Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Flowers of Vietnam

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Yet another post about my trip to Vietnam. I’m not particularly fond of flowers, nor do I have any great interest in botany, but while I was over there, I don’t know what came over me, I just took lots of pictures of flowers. Unfortunately, I can’t name any of them (hey, hey, hey, NOT my field, ok!), but… I guess looking a their beauty, names are irrelevant. By the way, the flower behind the yellow and red one is definitely MY favorite. :-) Enjoy the flowers here!

Ho Chi Minh Traffic

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

Finally, I’m getting around to completing my posts about my trip to Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh traffic is quite different from anything I’ve ever seen anywhere. Apart from the very few intersections where there are traffic lights, there are apparently no rules at all, or if there are, thousands of vehicles flooding the streets are blatantly ignoring them. The only time anyone stops (it’s actually more like slowing down) is to prevent from crashing into anyone else, and that goes for pedestrians, too. Overflowing into the incoming lane, cutting diagonally against traffic, or entering a one way is done in the most natural way, at an average speed of 30km an hour, enough to throw you out of orbit if you were to hit something. As if that and the numerous potholes and various obstacles covering the streets weren’t dangerous enough, I’ve seen people riding those scooters and motorbikes eating, smoking, emailing on their phones, carrying unbelievable luggage, such as huge water bottles (like the ones you find at the work place), computers, food, construction materials (poles – sometimes 2 to 3 meters!, constructions panels, tools, etc…), boxes, you name it! You’d think that if you were one of the multiple passengers (I’ve seen up to 5 people ride together!) on one of those scooters you’d hold on to the driver as if your life depended on it (oh, wait, it does!), but most of them just casually sit there while reading, eating, smoking, and looking around without even blinking. The first ride I took with my brother-in-law was really scary, but really exciting at the same time. After a few days, I didn’t even hold on to him anymore. Obviously, words or even pictures are not enough to describe what Ho Chi Minh traffic really looks like, so I shot these clips, hope you enjoy them. Depending on your connection speed they may take a while to download, but trust me, it’s worth it. The clips are in MP4 files so you’ll need to install Quick Time, if you don’t already have it.

Clip #1

Clip #2

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: the clip about our trip to the Mekong river is also available here.

Happy New Year 2006!

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

Last night we spent New Year’s Eve at Man’s friend, and we had a great time. I wish happiness, love and prosperity to my family, all my friends and colleagues, and to all of you who read my blog! Tonight I’m going back to Japan, and back to work in two days. Cheers!

4 Days in Da Lat

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

Da Lat, a small city 240 km north of Ho Chi Minh, at an altitude of 1500 m. As you can imagine, the temperature is much colder than HCM, so much so we had to wear coats and scarves at night! Da Lat was definitely quieter and cleaner than the big city, although there was a definite absence of bars serving cold beer, without ice in it. At least in HCM, we know a couple of places where we can rely on that! We took a 4 day tour with Chung, my brother-in-law, and Van, his wife. There was 12 of us on the tour, all Vietnamese (except me, of course), which was quite a change from the other tours we took to the Mekong River and to Cu Chi, since all the other tourists were exclusively foreigners. On the 28th, on our way here, we stopped to see the Pongour waterfalls. It was no Niagara, but the view was still beautiful, and we acted like real tourists, taking cheesy pictures at will. On the 29th we had a pretty busy day, which felt more like a marathon. First, we visited the Da Lat Botanical Garden, and a place where they sell all kinds of dried fruits, fruit juice, tea, and Chinese medicine. I even got to see dried tiger’s reproductive organs, used to make some sort of wine with properties akin to Viagra. Then, we went to see mount Mong Mo (”Dream” in Vietnamese), where we visited some sort of a theme park definitely too touristy for me. We saw an old house built with no nails at all (that was interesting), and inside it, a round table that supposedly turns by itself either clockwise or counter clockwise, depending on which direction the people resting their hands on it are concentrating. The weird thing is that it “worked” in both English and Vietnamese, but not in French, presumably because the woman in charge of the attraction didn’t know whether I was saying “left” or ”right”! The garden was really beautiful, but the scale model of a part of the Great Wall of China (!?) was not too convincing. I skipped the weird animal exhibition all together, and took a nap instead! After lunch, we went to see the “Domaine De Marie” church, one of the residences of King Bao Dai, and the Thien Vuong Co Sat Pagoda, which was built by the Chinese. On the third day, not really excited by the prospect of visiting two lakes in the morning, we went to see the K’Ho people, which I will devote a whole post to, and then we went to visit the Linh Quang temple, where we were cordially invited to taste their vegetarian food. In the afternoon, we joined the group again and went to see another waterfall, and the Truc Lam temple. In the evening, we went to visit the Da Lat market. On the last day, we left early in the morning and stopped at the Datanla waterfall, and stopped in the afternoon to taste locally produced coffee and tea in the Bao Loc province. It was a pretty good tour to take pictures (about a thousand between me and Man!!!), but I wish it had been more instructive. Anyway, we had a real great time! I’ll make photo albums about the most interesting places later, but for now, enjoy these few pix!

Dried tiger’s private parts!

The Great Wall of Da Lat!

The K’Ho people!

Linh Quang Temple

Truc Lam Temple

Datanla waterfalls

The Cu Chi Tunnels

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

On December 26th we also visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, at about 40 km north-west of Ho Chi Minh. Before and during the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi guerillas, supporting the communists, dug an impressive network of tunnels in which they were hiding from the enemy. We visited different spots explaining how the guerillas were recycling American weapons for there own use, and how they were making booby traps out of virtually nothing. Then, we crawled through a very narrow tunnel about 100m long, which is in fact twice the size of the real thing so foreign tourist can get a feeling of what it was to go through one of the tunnels. It was pitch black, hot as hell, and we had to crouch all the way to the other end. I can’t imagine how these guys could go through these tunnels with their gear on and everything! Check out the awesome pictures we took here.