Took a three day (two night) motorcycle excursion into the Mekong Delta. No lappy. I’ll post more as I am able.
Today we go to the nearby island where there are some promenades and a large street market.
We taxied to a promenade at one end of a bridge over the canal. From there B and M went running and I walked the promenade on this side of the bridge then crossed the bridge and walked the promenade on the other side. Eventually, we reconnected in the area of the street market to get soup.
I met a number of people and creatures on my promenade.
Can you guess which one solicited my attention?
Since Sunday was a holiday (Teachers Day) most of the vendors were not working so the market was rather sparse.
The soup was amazing, of course.
Apparently I dove into the soup with such gusto that I neglected to shoot a picture.
We returned to the apartment and I remarked on our afternoon.
We are sitting here this Sunday with the tree lit, a fire on the TV, and Buble’s holiday album while Bill looks back through pictures from Albania and Maria irons things that like to be ironed. Bill is telling stories of riding through that countryside and not getting attacked by dogs, poppies growing in the wheat fields, and finding a donkey skull. There does come a moment in one’s life where one gets rid of one’s donkey skull.
Then I left B and M to have dinner with Dave (who lived in Seattle for a time) and Phuc (who will be my tour guide into the Mekong Delta).
Phuc will be my guide for an excursion into the Mekong Delta.
Having eaten our fill we departed and went to Pasteur Street Brewing for some beer.
I bought a small bottle of barrel aged barley wine to share and we caught some of the opening ceremonies around the first game for the World Cup (Qatar v Ecuador).
And finally walked home to sleep.
Today I go to the War Remnants Museum.
Direct beeline to the War Museum via motorcycle taxi. Spent four hours there. Four hours staring into the innards of war and horror. Tough time but well worth the journey.
I took but one picture of the consequences of the uses of dioxins in Vietnam. I took that one picture only because glare made it impossible to see. You can google for your own images. The so-called Rainbow Herbicides (including Agent Orange) were fucked. Just fucked. Let’s not do that again.
On my way leaving the museum I took another rest on a bench near the tanks. (I took a few rests due to emotional fatigue.) On the next bench over were some Vietnamese, three sisters and a guy. We talked for a bit before I departed for a nearby park.
Leaving the War Remnants Museum I found this gem of a crosswalk. You really have to wonder about the theoretical framework of these street planners.
The park turns out is a sculpture garden of some magnitude.
I passed a couple where she was learning to make the owl whistle with her hands. I showed I know it. She is progressing nicely. He can get chromatic tones by wiggling each finger.
Met a French woman travelling Vietnam with her father. We talked for a while. Never pass up an opportunity to practice your languages.
Across the street was another park with this strange miniature model rock mountain.
Back out on the street. Now heading toward a canal which may have restaurants and shops lining both sides.
These things are all over the city, some various bits of metal (like rebar) jutting out of the sidewalk and bent over, I guess for safety.
Walking along the canal many wanted pictures taken.
After taxi-biking back, B and I went in search of some food.
And this settles the day. Maybe I’ll continue to randomly add images. You can never guess these things in advance.
Today I had planned to visit the War Museum but I ran into trouble getting the motorcycle app working correctly and then ran into trouble getting to the bus. But all of that in good time.
For unknown reasons, Gojek would not register my Visa (credit) but only my MC (debit). I spent an inordinate amount of time investigating and researching and attempting all to no avail. Just won’t work. Not clear why. I’d rather use the credit card. C’est la vie.
I left the house early enough, following the g-maps instructions for getting to the bus stop by a thirty minute walk. I had considered taking the motorcycle taxi but wanted to give a go at taking the bus. The instructions take me up a road that runs parallel to the highway that’s nearby. Instead of crossing directly the instructions were to walk East for a bit, then cross the highway, and finally return West on the opposite side to continue on the way. Supposed to be about a half an hour walk to the stop.
