February, 2010

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Monday Feb 15 Saigon

Monday, February 15th, 2010

It is very easy to spend a couple of months travelling through Indo China to all the usual tourist spots and not find out much about what’s really going on beyond the tourist scene. Your conversations are usually with other tourists along the way. A level closer is with foreigners who are living here, many married to Indo Chinese women. That’s with whom I spent most of the day with today. The next level is with the locals but that takes more language skills/time. A few things I learnt today, one of which that there is still a marked difference between Hanoi and Saigon. The northeners are politically still much more in step with the gospel according to Ho Chi Minh whereas the Cochinois take that most with a grain of salt and like to poke fun at the rigidity of the Tonkinois. When I was here in 2006 every boat larger than a rowboat flew a Vietnamese ensign. Now more than half of the boats in the Mekong Delta have done a way or fly a tattered remnant of a Vietnamese flag. In Hanoi and Halong Bay they still fly one on every floating object.

The owner, Mike, of the breakfast only restaurant on the corner here had time to talk to me because I was the only customer, for once. He is 5 years younger and was trained in California, when I was serving here in the early sixties, for the Vietnamese army. He managed to get out to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon in 1974 to California but came back 10 years ago. Next I stopped to see my Vietnamese/American repatriate friend  Mike, for coffee. He pointed out to me that the urchins who are panhandling here this week have been brought in from Cambodia, to take advantage of the repenting Vietnamese wanting to make Buddha happy. Later on, in the area around the hotel I saw new little beggars, I had never seen before. They do not understand Vietnamese but just grunt out some  basal noises.

My third stop for the morning was at Sheridan’s Irish Pub to meet Thomas Hutchings.  A second generation Dutch Canadian, Fred Wissink, I met earlier in Saigon suggested I meet Thomas. Hutchings spent also a year and a half in a U.S. Airforce intelligence unit at Tan Son Nhut in the early seventies. He has been living here for the last 8 years. He is a free lance photographer and has had two books published, fictional stories based on his Vietnam experiences.  He is also a columnist for the local  Saigon Business Weekly.   https://journeysmobilevet.com/edimprove/viagra-50-cialis-ou-levitra-20/26/ http://windmillharbourmarina.org/viagra-magasin-paris/ https://thejeffreyfoundation.org/newsletter/academic-writing-lecture/17/ https://dsaj.org/buyingmg/cialis-sale-london/200/ source link 365pills gehirn dragon wirkung viagra source site levitra windy hills no prescription lorazepam celta essay example moral essays research papers online banking definition essay on friendship writing powerpoint presentation https://ergonetwork.org/publications/intro-to-college-application-essay/91/ https://norfolkspca.com/medservice/doxycycline-streptococcus-pyogenes/14/ norco viagra viagra reditabs enter site produto similar ao viagra pillole cialis a cosa servono follow url https://willcoxwinecountry.org/linkedin/sanskrit-language-essays/47/ essay writing summary https://plastic-pollution.org/trialrx/prednisone-autism/31/ kamagra oral jelly herz enter go to link essay on oedipus being a tragic hero kamagra manufacturer mumbai http://www.thomas-hutchings.com Thomas introduced me to another U.S. Vietnam veteran living in Saigon, Gil Simpson. We talked for a couple of hours. I enjoyed their company very much. Monday afternoon I decided to apply for a seat with the group of ex-patriate French men who gather in the restaurant just next to my hotel.  Philippe a Breton, from Skrelder. This is the same spot where my friend Philippe Blochet is from. The single handed sailor I wrote about in my Blue Water Sailing magazine article. Philippe’s Vietnamese wife used to work for the security section of the new Vietnamese government and he had some interesting stories on how the few foreigners in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon till deep into the eighties were being shadowed and all their contacts being interrogated. Fabrice a young Parisian. Joelle from Lausanne. A couple from Cannes, regular returning tourists like myself, Bernard and  Anne Marie.  This, now Tuesday, morning I shared a table with Michael a British Australian from Melbourne. He had spent time in the British army in Vietnam in 1954, at age 18, before Dien Bien Phu. I had a chance to see Iris off Sunday evening, she found me next to the hotel and we had a beer together. She had just come in from Dalat and had stopped in Hue, Hoi An and Nhatrang. She flew back to Maryland early Monday morning.

I am taking the sleeper bus to Nha Trang this evening and plan to be back to Saigon for at least three days or more before I fly back to Seattle on or around the 23rd of March. This will also depend on my Visa extension/renewal.

