Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Quy Nhon ( or in Parts Unknown, LOL) (AND It's the end of the world as we know it, LOL)

Ouch. My head hurts. Did I drink anything yesterday?  Oh.... Right....  
And what kind of title did I give this post yesterday?  Oh..... right ....'s true. So far throughout this trip, I have been retracing steps I've taken last year (O.K, not in Guangzhou), but I've NEVER been to Quy Nhon.  So this is actually Terra Incognita for me.

In addition, someone I know was invited to give a scientific talk here at a Physics center and so far, to put it mildly, he is highly hesitant, not to say reluctant, to accept said invitation.   What does this mean for me?   I have taken on the role of acting as a personal scout  (or Vietnamese Beach Town Consultant). 

So I'm trying to keep THIS post factual, without the usual rants or wine stories or whine stories.   But since this is ME writing this blog, don't dare complain if this just turns out to be yet another broken election promise.

6 a.m.  But what is a post without a sunrise?  All that haze?  It's already 26 degrees and humidity is at a proud 89%. It feels NICE ;-)  And where have I seen these hazy watery colours before? Ocean views by Dutch Masters?

The MOST COMFY bed I have slept in in MONTHS
6:40 am. I'm ready to shave and shower. BUT No hot water, probably just another under-dimensioned hotel hot water system. Usually I help myself by boiling water in the kettle and creating warm water in the tub that way, BUT: No tub, just a shower.  No problem, I showered last night and can have all the other hotel guests have their turn first. This would be a bummer though if I had a fixed schedule, e.g. something like having to give a lecture to a washed audience ;-)
6:45 a.m. Off to an unwashed breakfast.

When I get down to the breakfast area I am informed that of the standard 9 different breakfast items on the menu, only items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 are available.   I grin and say “No 6 and No 7”, to which the woman says smilingly  “No Chicken”.  I pick number 7 and after the first noodely slurps of my Pho Bo (Pho with beef) I am very very happy for not having chosen the standard Western # 1 (Baguette with Fried Egg).

It’s worth to risk staying in a cheaper and less touristy hotel.  The pricier and fancier a hotel is, the more likely is its food menu to resemble exactly that of another fancy hotel.  It’s when one stays in small hotels when one experiences food that has not yet been rendered bland by your typical tourist crowd.

Yes, I splurged a bit for this place.  I am paying CAD $ 44 / night for my ocean-view room with balcony on the 8th floor, which happens to be the best room this hotel has to offer.  I have yet to see another Westerner here though.  Which means that the Pho Bo even without adding hot sauce is spicy enough to make me sweat in the air conditioned breakfast room.  FABULOUS way to wake up !

So WHERE are all those Western Tourists?   Those with backpacks might be in one of the numerous hostels in town (I hate to admit it, but I'm too old for that). 
Those with suitcases?   Probably at the FLC Luxury Resort Quy Nhon.  A STEAL at only CAD $ 663 per night   (Breakfast INCLUDED, LOL).  Here is a picture of the FLC luxury hotel (almost same name, different hotel) and a TRUE STEAL at $314 per night (breakfast included).  Just look at that monstrocity. And guess what! For tonight, only six rooms are available !
NEVER EVER my picture, I swear !
I mean come, on, anyone who stays in such a place in a country where a taxi driver almost performs a kowtow after receiving a $0.50 tip would be better advised to spend all that money on qualified psychiatric help!

8:30 am.  I'm standing on my balcony in only shorts, being warmed by the sun. I'm ready to hit the streets. But what is that noise?   It's torrential rain hitting the metal roof a few floors below at the same time that the sun is still warming me!  But the spook monsoon is over within 5 minutes. 
I check at reception whether they rent bicycles, but with a downward look the receptionist apologizes and recommends renting a scooter. Maybe later, now I'll just walk the 3.5 km to Barbara's Backpackers Kiwi Connection, one of those places that acquired fame when towns like Quy Nhon were ONLY visited by adventurous backpackers.
The beach is being cleaned.  As opposed to the wooden refuse on the beach in Dong Hoi, this one is covered in water lily plants, no doubt ripped out of their habitat along some river during the last flood.