So I walk up the parallel road passing the direct spot, observing the distinct lack of light, crosswalk, and the twelve lanes of traffic. Clearly wouldn’t be wise to cross here. I walk up until the point where maps says to cross and noted the distinct lack of light, crosswalk, and the twelve lanes of traffic. I walked a little further along thinking perhaps… no. Nothing as far as the eye can see. Both sidewalk and highway curve off the the left eventually but nothing apparent.
I stop someone and gesture to a man leaning against his car: map says cross here, big fucking highway, what the fuck? He looks at the map, looks up and down the highway, and looks at me with a look you can guess: what the fuck is right.
So I turn around and head back West, searching for some way to cross. Eventually a woman walking her dog approaches and I ask about crossing the highway and explain the map problem. She confirms there is no underpass, no overpass, no sky-bridge, no crosswalk. You can take your chance crossing the twelve lanes or you can walk to where the highway crosses the river and there walk under the highway.
That’s the way I’ll go then. Funny to think some slopped a highway right through a city and made no concessions for pedestrians to cross it anywhere. Anyway, I walked down to the river and then under the highway to the other side.
Really wondering about this bus idea. But, you know, when you are committed you see it through. I take advantage of these new streets and seek out interesting things to shoot. About eleven I see a good place and think I should probably eat now since I won’t get another chance for some time.
After several attempts using English, German, and Vietnamese the helpful lady and I agree I will eat. I have ordered grilled pork ribs and rice and it comes with a couple condiments (vinegar and also some chilies) and a bit of soup (cabbage or cabbage-like). I would later call this a light lunch. I could have eaten a second lunch but it did what was required at the time and it was less than $2. Hard to beat.
Ok, so now maybe I’ll look for this bus stop. At some point I’ve decided today would be better for me to visit Ao Dei which is a museum about the traditional Vietnamese garb and which also has other cultural elements as well. I check maps and somehow it’s still half an hour walk to the bus stop. Are all the stops thirty minutes away?
Off I go shooting all the way. I get to the street I need to cross to catch the bus as the bus is driving past. Luckily the bus comes every fifteen minutes. While I am waiting a couple on a motorcycle stops and the man disembarks the rear to wait for the bus as she speeds off down the road. The bus comes and we embark on this next leg.
The bus ride is long. Ao Dei is rather remote for a museum.
The drive stops the bus at one of the somewhat rare traffic lights and darts off the bus, bowl in hand, stopping outside the door for a quick exchange with the lady who sells the tickets on the bus; then he disappears from sight in pursuit of soup. Miraculously, he drops into his seat as the light is changing and we are off again. Not clear how one eats soup while driving a bus. (But since I’d already seen a man riding a motorcycle one-handed while watching a YouTube video (horizontal) with the other hand I figure I can assume and forgo the investigation.)
The city thins as we travel through the streets. Next we stop for gas. So many new experiences!
A couple of minutes before my stop I stand and position myself near the rear door. I even push the little red button (though no sound comes from that). At some point the ticket lady asks if I want to get off the bus. “I wanted to get off the bus way back there.” Not sure what I missed about signaling my desire to exit. Anyway, they pull over and I’m hoofing it again. I think my eight minute walk is now sixteen. Meh.
This is out there. It’s like a one and a half lane road with pit stops every so often, like strip malls but not. I walk back to the turn and head in the direction of the museum. On my way the road loses its pavement for gravel. A lot more bird sounds. Then, just outside the entrance, I find three cows chilling.
They are good subjects but each time I pull the camera to my eye and fix it on one of the cows, one of the other cows walks closer while I can’t see. I head to the museum before the act on their murderous intent.
This place was worth the trip though. Just a great space. I spend the entire afternoon walking through all the bits. The garment part is well done but really only represents a small fraction of what one can see here. Glad I made the trek.
I meet a couple of marketing students who have rented a camera and traditional garb for the day. None of us knows why the ao dei have very long sleeves. The old ones anyway. The contemporary ones have more modern sleeves. Purists lament! Purists can suck it.
It rains thrice and each time everyone ducks under one of the structures.
