Archive for the 'Vietnam' Category

Yes, they actually do, I was born a year after it was over! and alright, now what?

The Wandering Nerd May 12th, 2008

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Welcome to lovely Hanoi! I only stopped in Hue long enough to change buses before hopping on the next overnight sleeper bus here to Hanoi. Finally landing in a hostel - a much needed change. I’m not really a ‘guesthouse’ sort of guy. They are just really cheap hotels and the moment you compartmentalize people, even travelers, they stop wanting to interact with each other. All of the guesthouses really seem to be this sterile environment, and people freeze up if you try to talk to them. In the hostel environment you end up getting to meet so many people in such a short time frame that you can’t really help but have a good time. I have been really in an anti-social sort of mood of late, so this is really what I need to recharge my batteries. Well this and vodka tonics the size you see.

If I am never ever on a sleeper bus again, it will be far too soon. The one thing to remember when dealing with the bus is that the horn is used at the slightest provocation - often I think the driver was simply bored and needed to mentally stimulate himself by playing little tunes. Rather foolishly, I picked the top bunk directly behind the driver thinking it would be convenient for the whole entry/exit thing. By about 4 in the morning I was still awake and franticly fighting the urge to garrote the guy from my perch. I’m only slightly joking. Sleep dep-ing someone who doesn’t sleep well anyway is a recipe for something that ends in ‘-cide’. He and I had a tenuous relationship. When you get on the bus you have to take your shoes off, apparently I went up one too many steps with my shoes on and he slapped me across the thigh and babbled at me in Vietnamese pointing to my feet. I may have said something unpleasant to him, possibly even something rude, but we had this great thing where I didn’t understand him yelling at me and he couldn’t understand me cursing him so we both just stood there and yelled for a while. He made it a point to hold the little plastic bag - in which were meant to keep said shoes - open for all of the girls getting on the bus which meant sitting up a few steps and leering down their shirts as they took their shoes off. All class this guy.

The Vietnamese use the buses for more than just travelers. It functions as an impromptu public transit service - people will just sit in the aisles while we’re all asleep - as well as a parcel courier service. This means that the bus, throughout the course of the night, makes frequent stops where the driver slams on the breaks while blowing the horn - in point of fact any change necessitates the application of the horn - then he engages in a lengthy, loud and heated debate with some random person on the side of the road, a package is tossed in the bus, they give him some money and we rocket off into the night once more, me cursing the dark gods for not granting me a quick death.

Hanoi is the best city I’ve found yet in Vietnam. It’s loud, and I’m talking really really loud when you’re walking along the street, the horns don’t seem to ever end. I’m developing some sort of pathological hatred of horns. Maybe I’m just beating a dead dog here, but really the horn over here has transcended any acceptable balance of usefulness. I’m sorely tempted to set up a shop selling ‘horn fluid’ and telling people they may run out if they don’t stock up.

I stopped by the Vietnam Army Museum for a quick wander. They were supposed to have an old F-111, but apparently no longer. At least I couldn’t find it, and it’s not like they’re small. They did have a UH-1 - Huey , a couple of Migs - Mig-21 and Mig-17 and an A-27 Dragonfly - which later became the strangely named T-37 Tweet, still used for USAF undergraduate pilot training. I had some Firefox moments, dreaming of hopping into the Mig-21 and heading out…too bad there was no engine, they’d mounted in in concrete and all of the guards took a special interest in me for the entirety of my time there. I must look shifty.

The ‘museum’ was mostly written exclusively in Vietnamese, so I mainly just looked at stuff that interested me, not feeling the need to read everything. As I’ve said, it’s a pleasant way to enjoy a museum. You just focus on the things that you find cool. A number of strange looks were thrown at me while I was in the museum area, I think I was the only westerner. By the way the girls at the ticket counter looked at me - then at each other - I assume that most people don’t answer ‘America’ when asked where their from as they buy tickets.