At Sheridan's Irish Pub

At Sheridan's Irish Pub

Feb 14 “Happy Lunar New Year” And “Happy Valentine’s Day”

Sunday, February 14th, 2010



It is 00.50 hours in the Year of the Tiger. The Ox, my sign, has been put to pasture till 2021. The drums started beating  right at midnight. The fireworks over the Saigon river exploded at the same time. What a treat!! Fourth of July fireworks in Tacoma pale in comparison to it.  I spent the early morning in the City Culture Park where I had spotted the Tulips yesterday. A delightful park, adjacent to the former Cercle Sportif. A strip of central Saigon that has not been turned into High Rises yet. With 80 year old tall African Mahogany trees (Khaya Senegalenis) planted by the French and native Dipterocarpea, “Dau”. There were Bonzai exhibits, tropical fish tanks, orchids, flower arrangement contest and the same Flamenco band that played Friday night on the REX rooftop. The entry fee to the park was 20,000 dong ($1.10) . The tulips were a big hit for the Vietnamese but they had to be constantly tended to and replaced in this heat. Afterwards I stopped to have coffee at Mike’s restaurant and met three of his regulars, also repatriates; Van from Vancouver, Son from Toronto and Txoa from Orange County, California. It is now Sunday morning. I went to 9.30 English service at N.D. de Saigon. Because of New Year’s day many of the Vietnamese ladies wore their brand new Oa Dais.  Fat ladies can’t wear Oa Dais. We should introduce them in the U.S. as school unforms from grade one through twelve. That would solve our obesity problems for ever. On that subject, this Tuesday is Mardi Gras. I left Gig Harbor the day after Ash Wednesday 2005. It has been a great experience and I have much to be grateful for. Thirty Four countries, 36,000 nautical miles, tons of new friends. I have to get my second insert into my passport and the discovery celebration continues. 

I have made up a slide show of just the Colors of  Tet, the flowers and decorations around this most important Vietnamese and Chinese holiday. Yesterday’s incredible exhibit and this morning’s fireworks, at : https://cometosea.us/albums/albums/LunarNewYearVietnam2010.pdf                        It takes a few minutes to upload and you may need to advance through the pictures by hitting the space bar.

Feb 12 Saigon. My days of the year of the Ox are counting down.

Friday, February 12th, 2010

And the (2010) Tiger is already nipping at the Ox’s tail. Saigon is one great big party town. I have never ever experienced a city partying like this. I’ve witnessed Lunar New Year in Hong Kong in 1962.  I have not been to Rio yet at Carnival but, I want to make a bet, that there is not a place on this earth that spends this kind of energy and resources to celebrate a holiday. Keukenhof pales by the number of flowers and plants that are right now displayed in Saigon alone. The Vietnamese even know how to raise Tulips in the tropics. I got a glimpse and plan to return at the proper lighting to prove it on tomorrow’s blog. Hanoi blew my mind but Saigon took my breath away. It is impossible to do justice with a few pictures on the blog and I intend to post a slide show of just the Tet splendor. I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams what I was in for by being here in the Lunar New Years holiday. Tet 1962 was a wonderful experience but the numbers and growing techniques have come a long way since. Hanoi’s Tet colors are Red, the red Peach blossoms and Poinsettias. The south is Yellow. Yellow Apricot blossoms, yellow mums.

The below pictures were taken in the afternoon and another run on the rented bike in the evening. The “Peoples” Party has spent most of their resources on Le Loi and Nguyen Hue. The Uptown intersecting boulevards that did not have their names changed after the “reunification”. The same signs with the Hammer and Sickle and Vietnam Yellow Star wishing us a “Happy Communist  Happy Spring”  ( Mung Dang Mung Xuan) as I sho wed you in Hanoi.                   I went up to the roof top at the REX hotel to get the below pictures. For those who don’t recall or have not yet read my log of my 2006 Vietnam visit, I was among the very first customers to sleep at the REX in 1961, when it was in it’s final phase of becoming a hotel. We had our  1961 Thanksgiving dinner cooked on the same roof top with our company field kitchen… For two Heinekens at the outrageous expense of $7.50 I was entertained on the Rex rooftop by an incredible Vietnamese Flamengo band. A Greek Canadian crooned some of my favorites, “Hotel California”, “Delilah”, etc. A fabulous latino singer sang with the Flamengistos and when he saw my lips move on “Besame Mucho” he pulled me up to the microphone. So, justice came to Vietnam after all, after the 17 men crowd was rudely denied my Karaoke performance on Ha Long Bay. Am I having fun yet? You bet your sweet ass, I am!  Between the matinee and soiree I stopped to have a beer with my Vietnamese American friend Mike, who I got to know the first day I came to Saigon on this vacation. I like him very much.