The first time it rained I entered the open building next to the on-site cafe. I was looking at the list of offerings and a guy came over the assist. They had milk-coffee and milk-tea and some juices. I forget what the other juices were but he said lemon. I went with lemon guessing he probably meant lime since that’s pretty popular.
He approached my table and the cup held an orange liquid. Ok, so maybe he meant orange. But no; it was mango. Fuck it. If I’d known they had mango I’d have ordered that!
You gotta laugh.
I shot eleven hundred pictures today.
After the third rain I was again back in this same building only now with my new marketing student friends. Hoping the rains were done we wished each other luck (they motorbiked down and I was going to motorbike taxi back) and I walked back toward the main road.
Once there I ordered a bike via Gojek.
Up came my bike and I got on the back with my helmet in place and my gear secure in my pack. Off we zoomed. As we returned to the fabric of the city the traffic increased in chaos. This was now near seven and every car and bike and motorcycle and pedestrian was taking to the streets.
In your best movie trailer voice: In a world where painted lines are barely suggestions, two men ride a motorcycle the streets…
Oh, crap. It’s raining again. Mr moto-taxi pulls over in no particular location and I’m wondering if he is going to get a bowl of soup, but no he says “raincoat” and he opens the seat and dons he raincoat. Then we are zipping in and out of traffic once again.
So many motorcycles. Just wave upon wave of them. Mostly making turns and merging. I’m guessing from above it looks a lot like herds of cattle merging. We did drive past an accident on the highway. A motorcycle and one of these not-quite truck things from the look of it. Probably not good. Never is.
Sure enough, as we rode past that area there were a couple of pedestrians trying to cross the twelve lanes of traffic, after dark with heavy traffic. Would anyone like to buy a sky-bridge?
Oh, keep in mind I never saw our speedometer rise above 46 kmph (about 29 mph).
Back home and wrote this. Maybe I’ll post more pictures later.
Another morning spent talking with T-Mobile. So much fun it’s painful! Just kidding. Just painful. We have reset everything. Even tower things. Nothing is helping. Always error 28. I have murderous thoughts about the AI in their phone tree.
The ineptitude is palpable.
I did not intend to do much walking today. I stayed nearby. But in fact I put in a lot of walking in spite of myself. Also shot 500 pictures.
I started out just heading toward this small park hoping to get a shot of a lizard or something interesting and putting some miles between me and my phone woes. Though I went there by a particularly circuitous route. These things happen.
Still no luck with the lizards. I made some audio recordings and shot some various birds as best I could. Lousy models, birds. It’s like they don’t even care.
I met and talked with an entrepreneur who helps other Vietnamese improve their image and brand. Good guy. Enthusiastic about the future. If only I needed my image improved!
Wandering on I found a little something for HO.
Found another Honda Supercub.
And whatever this is.
And of course more poultry.
There is not a lot of wall art in graffiti styles here.
Sneaked in for a little gelato fix before heading to find a meal. I just spun around on the map until I spotted something that looked interesting. In this case a coffee house and smoke house called Roast and Smoke Thao Dien. Strange collision. Think of it like a coffee shop specializing in smoked brisket.
Back home for a bit of exercise and a dip in the pool. Type this. Pass out. See you!
Spent most of my morning writing up yesterday. That’s ok because I hit the pavement pretty hard yesterday and today gets to be a chill day. Not sure what my plans are. I guess that means I don’t have plans. We shall see.
Spent a couple of hours on the phone with T-Mobile trying to get my US SIM card functioning as expected. I cannot send or receive text messages and I cannot receive phone calls. It was working before I added the Vietnam SIM a few days ago. They should operate independently of one another. No one I’ve talked with seems to have any idea what they are doing. Consistent with the current state of customer service.
Wandered around for a while and when I was hungry went to the home cooking place again to try some more of what they offer.
Imagine Scotch eggs without the sausage and with quail eggs. Served with a spicy chili sauce of some sort.