This kinda’ brings up the whole ‘do you find you get negative reactions from the people you meet when you say you’re from America?’ The answer: Nope. The only times I’ve ever even had people be even remotely churlish about where I’m from, they’ve been guys invariably from Canada. I don’t know what it is lately but all the Canadian blokes I’ve met have been arrogant sots, and from me that means something. The ‘American’ stereotype isn’t something I’ve ever been accused of, other than the loud part. Which is true in my case. So it goes.

Speaking of going, my time in Vietnam is rapidly drawing to a close. My next post will be from a completely different area of the world. Where could it be you ask? It could be…

*Updated*: I don’t know if I just haven’t noticed this before or if there’s a bug in the NextGen Gallery thing. Seems to me now that when you go to the next page of a gallery it forces a full page reload - not that big of a deal - but it also jumps back to the top of the page. I find this very annoying, especially on slow connections. Sadly the other options all require Flash and I want something with minimum requirements for you, my gentle audience. So here’s the solution. I’m going to include a link to a Tiltview version of the gallery, as well as keep the older style. If you’ve got the PC and bandwidth to handle the fancy schmancy Tiltview, go for it. If not, you’re sort of stuck with the page jumps until I get more than 20 minutes in an airport to come up with a fix. Trust me, keeping this thing going isn’t as easy as I make it look….and I make it look gooooood. -Nerd->OUT

Tiltviewer link

sometimes i want to move to the other part of town
but to keep from going out of my mind
i move the furniture around
moving furniture around
-the handsome family

I gotta’ keep movin’, don’t any of you people say hello just to say hello? and It’s a psychobilly freak-out!

The Wandering Nerd May 9th, 2008

Today I want to talk about synchronicity.

It’s the concept of the interrelatedness of it all. Or things that seem to coincide in a non-causal way. Richard Bach used the idea of the blue feather to illustrate it in Illusions, and Michael Talbot talked around the whole thing without ever actually coming out and saying it in The Holographic Universe. The EPR Paradox - which Talbot refers to at points - is perhaps an ideal scientific example. It illustrates the concept of Quantum Entanglement, also known as “Spooky action at a distance” - and people say theoretical physicists don’t know how to party.

I’m just a poor dumb farmboy from Kentucky, so I’m don’t know much about all that highfalutin stuff. What I do know about it is Ayers Rock. I’ve only been aware of it recently, but I think it’s stalking me. You may ask yourself, how could a big boulder thousands of miles away from you be stalking you? I asked the same thing. I even looked up to see if the ‘giant rock outcropping’ class was allowed to take stealth as a primary skill. I’m a bit weird sometimes - but, just so you know, I couldn’t find it in the rulebook. Still and all though it’s there, it’s everywhere lately.It all started when I read the Bill Bryson book In a Sunburned Country - It’s about Australia.

I figured if I was going to be there for 2 years or so I should at least learn all I can about XXXX before actually heading down there. The long and short of it is, there’s a lot of shit in Australia that can kill you, they got the better end of the whole penal colony thing, Queenslanders are nutters (mad as cut snakes I hear), and then there’s Ayers Rock. It is a fascinating occurrence simply that it exists. The last remnant of some weathered mountain range, standing alone in the middle of, quite literally, nowhere. Then it started showing up everywhere for me.

In Foucault’s Pendulum - not a book to read right before going to sleep - Umberto Eco refers to the Aboriginal writings on it in passing. Earlier that very day I was walking down the street in Nha Trang and there was a tattered post card of the rock stuck in some siding of a building. Today I overheard some people on the bus - speaking in Spanish mind you - flipping through a guide to Australia talking about Ayer’s Rock. Eerie… Now for the fun part of this, I’m curious to how many of you will start finding Ayer’s Rock references. That would be some spooky action at a distance wouldn’t it.

All of this brings me back to synchronicity and subsequently from the reading, Littlewood’s law. To facilitate the continuation of my post, and knowing full well that most people don’t have interest in following all of these links, Littlewoood’s Law states that states that individuals can expect a ‘miracle’ to happen to them at the rate of about one per month. In this case he defines a ‘miracle’ as an exceptional event of special significance occurring at a frequency of one in a million. The argument being that said event happens in a second, and we have roughly one million seconds of awareness in about 35 days, thus probability would mandate that something like a miracle occurs every month.

