Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Sarah at the Datanla Falls about 7 km outside Dalat
The second thing you notice is the change of scenery. It’s green, as in Jolly Green Giant green, everywhere. As you take the 25 km journey from the airport to the city, or should I say town as its population is less than 200 000, the scenery changes from rural, ramshackle abodes with pale green, checkered patches of various vegetables in the yard (you know the kind – with the scrawny chickens scratching in the dust), to imposing and fragrant dark green pine forests bold enough to impose themselves right up to the edge of the windy road as you ascend up to Dalat.
A view of the city from the cable car building
The town itself felt like a Vietnamese version of a Mediterranean coastal town, with the same cliff-built houses and coffee-shops, with locals lazing around on street corners and sporting the same narrow, winding road effect. Dalat's also the home of the beret-wearing, goatee-sporting "bohemian" types. We never did forget where we are though, as the omnipresent, neon-lit “Eiffel Tower” made us feel right at home.
View of the town square with Cho Dalat (Dalat Market on the left)
That damn "Eiffel Tower" is like a "Where's Waldo?" - it pops up everywhere!
The communications tower wasn’t the only Vietnamese kitch, which we’ve all grown to love, on offer: You can rent swan-shaped paddle boats for a spin on the lake, there are neon-lit clubs and coffee-shops, including the Ngoc Lan Eyesore Hotel which mysteriously dominates in the background of all photos, no matter which angle you take them from! Horse-and-carriage rides around the lake, walks in the wilting flower garden (maybe it was just the wrong season), jostling and elbowing other tourists for a spot to pose in front of one of the numerous waterfalls dotting the region – or even taking the “coasterbob” rollercoaster down the hill to the Datanla Falls. You name it, Dalat’s got it in abundance, except we didn’t see any pink, ceramic flamingoes…
A view from a swan
I'm not ashamed to say I loved it immensely, kitsch and all, and not just cause I got to spend it with my kickass girlfriend. The people are damn hospitable. Check out the Dreams Hotel on Pham Dinh Phung Street to see what I mean. The owner, Mrs Dung, has received rave reviews and they’re all justified. The rooms aren’t much to look at, but the accommodating and forthcoming nature of the staff (as well as the killer breakfast with Marmite and Vegemite – a rarity in Vietnam) more than made up for it.
At the Tiger Falls
The people, the weather, the beautiful scenery, (and all the other little weird things like the ghost restaurant we ate at on the Sunday) added up to a pretty damn good weekend and I think Sarah loved her birthday as much as I did.
The cable car that takes you over a 2.3 km expanse of green foliage to a reservoir and Buddhist monastry
A view of Xuan Huong Lake by night
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
HCM CITY, VIETNAM – President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, made a brief and disappointing visit to the southern city on Friday to speak at a business forum of expatriate South Africans and Vietnamese business delegates regarding improved trade between the two former-colonial nations.
Held at the Caravelle Hotel, the business delegation from South Africa consisted of a number of bored government officials, including the always-eloquent Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Deputy Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry Rob Davies and Minister of Education Naledi Pandor. A number of CEOs and directors from big South African companies, such as SAB Miller, Absa and Standard Bank, were also present.
Following an enthusiastic welcoming speech by the vice-chairman of the HCMC People’s Committee, Mr Nguyen Trung Tin, Davies led an informative presentation regarding South Africa’s increased trade role in Vietnam. Davies concluded that SA could supply mining technology, pharmaceuticals and chemical and agricultural products to Vietnam and that South Africa did not need the country's cheap labour because “we have our own, thank you” (okay, I made up that last part - journalistic freedom). In 2006, exports to the socialist republic were only $48 million – SA’s 68th biggest trade partner compared with Japan at $6000 million – and imports only $100 million.
