A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Hey! You!

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I have an idea for the opening scene of a movie. The camera, point of view at head height, moves down Ðe Tham. The camera passes between stationary people who are sitting on a motorbike or squatting. Each head turns to look at the camera. At every step, one of the heads shouts something to the camera. The camera seems to be at the centre of the universe. Perhaps the universe has even been made for the viewer; you could call it Unpleasantville.

(It must be what it’s like walking down a street being George Clooney.)

Except it’s real. People here try to get your attention in different ways: whistling; clapping; ‘hey, man!’; ‘you want motorbike?’; ‘where you going?’; ‘where you from?’; even, more than once, ‘where did you get those shoes?’.

Most of these are inapt to make the recipient receptive to whatever sales pitch follows. One of the most common is ‘Hey. You!’, which sounds aggressive. It isn’t rude in Vietnamese, where there is no distinction between the pronoun ‘you’ (which comes in many varieties) and the honorific ‘mister/sir’. The usual way of getting the waiter’s attention, for example, is to shout ‘em ơi!’, which means ‘You! Hey!’.

  • **

Now I’ve got a cold, the first since I started travelling. I’m surprised not to have had more. Most new strains of viruses appear in areas which are densely populated and in which people live in close proximity to animals. That means southeast and east Asia. I had expected the European immune system to be attacked more often.

  • **

Fishing is a very big industry in Vietnam. The country has 3,260 km of coastline, 2,860 rivers and 200,000 hectares of lakes (which are almost entirely man-made reservoirs). Fishing makes up about 4-6% of GDP.

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Output growth in the last 15 years has been huge; this is mainly down to growth in fish farming. Nearly half of output by weight is now farmed (mainly shrimp and catfish), but there are still over 90,000 motorised fishing vessels. Most are very small. Indeed, most marine fishing is conducted by small craft in coastal waters.

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Vietnam ranks fifth in output of ‘fishery products’ after China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines (I’m surprised that Spain and the US are not on the list); and it is one of the top ten seafood exporters.

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Despite the natural abundance and diversity – Vietnam’s waters host over 2,000 species of fish, 1,600 of crustaceans and 2,500 of molluscs - marine life is under severe pressure in Vietnam’s seas, especially inshore. Stocks are falling: the catch is probably twice the sustainable yield. The government has established closed seasons, banned areas and protected areas. I don’t know whether they are enforced. Although illegal, poisons and explosives are commonly used.

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Fishing is also a huge leisure activity among Vietnamese men. The fish caught do not hit GDP statistics unless they are sold for money, but they do appear on the plate. Overall, fish and seafood are said to provide 40-50% of the animal protein in the Vietnamese diet. Consumption of protein is rising fast, and of fish and seafood in particular. With a couple of exceptions (the noodle soup in Hoi An, the chicken with lemongrass and chilli) all the best Vietnamese food has been fish or seafood.

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Anyway, wherever there is water, you see fishermen. These are fishing at Ho Tay in Hanoi.

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The majority do not remove helmets to fish.

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At the Citadel in Hue.

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On the river at Hoi An.

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On a bridge in Nha Trang.

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Posted by Wardsan 17:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

The price of everything

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Last night I ate at Le Rabelais, the restaurant at the Ðàlạt Palace Hotel. White tablecloths, a tinkling pianist, candles, high ceiling, chandeliers, and fake Empire chairs: a wonderful place, marred only by hopelessly incompetent service.

I had a set dinner: amuse-bouche (we are not amused); young rabbit in aspic and apples; wild boar and a venison skewer with redcurrant sauce; a plate of cheese; a baked banana pudding. While the rabbit in aspic was nice enough, the highlight of the meal – of the week – was the cheese plate. Four tiny morsels of the echt Roquefort, Camembert, Pont l’Evêque (maybe) and parmesan. The Camembert and Roquefort (my favourite cheese) were exquisite; the pleasure they brought was unbelievably intense, quite impossible to recapture unless you’ve been without something, and the prospect of something, for three months. It alone was worth the price of the meal - $64 including two glasses of Australian wine. (Without it, the meal would have been poor value.) On the other hand, it did briefly make me thinking about going back to Europe and the cheeseful life.

There have been two other moments of oral bliss that in themselves lit up the whole day: a cold Snickers in the DMZ; a chilled slice of Mars Bar in Hoi An.