Lime juice and lemon grass. Very tart. You can see the decanter of simple syrup offered so the diner may sweeten to their preference. I used maybe one third.
Pretty good fried brown rice with cashews (the best part) and shredded chicken. (It’s hardly fried rice without those ubiquitous peas and carrots.)
Met a couple of business types working for a Dutch dairy company. One was Australian and the other American (though spent his summers growing up in France). I now have my Dutch dairy needs covered the world over.
Met a group of mostly Japanese friends tied together by a dance instructor. I say mostly because one of them was from Brittany (France) but he has been together with the dance instructor for many years now.
We talked for hours about everything. Gathering around a table is life.
Apparently, Honda has resumed production and US exports of the Supercub. This is an older one with perhaps a few upgraded parts.
Made my way back home. Heard my name called out and saw my new friends waving at me zooming down the street.
Very relaxing day indeed.
Up early because tropics I guess. It’s 21:15 as I write this it’s been dark for hours. I don’t know what time the sun comes up. Maybe no one does. Absolutely spent after another day of intense walking.
First I went to the phone store because I can’t send text messages. I can receive them and I can make and receive calls and I have full Internet access, but I cannot send text messages.
I am told that here in Vietnam SMS is on a pay-per-message basis and it’s 200 dong for each message. You load up some money and then get to send text messages. This is pretty wild when you think about it: I get whatever 5G Internet but I can’t send anything using SMS.
Fine. I’ll survive.
Took pictures of doors on the way back to Tower 2.
Dropped into the local Quickie Mart and bought one of those melon ice cream sticks so as to break a 500K note. (I think that’s about $20.)
Cab ride to District 5. He wondered where in Dist 5 and I said wherever since I’m just going to wander. So he dropped me mid-block at the edge of Dist 5 near the boundary with Dist 10. He very politely reminded me to put my camera around my neck which was already in my plans but still well meant.
Pick a direction and go. Did consult the map to seek out areas with labrythinical attributes.
Eventually I found myself at a food place that’s maybe at least in part a theoretical restaurant, in principle. Communicated with the guy by each of us holding up iterations on Google Translate or making hand gestures.
In the background you can see my “ginger juice”. It came in that unmarked bottle and though the lid had sealed tabs I do suspect they make it here and just add fresh lids each time. Whatever, I’m a fan.
They also were making dumplings. The lady would take a bit of dough and glop some pork mixture in the center and sort of make a fist to create a rolled shape with scalloping. After I was finished with my bowl of soup I asked about those dumplings.
You will see here the limitations of language barriers. I thought maybe I’d try two dumplings. He said it’s six items in one piece. Ok, one is fine. Well, the one piece was another bowl of soup. Fine. Good enough.
I’d forgotten about the shrimp: bonus shrimpies! I ate all the dumplings and some of the vegetable matter but left much of the delicious broth behind. I did, however, drink a second ginger juice.
It was a crime to leave any of that broth behind.
And while I ate it rained with thunder and fury.
You can see her making the dumplings at the lower-left.
Departed and wandered again. Met a guy, freshman in college, majoring in English. We practiced his English for a while and his name was also James. It really is the friends you meet along the way!
Next I met this little guy. I’ll name him James as well.
Things are shifting around in anticipation of the evening.
Traffic was chaos so I slipped into a cafe to sit that out for a bit.
Eventually I went out seeking a cab.
Finally I landed a cab by walking into the middle of traffic directly in front of a taxi. I pointed; he waved; I got in.
Back in Tower 2 I held the elevator for some folks and two of them were B and M. B and I decided to hit the gym and then the pool, so we returned to the apartment to get trunks and towels. Quick abs work and a bit of a dip in the pool. Back to the apartment for a shower. Passed out early from utter exhaustion. Had to write most of this up the next day.
M and I went for a walk to get her some coffee while B took a bike ride. The coffee shop of first preference was not open so we walked along and eventually came around to this area of interwoven internal courtyards containing shops and restaurants and a playground, and she had coffee and I had a smoothie at one of them (which we sort of forced to open since we were there asking to buy things at eight in the Sunday morning).
