only 5000 Dong (.20 cent) which made me nervous. I wish it had been a bit more expensive. It would make me feel better.

I have seen them use headlamps. My guy had a powerful lamp with a beer can slit open at the bottom so that the light could be focused. He had a suite of surgical instruments. About half a dozen looked surgical looking. They were maybe 20 inches long, stainless steel with little hooks, fork like ends to scrap. Some looked like what a dentist may use in cleaning teeth.

I felt I was in a dentist the may he kept moving my head. He started and f^&&, give me a dentist any day. It wasn’t sore but it felt strange and uncomfortable. He scrapped for about 10 minutes. As I have a cold it seems that ear is far waxier than my left ear. The scrapping seemed to reverberate and bounce around my skull to my other ear. Weird feeling. He then used a cleaning solution on a cotton wool stuck to a long instrument which he twirled and moved around. He made a burning sensation. He then used little cloth brush like instruments. I was gripping the arm rest. He then showed me the results of his work. He has scrapped what he got out on a piece of newspaper. Jesus, there was loads. I mean you would never get this out your self. I was a bit deaf but he used one of those instruments like you see when a pianist uses when seeing if the tone is right (but now using it on my ear). That seemed to do the trick.

He then moved to the other ear with his lamp. That took him only 5 minutes. Anyway, he charged me 7,000 Dong (2,000 extra) as my left ear was so waxy and dirty.

Yeah, those scalpel, which is used to cut away whatever can be cut away inside your ear were scary. It feels about as unpleasant as you would expect it to feel. I didn’t move a muscle during the procedure and he had to move me head for me. I didn’t want any sudden movements to burst an ear drum. Lots of locals were shouting in at the poor guy (god knows what they were saying) as well as a few startled tourists. I didn’t want people to distract him.

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Hue – River Life (27-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – River Life (27-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Life (27-11-2003)

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Hue – Religious Life (27-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – River Life (27-11-2003)

Nothing else to report for the rest of the evening. I did some walking by the Rivber (see pictures above).

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003 – Day 281

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003 – Day 281

I booked a tour for today. It seems the weather is meant to be dry but cool tomorrow. It is only 25,000 Dong (1.30 Euro) for a trip on the Perfume river to visit the royal tombs. I was up at 7.00am and had breakfast in a local cafe. Lots of competition keeps the prices down.

A group of us (maybe a dozen) were led down to the river at 8.00am and off we went. The weather was good.

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Hue – On the River (26-11-2003)

The Imperial TombsAs befits its history as an Imperial City, Hue’s environs are studded with tombs of past emperors. They are spread out over a distance, so the best way to see them is to hire a car for a half day or take one of the many organized boat tours up the Perfume River. Altogether, there were 13 kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, although only 7 reigned until their death. As befits an emperor, each had tombs of stature, some as large as a small town. Most tomb complexes usually consist of a courtyard, a stele (a large stone tablet with a biography of the emperor), a temple for worship, and a pond.

If you take the boat trip to see the tombs, note that I only paid a measly 25,000 Dong which INCLUDES lunch. I am using Mafia Sinh Cafe. Its great value although they have a deal. They get a cut of the 55,000 Dong (US$3.66) entrance fee for each of the three tombs we are visiting.

Be prepared for when the boat pulls to shore at two tombs; you’ll have to hire one of the motorcycle taxis at the bank to shuttle you to and from the site. You will not have enough time to walk there and back, so you’re basically at their mercy. I paid 15,000 Dong for one but decided to walk to the other. It was 15 minutes there.

Thien Mu Pagoda

This was our first stop, It was free entry.

Often called the symbol of Hue, Thien Mu is one of the oldest and loveliest religious structures in Vietnam. It was constructed beginning in 1601. The Phuoc Dien Tower in front was added in 1864 by Emperor Thieu Tri. Each of its seven tiers is dedicated to either one of the human forms taken by Buddha or the seven steps to enlightenment, depending upon whom you ask. There are also two buildings housing a bell reportedly weighing 2 tons, and a stele inscribed with a biography of Lord Nguyen Hoang, founder of the temple.

Once past the front gate, observe the 12 huge wooden sculptures of fearsome temple “guardians” — note the real facial hair. A complex of monastic buildings lies in the center, offering glimpses of the monks’ daily routines: cooking, stacking wood, and whacking weeds. Stroll all the way to the rear of the complex to look at the large graveyard at the base of the Truong Son mountains, and wander through the well-kept garden of pine trees.

What was interesting is at the back in a garage, they have the car that brought Thich Quang Duc to Saigon in 1963. You can see this car in my pictures and the real pictures i have found of the said event. A Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, (now immotalised) immolated himself in a busy intersection. He poured gasoline all over his body and set himself alight. He maintained a calm and meditative posture as his body burned, and then he simply toppled over. It was because he was against the policies of the then president, Ngo Dinh Diem. You may not know the story, but you know the picture.

The background to why the monk did it can be found here. Others monks followed his route some days after.

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Hue – The car (Which can be seen in the documentary archive pictures above) that brought Thich Quang Duc to his self immolation (26-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Thien Mu Pagoda (26-11-2003)

Tomb of Tu Duc

This was the first tomb we visited and the one I took a motorbike to from the river shore. It was 55,000 Dong in.

