Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vietnam views

Just some random shots from around the southern part of the country. These are the kind of pics you don't really know what to do with so they just lie around in a random folder until you have about five or six of them and then you're like *ahaa, let's make a little blog post out of them".

My football team the Saigon Raiders were out for a tournament on Phu Quoc Island about 6 weeks ago and these kids watched all the matches from their high perch. They couldn't have been more than fourteen, but they already had all the makings of football hooligans; jeering and cursing every missed shot or mistake, smoking cigarettes and pulling faces. Sure they'll grow up supporting Millwall.

One of the first, but by now not the last, "safe sex" shops around town. I doubt they have these up in Hanoi (any of you Northerners seen them?). No whips, chains or spiked rubber gear, just condoms, which is a great start. The little sign in the bottom right-hand corner asks explicitly for a male shop assistant as "we don't want to offend and tarnish the pure minds of our delicate females". Okay I made up that little quote.

This is one of the queerest things I've seen around anywhere. It seems to be a monument to capitalism in Socialist Vietnam. A family, with the kid in a trolly, out shopping, forever etched in stone outside Maximark Cong Hoa Hypermarket. The number one quirkiest bit of architecture I've ever seen was also at Maximark, now sadly removed. It was a Ferris Wheel, built right through the inside of this gigantic shopping centre, running from the basement, through the cosmetics and toiletries aisle and out through the roof!

An interesting and innovative bit of artwork in the "Year of the Buffalo", as the Chinese zodiac "Year of the Ox" is called in Vietnam. Actually, there's quite a bit of quirky art and decor out at Van Thanh Park in Binh Thanh District. Nice restaurants and a patch of grass for a pick-up game of cricket (and not so nice managers when you want to skateboard and ollie down the steps or chase each other around in their little pedal buggies).

Just off Pham Ngu Lao, near the Saigon Central Bus Station, stands this old bust up tjorra. I wonder if one of those green buses behind it had anything to do with it. Knowing the way those black-smoke belching behemoths take over the road I wouldn't be suprised.

And on the other side of the spectrum, this procession of beautiful Beetles out in Vung Tau for the International Kite Festival in March. They're from the Saigon VW Club who are based in Thu Duc District I think.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thing's I've eaten

With time running out in the country I’ve come to love with a smirk on my face and a tasty banh mi in the hand, I’ve started reminiscing on the things I’ve seen, eaten, and experienced, places I’ve been, people I’ve laughed with and at and all the fillings in between that make everything just, well, bloody good. Now, I’m not trying to compare myself with Andrew Zimmern, but I think it would be worth diarising, before I forget it, some of the random things I’ve managed to put in my mouth, but not always managed to keep down. Caz and anyone who hasn’t experienced the crunchy, juicy goodness of a feathered, baby duck foetus crackling between their molars look away now. From the top.

· Snake. Cobra snake. Head to tail. Bile and blood in shots and crunchy bones. All of it. It had beady eyes so it had to go.

· Fried black scorpion. Tasted like bacon.

· Ox penis. Cartilagy grossness.

· Goat hotpot with pig’s brains. Erm, well, in hindsight I’m not sure the brains needed to be added.

· That fermented duck egg with the little baby (beak intact) inside – hot vit lon it’s called around here – and the worst part, the part that hits the gag reflex, isn’t actually the bits with substance, it’s the sauce that floats on top when you crack it open. It’s like the eggiest omelette you’ve ever had. Like a hundred eggs concentrated in one – very potent.

· A big duck head.

· Fried chicken feet. They chow these in South Africa too – in Kayamandi they call them walky-talkies because you can tie a string around them and wear them around your neck.

· A nice cup of intestine and innards soup. I’m not actually sure what animal it was though.

· A few metres worth of grilled eel. My friend Danga actually has a bit of a thing for these eels and tends to order them whenever they’re available. As well as fish. Lots of them. Jesus can be glad Danga wasn't around when he pulled that stunt with the bread and fish cause disciple John may have had to omit that certain miracle from the good book if he was.

· Frogs. Crumbed and fried in butter, they taste like fishy chicken.

· Some kind of fowl. We’ve actually had this twice at a local restaurant around the corner. The waiter brings it live to the table to make sure that THIS is the bird you’d like to have slaughtered (quite unnecessary, really) and then about an hour later the poultry dishes start arriving. First the heart, liver and kidneys, then then some other random bits and then the rest of it. Not my favourite.

· There were also a few beery nights of quail eggs and pigeon.

· Wild boar and deer, grilled at your table, by yourself, seasoned in five secret spices.

· Some random tropical fruit like durian – which Sarah says taste like meat and onions and even gets the before-mentioned Bizarre Foods host squirming. It’s an acquired taste. My mate alan wasn't a fan either as far as I remember. Now that I think of it, I don't know anyone who's really a fan.

· A variety of crustaceans and snail, round and corckscrewed, thumbnail size and fist sized, raw and cooked, slurpy and very slurpy, funky and funkmeister G.

· Bits and pieces of crocodile, kangaroo, lots of rabbit and I don’t know what else. And that’s just in Vietnam! That’s not even including the salted grasshoppers in Thailand or the yak butter, steak and cheese in Nepal, etc.

Oh and for the record, I’m not a fan of munching down feathered little friends, but I did it and I burned some joss sticks to Uncle Scrooge and the Duck Tales cousins after that little incident to atone for my heartless curiosity. My mate Christoff took the easy approach and just puked in the nearest pot plant.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things to look forward in Oz No.1

I'm moving to, officially, the fattest country in the world. I'm looking forward to putting my investigative journalism skills to the test by uncovering some of the reasons behind this phenomenon. Hey, I've already started, look what I found: The Bogan Burger! If you don't know what a Bogan is - check out this site dedicated to their ilk (they're sort out like the Aussie version of karavaankinders or someone from Hobhouse or Boksburg). Anyways, the Bogan Burger is "a big Turkish bread roll stuffed with a steak, a chicken schnitzel, a potato cake, bacon, egg, cheese, onion, pineapple and beetroot and stands 13cm high". I'm getting more excited about moving every day. This is going to be great!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back on track, sorta...

Woah! It's over *double-tap high five myself*. Yes, sorry again for the absence but that Celta course was intense but now it's done. I'm pretty sure Sarah and I both passed and did okay but we haven't got the results yet. If any of you teachers out there have sado-masochistic tendencies and are thinking of putting yourself through hell for the sake of professional develeopment, I can highly recommend the Cambridge course. You really do learn a lot about teaching and communication in general. Vietnam is also a good place to do it as the course is much cheaper here than most places. We had people who flew in from China, Japan, Europe, the States, Australia and New Zealand to come do it here due to the price and the affordable cost of living here.

I wish things would slow down a bit, but after a short weekend break, it's back to work at my school later today and I've got three articles to write: a piece on Saigon Horse Racing Club, which if you've never been there is good fun, and two restaurant reviews. Anyone know any good Middle-Eastern places in Saigon? I know of Warda and Byblos but are there any others around? Let me know!

We're also busy buying things to send to Australia. The relocators are coming on Saturday to pack up our measly two and a half square metres of stuff. Actually, you can fit quite a bit in that space if you pack well, and pay quite a bit too! So it's off to Dogma/Saigon Kitsch, Saigon Quilts, the tailors and many more this week!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

'Scuze my not being around, but...

Just a short note to apologise for not blogging actively these last two weeks. This behaviour might continue until next week when this course from hell ends. I'm currently shackled to second conditionals, partnered with pronunciation and married to modal verbs. You'll find me in the dork section of the geek handbook in the nerd library. What the hell is 'realia' anyway?