Why on earth did the French – so justly proud of their cheese – not leave a legacy of caseification in Vietnam? At least in cooler Ðàlạt? The country is so much the poorer for it. I feel that particularly at the moment, in the aftermath of the latest enteric, as, like Wallace, I want to eat nothing but cheese. I am subsisting solely on vache-qui-rit baguettes.

Anyway the question for today and for many a day is: what is a dollar worth? I don’t mean in pounds or dong, but what is it worth to me? What is the minimum pleasure I am willing to accept in return for choosing to pay a dollar? At the moment I haven’t a clue.

At the moment I’m spending about $30 a day in Vietnam outside the big cities; a little more in Thailand. I’m on course to spend much less than £10,000 if I travel for a year. I’m not travelling obsessively cheaply but I do stint on the hotels. I don’t stint on the food, as is clear, since it would violate my axioms.

But I have got used to a completely different set of prices, and it affects what I consume. For example, this morning I didn’t buy dried kiwi fruits during the bus ride, because they cost $3, a steep price. But I was hungry; so that was stupid. I take xe oms instead of taxis – even with all my bags. I have also turned down the chance to do some things because I thought the cost too high.

Let me be clear: I don’t think there’s anything morally superior about travelling cheaply as an end in itself. That’s juvenile. There is a level of comfort at which you never leave your hotel or your taxi, where I imagine you are partially insulated from your surroundings all the time. But I am not talking about that level. In any case, once you’ve eaten noodle soup at one Vietnamese street café, with your arse on a plastic seat one foot from the pavement, you’ve eaten at them all. Doing it every day doesn’t make you cool, it just makes your diet boring.

Yet over time minimising can easily become a game, an intellectual pursuit. I am falling into the trap.

If I were to start spending freely – without staying in five star hotels, but taking taxis and any tour I feel like – I might manage to spend £15,000-£17,000 in a year. So the question is really: what difference does £7,000 make? Out here, spending a few extra dollars makes a huge difference to the quality of what you buy and to the range of goods and services available. At home, much less so. So this is the place to spend the money, if at all.

It all depends on my permanent income. That is, roughly, what do I expect to earn over the rest of my working life? More relevantly, when am I going to start working again? And how much am I going to earn when I do? I don’t know when I am going back to the UK; I don’t know how long it will take to find a job when I do (the OECD has forecast UK GDP growth at 1.4% in 2009 (stop press, March 2009: IMF is forecasting UK growth of -3.8% this year!)); and I don’t even know the field in which I’m going to look for work.

So I don’t know whether £7,000 is a lot of money or a little. On the whole, unless I get a job with a salary that is a calculated insult – that is, return to academia or work at a junior level in the civil service – it’s not likely to make a huge difference to life when I return. Yet it would make a big difference out here: the difference between having and foregoing experiences out here that I will never have the opportunity to repeat.

In light of that, it seems clear me that I should spend and enjoy. Yet without a job to return to it’s difficult to do.

  • **

When they say hello or smile for a photo, the Vietnamese will very often flash a V for Victory sign. More often than not, an Italian, say, will get it the wrong way round - with the fingers in front of the thumb - producing the insulting gesture allegedly invented by the victorious archers at Crécy in 1346. In Vietnam, it is almost always employed in the Churchillian orientation. I wonder why they get it right; I guess some old commie used to flash victory signs?

  • **

This blog has received more than 10,000 visits. I have given the address to a few people, but more people are reading it, probably because some of the entries have been featured on the Travellerspoint website.

This raises the question of how to write for this unexpected readership. The blog has a lot of parochial English references; am I supposed to alter my style in order to be understood by people from different cultural backgrounds? Should I stick to a certain frequency? Should I try to maximise readership?

No: this is a blog, not a newspaper. I don’t want to write in the lowest-common-denominator straitened-vocabulary transnational newspeak favoured by international organisations; I’ve done that before. And I want to be able to refer to the Wombles or Test Match Special if I feel like it. The blog is supposed to be a record of my travels for me, my friends and family. If others find it interesting, they are very welcome. And since I’m on holiday, I’ll write when it’s convenient.

(Viagra penis extension porn Paris Hilton - that should keep the search engines interested.)

  • **

In eight hours you can probably fly from Vancouver to London. Or you can bus 300km from Ðàlạt to Saigon. Behind me, a well-heeled Vietnamese couple spoke English to their tiny baby and Vietnamese to each other.