With the longest reign of any Nguyen Dynasty emperor, from 1848 to 1883, Tun Duc was a philosopher and scholar of history and literature. His reign was unfortunate: His kingdom unsuccessfully struggled against French colonialism, he fought a coup detat by members of his own family, and although he had 104 wives, he left no heir. The “tomb” was constructed from 1864 to 1867 and also served as recreation grounds for the king, having been completed 16 years before his death. He actually engraved his own stele, in fact. The largest in Vietnam, at 20 tons, it has its own pavilion in the tomb. The highlight of the grounds is the lotus-filled lake ringed by frangipani trees, with a large pavilion in the center. The main cluster of buildings includes Hoa Khiem (Harmony Modesty) Pavilion, where the king worked, which still contains items of furniture and ornaments. Minh Khiem Duong, constructed in 1866, is said to be the country’s oldest surviving theater. It’s great fun to poke around in the wings. There are also pieces of original furniture lying here and there, as well as a cabinet with household objects: the queen’s slippers, ornate chests, and bronze and silver books. The raised box on the wall is for the actors who played emperors; the real emperor was at the platform to the left.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Tomb of Tu Duc (26-11-2003)

Khai Dinh’s Tomb

Completed in 1931, the tomb is one of the world’s wonders. The emperor himself wasn’t particularly revered, being overly extravagant and flamboyant (reportedly he wore a belt studded with lights that he flicked on at opportune public moments). His tomb, a gaudy mix of Gothic, baroque, Hindu, and Chinese Qing Dynasty architecture at the top of 127 steep steps, is a reflection of the man. Inside, the two main rooms are completely covered with fabulous, intricate glass and ceramic mosaics in designs reminiscent of Tiffany and Art Deco. The workmanship is astounding. The outer room’s ceiling was done by a fellow who used both his feet and his hands to paint, in what some say was a sly mark of disrespect for the emperor. While in most tombs the location of the emperor’s actual remains are a secret, Khai Minh boldly placed his under his de facto tomb itself.

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Hue – Khai Dinh’s Tomb (26-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Khai Dinh’s Tomb (26-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Khai Dinh’s Tomb ceiling (26-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Khai Dinh’s Tomb (26-11-2003)

Yeah, this was the nicest of the three tombs. The ceramic mosaics were excellent as were the stone statues of scholars and guards. Cool. We walked to this one despite the digust of the motor drivers who warned us against it.

Tomb of Minh Mang

One of the most popular Nguyen emperors and the father of last emperor Bao Dai built a restrained, serene, classical temple, much like Hue’s Imperial City, located at the confluence of two Perfume River tributaries. Stone sculptures surround a long walkway, lined with flowers, leading up to the main buildings.

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Hue – Tomb of Minh Mang (26-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Tomb of Minh Mang (26-11-2003)

While under restoration, I would skip this one. for 55,000 Dong, its not worth it.

So it was a good day. It was with a good bunch and the lunch was good even though we had it on the move. It was lucky we were the first boat to leave the hue dock this morning. There were half a dozen boats behind us and it stayed that way for the day. We have each tomb to ourselves and they started arriving when we were leaving.

We arrived back at 3.30pm. I did little the rest of the day. I explored the streets around my hotel. There are some nice shops, cafe’s and bars. Its funny as it one Guide book recommends a cafe, 7 new cafes with the same name pop up. There are about 5 DMZ cafes now!!

I read a disturbing report on the BBC website about the different parasites that people pick up while on holidays. As we travel to ever more exotic holiday destinations, we are at the mercy of a whole range of bizarre parasites just waiting to colonise us.

One lady was enjoying her holiday but a mosquito had delivered a tiny botfly egg onto the surface of her scalp. The egg hatched into a maggot and burrowed deep inside. Incredibly, this happens to thousands of people every year. Another guy had a ten inch leech living in his nose. He had been invaded by an aquatic leech. It made its move while he was drinking from a mountain stream.

I watched the unsatisfying Save the Last Dance . Very much a chick flick.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003 – Day 280

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003 – Day 280

I watched THE BROWNING VERSION on TV. It was good.

Andrew Crocker-Harris (Albert Finney), a teacher of Greek and Latin at a traditional English prep school, is called the “Hitler of the Lower Sixth” by his students. His rigidity and cruelty are the sad remnants of an extinguished passion for classical literature. But as he is poised to leave the school–forced into retirement by the headmaster and made ridiculous by the infidelities of his wife Laura (Greta Scacchi)–Crocker-Harris finds his love for learning rekindled by the interest and sympathy of a young student named Taplow (Ben Silverstone), who gives him Robert Browning’s translation of Aeschylus’ AGAMEMNON as a parting gift. Based on a Terence Rattigan play, THE BROWNING VERSION is a character study that finds pathos in British stodginess and makes a subdued plea for the nobility of teaching. Finney is the powerful center of the film, portraying a man whom time and opportunity have passed by. As humiliations are piled upon his character, Finney registers nothing but silent resignation, even as he ratchets up his stoicism to face the next disappointment.

It is meant to rain hard for the next week. Bad luck. I have had little bad weather since I stated this trip nine months ago. I left the hotel at 10.00am and visited the following main sites. They were all under the general admission fee of 55,000 Dong. After that I walked around town. I first went to the Market which was lively.

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Hue – Market (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Market (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Market (25-11-2003)

The Citadel & Imperial City

The Citadel is often used as a catchall term for Hue’s Imperial City, built by Emperor Gia Long beginning in 1804 for the exclusive use of the emperor and his household, much like Beijing’s Forbidden City. The city actually encompasses three walled enclosures: the Exterior Exclosure or Citadel; the Yellow Enclosure, or Imperial City, within that; and, in the very center, the Forbidden Purple City, where the emperor actually lived.

The Citadel is a square 2km (1 1/2-mile) wall, 7m (23 ft.) high and 20m (66 ft.) thick, with 10 gates. Ironically, it was constructed by a French military architect, though it failed to prevent the French from destroying the complex many years later. The main entrance to the Imperial City is the Ngo Mon, the southwest gate or “Noon” Gate, and is where you can get a ticket and enter.

