Friday, 22 December 2017

Gulagbound: SGN - TPE - YVR

Reading Google news further reduces my already non-existing excitement about going back to Vancouver.  The city of Vancouver just announced that it WILL NOT REMOVE snow from residential streets.   

1st world taxation for 3rd world service.  

And Vancouverites LOVE their city. 

'nough said?

Shite!   This feels so UNREAL.  I have to go back there today!

But I'm NOT there yet (sigh of relief ;-).

The LOUD aerobics (or whatever it is called these days) music in the streets of Sai Gon started at 5 am.  The globe is rotating into light.

Grandma exhibits her usual behaviour when I call her.   Complaining and shoving the guilt for her miserableness onto innocent parties (NOT me today). NO, life can't be easy at her age but there are people out there who have aged with grace and wisdom.

My mood picks up after doing what I usually do before leaving home and returning to the Gulag.  I book a ticket out of the Gulag.  This one is intended to get me to a wedding in Salzburg.  But the ticket lists Vancouver & Saigon as the flight end points.   I'm going the wrong way.  WTF?

All part of LIVING life before it's over.   What could be more adventurous than a wedding in the middle of a circumnavigation of the globe?

Dance if you want to dance,

Please brother take a chance !

But I still have time for one more excursion. 
I'll have a look at that Catholic Church right across the road.  Nuboy is getting dangerously close in the TripAdvisor badge count, so I have to do some legwork. 
Nothing special really (except that THIS church happens to be in Viet Nam).  But I still get some decent pictures out of it.
But I LOVE the fact that all those Xmas stars on strings look quite a lot like Tibetan Prayer Flags, LOL.

TWO hours until check-out?   I REALLY have to leave? I have THREE flights already booked that will get me back here, but leaving STILL gets so much harder every single time. 

 It must be the particular time of day or the pre-Christmas shopping madness (yes, even here), because the 152 bus is PACKED for the first time ever.

 The check-in counter for my flight is not open yet, so I eat at Big Bowl.  My advice:  AVOID the Western-type places at Viet airports. They're outrageously expensive and not good.    My pho ga actually has a whole chicken leg in it.  There are some other things in there that look like they definitely came from an animal, but I refuse to eat them just before a flight, LOL.  Amazing food!

 There are some Tourists at the next table.  Australians.  They pay for their food with a Credit Card LOL (probably stayed in a resort and never had to exchange money to the local currency). Ask for glasses for their beverages.  Don't speak a single word of Viet while ordering.  Don't even say thank you in English.  

WHAT is THIS? It's NOT vegetable. I'm pretty sure it's ANIMAL.  
 Naturally, they leave a great mess on their table when they leave.  After all, that’s what the servants are there for.  Despicable.

And I'm heading to Canada, which is not so very different from Asstralia ;-(
My last glimpse of the Sky over Saigon for a while ;-(
 I'm sitting at the gate at 14:00 (after ogling 6 ft tall young Viet men in the line-ups for immigration & security; I remember my spare mom voicing non-belief when I told her that there are tall Asians these days ;-) and my flight is not until 16:45.   I HATE airports!  Good thing this one has smoking lounges.  

After napping for one hour on the gate benches and visiting the smoking lounge, I ALMOST fall for the boredom-induced-compulsive-purchase trap at the watch stand.  A square-faced simple watch.   Of course I would have regretted buying it later, I have more than enough watches, but I am not quite awake yet.   When the saleswoman repeats with a frustrated look fiitty Dollar instead of the tiirty dollars I heard earlier, I see fate waving with a fence post and say NO.    Phew.  That was CLOSE. I almost would have fallen off the consumerism-free wagon !

Still almost 2 hours until lift-off and that is only the first flight.  3.5 hours to Taipei.  Then another 3 hours of waiting and 10 hours to Vancouver.  Those Vancouver immigration guys better not ask me stupid questions or I'll bite.

The flight from Saigon to Taipei is easily the WORST flight I have ever taken.  The crew is unorganized and that food cart by my no-legroom seat at least 7 times before I finally get some food. 
There is NO entertainment being offered, besides the movie CARS with no sound and Viet subtitles being displayed on the 10 small cabin screens.  Wow, when I was 10 years old, planes at least had hand-out-and-collect headphones and 2 radio channels in the arm rest.  Progress?  The two and three year old Taiwanese youth behind me are tearing each other to pieces, kicking into the back of my seat every 10 seconds, while their parents are consulting their smart phones.  OMG, what a nightmare !

At least Taipei International Airport has smoking lounges.  By now I know the location of 3 of them. Which is a good thing, because the walking distance between the A, B, C & D gates is bloody VAST.  Conveyor belts only work in one direction and if that happens NOT to be the direction you want to go in, you're WALKING FOR A LONG TIME.   20 USD and 20 HKD get me about 630 units of some currency with Chiang Kai Sheck's picture on it.  A 'tall' (why not call it small?) Americano & a stale dry chocolate cookie (YUK) at Starbucks (WHY?) cost me 130 Kai Sheks or whatever they are called (Some later research reveals that they are called New Taiwanese Dollar).