I end up eating here 3 times

Apart from the beach cleaners, I see 3 (THREE) people along the 3 km beach walk, none of them Caucasian.  I like it.  I have to pee and do it right at the beach (Hey, this is Vietnam, you do it where you have to!).  One of the 3 people I see is an elderly Vietnamese man, at least 70 years old.  He is coming out of the ocean from his swim. He motions for me to go swimming (Can you IMAGINE that in West Vancouver ????).  I point to my backpack, then my watch, then make swimming motions. He smiles and nods.

Barbara's Backpackers is underwhelming in its appearance but the staff is very nice. Barbara is not there. Since there is a Viet Banh Mi stand right next to Barbara's I don't order food there but only a Gin & Tonic (60,000 VND).  My shirt is sticking to my skin with sweat from the walk (The weather forecast at 9:45 am indicates 30 Celsius that feel like 36) but a fan and the G&T quickly do their job.  I'm going to walk back too !  For me, a 7 km walk in tropical heat beats any Sauna any time.

This is what happens when your cell camera takes pictures through your pants pocket (I have about 20 of these !)

Screw the London Eye. I LOVE these. 

Hey, there are some more people at the beach!  Oh, just some people taking the wedding photos of a Viet couple ;-) 

Re.: Murphy's Law:  I didn't get a Banh Mi right next to Barbara's because I thought there should be plenty of stands along the way. I see NONE.

I'm not exactly sure what it is but I'd place a small wager that it is a vulture ! You know the bird that eats dead animals.  Just like we humans.  Is that why most people are disgusted by it?
11:30 I'm back in my room, which is nice and cool compared to the outside, even with the A/C off.  My shirt is soaked again and goes right into the sink.   I've decided not to rent a scooter this afternoon but go on another one of these sauna walks, this one even a bit longer at 3.9 km. That should bring today's total walking distance to 15 km, not bad for a 50 year old chain smoker. Of course, I hate walking without a destination in mind, so it's a good thing there are some Cham ruins 3.9 km away, a remnant of the Cham Empire that ruled in these parts in the 11th Century ! 
Supposedly the Cham Towers in Quy Nhon (NOT)
With that destination in mind I fall asleep on the bed.   

1 pm. I wake up. Hungry!  I'm almost out of coffee too. The skin on the inside of my elbows has taken on a strange hue.   Formosa Phenol Phenomenon from last night's eel adventure? No, just a slight sun burn from my 9 am to 11 am walk, LOL.  