The Forbidden Purple City

Once the actual home of the emperor and his concubines, this second sanctum within the Citadel is a large open area dotted with what’s left of the king’s court. Almost completely razed in a fire in 1947, a few buildings are left among the rubble. The new Royal Theater behind the square, a look-alike of the razed original, is under construction. The partially restored Thai Binh Reading Pavilion, to the left of it as you head north, is notable mostly for its beautifully landscaped surroundings, including a small lake with a Zen-like stone sculpture, and the ceramic and glass mosaic detailing on the roof and pillars, favored by flamboyant emperor Khai Dinh.

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Hue – Palace (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace (25-11-2003)

The Flag Tower

The focal point of the Imperial City, a large rampart to the south of the Noon Gate, this tower was built in 1807 during Gia Long’s reign. The yellow flag of royalty was the first to fly here and was exchanged and replaced by many others in Vietnam’s turbulent history. It’s a national symbol.

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Hue – Flag Tower (25-11-2003)

Thai Hoa Palace

Otherwise known as the Palace of Supreme Harmony, it was built in 1833 and is the first structure you’ll approach at the entrance. It was used as the throne room, a ceremonial hall where the emperor celebrated festivals and received courtiers; the original throne still stands. The Mandarins sat outside. In front are two mythical ky lin animals, which walk without their claws ever touching ground and which have piercing eyesight for watching the emperor, tracking all good and evil he does. Note the statues of the heron and turtle inside the palace’s ornate lacquered interior: The heron represents nobility and the turtle represents the working person. Folklore has it that the two took turns saving each other’s lives during a fire, symbolizing that the power of the emperor rests with his people, and vice versa.

I enjoyed the Royal Palaces. The wars in 1945 and 1968 destroyed most of the city but efforts are been made to restore. A lot of restoration has been undertaken since 1985 and when I was there today, I saw half a dozen structures under restoration. I went in and I thought it was just one main building but its a big 4 sq. km. compound and there are many buildings and enclosures to visit on the corners of the compound. There were very FEW tourists there. I counted maybe 15 although some tour buses starting arriving in the afternoon. I enjoyed it and spend maybe 4 hours there. If I got bored I read a chapter from PORNO which I find is a good read.

After that I walked the compound walls and I visited the market. The market was really good, even better than Hoi An. It was in its closing down stage but was still busy with much produce for sale. The market in Hoi An is getting too touristy. You now get stalls just with tourist crap selling to tourists and many are out to rid off tourists regarding food produce. Hue is more local and down to earth. No tour buses about and I bough bananas and apples for local price with no haggling or bull shit. Good place.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace Fish been fed (25-11-2003)

There were some very heavy showers during the day and its hard to hide from them. I headed back and it seemed to get dark real early here (4.00pm). I found that it was my watch. I know its worth 3 USD but I like it. Its a Spanish speaking Digital I bought 7 months ago. It went crazy this morning. Out of nowhere at 12.00am, the alarm went off (even though it was not set for that time) and I could not turn it off. I pressed every button and slapped it off a tree but it kept going. Five minutes later and it was back to normal. Weird!!

I read a few days ago about a worrying case in Hanoi, Vietnam. Thieves kidnapped a mute 6 year old and put him in a sack. They then sold him as dog meat for 19 USD. When the restaurant owner opened the bag, he discovered the child. Canine meat is big here.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Lady in White (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Working hard in Hue (25-11-2003)

Monday, November 24th, 2003 – Day 279

Monday, November 24th, 2003 – Day 279

My bus was at 1.30pm. I wanted to get up at 7.00am to see the market again. I looked out and the window and it was pouring down rain. It was not like the soft rain we have in Ireland but buckets full. There was no way I could walk out in that. I stayed in the hotel packing until 11.00am when a break in the weather came. I headed down town but it started raining again. I retreated back, wet. There was little to do but wait for the bus to collect me for the four hour bus journey.

It was not a pleasant journey. I was wet and it was terrible weather as we climbed over valleys and hills. We stopped once but it was stormy outside. There were 5 people on the bus and every body was reading. I recently swapped my copy of Stupid White Men and Damage for PORNO by Irvine Walsh of trainspotting fame. Indeed this is a sequel to Trainspotting and reunites the gang as they pursue another big-payoff scheme. I am enjoying it so far.

We came across an a accident which must have happened only seconds before so. Visibility was bad and it was scary looked at the rocks and stormy sea below. A guy in a motorbike had been knocked down by a min van. His bike was underneath and he was on the ground with his clothes in tatters and his scandals thrown off. He was in pain but conscious. He looked pretty bad and it was pissing down. People were taking little notice. I was told by an Irish girl last week that she witnessed two accidents in Laos. She said local people don’t give a toss. In both cases it was tourists who organized transport to a hospital. One guy was German, people tried to kick his wallet and belongings when he crashed. He was in a bad way and the Irish girl had to pay big time for a taxi to take him to a hospital. There, they would not treat him until she paid them 40 USD. They had to make a hole in his skull to release pressure. She also had to pay for transport (car) back to Bangkok. She said locals kicked the other crash victims stuff as well.

Anyway it was 5.45pm when I got to hue. Again we were brought to the Sinh Cafe hotel. It was still raining. I looked at their 8 USD room which was OK but no satellite TV. I wanted to stay here at least four days for Rest and Recreation, so it was a requirement. I left my bag there and headed 400m to a cluster of backpacker hotels. As it is low season, there are deals to be had. You can get a fan room with satellite TV for 5 USD. I looked at three hotels and picked a 6 USD room as it had a window. The cute girl who showed me the room was a factor too.