Saigon: an evocative, bygone name, like Mandalay, Formosa, or Cathay. I've only been here a couple of hours but it doesn't seem very evocative, etc.

Posted by Wardsan 22:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Toujours Ðàlạt

all seasons in one day 25 °C
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I wrote a couple of days ago that Ðàlạt does not feel particularly French. Feeling slightly better this afternoon, I went for a walk and saw a part of town that does look rather more so. It is the higher part of town. There is a wide main road, which you could call a boulevard if you wanted, and some larger detached buildings, which you could call colonial villas (although most of them are newer). There are some genuine-looking villas on Tran Hung Dao, although some of them have as much Neasden as Nantes.

There is a ‘cathedral’, built in the 1930s. I like this cathedral, perhaps because I have never seen anything quite like it, especially the porch.

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Farther along the main road there is the Ðàlạt Palace, now occupied by Sofitel. It looks the sort of place where an Agatha Christie thriller would be set, or perhaps a high-class nursing home. But it’s fairly grand, the grounds are nice, the view over the lake is good, and if I ever come here again this is where I’ll stay: the double rooms are £80-90. I intend to eat there tonight, in fact.

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Although it’s a mile up the landscape is not mountainous like Sapa, dominated by Fansipan; it’s more like Skipton. That's no criticism.

Before seeing any of this I visited the Crazy House, a set of buildings designed and built since 1990 by Ðặng Việt Nga. She got a degree and a doctorate in Moscow between 1959 and 1972, in the days when the Russian empire was important. Later she worked at the Building Ministry in Hanoi and then in the Building Design Institute in Ðàlạt. Her father was the president of the Socialist Republic after Uncle Ho died.

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Her style, though, is the antithesis of the efficiency and brutalism of Soviet architecture. There is not a line or a plane in the whole place, but an infinite complexity that no plan or elevation could capture. Symmetry is rejected. The style is Gaudí meets Art Nouveau, Mervyn Peake and Terry Gilliam, with a bit of Dalí melting.

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Like Art Nouveau, the inspiration is organic. Everything sprouts. A column of creepers turns into a giraffe. Two of the buildings are styled like tree trunks. The stairs wind around the outside. The rooms have windows on all sides. You might be in an elf’s house (is it elves that sit on top of toadstools?).

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Each room is different. This is the interior of the Bear Room.

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This is the Tiger Room.

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It’s a hotel, by the way, as well as a popular tourist attraction; one room is on two levels, with a brilliant root-like banister. Or maybe it is just a root.

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It is, obviously, completely tasteless –it makes Gaudí look like Wren - but when you do something so extreme and so confident, it goes beyond taste. It’s brilliant – one of the few really original buildings to have been built in the country in the last hundred years. I would love to see something like this in Britain, but for one thing the health and safety laws would not allow it: for example I walked along a high walkway, with walls at knee height, which led to a sudden nothing.

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It’s odd, by the way, the I referred to Alexandre Yersin last time, since there is a Ðàlạt connection of which I was unaware. It was he who raved about the location in a report to the colonial government, which therefore developed it on his recommendation. It became the most luxurious hill station in southeast Asia, known (perhaps only to estate agents) as Le Petit Paris. It is not easy now, if it ever was, to see why. Even though it was never bombed, the luxury has vanished.

I forgot to mention the Ðàlạt Flower Gardens, by the lake. The plan of the site when you enter makes the place look like Kew Gardens. But the plan oversells it. Many of the areas seem to be closed or under construction; I saw no orchid in the orchid section. But, although it doesn’t match Sapa’s Ham Rong, it’s a nice place to spend an hour anyway.

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I am ashamed to say I haven’t a clue about flowers. Can someone help me out?

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[I know know that this is a hibiscus. It is the national flower of Malaysia.]

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There I also took this photo. Many people wear helmets everywhere, now that the law on motorbike helmets is in force and enforced. You have to wonder whether they have not become carapaces.

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Tomorrow, all being well – an important caveat – I’ll head to Ho Chi Minh City. It will take all day.

Posted by Wardsan 19:20 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Those brown trousers moments

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An animal that eats a food that has been been poisoned will tend to avoid the food or the flavour in the future. This conditioned taste aversion is very strong: it often operates after only one event, especially for novel flavours. You can even condition wolves not to eat sheep. Generally, though, such a strong susceptibility to taste aversion is likely to be adaptive, for obvious reasons.