Feb 11 Thursday Hanoi to Saigon

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I found the hotel where I had spent Easter weekend 2006. From the below photos you will notice a marked difference in the activity since 2006. It is another hot day in Hanoi. I took a walk around Hoa Kiem Lake. Thousands of potted flowers are wilting in the heat, Mums, Begonias, Poinsettia, Azeleas, etc. The sense of the festivities is all over, the stalls selling New Years decorations, fowers, plants, blossom branches, gifts, new clothes and shoes. The markets are packed and today the men were taking longer lunches and drinking a whole lot more. I’ll be saying my “au revoirs” to Maud,  Martine and Caroline and find my way to the Hanoi airport for the flight to Saigon.

Feb 10 Hanoi

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Maud and I rented bicycles and set out in the early morning. At the second intersection we got separated trying to cross through the handlebar to handlebar motor bike traffic coming at you from 10 different directions. It took a few hours to get hooked up again. We rode to the entire different world living on the lake front of the two large lakes east of the old citycenter. My plane to Saigon leaves in the late evening tomorrow, Thursday. Becasue of the Tet holiday I will ahev to wait till early next week to try and get my visa extended in Saigon. 

Tuesday Feb 9 Ninh Binh

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

This was a worthwhile one day trip. First stop was at the Vietnam’s very first capital city Hoa Lu from which the Mongol invasion was repelled. From there we took a one hour bicycle trek through the rice fields amid the steep limestone rock formations, similar to those in Ha Long. This gave us a chance to observe from very close up the planting of the rice from their seed beds into the paddies and pass through a few hamlets with ancient brick and plaster  homes. The disadvantage of these “Cook” tours is that it is hard to get away from the crowds but the advantage is that you get a chance to meet fellow travellers from many parts of the globe. And the tour leader did a an excellent job in watching his flock on the bicycle trek and the two hour excursion on the river through three caves where two tourists were rowed by two boats(wo)men. I had dinner with Maud in Hanoi, her friends Martine and Caroline are off to Halong Bay till tomorrow. Today the two of us will explore Hanoi by bicycle. Its unseasonal warm this week and the peach blossoms for this Sunday’s new year celebration are opening up prematurely.

Monday Feb 8 Hanoi. Joepie, Joepie is gekomen….

Monday, February 8th, 2010

My forelast day to explore Hanoi. If this blog comes out a little garbled it is due to the hotel manager bringing out the rice wine, 45% alcohol. It tastes like Pear Schnapps. I am with two German couples. One from Muenster/Wahrendorf, the wife is from Gothenburg. So, similar to my twin brother who is married to a Swedish woman from Malmoe. And just to make the world even samller, the other couple is from near Hamburg and she used to be involved in politics in the town my twin brother lives, Reinbek. Margarite Hoffmann, Stadsraeter fuer die Gruene. And she knows Kueckallee where my brother lives. My first stop, on the bicycle, was the Temple of Literature ( Van Mieu ), dedicated to Confucius, was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university was established here to educate Vietnam’s administrative and warriors class. Parts of the university date from this earlier time period although the large complex has undergone many changes over the centuries. But recent archaeological study indicates that the architecture of this site belongs primarily to the Ly (1010-1225) and Tran (1225-1400) Dynasties. The complex is in a tranquil park-like site in the heart of central Hanoi. The most important artefacts in the temple are the ‘stelae’ , stone tortoise pedestals, which list the names and birthplaces of scholars who recieved doctorates.
Here is what I found on the internet on the oldest universities: By continent, the oldest universities are headed up by the University of Nanjing, in China, founded around 258 BCE. It was only formally termed a “university” in 1888, but it has offered education to Chinese without the issuance of formal degrees for centuries. Next, representing Africa, is the University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, founded in 859, followed by the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy, founded in 1088 by students who recruited instructors. Next stop the “Hanoi Hilton”, or Hoa Lo Prison. This is were a few hundred American pilots had free Hanoi lodging in the seventies. The best known of them senator John McCain, he was plucked outof the lake I showed on the web site yesterday, Truc Bach Lake. The third sight was the Quan Su Pagoda. Quan Su is one of the most important temples in Vietnam. Constructed in the 15th century along with a small house for visiting Buddhist ambassadors, in 1934 it became the headquarters of the Tonkin Buddhist Association and today it is headquarters for the Vietnam Central Buddhist Congregation.