It had pissed rain from 7.00am this morning when I looked out the window to bed time. I spent two hours on the NET publishing the BLOG for the past seven days and had dinner. There are a number of tourist cafes and tour companies in fierce competition in this area and prices are cheap as can be. I had stir fried vegetables and steamed rice with fresh banana shake for 15,000 Dong (.90 cent).

I was in bed by 11.00pm. I watched some crappy film about the Mercury Programme called the Race to Space. Very crap even if it stars James Woods.

Hue (pronounced “hway”) was once Vietnam’s imperial city, the capital of the country from 1802 to 1945 under the Nguyen Dynasty. Culturally and historically, it might be the most important city in the entire country. While much of it (tragically including most of Vietnam’s walled citadel and imperial city) was decimated during the French and American wars, there is still much to see. One of the most interesting sights is simply daily life on the Perfume River, a malange of dragon and houseboats and longtail vessels dredging for sand. You’ll visit many of the attractions, including the tombs of Nguyen Dynasty emperors, by boat. The enjoyable town has a seaside-resort sort of air, with a laid-back attitude; low-slung, colorful colonial-style buildings; and strings of lights at outdoor cafes at night. There are many local cuisine specialties to sample as well.

  • The BBC investigates how Thailand is faring in its fight to stop the counterfeiting of music, films and software.

  • You may have read my account of a shooting in the Cambodian Capitol while I was here. It is good to now read that the nephew of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been arrested for allegedly taking part in that shooting spree in the capital last month that left at least two people dead. According to police, Hun Sen’s nephew fired an automatic rifle at passers-by. The authorities believe he may have been angry or drunk.

  • I see Ireland is at the forefront in adopting kids from Vietnam.

    While former war foe America is a key destination for Vietnamese adoptees, even countries with apparently scant connections have become keen participants. Ireland saw nearly 100 Vietnamese adoptions last year, up from about 20 in 2001. “As our country has become more prosperous in recent years, the Irish people have started to look to adopt children outside of Ireland,” Daniel Mulhall, Irish ambassador to Vietnam, said at the adoption pact signing in Hanoi. “There are relatively few Irish children available for adoption,” he said.

  • Vietnam looks to join the World Trade Organization.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hoi An – Nice eh (24-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hoi An – Nice eh …; but wet this morning (24-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hoi An – Nice eh but wet (24-11-2003)

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003 – Day 278

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003 – Day 278

I watched the film until 1.30am last night as well as BBC because of the Coup in Georgia. Anyway I was up at 9.00am and went down town to a stall to have noddle soup. It was only 7,000 Dong for a large bowl.

There are so MANY attractions in Hoi An that I cant mentione dthem all. Visit FROMMERS for details. They include …

Cantonese Assembly Hall (Quang Trieu/Guangzhou Assembly Hall)

Central Market

Chinese Assembly Hall

Fukian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien)

Hainan Assembly Hall

House of Hoi An Traditional Handicraft

Japanese Covered Bridge

Museum of History and Culture

Museum of Trade Ceramics

Old House of Tan Ky

Quan Kong Temple

The Old House of Phun Hung

The Sa Huynh Culture Museum

The Tran Family Home and Chapel

Two of the best ones are:

Central Market

If you see one Vietnamese market, make it this one, by the river on the southeast side of the city. There are endless stalls of exotic foodstuffs and services, and a special big shed for silk tailoring at the east end (these tailors charge much less than the ones along Le Loi). Check out the ladies selling spices — curries, chile powders, cinnamon, peppercorns, and especially saffron — at prices that are a steal in the West. But don’t buy from the first woman you see; the stuff gets cheaper and cheaper the deeper you go into the market. Walk out to the docks to see activity there (best early in the morning), but be careful of fish flying through the air, and stand back from the furious bargaining (best before 7am).

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An – Market (23-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An – Market (23-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An – Market (23-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An – Market (23-11-2003)

Japanese Covered Bridge

The name of this bridge in Vietnamese, Lai Vien Kieu, means “Pagoda in Japan.” No one is exactly sure who first built it in the early 1600s (it has since been renovated several times), but it is usually attributed to Hoi An’s Japanese community. The dog flanking one end and the monkey at the other are considered to be sacred animals to the ancient Japanese, and my guide claimed the reasoning is that most Japanese emperors were born in the year of either the monkey or the dog by the Asian zodiac. Later I read something else that claimed maybe it meant construction began in the year of the dog and was completed in the year of the monkey. I’m sure there are many other interesting dog and monkey stories going around. Pick your favorite. The small temple inside is dedicated to Tran Vo Bac De, god of the north, beloved (or cursed) by sailors because he controls the weather

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An – Japanese Bridge (23-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An (23-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An – fisher Man (23-11-2003)

I got my camera pictures (which was full) onto disk for an expensive 50,000 (2.78 Euro) which included the Disk. Its funny but before I said over cahrging foreigners wasnt as bas as I had thoght. Maybe not. I went into a computer sture to buy a CD-R balnk Disk yesterday. First I had to wake up both peopel working there. There are asleep on a bed. They had to get 2 people in to open the case. There were 6 people talking 5 minutes before they would give me a price. It should have been maybe 6,000-8,000 Dong. They said 50,000 Dong!! I alughed. tehn, they said 40,000 Dong and all the way down to 12,000 Dong. This is not bargaing. If youa re naieve in Vietnam, you will get bought and sold. You will get rippd off if you let people.