There need be no causal connection between the aversive flavour and the nausea. Rats given harmless saccharine water as the conditioned stimulus, and subsequently given something to make them nauseous, will not consume the saccharine water when later presented with it. And chemotherapy can induce conditioned aversion responses to foods eaten just before the therapy that induces the nausea.

Similarly, take a rat already instrumentally conditioned to press a lever for sugar pellets. If you then make it sick after eating sugar pellets, it will quickly develop an aversion to the pellets and a reluctance to press the lever.

I seem to recall reading at university – although I can’t find any reference on the web just now - that, if you combine several stimuli with the nausea: say, sugar water, flashing light and bells; it’s the taste that dominates the other senses; and a fortiori, it dominates the reason. This, too, is likely to be adaptive: nausea is usually caused by eating or drinking poisons. (But not always, of course: you can get salmonellosis by handling reptiles, and there is always Clayderman).

I have been thinking about this because I’ve been confined to barracks for most of the last four days with gastric flu. I have no idea what caused it, but I am certain that it was not the last things I ate before hurrying back to the hotel. Almost the last thing was a durian ice cream. Once again, it tasted of chicken rubbed with garlic and then left outside for a few days; I’m still searching for Wallace’s "custard and cream".

Now this was a dish that I would not have enjoyed at the best of times, but now even the thought of it makes me retch as I write. It’s the end of the durian experiment, and I won’t be able to eat ice cream for a while. The point is that my stomach has jumped to its own conclusions – and they are incorrect. And no such aversion has resulted from my last dish, which I can’t even recall.

Avoiding ice cream is sensible in any case. Refreezing partially defrosted ice cream and then eating the result causes a lot of food poisoning back home. So it’s not sensible to eat it anywhere where there are power cuts – which, so far, means anywhere outside Hanoi. And this is the only place where I've broken the rule.

(Alcohol applied topically kills salmonella – and given where the bugs are, there is only one way to apply the medicine (well, two if you’re French, but let’s not go there). I have no reason to blame salmonella rather than, say, campylobacter, but it's better to be on the safe side. Incidentally, I always thought salmonella was named after a fish. Turns out it carries the name of the American scientist who discovered it; a bacterium his epitaph. Cf Alexandre Yersin, one of the very few Frenchmen still to have streets named after him in Vietnam. He ran the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang, and he also isolated the plague virus, now called Yersinia pestis.)

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Even when I head out I can’t go very far: I’m pretty feeble after a couple of days without eating, and the Brown Trousers Risk is too high. I’m really really fed up with fever and arse-pissing; it’s not even three weeks since the last episode. And lying in bed listening to them building next door is hard work. (They are building next to every hotel in Vietnam.) Listening to the proprietor's daughter play Clayderman on the piano downstairs is as trying, although the Chopin waltzes have been welcome.

Sorry, but every long-term traveller catches copromania eventually. What do you expect from an Asia blog?

Whatever the source of the bug, it’s upset both the stomach and the plans. I was hoping to head quickly through HCMC, fly back to Thailand and then head down quickly through Malaysia with a tour group in the middle of June. I still intend to do that at some stage, but will have to take it easy for a while – something that wouldn’t be possible on a fixed itinerary.

  • ****

I’m in Ðàlạt, incidentally; I got here just before falling ill. The journey was uneventful. This time I was struck only by the shocking alopecia of so many of the hills.

From what I can gather from my brief exercise breaks in the prison yard it’s a nicer place to be confined than Kon Tum. The place is packed with tourists – and almost none of them are westerners. The latter is a surprise, as Ðàlạt is firmly on the Lonely Planet and Open Tour routes.

It’s temperate here, as in Sapa. There are pines. They grow apples, pears, strawberries, apricots, sugar snap peas and artichokes, and they even seem to use greenhouses to grow flowers. The strawberry syrups, salted apricots, avocado milk shakes and artichoke tea are signature products of Ðàlạt. I’ve had the first three and they are pretty good (I had grilled eel stuffed with pork with apricot and chilli sauce today in my brief venture out, and the sauce was sensational).

Those of us from cold countries tend to head to warmer places to holiday. The Vietnamese do the opposite: they come here, a mile up. They walk around in jackets while I’m in a t-shirt.

An artificial lake, a sort of Serpentine, is next to the town.

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Naturally, people throng to the lakeside late in the day, some for the pedalo, some for the passegiata, some for the power walk (a popular pastime here).