The audience, which included two South African expatriates currently residing in the city and working in the education sector, waited anxiously for the promised speech by the president. The business forum was clearly treated as a stopover lacking in diplomatic clout, after official meetings in the capital Hanoi earlier the week, however, and it was evident that the president had no intention of preparing a speech of omniscient proportions for the event, much to the disappointment of the Vietnamese (and the expatriate) businesspeople present. In fact, he had no plan to prepare a speech at all and instead President Mbeki said he would just answer questions, of which most were from his own delegation.
The lack of communication, cooperation and clear goals between the two countries’ business sectors baffled Mbeki, who said “We have to look at the weakness of our organised business structures.” He was clearly surprised by his own delegation member, Mr Rob Davies’, statistics regarding trade between the two developing countries.
Perhaps the most emphatic point Mbeki made was concerning a question set by a Mr Lai Huu Phuong, of Ben Thanh Tourist, inquiring whether any South African tourism company had any plans to invest in Vietnam. Mbeki replied that one has to look at the [lack of cooperation in the tourism industry] from “a holistic point of view”.
“I have my doubts whether South African Airlines have any plans to fly to Vietnam,” he said.
Cam on, Mr President, xin cam on.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
“Well imagine that,” you must be thinking. “He actually got off his lazy butt and decided to write something!”
So, as with most things that have become a tad confusing and outdated, one would do well to take it back the beginning, the root so to speak, and look at what it was then and what it has become. Thus, without trying to seem too arrogant, I want take this blog back to what it was when I, in a haze of dust and a revelry of real-life phantasm and delirium, stopped writing on it (barring the lame excuses and drawn out promises of updates). So thus, I introduce “Part 1” of the recount of my experiences to date.
That would take me back to the end of April, after a return from Mui Ne and Al Berg’s visit. I would like you now to imagine the soothing, trebling voice of a stage-hypnotist, softly caressing your senses, an oracular, oral massage of a message:
“Imagine a secluded beach resort, run by an eccentric Canadian, with nothing but beach and semi-private bungalows in sight…imagine being stroked to sleep by the narcotic breaking of waves onto the sand at night, drifting away under your mosquito net…imagine spending the days alternating between lying under a crude bamboo shelter on the beach with your partner, sheltered from the sweltering sun, occasionally venturing out from under the cover to cool off in the blue ocean, and lazing in a hammock, reading your book, drinking a beer, with nothing to worry about except running out of sunscreen or mosquito repellent,” and like the TV Bar chocolate advertisement of old – of the boys sheltering under the bus-stop in the pouring rain - the hypnotist utters the memorable line; “Imagine all of that…NOW!” and snaps his fingers and the audience let out a communal sigh and eyes roll back in their heads as if they’re fervent members of a religious cult.
“That, ladies and gentleman, is Jungle Beach Resort, 60 kilometres north of Nha Trang City on the south-east coast of Vietnam,” croons the tuxedo-clad hypnotist. Yet, suddenly he coughs and stutters. What could be the matter?
“But, all is not what it seems to be,” he rasps. “Beware, the lures of the so-called ‘trek to the waterfall’. It is not as glamorous as it seems. The road is treacherous and the journey arduous,” warns the man on stage, “and the end result will not be what you expected. Where, in your delusions of splendour you saw a shimmering sheet of water falling from the heights of a marble mountain only to splash, bubble and foam into a crystal-clear pool at the bottom, in reality you’ll be greeted by a trickle running down a mossy, sloped rock, ending in a dirty pool with a big irrigation pipe leading into it.”
“Heed this warning, too, of not overstaying your visit beyond the scope of the limited menu, which seems to be about five days, by which time dinners seem to repeat themselves.”
“But,” (the hypnotist is about the bring the audience out of their fantasy) “do not underestimate the healing power of a few days at Jungle Beach, which may cure even those most beset of evils such as city-sadness, city-sickness and covered-in-city-slickness.”