Given the parenting issues witnessed in the plane, the display of Western brand-named, expensive, and useless stuff on display in the airport, the LOUSY Airport WiFi, and the walking issue, I no longer have ANY desire to enter the country of Taiwan proper.   Sayonara !  (ok, different country, but you get my meaning)

21:50 Saigon time; 22:50 Taipei time, 6:50 Vancouver time.  One our until lift-off.  I have an aisle seat in the very back (? row 67) of the plane.  There are no screaming toddlers in the gate area yet and I'm still hoping that I'll be able to get a good sleep.

China Airlines is using a fabulous brand-new Airbus 350-900 again.  Ample legroom even in Swine Class and the washrooms get cleaned every 15 minutes.  Go Air Canada Go!   
Touch-down in Gulag at 18:40.

I punch my answers into the immigration machine.  Then I answer the questions of the guy in the booth.  Another officer catches me right behind that and subjects me to the Canadian Inquisition for 15 minutes.  Welcome back to Paranoia Land !

When I arrive at my motel, the dark lot is illuminated by the flashing red & blue lights of FIVE police cruisers. 
not my cops; just a stock photo

Nothing much has changed.  ONE unruly guest and FIVE cop cars show up.  Cowards !

I'm paying $897 for 12 nights in my dingy run-down motel.  In Vietnam I'd pay less for my beach-front room.  Ah well. It's Christmas and I should be in a giving mood !

I hand out the first of two illegally imported packs of Cigarettes to the receptionist.  I'm pretty sure it would be bad Karma if I smoked them myself, LOL.

Leaving again. UIH to SGN

I've set my alarm for 4:30 but I'm wide awake because of the LOUD banging noises the storm creates with the not perfectly fitted windows and doors.  And I already had stuffed tea bags in the cracks, LOL.

In about 3 hours I'm supposed to sit in a plane that is supposed to take off in this wind.  And yes, there is a certain level of wariness about that.  

When I carefully sneak into the lobby at 6:00, snoring from the little bench informs me that Mo is still sleeping on the bench.  He lives right across the street; why is he sleeping here?  I retreat to my room again.

My whole body tells me that it does NOT want to leave today.   I'm happy here.  Ah well, no point whining.  I'll be back soon enough ;-)

I'm taking a real taxi today instead of the hotel man's friend's car, so when I wake up at Phu Cat Airport almost one hour later the meter reads 540k VND instead of the 200k I paid last time.   Still not bad for a 40 minute taxi ride.

The MADNESS is starting here as well.  A Porsche Panamera.  
Add the red pants and it all screams:

Just when I'm leaving: Blue Sky at the horizon
 I see as the airline clerk types in my various FIRST and MIDDLE names in an attempt to find my booking in her computer.  Then she asks for my ticket.  I don't have one and point to the area of my passport where my LAST name is printed without an Umlaut.  Bingo, she finds my booking.  Viets seem to ALWAYS use my middle names for train tickets and the like.  I am relieved when the weight of my carry-on and only luggage rings in at 7.1 kg.  I'm allowed 7.0 kg on this CAD$ 39 flight but complaining about 100 grams is not an issue here.

Security is a breeze; I even get to keep my half-empty 200 ml (!!!!) container of Nivea.  

Yes, I'm sad that I have to leave No-Nonsense land tomorrow. 

 Seat Karma is with me again:   Oh NO!  There is NO seat in front of me, LOL
I pretty much sleep through the entire flight and while waiting for deplaning, I hear THIS SONG repeatedly.  It was written by an American woman of Viet heritage about her hopes of one day setting foot on the never-seen homeland but it hits a nerve with me as well.   
Because setting that first foot on Vietnamese soil has changed my life.

Timing is fabulous today.  No 152 bus is waiting so I have plenty of time to get myself a Banh Mi Cha Lua in the parkade.   

The bus arrives when I have eaten about 1/3 or it.

The 152 bus stop,which is located RIGHT NEXT to the taxi line-up, displays its usual MADNESS.  The bus driver is SHOUTING at Vietnamese that the price is only 5000 Dong and is pointing to his bus to prevent his country folk from spending more than 100,000 Dong for the same trip in a taxi.  And the beauty:  The bus is faster !

At Giang Son Hotel I have to wait for check-in because the other guests just left.  Then the surprises start.  They front-lined my room for cleaning because it is ready in half the advertised time.  Then she hands me a WATER KETTLE  (remember I bought one in November and had left it here until 3 weeks ago). This guest house does NOT have spare water kettles for guests but they got one for me.  

Playing the Hello Vietnam song, having such good people experiences, all on the day before I have to leave lets me experience homesickness even before I have left, LOL.

The first Vape Shop I visit in the hope of acquiring an e-cigarette for my long flights tomorrow is not what it promised online.  Just a bunch of Viets emitting dense vapour out of every visible orifice but NO actual devices.  At least I get some quyt on the way back to the hotel to research the next target store.