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There is supposed to be more of a French feel here than elsewhere. The French, enjoying the climate, developed the place as a hill-station.

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My dad asked me recently about the extent of French influence in Vietnam. It’s much less than I expected, and much less than what I hear about British influence in Malaysia and Singapore (where, after all, the official language is English). I can only speculate that Vietnamese culture is robust enough and, above all, the population large enough that most foreign bodies could be absorbed and forced to adapt themselves, the exception being China. China is also the ultimate example, turning invaders into sophisticated Chinamen within a generation or two – even Genghis Khan’s family. There hasn’t been a successful invasion of England, on the other hand, that hasn’t profoundly changed it – unless you count 1688, and I’m not at all sure why it doesn't count. [Actually the answer must be: Whig history.]

(Roman Catholic) Christianity, of course, is another matter: the Portuguese may perhaps have started it in the sixteenth century but de Rhodes arrived here in 1620, only five years after the Jesuit mission was established in Hanoi; and the French colonial era encouraged it further.

I’ve identified very few words of Vietnamese that obviously derive from French. This is partly because the Vietnamese do not pronounce any of the consonants at the end of words – a bit like the French, come to think of it, only more so. Oh, and I don’t speak Vietnamese. But the ones I think are French are:

  • Ca rot, carrot

  • Bit thêt, steak

  • Pa tin, which I take to mean skating

  • Atisô, artichoke

  • Ô tô, car

  • Sà lách, salad

  • Sô kô la, chocolate

  • Vani vanilla

  • Kem, cream, ice cream

  • Flan, crème caramel

  • Bia (perhaps), beer

(OK, spot the truncated sample. But you won’t find much French in words relating to government or law, for example – they’re all Chinese. If you want useful phrases like bribe, corruption, show trial, censorship, discrimination or hypocrisy, your French won’t help.)

But even here in Ðàlạt the French influence is not overwhelming. There is the particular fruit and veg; there is the odd bloke in a beret (although more in Sapa); the waiter tried to be supercilious but soon gave it up. That’s about it as far as I can see.

Oh, and the post office tower is vaguely Eiffel. And since it’s one of the greatest buildings in the world, why not?

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Posted by Wardsan 18:28 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Frog/man

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I’ve been hanging around in Nha Trang for about ten days now. I’ve enjoyed eating a variety of food here: French, Italian, Mexican and Japanese, a nice change after two months of rice and noodles. And while writing this I’ve been listening to an improbable England victory on Test Match Special on BBC Radio. It will be hard to garner the motivation to leave.

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In between vast stretches of lazing around, immobile as if in the Jovian gravitational field, I’ve been following the Live and Let Die training regime (qv) – minus the fags and most of the booze – and feel in better nick than I have for a few years. A downside: with newly-sunken cheeks (well, ish - a slight concavity) I'm looking every one of my years and more, and can't go around pretending to be 21.

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Most of the time it's just westerners and Asian tourists who bask during the day. The locals come out on to the beach around 5pm, and then it gets crowded (although the long lens distorts the perspective).

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While immobile I have read:

    Master and Commander Patrick O’Brian;
    The Black Dahlia James Ellroy;
    Desolation Island Patrick O’Brian;
    On Killing, Lt Col Dave Grossman;
    The Fortune of War Patrick O’Brian;
    Flashman, George Macdonald Fraser; and
    most of The Iliad, Homer.

I would like to reread the Master and Commander series in order but you take what you can get out here.

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I’ve also qualified as a PADI Open Water diver, or frogman as Ian Fleming would have put it. This doesn’t mean that I’m a competent diver – far from it - but I can rent gear and dive down to 18 metres with another person. I like wearing the wetsuit: it makes me feel like an action man. My diving buddy on the course was Michel, a French-speaking Switzer from Lausanne. Judging by the photos, we were indistinguishable underwater. I'm on the left of this picture, with a red snorkel.

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(Incidentally, Michel is vegan. He says he has no trouble in Vietnam. Cream and cheese play no part in indigenous cooking – more’s the pity - and with the exception of the Sinosoups, eggs are self contained, hard boiled or omelette. I'm almost entirely carnivorous. Yesterday lunchtime I had eel pate, with vermicelli, diced black mushrooms and onions, wrapped like a haggis - delicious and savoury - and DIY barbequed squid with salt and chilli. I ate half the squid raw before the barbeque arrived - also lovely, if almost too spicy to eat.)