My view is that is his supposition is slightly flawed, he assumes only 8 hours of alertness per day, I say we have more and thus miracles happen more often. The catch is noticing them. I had like three all in one day, so I’m screwed for the next few months, but you guys, you’re all set now. I’ve let you in on one of the secret rules of the game. Watch for those ‘exceptional events’. I’d even suggest that you go so far as making your own exceptional events. Beyond that, I’ll just say this, we can’t completely control what happens to us in life, miraculous or banal, but we can control how we let it affect us.

The overnight bus trip to Hoi An left me dead to the world. I found an overpriced place to crash and did just that for the majority of the morning. I don’t know what it is about South Vietnam, but the people that work ‘customer service’ down there don’t really seem to have a concept of it. I was really shocked by the abruptness and in some cases downright rudeness of the people I was trying to have render some service. The moment you cross the former DMZ - I’m in Hue right now waiting on a bus - there is a complete shift in how you’re treated. Strange.

Hoi An was really just another city. Supposedly it’s a World Heritage Site (just like Ayer’s Rock!) but from what I saw that just meant that all of the roads were a mess of construction and they dramatically overpriced their ’souvenirs.’ It’s not really the Vietnam I expected. For the sake of clarity, I’ve made it this far into the ‘Nam and have yet to come under any fire from the Viet Cong, though the day is young. And to play on one more stereotype, and this is just a casual observation mind you, I’ve seen a lot of puppies around, but I haven’t seen too many full grown dogs…just throwing that out there non-causally.

I took the afternoon to walk around the city and take the snaps, but the whole place just didn’t seem to have any character. Rows upon rows of the same shops selling the same stuff. When the highlight of a city in Vietnam is the Japanese bridge, there’s not too much one can reasonably expect.The hotel - the overpriced hotel - I stayed at did have an actual bathtub. I cannot express to you in words how good a hot bath goes after so long on the road. The only way I could really explain it is through interpretive dance, and as this is a written medium and I’m not about to film something like that - which would totally screw up my political career - we’re both off the hook. Me from doing it and you from having to suffer through watching it.

give it a rest, give it a rest, give it a day,norman says that you can take a valium,or maybe something stronger,’cause he doesn’t understand…
-harvey danger

Make me one with everything, I swear to the dark gods, and where the hell is everyone?

The Wandering Nerd May 6th, 2008

If you ever happen to be traveling around the world - like ya’ do - and get stuck somewhere, Nha Trang isn’t all that bad of a place to be stuck. We’re a block from the beach, across the street from a bar with a happy hour that lasts from 9 am to midnight - deadly, and we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to cuisine types of cheap eats.

We’re stuck because Tim’s replacement card is enroute to the hotel, along with some other weird card reader thing that he needs to do any sort of internet banking. Apparently the English banking system doesn’t mind taking in money but they go through a staggering effort to make it so you cannot get it back out, move it around or see how much of your money they have. I don’t think the British actually have a word for ‘convenient’, probably no room left with how many ways they have to apologize. There are a goodly number of British travelers over here and they apologize for everything, “I’m sorry, is it okay if we order?…Forgive me, but could we pay now?…I’m sorry, what did you say again?” This shouldn’t turn into a litany, but damn, I’m wondering what kind of secret dark guilty secret every British person harbors at a deep genetic level. Probably still feeling bad of that whole, ‘Let’s colonize THE WORLD!” thing. I have to wonder if someday Americans will evolve into something similar, what with our thinly veiled imperialism. Though knowing what I know of America, I doubt we’ll ever be all that keen to apologize for anything, much less everything.

I’ve been meaning to cover the costs associated with this world travel stuff, and someone recently reminded me of it, so here goes. Travel through Europe is pricey, like really pricey. I’d have to say about 70% of my funds went to my time in the EU. Having to do it all over again I would be able to cut that down now that I know how things work, but not really by much. Staying in a hostel over there is usually about USD $20 a night. Now when you get to SE Asia things change dramatically. Right now the place I’m staying - double room shared with Tim - has a fridge, and en suite bathroom - is only USD $10 a night, and as I said it’s only a block from the beach, air conditioned and quite nice.

Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are kinda’ strange when it comes to money. In Cambodia you actually use the US dollar, which was odd to get back to, and to be pulling Jacksons out of the ATM. In Vietnam however, everyone is a millionaire. How awesome is it that their money is the ‘Dong’, I’ve devoted a small portion of my brain just to keep chuckling about that for the whole time I’m here. There are 16,000 Dong to every one dollar, so a 100 bux makes you 1.6 million Dong richer. I don’t understand why the countries where inflation is like this - in Laos it was 8000 Kip to one dollar - don’t just start printing money without the extra three 0’s and move on. Think about all the money it would save in printing costs. So a quick breakdown on costs, room is about 160,000 Dong a night, a double vodka and tonic is 15,000 Dong, and a nice steak meal is 90,000 Dong. Yeah, you can eat Pho from a street vendor for 5,000 Dong but after my experiences I’m sticking to western food for a bit before delving back into the culinary equivalent of 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate when done improperly.

For those that asked, yes I am feeling better. It passed rather quickly. When one comes staggering out of the restroom bedraggled and covered in sweat and the only phrase one can utter is, “…tabula…rasa…” it is rather nice to not tarry long. I’m back to the pinnacle of health, or as close to it as I ever make it.

I did at least get to get some more diving while I was here. One bad point about getting my diving certs, and indeed starting my diving in Thailand, is they have some really great dive sites there. Which puts something of a wet blanket on the rest of the dive site you can go to. Diving here is nice enough, but after some of the cool stuff I got a chance to do back in the Andaman Sea it just doesn’t really compare. At least I’m getting up in my numbers of dives - 25 total now - so I don’t feel quite like the newbie when I’m under. Still have the occasional moment of “OH SHIT GONNA DIE!!! SWIM UP, SWIM UP!!!” but they are less frequent.

I’m gonna’ be moving on to Hoi An tomorrow, leaving Tim here in Nha Trang to wait on his stuff. I’m not exactly sure what all my travel plans are but I have this nagging urge to get moving again. Even though I’m still in limbo regarding the Melbourne loans and such, as well as any sort of job or living arrangement for the summer. Still so many things need to happen that are thoroughly out of my control, which is not a position I care to be in. Frustrating.

Ah, and I must say Vietnam has no idea how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I was sorely disappointed. Stopped by ‘El Coyote’ expecting them to be doing something for the fifth. Turns out the highest recommended Mexican restaurant in town is run by the French, the French! Something is terribly wrong in the world when the French start making burritos. On the menu they only had listed ‘frozen margaritas.’ I’m something of a purist when it comes to these things and a frozen will not do. I’ve had - on numerous occasions - the tell tale blank stare of total bewilderment when I’ve asked for anything that even slightly deviates from the menu when traveling in SE Asia. So I knew the moment I asked for my margarita ‘on the rocks’ as opposed to ‘frozen’ that it was going to be a long night. The waitress just pointed to the bartender, who looked western enough that I had hope. So I walked up and asked if he was able to do on the rocks. Bastard looked at me like I should be wearing a helmet when outside the ‘home’ and said, in a very frenchly way, ‘of course…’ I’ll translate that for the benefit of the reader, what he said may have been something innocuous, but what he meant was, ‘of coorz you zilly engleesh pig dog, I shall juzt not uze ze blendher.’ Bleedin’ French. I will give him the credit for making a decent margarita, but the guacamole was pureed green pepper, no avacados in sight over here. Strange that the one food I’m really missing lately has been Tex Mex. I realize how horrible it is, but the first thing I’m gonna’ chow down on when I get back to the states is gonna’ be a Grilled Stuffed Burrito from the Bell…

Nerd out with the herd out!



the waiting drove me mad…
you’re finally here and I’m a mess
i take your entrance back…
can’t let you roam inside my head
-pearl jam

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