I NEED food NOW.  I head back to the site of yesterday's eel murder.  OMG, they recognize me and instantly bring me 2 bottles of Bia SaiGon. That's the problem with being white here, it's impossible to sneak by incognito!  I peruse a Vietnamese menu still laying on the table from previous guests but then they bring me the English 'Me Nu'.   In the Viet menu I had found a picture that looks very much like Viet seafood omelette/pancake, but that picture or menu item is NOT included in the English 'Me Nu'.  A lesson to heed?
And the lesson is;  Being overly smug or ordering stuff without glasses forces you to eat stuff  whose existence you could have happily remained ignorant about if you had stuck to the English menu.  I have no idea what I'm eating. It contains raw onions, carrots, peanuts,  cilantro, and bean sprouts. NO, hang on, there is that other green leafy thing with the PUNGENT taste again. And then there is that semi-transparent white stuff.  Unfortunately it's taste and texture match its appearance EXACTLY. LOL, no wonder this one didn't make it into the English menu !!!.
hmm. Not exactly what I thought I ordered .....
I am reminded though when I first ordered Dried Fish and Chicken Fried Rice a couple of years ago.  The Chinese in the audience were grinning and probably thinking "Oh yeah?  You want to pull going native and eat REAL Chinese food?  This should be a hoot ". They even dared ask with a smug grin "Are you SURE?".   What was all the fuzz about?  Dried Fish tastes like slightly rotten anchovies. What my adversaries did NOT know was that I LOVE anchovies.  And one gets used to the rotten taste very quickly.  THERE!  Whitey showed Them, LOL !
Oh look, when I make the sign of the omelette that I was expecting they bring me a flat bread !
I'm a lot less smug these days (no really !).  The proportion of the white slimy-looking things increases as I pick out edible peanuts, onions, and carrots.  Hey, peanuts ain't bad, and after the first bite of whitish translucent chewiness I make damned sure that the rest of this meal will remain VEGETARIAN ! LOL.  THIS must be why to this very day my film crew hasn't arrived yet!
I ate ONE of these.  I do NOT want to eat another.  It has nothing to do with taste. Texture and visual appearance are things that get to me here !
Back to the hotel to drop off the laptop (don't need extra weight walking; I got chubby enough in GreyTown as it is !)  OMG,  they cleaned the elevator wall after I put the dust graffiti in it yesterday.
This time I took a picture when Windows 10 threw the rice paddy picture up again  ;-)
Time to see the Cham Towers. Given my pinkness and my already sore feet, I walk in the alley right by the hotel containing the 5 or 6 taxis (all the drivers are playing card games with each other all day).  3 times already I walked by them. 3 times already I heard the taxi taxi calls from the posse. 3 times already I made a Namaste sign but shook my head. They probably expect the same now, but I walk up and say "Xin, taxi". At least here they have a system to decide who gets to take the next fare because one of them bounces to his car, glancing back just to make sure I am really following.  I get in and off we go to add some more honking to the city's soundscape.
A Samsung store. Guess why it had to close down !
 Here is how globalization works: A Vietnamese shop owner had to close his shop just because of ONE STUPID decision by some South-Korean executive at Samsung.  The Vietnamese sign in the window says House for Rent. They even still have the advertising for signs for the Galaxy Note 7 on the wall. 
If you  spell it really really wrong, you are not violating trademark law !
The taxi drops me at the Cham Towers.  They are on a square right in the middle of the city. A woman with a Viet rice hat approaches me and sells me a ticket for 8000 Dong.  I hadn't realized that these things were this BIG and TALL !
OBVIOUSLY though, THESE towers are NOT the same as the ones shown in the Google Image picture further up in this post.   Google Images works well sometimes but it really can't be trusted to provide results that match the query.

This reminds me jsut a little bit of Angkor Wat

oh yeah !

These stone faces are obviously reproductions made from concrete.
Now imagine plaques with scary faces in every single one of the blank areas of this roof structure.

I notice a large black flying thing.  Then another one.  You know those evil but tiny little bugs that are called no-see-ems and that accumulate in vast sw arms in rays of sunlight over bicicle paths just at the height of a mounted cyclist?   NO, it's not them, I just want to get a sense of the vast numbers of flying things across.   I zoon my camera to tele, simply point it in the blue sky, and click.  
5 Dragonflies
Oh right: Dragonflies are also my favourite flying insect (YES, if I have to chose between a butterfly and a dragonfly the little monster wins !)
Another 5
I'm glad that I decided to WALK the 4 km from the towers back to the hotel.So many impressions I would have missed by taking a taxi back.
I walk by an open storefront (think garage) where an about 40-50 year old man is rewiring a large electric motor while a younger (20-30) watches.  I get the camera out because a) shiny copper wire looks good and b) fixing broken things like this is unheard of in Canada, and with a questioning look point at the camera and them.  The younger guy must be camera-shy because he instantly moves his hand in a No-No motion, with a kind of scared smile.  So no pictures of the re-wiring.
This road is busy.  Oh Wow, that is a LoOoOnG load he is transporting!   He wants WHAT? To cross the road? Yeah RIGHT !
There is a video coming to this post of how he CROSSES the road, but I can't find it right now.

A strange flag to have on a Vietnamese truck. But when I pass the truck I see that the driver is only about 25

I walk and walk and walk and at some point I have to pee. While in Vietnam it is not uncommon for men to whip it out anywhere for that purpose, this street seems to busy to me.  But I spot the beach about 5 blocks away through a side street. Vamos a la playa !  But the beach also seems a bad idea after a bunch of 40s women (early cougars?) have spotted me walking and shout a unison HELLO at me.   Good thing there is a big hotel with a horribly underused washroom right there (The wastepaper basket to drop the hand paper towels into is EMPTY). 