The next Vape store not only has an ADORABLE puppy (might taste yummy when he is older, LOL) but also a stylish slim vape stick for 700k.  That will do nicely for the plane !

A trip to the CoopMart for some cheese (so rare here), ruou vang do (I picked the wrong bottle), a cork screw (the hotel lost its corkscrew to a guest and leaving it here is a nice Thank You for the water kettle, me thinks) and other little things forces me to navigate the crazy streets again.   

And I realize:  I LOVE crossing those seemingly impossible to cross intersections, LOL.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

WINDY !!!!: Vinh Hoa to Quy Nhon

I wake up to this:
YES, I am indeed in the RED ZONE
There is NO question of going swimming today. The wind is BRISK and causes everyone to shiver even though the thermometer reads 19 degrees Celsius.

After breakfast there is something STRANGE going on at the beach. 
There are Viets at the beach after 5:30 am.  THAT is VERY strange !

The reason?    Last night's wind has torn loose quite a few shrimp cages.
It's NOT just the cages that the Viets are after.
The cages are FULL of PRAWNS.
A FORTUNE to the villagers and pretty much their whole livelihood.
Consequently, a large part of the village, most of which can NOT SWIM, .....
brave the threat of the ocean to bring those prawn-filled cages back to shore.

After dropping my left-over bottle of white wine at Quang's place (he needs provisions for the next three weeks LOL), we arrive back at the hotel to witness today's dinner being prepared. Octopus or Squid, I'm not sure from just looking at it, but Mu'oc translates as Squid


here's looking at you !
Time to say good-bye to everyone.   Some people I will miss quite a lot.

How to describe the scooter ride?

The wind is so strong, I almost almost get forced into the guard rail on a bridge. 

  Every time I come over a hill, my face gets literally sand-blasted. 

my 'freshly sand-blasted' look
1/3 of the time I can't drive faster than 30 km/h.   It's an ADVENTURE !

Life's a Beach is fun as usual and I manage to order a Banh Pi-Za Hai San to much laughter and applause.

I manage to ride the remaining 11 km without being thrown off.
still here ....

Eda likes this one, LOL

An exploratory walk of South Quy Nhon after a short nap:

WOW, 12 hours of sleep.   
Not the best weather but then I shouldn't complain.  Vancouver just got blanketed in snow, resulting in a breakdown of public transit. 
Even Nurse Next Door couldn't make it to Grandma today, something Grandma is delighted about. Let's just hope she doesn't fall today !

Eda sends me a picture taken from her window.  

Now if THAT is not reason to start a Native Rain Dance to prevent my plane from taking off from Saigon the day after tomorrow !

Time to go for a morning walk.  Maybe the exercise will chase the chill out of my body.

With most Viets working the Sea, no wonder they're praying to some kind of ocean deity 

Yes, one SHOULD have to put in some legwork to get closer to God

On the way down from the temple area I see these signs on the trees.  And the STRANGEST thing happens!    I can READ them, LOL
Don't PEE here!   (literally:  General Hygiene)

Quy Nhon is UGLY. STAY AWAY !  (grin)
Time to move to the new hotel, return the scooter, and walk back.

Did Yves Tanguy ever visit these beaches?  After all, Vietnam was still French during his lifetime ;-)

Not on any of the booking sites, but looking good

Puppy starts SNARLING at me.  Probably still can smell DOG on my breath, LOL

Another 3 hour nap !!!! WTF?

But when I visit my water kettle in the lobby (he got rid of his old plastic kettle and is using mine now) for a glass of hot coffee, I see by the folded pillow on his bench that I was not the only one who had a nap.

OK, let's bite the bullet.  Let's try to eat something at the street restaurant JUST around the corner.  It's been busy every time I've walked by.
The restaurant is frequented by young Viets and judging by the looks I get when I sit down, Westerners are still a novelty here.
Naturally, the menu is in Tieng Viet only. Chicken leg is not available (I MISS Dong Hoi just because of that), so I have the choice between ga rang and ga cay.  How bad can it be.  I pick the second one.  Then I realize that maybe I ordered chicken feet. LOL.  When in Rome .....

1) It's VERY GOOD !

2) I'm pretty sure that I ordered spicy sweet & sour chicken ass.

A young Western woman walks up to me to get tips for food selection and 3 minutes later I'm sitting at the table of 3 young UBC students originally from Vancouver Island.  The age and culture gap is too great to make this a good match but I have fun for almost one hour.

Back at the hotel, the usual routine unfolds.  Mo, the hotel owner, invites me to sit with him, I get the bottle of wine from my room, he gets out the medicinal wine and his wife's HOMEMADE food & dessert. 

YES, home-made !!!!
Two Austrians join us, a friend of Mo and his wife, and then the two Newfoundlander permanent guests of this hotel.  The Newfies bring Viet Vodka and the Austrians bring Cambodian Rice Wine. 

HOW can I leave here ?

Chuc ngu ngon !  (Good Night)