Friday, March 30, 2007


Sarah and I are off to Mui Ne tonight for the weekend. My first visit to Mui Ne last year got off to a bit of an inauspicious start, but hopefully things will run a bit more smoothly this year – none of the coconut typhoon attacks or Wrong Turn hikes at 3 am. Perhaps I can locate Nguyen Van Troi, the Fisher King, but we’ll probably just spend the two days lazing on the beach, soaking up the rays and sipping on pina coladas. Press the “Jealous” button now.

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

Sometimes it sucks begin Irish

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.

I can’t wait; this is going to be good.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Updated Links

I’ve updated my links as some of the bloggers have gone on sabbatical, so I’ve removed some, and new ones have popped up that need to be recognised. Ya know.

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’s been around for a while, don’t know why I haven’t linked him earlier. Also Afrikaans and from Stellenbosch, my home town. 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. Journo Nick in Joburg blogs about the media and techy things.

In/from Vietnam:

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

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain...

What de ja vu. I’m sitting in the same I-net café (my internet is still disconnected at home) I was in when I wrote my parents an email about the rain in Saigon back in May. The reason it all feels so familiar is because it has started to rain again– something which may sound ordinary but when it hasn’t rained for weeks and months and starts in Saigon – it doesn’t stop for months.

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


The irony of posting from work about being broke is not lost on me. This is just a short post to say that I probably won't be posting something today or tomorrow due to the fact that my pocket, wallet, bank account and fridge looks like the inside of Kurt Cobain's head - empty.

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

Hit of the week


Wow, wish I knew where that was, I had to find it on the IP Tracker. Wait let me show you:

That's also where the world's biggest trench, the Mariana Trench, is. That's like some Jules Verne stuff right there.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What a suprissss...

And here I was thinking the weekend would be spent watching the FA Cup and chilling out at home. Susan and my girlfriend Sarah organised a surprise “belated birthday party” for me at this specialty snake restaurant in Go Vap Disrict (the address was 418 Nguyen Phan Tri or something like that). I thought Sarah was dragging me along to meet Bich and Minh, some of her friends from Hanoi, but instead I was met by some of our friends who supposedly all had other plans that evening, bloody scoundrels the lot of them, and madame Bich and monsieur Minh were nowhere to be found.

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.
Nevertheless, I am happy I am still here and in one piece, not grown a sudden liking for mouse-meat, rolling my “s’s” and that my tongue hasn’t forked. I’m also eternally grateful to Suzie and Sarah for organising it. I still don't have a clue who the hell Bich or Minh are though...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It flows...

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

On the road to Mandalay

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 in the teak monastry


The Palace in Mandalay at sunset

Buddha on Mandalay Hill pointing to where the royal capital should be built.

A government propoganda billboard

The Teak Bridge outside Mandalay - the longest teak bridge in the world

Monks playing football outside their monastry

Friday, March 02, 2007

As the story Bagan, so shall it end...

I'm still waiting for the rest of the photos of Mandalay and the children then they'll be posted too. In the mean time, here's more from Bagan.