Two Viet stars on red background and one moon on blue background
Now I have more peace of mind to go shopping for cigarettes, cookies, and instant coffee! LOL, I buy everything in threes now because ba is the only number I know in Vietnamese.

Bank machine. Use Agribank. says to avoid them because they don't use foreign cards but I know better from my February trip (THERE is that smugness again ;-)

Hello calls come from all sides now.  One leaves me confused me until I look up to the second floor of a construction site and see a construction worker waving at me.  I have been here for 20 hours now and I still have only seen ONE other Caucasian.  I remember that I was kind of freaked out by this thing during last Decmber's visit to Vinh, birth place of Ho Chi Minh and a town of 500,000 Vietnamese and at most 100 tourists.  Vinh was also where for the very first time I encountered the Hello Phenomenon.  Another thing taken off the bucket list: No longer freaked out by being the only whitey!

I walk back to the original main road and learn that I'm still have something to learn.  Remember all the fuzz about finding a spot to pee?   A four or 5 year old prances to the curb facing traffic, whips it out, and pees in the gutter while I walk past right in front of him !

A grandmother holds a screaming kid in her lap.   To quench the squealing she points at me approaching and presumably says "Look, a white man".  The kid looks at me for a few seconds and then goes back to screaming. I can just imagine him saying to his Grandma "THAT is NOT a REAL whitey!"

Finally, there is a Banh Mi cart that still has baguette left.  The Banh Mi is not the best I have ever eaten, but then it does carry the outrageous price of 12,000 VND (US $0.54). 

5 pm. Back at the hotel.  MUST get out of my DRIPPING WET shirt !

Another day to tick off the calendar. I am glad to have used this one well !
6 pm.  I've recovered with a coffee, a cookie, and some wine. That shirt was washed in the sink and is drying on the balcony.  I realize that ONLY packing the very thin and light shirts I bought in Hawaii was a good move.  If I'm soaking a Hawaiian shirt , what would happen to a sweatshirt? 

7 pm.  I'm back at the same restaurant. They must have SOMETHING to eat that does not test my limits of endurance and lets me leave with a full stomach without prior issues.  Sure, the shrimp are probably young enough to have spent their ENTIRE life in Formosa Phenol, but this is EASY EATING !

7:30 pm. I've made up my mind about the travel plans of the coming days.  Tomorrow it will be time to polish up my Russian language skills !

7:45 pm. So much left to learn and adapt to.   A kid is walking around with a small plastic bag full of chewing gum, stops at my table, and holds up the bag and says something in a questioning tone in Vietnamese.   I pretend not to understand what he wants.   Ouch. Old habits are hard to kill.  A fine example of a Western tourist I am.  Might as well go back to dropping Napalm !

8 pm. I can't finish my portion of food. It's too friggin hot.  The weather page insists that 84% humidity make the 29 Celsius feel like 36 degrees.   I believe! Thunderstorms developing this evening.   Yup, that's exactly what it feels like...... hot ...... HOT.  Great! Now I feel and probably look like one of those over-tall and over-weight Westerners wetting his shirt.  

Oh, right. That friend of mine that was invited to give a lecture here!  

I owe him a consultant's report ;-)

I actually LIKE this town.  It's NOT a tourist town. The town lives of its industry and fishing. There are LOTS of schools in this town. The town and its people are still what I often refer to as REAL or NORMAL.  I'd happily visit here again, but I don't think I would want to be here in July ;-)  There is only so much a middle-aged westerner can take, LOL.  Now if it was January, that would be  a completely different story, and I'd jump at the chance.
The journey so far
Oh, One last thing. I just checked out Google News. Trump has been elected president. LOL, Einstein's theory of infinite quantities has been proven right again !

Good thing I'm over here because I just feels natural singing along to THIS SONG !

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