We sat among the wooden shelves filled with books and the thatch roof covering this segment of the courtyard and drank our drinks. We had a long conversation about all the important nothings and slowly woke up to the day.
One of the restaurants in these passageways is a Thai place they had enjoyed on a couple of previous occasions so we made plans to eat there at some point.
We walked back around looping the other way home. As we passed this small place on the corner I pointed out an unusual cooking burner and wok arrangement, asking what it was for, explaining I’d not yet seen it in action. The place had corn in their windows so we surmised it might be for making batches of kettle corn.
Once back home we suited up and moved down by the pool with the also just-returned B. I did some exercising in the small gym, trying to find ways to make similar exercises to those I normally do back home, making due with whatever was possible with the equipment at hand.
Spent some time in and about the pool. Very refreshing. (The heat here is remarkably and reliably brutal and moist.)
While B was out he had done the shopping so when we went back to the apartment we ate some jackfruit and some something called colloquially artichoke flowers (though they are not). The jackfruit was really tasty; less so the purple things. B only wanted a few to try but the high pressure fruit-monger foisted a full Kg on poor B. There is talk of making a tart compote from them; surely they will find their way into some salads.
We also had some yarrow root pudding. Never had that before.
Various domestic chores were attended, including but not limited to food prep for the week, work prep for the week, and other contemplations.
We decided today might be a good day to hit that Thai place, we out we ventured toward that particular labyrinth.
Leaving home we again passed the unknown device to discover our popcorn theory had been debunked.
Still not clear what they are doing.
At the Thai place they seated us in a train car. Then the rains came. Brutal. Epic. We had to shout to be heard across the small table. We were all very glad to be under cover rather than out walking.
The distinction between outdoor and indoor here is often quite vague.
It rained all the while we ate. It rained so long and hard that once we did get back out to the street we found the streets were flooded. B and I were wearing sandals but M had here fancy running shows, so we did have some trouble getting back without ruining then.
At one point we ducked into a place with a large koi pond to stand under the umbrellas to let the rain die back again.
We sneaked in through the out door of the building (again ducking out of the rain). This allowed us to pass by the small mini-mart in the garage portion of this tower where we bought some melon (honeydew?) ice cream bars (imported from Korea). Now I want to make melon ice cream when I get home. I will be eating more of these.
Read for a time. Bed time now.
Today we plan to visit Dist 1. I have uploaded a couple of pictures into yesterday’s post for fun! Just waiting for my hard-working friends to rise and shine.
Bill and I grabbed a cab and disembarked at the Opera House. From there we essentially walked in circles, which gave the fascinating perspective of seeing the same locations as they transformed over the course of the day.
We winded through streets and the occasional park (often repeatedly as noted) watching the people and with me snapping pics at every turn, talking about life and living as only old friends are able, laughing the mad laugh of camaraderie.
At one end of a long narrow park was a statue of Ho Chi Minh himself.
And of course it’s really all about the friends we made along the way.
We stopped into a couple of local breweries (taprooms) in part because I wanted a baseball cap. The first had the trucker style (plastic mesh back and plastic snaps for adjustment) and those are the saddest of all caps never to adorn my head. The second has a decent if thin cap, but it was all white. That’s just asking for trouble. I suggested the should make a black version.
Bill spotted a lonely epaulet on the sidewalk and pulled the aluminum bit from that and added it to his shirt.
Then Bill dragged me (unwittingly) into a red light district. At one point as we winded our way through these tiny twisting alleys a group of a dozen young ladies descended upon us in their all-white attire offering all the good times one can imagine. I tried to assure them I could not sustain them all, even on my best day. We did manage to extricate ourselves with our junk and our wallets intact.
The sky was warning of rain so we ducked into a Japanese noodle place about the size of a closet and took seats at the bar (the only seats were bar seats, duh). Excellent ramen.