Today I bought a bunch of bananas from the market. For 2kg, I have paid between 2,500 and 5,000 Dong (.25 cent). Thery were very cheap in the highlands. They have to be shipped to Hoi An. I have seen the ships come wn the river and paddle boats going out to meet them so they can be landed and sold in the market. The lady wanted 50,000 Dong. If I had not known the price, I would ahve offered 25,000 Dong and she would have gotten a good pay day. You might say well fair enough and thats how the capitalist market works. Imagine the case at home if supaermarkets were suddenly taken away. Silly talk

I took the bananas and weighted them and offered 5,000 Dong. It took 5 minutes (and me walking away 3 times) before I got them for 6,000 Dong. She was still happy as I overpaid, but imagaine if peope do pay 50,000 Dong. it means in the long run, they will not lower their price beacuse they belive a sucker tourist will come along and they loose respect for Western people and tourists. Ripping off tourists can become aceptable and an requirement. In Hanoi during the holiday season, officials annouce and promote the ripping off of tourists. They say in the Vietnam tourist brochures that Vietnam is the destiantion for the new millenium.,.. only if you have some street smarts.

i watched Panic room with Jodie Foster on TV.

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003 – Day 277

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003 – Day 277

We arrived at 6.00am in the morning. The bus (Sinh Cafe mafia) brough us to two hotels for viewing. The first hotel was too far from town. There are lots of hotels in Hoi An and its LOW season here. Even so i decided to stay in the second hotel called the HOANG TRINH Hotel. Its brand new and I go a big room for 6 USD. It has 2 big beds, satelite TV, hot water.

It was 6.00am. I was shattered but awakke. I decided to rest, watch BBC and go on a 8.30am tour to My Son. I walked down to the Sinh Cafe branch and pid my 2 USD. What cheap is that for the one hour and thirty minute bus journey there, a guided tour and return trip. I bought a few bread rolls accross the street for brekfast and the journey.

My Son, 71km (44 miles) outside of Danang, is one of the most important Cham temple sites, established in the late 4th century. The temples were constructed as a religious center for citizens of the Cham capital, Danang, from the 7th through 12th centuries. My Son might also have been used as a burial site for Cham kings after cremation. Originally, there were over 70 towers and monuments here, but bombing during the American war (the Viet Cong used My Son as a munitions warehouse) has sadly reduced many to rubble. Additionally, many of the smaller structures have been removed to the Cham Museum in Danang. The complex has a very serene and spiritual setting, however, and what does remain is powerful and evocative. It’s not hard to imagine what a wonder My Son must once have been.

Much of what remains today are structures built or renovated during the 10th century, when the cult of Shiva, founder and protector of the kingdom, was predominant in the Cham court. Each group had at least the following structures: a kalan, or main tower; a gate tower in front of that, with two entrances; a mandapa, or meditation hall; and a repository building for offerings. Some have towers sheltering stelae with kingly epitaphs. A brick wall encircles the compound.

Architecturally, a temple complex shows Indian influences. Each is a microcosm of the world. The foundations are Earth, the square bases are the temple itself, and the pointed roofs symbolize the heavens. The entrance of the main tower faces east, and surrounding smaller towers represent each continent. A trench, representing the oceans, surrounds each group. Vietnamese architecture is represented in decorative patterns and boat-shape roofs.

Group A originally had 13 towers. A-1, the main tower, was a 20.7m-tall (69-ft.-tall) masterpiece before it was destroyed in 1969. Group B shows influences from Indian and Indonesian art. Note that B-6 holds a water repository for statue-washing ceremonies. Its roof is carved with an image of the god Vishnu sitting beneath a 13-headed snake god, or naga. Group C generally followed an earlier architectural style called Hoa Lai, which predominated from the 8th century to the beginning of the 9th. Groups G and H were the last to be built, at around the end of the 13th century.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Nha Hoi An – My Son (22-11-2003)

Entrance to the site is 50,000 Dong. I was VERY disapointed. I expected some thing on a par with my visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Borobudur Temple or the Prambanan Temples in Indonesia.

It rained all the way there, but there were good views of peopel working in the fields. We arrived at 10.00am. It was lashing rain, no-stop, torrential stuff. I had brough my poncho with me although local sellers had a field day, seeling ones for five times the local price. I had bought mine for 3,000 Dong. they were now selling for 15,000 Dong. Our guide you had OK English told us a little about the site. For two hours we brought us around the different Cham Towers and explained a little about them. Maybe its better for purists that thay ahve not been restored, but for normal tourists, you would need a great imagination to undestand the importance of the site. The towers were in ruins, the ground over grown, it was raining and I was bored.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Hoi An (22-11-2003)

I was happy to return at 12.15pm. It was 1.40pm when we arrived back in town. Still for 2 USD transport and 50,000 Dong (2.78 Euro) entrance, I can not complain.

I decided to discover Hio An before the Rugby World Cup Final started. I walked around a bit and had a nice dinner.

If you go, Hoi An will be one of the highlights of your Vietnam visit. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Hoi An was Vietnam’s most important port and trading post, particularly in ceramics. Today it is a quaint old town (844 structures have been designated historical landmarks) still showing the influences of the Chinese and Japanese traders who passed through and settled here. Moreover, it’s small enough to cover easily on foot; you can wander through the historic homes and temples on a quiet Saturday afternoon, perhaps stop to lounge in an open-air cafe, gaze at the endless oddities and exotic foods in the market, or take a sampan ride down the lazy river. In the afternoons when school is out, the streets are thronged with skipping children in spotless white shirts. While the city is eagerly courting tourism and your tourist dollars — meaning there’re plenty of pesky vendors and hawkers — it’s still relatively low-key and genuinely friendly.