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Will be back next week with some sun-soakin' pics in the sun in Krabi.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Well, where to begin…
I guess an introduction would do, I’m Alan, aka mullet, Henno’s friend. I decided to come and visit him and Christoff at their crib in the Tan Binh District. The past two weeks here in Vietnam have been an adventure unlike any I’ve had before.
The chaos of being on Ho Chi Minh City’s streets in peak traffic or the tranquility of the beaches with it’s palm trees and peanut fishing boats. The peace and luxury of a massage and facial or the thrill and rugged beauty of travelling the countryside on a scooter, seeing parts of the Vietnamese countryside in ways that many westerners will never experience and shooting targets with an AK47 assault rifle or haggling with a shopkeeper in the market over the price of water. Eating amazing meals in a restaurant with 5 star service or chowing down on a durian fruit or a pigeon’s head. The graphic, disturbing and mostly justified hatred of America for the Vietnam War from the local perspective depicted in all of the museums and other war-related tourist attractions or the selfless attitude of locals who would like nothing better than to help a person to get the most from their visit regardless of the reward.
These are but a few of the crazy, amazing, unexpected, annoying, shocking (and many more adjectives that I cant be bothered to mention) experiences that I’ve had in Vietnam.
When I first arrived at the airport to see Henno and Christoff calmly leaning against their scooters anxiously waiting to see my initial reaction, I was completely overwhelmed by the city and all that it had to offer but after a few days, even initially strange things like the upbeat music, drawling bleat or decidedly midi tune of a passing merchant selling some or other product or service became a familiar sound that formed part of the day to day hum of HCMC and just faded into the background.
One of the highlights of the trip would have to be taking a scooter out into the countryside to go and see the Cu Chi tunnels, getting lost on the way there, lost on the way back, getting caught in a tropical thunderstorm and soaked to the bone before being flagged of the road and into a tiny roadside “café” for a Coke and bombarded by questions in both Vietnamese and broken English. Another, playing footie with the Saigon Raiders and kicking some ass before retiring from heat exhaustion and blistered feet.
I won’t even begin to mention embarrassing karaoke jaunts, throwing up after memorable (?!) nights on the town and sampling some of the more exotic fruits and delicacies.
I could hardly begin to summarise everything that I have seen, done and experienced in the two weeks I’ve been here but I can say that it has been an amazing experience and a shitload of fun. It has also been awesome to see two of my good friends and the friends that they have made along the way enjoying life and being so at ease and content.
Thanks burgs for showing me how you roll, It was killer. Enough said.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Meanwhile, here are some pics of Ricky, a crazed Australian with delusions of rock stardom we saw in front of Go2 Café last weekend. Christoff actually posed with him in the Chin Chin Chin (999) convenience store whilst he exposed himself quite thoroughly (Ricky not Christoff), but I’ll keep that picture safe for now. Talking about getting to hang out with your wang out, chill out with your dill out, rock out with…you get the idea.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
It is officially on. It’s on like the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. What is? The bet, my friend.