The visibility is unusually poor for this time of year, because of the heavy rain in the last few weeks. But you can still see a lot of interesting creatures, including fluorescent fish. Among tens that I don’t know, I have seen:

• Several demon stingers (Inimicus didactylus). These have very poisonous dorsal spines; one sting and you’re in hospital for six months, if you’re lucky. They walk slowly across the bottom on their pectoral fins. They flash the fins as a defensive warning gesture. When they aren’t flashing, they look just like sand.

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• Puffer fish.

• Shrimp fish (I think). They swim in schools, vertically, head down, looking like ribbons.

• Egg cowries.

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• A grouper with a fish in its mouth.

• An oriental searobin, which looks a bit like a moth underwater.

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• Several moray eels (both white-eyed and giant morays).

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• Tiny yellow box fish.

There are also huge quantities of hard and soft coral – the coral is very healthy around here – anemones and sea urchins. The sea urchins are jet black, very large (many times the size of those in the Mediterranean), with bright blue bits on the body (actually the anal sac). Attractive, but dangerous: the spines embed themselves in flesh and break off as soon as they are touched. This is a good incentive to work on the buoyancy control.

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When you’re diving you concentrate on breathing slowly, moving slowly, keeping any movement to a minimum, keeping your pulse down. It doesn’t feel like exercise at all, yet it’s very tiring. One guy told me it’s because it’s harder work breathing denser air and moving through water under greater pressure. Another guy told me it’s because of the build-up of nitrogen in the body. (It’s the nitrogen released from solution upon ascent to the surface that gives divers the bends.)

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The pictures were taken during our dives by Khương, our instructor.

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  • **

I have undergone two massages while travelling, one in Bangkok and one here. Both have involved violence. In Bangkok, the masseuse tried to tie me in knots; you might as well try bending the QE2’s anchor. Here in Nha Trang, a skinny but extraordinarily strong young woman beat me up. First it felt as though she was trying to thrust a fist between my ribs in order to extract my beating heart in some kind of Mesoamerican sacrifice; then she tried to thrust her thumbs through my temples as if breaking open a roll.

If this is the experience at reputable establishments, it’s no wonder there are so many disreputable ones.

  • **

27 May: I wrote all the above yesterday. The ease of life in Nha Trang made me indolent. It was time to get out. So, seizing upon a temporary burst of energy, I've hauled my wind to Buôn Ma Thuột, the coffee capital of the country. As you can see on the map, I've gone on an ursa major meander over the last three weeks, ending up only 250 km south of Kon Tum. It's taken 16 hours by bus, at an average of 40 km/h.

Every intercity bus journey I've taken in VN, except the hop between Hanoi and Ninh Binh, has been pretty hideous. Today promised better. There were only 13 people in the bus and I had a whole seat to myself. But an hour into the trip a woman sitting right behind the driver vomited out of the window. The eggy bile hit the turbulent air behind the wing mirror and splashed upwards and back through the windows. All of us on the window side got splashed. After that I was close to hurling for most of the remaining four hours.

I like Buôn Ma Thuột so far. It's been just about cool enough to wander around without serious discomfort; we're at 450m here. I had a good coffee at a cafe that overlooked a little gully, filled with coconut palms and coffee plants. I tried what the men at the table next door were drinking: 'chanh rum', or lemon 'rum'. I don't know what this is but I don't think it's rum. The drink was red and fruity like strawberry or grenadine.

Then I wandered around a local market. I wanted to buy a belt. But the only belts on offer here are D&G, Versace and Armani, with huge buckles: way too bling. If you want a t-shirt, it's Polo or Lacoste. I bought a red Lacoste for £3. Is it real? I don't care, but I would think so. The big labels are unlikely to want to manufacture anywhere outside China or Vietnam. I got a lot of attention at the market naturally. I ended up unconsciously standing up straight and throwing a chest - I've got bigger tits than most VN women - which ends up exaggerating the height difference and attracting even more attention. But unlike Kon Tum, everybody at the market was friendly.

Also on sale at the market: miracle vacuum cleaners; large pink quartz sculptures; ginseng honey. Ginseng grows well on some of the hills in Dak Lak province, of which BMT is the capital. I was told in Kon Tum that the minority peoples (lots of Ede and M'nong around here) overcropped it. So the government took back control of the land and production.

Posted by Wardsan 23:57 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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