On the full moon of every month, local shop owners turn off the electricity and hang lanterns bearing their shop’s name, and a candlelight lantern procession, complete with a few small floats, makes its way through the Old Town and along the riverfront. It’s well worth timing a visit to enjoy the spectacle and the post-processional festivities.

I watched the England V Australia Rugby World Final. It was exciting and found it hard to watch in Extra time. i hate saying it but in the final analysia England deserved to win.

I walked down towna nd met a Canadian who was on my bus last night. We had cofee and a chat. He was as gay as Christmas and was a soft touch for the street kids. They must thing i am a hard case (I am when it comes to begging) because they left me be. at the end of the night he had purchased overpriced cigarrettes, and souveniors. Still he was a film buff and shared some favourite films, although Jodie Foster (i think shes crap) was his favourite actress. He had finished his degree in Politics and had a keen interest in South East Asia. He had learnt Chinese over the past two years and and was travelling to China to learn Chinese and teach English for two years. Hell of a long time.

I watched the Tailor of Panama (2001) with Pierce Brosnan on TV before falling asleep. It was a good movie.

Thursday, November 20th, 2003 – Day 275 to Friday, November 21st, 2003 – Day 276

Thursday, November 20th, 2003 – Day 275

I have a few options in traveling to Hoi An. I can take either the 6.30am bus or the 6.30pm bus which arrives there at 7.00am, the next day. I was too tired to travel today. After the early starts over the past few days and the 9 hours on buses yesterday in addition to a dodgy stomach, I decided to stay in bed this morning. I hope to get the 6.30am bus tomorrow. I decided to stick around for some R&R.

I did little. I syated in bed until 11.00am. i went to the market, had some nice fruit jiuce and purchased some banasas for the journey tomorrow.

I watched New Zealand dismiss France in the 3rd place playoff in the rugby World Cup. I also wrote up the last 7 days of blog and news stories. I was on the net for about 6 hours today.

I walked down to the Sinh Cafe (where I have prepaid my bus ticket to hoi An) but was told that the morning bus was not now going. the Bastards. My mind was made up for going. I was tempted in going in 1 hour on the night bus but felt I should not push myself. The authories in the Vietnamese Embassey in Cambodia has given me a three month visa instead of the one month Visa I had paid for. There was nothing for me. i will go at 6.30pm tomorrow night. I will miss the great scenery. At least i saw 4 hours of it yesterday. We will travelling north on the same road.

Still, I am still anoyed at how lonely Planet recomemnds public bus over open tour system run by backpacker cafes like Sinh Cafe. It says it cuts you off from the local travelling public. Bullshit. At the end of the day tourist buses are SAFER (Public bus drive like mad men), they are CLEANER, MORE COMFORTABLE and CHEAPER. If you were Vietnamese, it would be cheaper to travel on Public bus, but not for foreigners. Its cheaper by tourist bus as you could be charged 100% more on local buses. So cheap, that locals are beginning to use them. Another reason is AIR-CON (you have to have it)a and finally, you do not get half the bus puking there guts out. Vietnamese are very poor bus travellers. i suppose if you are used to travel on bike and motor bike, its indeed strange to be hurling along at 80 miles an hour swerving all over the place.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Nha Trang – (20-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Bha Trang – (20-11-2003)

I see the sailors from the first US Navy ship to visit Vietnam are having a good time in Saigon. U.S. Sailors Shop, Quaff Beer on Saigon Shore Leave .

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (Reuters) – American sailors shopped, drank beer and left Vietnamese bemused in the former Saigon on Wednesday, a bustling neon city with a tinge of its sleazy, wartime past.

But for the sailors, it was about getting off a cramped ship and exploring a city they have only read about or seen in the movies since the war ended in 1975.

They haggled over fake Zippo lighters, joked with other tourists and drew shouts and stares from Vietnamese.

“Hello American,” a bar girl yelled at one group of sailors as they passed by.

The city’s famed “girlie bars,” once packed with GIs on leave from the war, were closed in 1975. But they have made a comeback in recent years, now catering to backpackers and businessmen. “There is still sleaze, but it’s a cleaner, safer city compared to 10 years ago,” said an American businessman who sells oil drilling equipment.

I have a bad habit of looking at people documents before cleaning the computers hisitory file. I clean it to delete my email passwords etc. On a document tonight, it looks like a half Vietnamese son needs help from his English speaking Dad. Interesting!

Dear Dad !

Iam also happy when i heard you are still fine and glad . my jod and my study are normal . As you know ,iam studying English and computer . But i can type computer now . So i don’t need study anymore . Oh, Yes dear Dad ! i also read English books and stories English that Violet Aunt gave me last year in my freetime . Sometime ,i go out with my friends on Sunday nights . Do you know ? The twentieth November in VietNam is The Teachers Day . So the students and the pupils have to visit Teachers’ houses and give presents to them . Such as : Flowers or songs . I often sing a song to give my teacher in that day . The name of song about Teacher is ” BUI PHAN ” . It’s mean ” CHALK DUST “. My teacher is very happy . And i am really happy when i make my teacher happy . Dad ,maybe you know about my job . I work at home from 7 AM TO 4 PM on everyday . I can study although i am really busy with my job and some things else . But i am still trying to get better in English . And in the future ,i will be speak to you influently . and i could be explain what i say but you can’t understand . Dad ! evrerything i do thank to your helps . thanks God gave me a great Father like you .

Dad , i need your help . Could you help me pay for School for next 6 months ? It’s time i have to pay for them . So i hope you can help me . Dad ,do you know ? I really don’t want to bother you . But i can’t do it . Because it’s very difficult for me to pay for school for 6 months . I am always trying to can do it . Dad ! I am really sorry for it . Because i was born in big family . So I have to share with my sisters . I have only you can help me in this problem . Dad ! I have to go ,now . Christmasday is near coming . Iam very happy

Give my best wishes and all my love to you .