I have officially entered the debaucherous underworld that is betting. This weekend, while missioning around town, we met my friend Mahon at Sheridan’s Irish Pub for a pint. Mahon ended up telling a story about how he cycled from the east to the west of Ireland to a music festival on a racing bicycle because his friends bet him he couldn’t do it. Not only did he make it, says my Irish friend, but he beat his friends who were travelling to the said festival in a car…
Now, maybe this doesn’t sound that unbelievable, but then you don’t know Mahon. A short description follows: My Irish friend is a skinny white guy with shaved red hair, who smokes more than a pack a day and drinks himself to death…literally. He is probably that white because he doesn’t come out at night. Why? Because he starts drinking in the morning and by the afternoon he’s too kieshed to move so he either drags himself home or gets dragged home. I’ve never seen him move faster than at slow, deliberate, walking pace – the kind you do when you’ve got to take a dump but you’re scared of running to the toilet in case of an accident so you carefully manoeuvre yourself towards the bathroom. Actually, I lie. He chased me about 20 metres down the road one night after we left Sheridan’s because I was singing a horrendous rendition of “Finnegan’s Wake” and he hated it. He was out of breath for three days.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love this guy, he’s an awesome, kind-hearted dude that’s supposedly a wizard with a paintbrush and a poet to boot. Sounds a bit like the tragic Dylan Thomas but Mahon would probably chase me another 10 metres down the road for comparing him to a Welsh writer. As I was saying, he’s a fantastic guy and has become a good friend this year, but when he regaled us with that one particular tall tale, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Gently nudging my way towards my goal, I asked whether he would be able to do something similar again, to which his Irish ego obviously took offence that I could even suggest that he was not in good enough shape to attempt the miraculous feat again. Thus, I proffered the invitation, involving a wager of $100, to cycle to Vung Tau from Ho Chi Minh City next weekend (Vung Tau is a seaside town about 120 km from Ho Chi). Mahon said he could do it any day of the week and that I just needed to provide him with a racing bicycle.
So, barring any divine interventions, Mahon has to cycle to VT within the daylight hours of next Saturday for $100, stops for beer are allowed, but if he forfeits he owes me $300 and if he fails in the attempt he owes me $100, which I have gladly offered to donate to charity, barring I don’t have to pay for the ambulance back to Ho Chi after he collapses with a heart seizure, severe abdominal cramps or an irritable bowel, in no particular order.
Friday, March 23, 2007
New additions include:
In/From South Africa:
Teacher Chris: My housemate here in Saigon. Whenever you don’t believe something I say, you can be sure Christoff will agree with you so check out his new blog.
Einde September: Adam in Pretoria blogs in Afrikaans about everything from religion to dying his hair.
Bloute.co.za: Bloute’s been around for a while, don’t know why I haven’t linked him earlier. Also Afrikaans and from Stellenbosch, my home town.
Tania.co.za: This is a new site I discovered recently. I’ve only been checking it out for a while but it looks really interesting.
Die Pienk Zuit: Finally there is as big a sports fan as myself out there. Die Pienk Zuit’s take on things is really refreshing, for those of you who are Afrikaans-proficient.
Just Up the Dose: Karen Little MD. Medical/Life blog. Grey’s Anatomy can’t touch this.
Nicharalambous.com: Journo Nick in Joburg blogs about the media and techy things.
Meet me in Saigon: Annie’s blog about her life in Saigon.
azngamerboi: In his own words: “Rising above the phantasm of a geek.”
Snow Tweety: This chick just seems to be missioning around South-East Asia all the time, what a life!
I’ve also added the awesome Global Voices Online in the News section.
Peruse and enjoy!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
It was a bit strange not having the rain for so long, as if the gods were all caught up playing a poker tournament on Mt Olympus and had forgotten to water the garden. Obviously on of the evil dudes, probably Ares or one of his ilk (maybe Demeter – god of agriculture) had fallen out with Zeus regarding the fifth ace up his sleeve (you’d think a god would know how to cheat without getting caught?!) and got kicked out. Feeling sorry for himself, cursing his luck (or maybe Agathodaemon – god of luck) and using the age-old excuse that “he needed to go to the toilet anyway”, he stumbled outside and let loose.
Boy, did he let loose. Let loose? Yes, let loose the alliterations, my boy! Flurries of frenetic rainfall, sheets of scintillating sheens, pellets of precocious pearls, volleys of vehement veraciousness, lavish masses of liquid marbles, a barrage of bombarding bursts, a sporadic deluge of deep-soaking drops. You get the point. This is no longer a godforsaken country.