Thought the rains were done so we left there and wandered through this labyrinth of alleys more, but we still were getting wet. Eventually it was raining pretty heavily again, so we ducked into a gelateria. Always a good time to have ice cream. We sat on the second floor, where no one else happened to be, next to the window watching the rain pound down.
Back out on the main streets again Bill pointed out a building with balconies all they way up and businesses on each, so we walked across that boulevard and started up the winding stairs to see what all was in this building.
It was several stories tall (a dozen?) and each floor contained some number of restaurants or cafes or shops. After exploring the lot of passageways and alcoves, we descended from the top floor to where we found a coffee shop. Bill had coffee and I had passion fruit tea. We watched the rains subside from our balcony.
There was some thumping music happening at the steps of the Opera House as we walked past again. We had seen the trucks setting up all the music gear from the balcony.
After this we stopped into the second brewery looking for a cap. Seven Bridges is the one with the white cap which I also rejected. (It’s ok to be picky.) But we did stay for a beer. I had a Fire Eater, a stout with cocoa and chilies, and Bill had a Tangerine Sunset (he likes the hoppy citrus beers).
Still it was raining so we ducked across the alley to another Japanese eatery. We had grilled pork-wrapped asparagus, thinly sliced and grilled beef tongue, and yaki udon.
Finally grabbed a cab back home but went through the mall and explicitly Decathalon where I did finally get myself a cap (more a military style that baseball but nice). The bathrooms have tiny yellow pucks in the urinals and the bathroom smells strongly of lemon. Never have figured out that our pink pucks are supposed to smell like.
Wrote out notes from yesterday. Getting ready to leave now at eight. Will connect with B and M after their workshop day finishes (maybe 16:30?) and we will walk back together. Going to look for a city map and try to get that damned SIM card today.
Walked to the so-called mega-mall next to this tower to get a SIM. No such stores there. I talked with a security guard and eventually through gestures and gesticulations he understood I wanted a SIM card for my phone. He sent me to a specific store we found on the ol’ gmaps.
On the way to get that I stopped to visit my new Brazilian friend and to see his dojo. Very nice dojo just a couple years old. Also with cross-fit and other exercise machines. He told me to go “the yellow store” and I showed him where I was going. He said that was the one. We promised to do something together and I left.
Mapped to the phone store to see the facade was, as you may have guessed, yellow.
Got a SIM. I guess I can make calls. Is that important? Maybe.
Next I hit a couple of bookstores to fin a city map for Ho Chi Minh. Neither had any but the second one took my phone number (what?) and would get back to me.
Then I took off for some more wandering. I bought a one of these fresh squeezed sugar cane and lime drinks. Pretty tasty.
As I wandered I heard some French. I introduced myself to two friends who were both Basque, one from France and one from Spain. We talked for a long time and the Spaniard returned to work, so we two remained and talked until noon.
He invited me to lunch at a nearby Vietnamese place he knew and we had a noodle dish with beef. I had a coconut water (which here means they hand you a severed coconut and a straw) and he had a beer over ice. The ice here tends to be big long not quite cubes and not quite tubes.
After we parted I wandered more and found a series of narrow passages and finally a promenade along a small river. Of course many photographs.
Finally made my way back home. We will bbq at the pool soon but the lady from the bookstore (the manager it turns out) called my phone! I know!
B and M wanted to go for a run so I make the fast walk (maps said 11 minutes) back to the bookstore to get the map. The manager was not there yet. I beat her. So I wanted for her and selected a couple of pens to try for writing.
You may know I’m picky about my writing pens. They must be thin and oh so very fast. Anyway, I bought one I knew from before and two more so I can fall back if neither of the two new ones pans out. We shall see.
Back home again waiting on B and M so we can get to grilling.
More a picnic than a proper bbq but we had a good time eating weird chips and other nibbles along with some crispy pork belly. We were four with a work friend of B and M. Dipped toes in the pool. Drank some drinky-poos. M had made pickled daikon. Good times.
Now half-past nine and we are talking about what to do tomorrow as we venture into Dist 1. Food, friends, and fun.