Hmm, scam artist!!!! Anyway, I had purchased about 30 bananas for my trip tomorrow (now posponed) so I ate about half of them. I did little the rest of the evening. I walked down to the beach for sun set. Quite nice.

Friday, November 21st, 2003 – Day 276

My bus is at 6.30pm tonight. They said they would collect me from my hotel at 6.00pm. I decided I would do nothing today. I stayed int he hotel until 11.30am. I paid 10 USD for the two nights. nice room but fan ionly. it got very hot ast night. Still fr that price which includes towels, hot water etc. its very good value.

I walked around town and send an hour in a cafe. There are a bit more upscale here. You go into a semi covered enclosure to sit on beach chairs. Pretty young girls bring you ice tea before you order. A ice coffee with milk costs 5000 Dong. You can spend an hour there sipping away. They continue to bring ice tea after your coffee. When you get your change, they bring a free cigareete on a plate!!

A goof thing about the town which was a favourite of American service men during the war is the ice cream factories. They were built for the Americans during the war and remain open. There are a number of ice cream parlours town down that sell great ice cream and milk shakes. Shakes cost about 6000 Dong.

In todays news, EU attacks Vietnam ‘repression’. Religion in Vietnam is controlled by the state and so the European parliament has attacked what it describes as the repression of religious groups in Vietnam.

The parliament accused the Communist authorities in Hanoi of adopting a “deliberate policy” of eliminating non-recognised churches. The parliament said a number of other independent religious groups were being targeted – including the Catholic Church, Montagnard Christians and Hoa Hoa Buddhists.

The resolution called on EU member states to coordinate efforts to promote religious freedom in Vietnam. The United States Congress approved a similar resolution on Wednesday.

I find the national custome worn mainly at dressy occasions like weddings and by secondary school girs very appealing. The Ao Dai – The National Costumes popularity is also spreading well beyond Vietnam’s borders. For years Vietnamese immigrants preferred to adopt Western dress and blend with their new community but now the ao dai is seeing a revival amongst overseas Vietnamese.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Nha Trang – National Dress Ao Dais (21-11-2003)

A lasting impression for any visitor to Vietnam is the beauty of the women dressed in their ao dais. Girls dressed in white pick their way through muddy streets going home from school or sail by in a graceful chatter on their bikes. The ao dai appears to flatter every figure. Its body-hugging top flows over wide trousers that brush the floor. Splits in the gown extend well above waist height and make it comfortable and easy to move in. Although virtually the whole body is swathed in soft flowing fabric, these splits give the odd glimpse of a bare midriff, making the outfit very sensual.

Pronounced ‘ao yai’ in the south, but ‘ao zai’ in the north, the color is indicative of the wearer’s age and status. Young girls wear pure white, fully lined outfits symbolizing their purity. As they grow older but are still unmarried they move into soft pastel shades. Only married women wear gowns in strong, rich colors, usually over white or black pants.

Every ao dai is custom made, accounting for the fit that creates such a flattering look. Stores specialize in their production and a team of cutters, sewers and fitters ensure that the final product will highlight the figure of the wearer. But most visitors to Vietnam agree that the tailors already have the perfect cut. It is hard to think of a more elegant, demure and yet sexy outfit, that suits Vietnamese women of all ages, than the ao dai.

I agree. Its very elegant and sexy. Its real good seeing the girls all dressed in white wae them while riding a bike. They have an elegant way of riding the bike. You never see a girl whose back isnt certical while riding a bicycle. They are always erect when head and body up while arms outstreched to the bars. You never see them slouching over a bike. They usually wear coverings to to protect them from the sun. They see a tan as common while white skin as beautiful. They usually have a baseball hat, a face cloth and long silk gloves up to the elbow. You are unlikely to see any skin.

Another thing I notice is the hundreds of ways locals ride a simple bicycle. I have seen them pull big carts, carry 5 people, I have seen one person on the back transport seat peddle while the rider puts the feet on the handle bars. I have seen a guy standing on the fulcrum of the back wheel standing up holding a umbrealls over the rider. The ways and means !!!

I see U.S. Sailors got a Glimpse of the Vietnam War at the CU CHI tunnels on Friday.

The bus collected me at the hotel at 6.00pm. It left on time at 6.30pm. It wasnt a pleasnt journey. While the driver was safe, the road was quite bad and the weather terrible. it rained heavily most of the way making the road difficult. It was pleasant driving along the coast (although I would have rather have seen it in daylight) seeing the fishing boats with their lights on. It was like something from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There were hundreds out fishinga long the coast. The bus while comfortbale was good for sleep. You could not recline the seats or get comfortable. I must have chaged positions a hundred times but still got little to no sleep. At least I had the Qantas blanket!! We stopped once at 9.30pm. Rough night!! There were maybe 8 tourists on the 45 seater so it wasnt people crampled or smelly.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2003 – Day 273 to Wednesday, November 19th, 2003 – Day 274

Tuesday, November 18th, 2003 – Day 273

The storm that was to hit today as been downgraded. Still a lot of work to undo last weeks damage.

I was woken by the cleaners who charged into my room at 8.00am. After telling them to feck off, I thought I should get up. Felt a rumble in my tummy and found that stomach bug led to diardea. It could have been dozens of things from yesterday. It might have been ice, the rice wine, food. I walked down to the remaining attractions I have not seen yesterday. i did not bother visiting the Orphafes.