And it’s not going to end any time soon – the rainy season lasts until September. Forrest Gump wasn’t lying when he said: “One day in Vietnam it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.” That’s the gods’ honest truth.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Thus, the internet connection at home was cut off. So Mom, Dad, concerned family and all those laughing at me with your full stomachs: before you start harping on about how irresponsible I am, I'll pay my rent and all those little "extras" like water, electricity and telephone bill tonight so hopefully this little finger-twiddling endeavour will be back on its feet by Wednesday. No sympathy emails please; after all - two-minute, crab flavoured noodles don't taste that bad with a little salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce...I could always chew off one of Christoff's toes while he's sleeping, speaking of which - he has a blog now - check it out.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Wow, wish I knew where that was, I had to find it on the IP Tracker. Wait let me show you:
Monday, March 12, 2007
This place was a bit leftfield. They have these large aquariums filled with dead snakes being bitten by dead birds, being chowed by dead lice all submerged in a reddish, gooey rice wine. Another box displayed a wine-immersed dead seal surrounded by pickled seal’s penises and one with armadillos surrounded by giant lizards. It reminded me of my grade 10 Biology class excursion to Tygerberg Hospital where they took us on a tour of the pathology unit…shudder. Think hermaphrodites, cyclops babies, charred lungs and alcohol-swollen, grotesque livers, all wonderfully preserved in pungent formaldehyde-filled glass jars.
Back to the story. The snakeman chose a cobra, made it grovel and crawl around on the floor for a while, ritualistically washed it and peristaltically worked the heart up its body. Sweat dripping off his nose, he then whipped out his scalpel, cut open the cobra and removed the still-beating heart with surgical precision, severed the arteries and put it in a shot glass. He then drained the blood, as well as the bile, mixed it with some rice wine and voila! We had two bottles of instant snakeblood wine. Not for the tree-hugging type.
I sunk the cardiac shot, which had the consistency and texture of an oyster and, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t an aphrodisiac (boo!), didn't give me hallucinogenic visions or even endow me with super serpent-like senses. In fact, I couldn’t even remember what happened about an hour afterwards. I feared the worse though, thinking I’d flip out and die a horrible death like the Greek philosophers Aeschylus or Chrysippus (Aeschylus died when an eagle dropped a live tortoise on his head and Chrysippus supposedly died of laughter after watching his inebriated donkey try to munch on some figs). Actually, it might have had a strange effect as I ended up at a karaoke bar, something which I would never condone whilst in the motherly clutches of sobriety or even the slightly clawed talons of simple inebriation.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
I guess partly inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s Mandalay poem and partly by the noxious smell exuding from the canal I was driving along, I made up a little poem yesterday. I think I should make writing a Saigon-inspired poem a weekly occurrence.
A Saigon Tragedy
A wizened man once took a lazy nap upon
The oil-slicked banks of the river Saigon
Still within his dreamy cue
There exploded – out of the blue
Of Agents doing, a cloud of Orange hue
Of stink and such thunderous proportions,
It could be heard from Dien Bien Phu
It sent his tum into contortions,
And his lungs a-racking through and through
He stumbled down to wash his face
Alas! He slipped upon an oily place
The old man floundered in the shallow sludge,
Shouted for help but could not budge
A young man heard the desperate woes
Of the wizened crank’s drudgy death throes
Just too late to aid, he muttered “Xin Loi”,
As the ancient head sunk under, gurgled “Troi oi…”
Monday, March 05, 2007
The road to Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ’ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ’crost the Bay!
’Er petticoat was yaller an’ ’er little cap was green,
An’ ’er name was Supi-yaw-lat—jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ’eathen idol’s foot:
Bloomin’ idol made o’mud—
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd—
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ’er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay . . .
When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git ’er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!”
With ’er arm upon my shoulder an’ ’er cheek agin’ my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.
Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ’ung that ’eavy you was ’arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay . . .
But that’s all shove be’ind me—long ago an’ fur away,
An’ there ain’t no ’busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ’ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ’eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ’eed naught else.”
No! you won’t ’eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay . . .
I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones,
An’ the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ’ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an’ grubby ’and—
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay . . .
Monks playing football outside their monastry