I did get a chance to visit another minority village and walk down to the rice pady fields to see farmers using a wooden plough and oxen on the fields. I stayed down there for an hour.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Kon Tum – New Catholic Church (18-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Kon Tum – Hill Tride Traditional rung House (18-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Kon Tum – Farming/Ploughing in a rice Paddy (18-11-2003)

My stomach was in bad shape, I was getting pissed off by the noisy inquisitive kids and the constant hellos. For the first time, I stated ignoring there cat calls.

I headed back at noon and stayed in bed for 2 hours. I was no better and walked to the bus station (25 minutes). As is usual here, they would not sell me tickets to Qui Nhon and had been difficultly in getting them to tell me the times of the buses.

I walked back to the hotel. No better, so I visited a chemist for some gut wrenching medicine. I went on the NET for a while and headed back to the room. I only have local TV but watched a football game. It has a reputation of been corrupt. Some players and coaches were banned last Wednesday.

The Vietnam Football Federation has banned the deputy captain of the national team and two other players for up to five years for involvement in match-fixing, an official said Wednesday.

it seems its a problem all over South east Asia.

In a series of landmark rulings, the national associations of Iran, Oman, Thailand and Bangladesh were punished for putting over-age players, some as old as 20, during last the 2000 Asian Under-16 championship in Vietnam (now if this isnt wrong then I dont what is) .

There are a number of availble buses. Again there is a fixed price for Vietnamese citzens, but God only knows what I will end up paying tomorrow. At least the good weather is returning. i paid the hotel for the two days (16 USD) and asked them to wake me at 5.30am. I am up to get the 6.15m bus.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Kon Tum – Plouging with Oxen (18-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Kon Tum – Lost calf in Rice Paddy (18-11-2003)

Yeah, I was pissed off today. i enjoyed the rural landscapes but my patience with over friendly people (I must be in a bad mood) has me worn thin.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2003 – Day 274

I was awake at 5.15am. I paid a moto taxi driver 5000 Dong to get me to the station. The locals price was 30,000 Dong and the driver on the bus offered me a ticket for 40,000 Dong. This was reasonable.

Off we went. I got a nice seat at the back. It was 200km to Qui Nhon. It was a hot day and I sweating like a pig. At least my stomach was better. Again three girls puked on the bus. The drivers seem used to it. They all carry plastic bags. i have never seen any thing like it. It was quite fulla nd some of there habbits get up my nose.

Many locals will take off their shoes, socks and place their feet in front of you. If they sit in the lotus position they have their knees and elbows on you too. They have no concept of personal spece. They will place there arms around your neck for comfort. Over the past few days if I am writing anything they will walk up behind you and try to see what you are writing. at the chemist last night, I had the world diardea translated into vietnamese so tat I could show it to the chemist. Before I could, two women took my note booka nd started going throught it, pointed out any destiantions they knew. At the bus stationt his morning, a man took it upon himself to try and get holdof my note book as I was writing. Basically I told me to feck off. i was rude, and they may not think hat they are doing is rude but I was not in the mood.

It took four hours to get to Qui Nhon. It was near 11.00am and as far as I could asertain, there was a bus leaving at 11.00am. I went to the official counter and saw on the board that the price was 42,000 Dong. I went to buy a ticket. i did not expect to be sold one, but she started writing it up. I though that my luck was changing. Good old Vietnam. They are getting their shit together. But then she wrote the cost. 84,000 Dong. She simply doubled the local price. She was surprised went I told her to stuff it. I wasnt rude. I waited until the bus was about to leave until I approached the driver. I had ignored a 100 guys asking me where I was going until then. The bus was still half empthy.

The driver knows good business. He can leave without me if he wants to charge 84,000 Dong but can get me in with a bargain. So we bargin. I get it from 84,000 Dong to 60,000 Dong. its still expensice but off we go. He and the conductor colelct many people on the road. The scenery was good but it was a hot day. At one point there were 12 available sets inthe bys but 19 people were in there. The driving was crazy. I dont mean just dangereous but crazy. It was like a grand prix race. Were on the wrong side of the road many times. As most vehicles are motor bikes under 50 cc, we have to blast the horn until they move out of the way or serve around them. We were all thrown from either side of the van. Its impossible to describe how bad the driving was. The driver could not surpass a nice bounty by collecting a guy with two boes of fish. Theis amde things worse. In this small can, 4 gitrls and 1 guy got sick. There were people uking up all over the place. This is the main road south. Luckily they all puke into bags and throw them out the window.

There was a nice lady beside me who ofered me food along the way. Because of the speed. we did the 240km run in 4 hours. They dropped me off close to the Cathedral. I walked to my old hotel where my bag was stored. back in Nha Trang.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Nha Trang – Sunset (19-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Nha Trang – kite fliging at Sunset (19-11-2003)

I did little the rest of the day as my body was shattered. I have not changed my clothes for 4 days or had a decent wash. The towels in Kun Tom had mould over over them from lack of use and there were lizards in the room. There were those small bastard ones you get all over Asia. There was hassle in the hotel as they looked for my bags.

They found them and I re booked into the hotel for 5 USD a night. I had a decent clean upa nd walked tot he NET cafe for a while. I had a road side beer and had an early night.

I found out today that Don Duong, a Vietnamese actor, who played the role of a North Vietnamese colonel on the losing side of a key battle against the Americans in Mel Gibson film WE WERE SOLDIERS had to leave Vietnam.

Duong left the country earlier this year after being denounced for taking the movie role.

US frigate in historic Vietnam visit: A US frigate docked in Vietnam on Wednesday, becoming the first US warship to visit since the Vietnam War.

I see the afilitate Amazon site has updated my traffic and web links.