After our Botoms up “Gian Van Chian!??” with the two German couples I ended up going for dinner with my three new French friends, Maud, Martine and her daughter Caroline, all three from La Rochelle. And a Bearnaise, Lea. Maud was born in Vietnam, and repatriated with her French father and Vietnamese mother to France when she was 5 years old.

Sunday February 7 Hanoi. One week before Lunar New Year, Tet

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel and the t.v. is playing the early eighties movie of the 4  couples who get together after a college reunion. I forgot the name but I remember the one song “Jeremiah is a Bull Frog”. Great movie, I saw it in the mid eighties with Joan Wildman.  And according to the printed text today’s epistle was from Jeremiah but on further scrutiny that was a printing/language error. The epistle was from Isaiah 1-2A, 3-8 “Here I am Lord”. And the Gospel was from Luke 5-1-11. The miraculous catch of fish on the lake of Gennesaret. I had expected that there would be a French service at the cathedral of St. Joseph, where I went to Easter service in 2006, in a French mass. But St. Joseph has only Vietnamese services. The English service at 10.30 a.m. was at Cua Bac Church. It was a once monthly children’s mass. Very few tourists because it is a distance from the tourist hangouts. Mostly ex-pats and Vietnamese English speaking wannabes. Nice service. Father Alphonsus Hung (same  as our Gig Harbor priest, father Nguyen Hung) Pham is the parish priest. Ugly church from the early 20th century, similar to St. Joseph. But it brough me to a part of the city I had not seen in 2006; near the presidential palace. There is the Citadel that was stormed by the French in 1882 and the garrison in the Citadel compound. On the grounds were several competitions going. The most unusual one was a contest of the best sing bird. As you will see from the photos there were at least 173 entries and they are judged for how well and how long they sing in a three hour period. It was just amazing to watch the intense expectations of the owners. I was told that these birds, they were all the same and in the same cages, are worth a small fortune. The other competitions were for bonsai and marble sculptures. It was just incredible how much the Hanoians were taking advantage of all these parks and events. I had to rent a bike and go back to the same area and see more of it. I rode down West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. Both were at least the size of Lake Washington in Seattle. Paddle boats, people fishing, restaurants, lovers relaxing on the banks, beautiful residential areas that reminded me of Lago Magggiore. Hanoi is just a great city to live and play in. Much more so than Saigon.  I also rode the Red River banks trying to find the same back alleys I remember from 2006. The below figures show some of the transformation the country is going through, getting ready for Tet. Women are busy planting thousands of fresh plants to liven up the parks and boulevards. The red Peach blossom branches and miniature Mandarin trees are everywhere.  I had more fun on the bicycle than all the guided tours I have dones so far. But I will do just one more guided day trip on Tuesday to go to the river of Tam Coc. I was trying to Google for the cruelty committed to the Redemptorist priest Nguyen Van Khai but most of the sites are blocked by the Vietnamese government. Please, make a point of getting this information. This is not a perfect world and we all need to be aware of what is still being shoved under the carpet as far as the the limited freedoms of expression in this country, China, Laos, Birma, Cuba etc.

Saturday Feb 6 last day in Sapa

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Another stiff hike to the village of Lao Chai and Ta Vam. Roughly 20 people from our hotel were divided into groups of six each with a Hmong woman/girl as a guide. The as soon as we leave the gate each individually gets an unofficial Hmong woman/girl to walk the trek right alongside. They make sure that you watch for the dangerous spots and then at the end they expecvt you to purchase their handicrafts at outrageous prices. Most of these tribes ladies are from Lao Chai; they live here with the other mountain tribe the (Red) Dzao. The Hmong are usually nothing over 5 foot tall. The Dzao are nearly a foot taller, they wear the colorful red headdress. Today we went all downhill and then were picked up, after a lunch in the village, by the hotel bus to bring us back for an early dinner and the bus ride back to the rail station in Lao Cai. Our night train departs at 8.10 p.m. and arrives early Sunday morning in Hanoi.

Iris will take the night bus to Hue on Sunday and continue on via Hoi An, Dalat to Saigon. I plan to use the February 11 flight ticket from Hanoi to Saigon, that I had bought for both of us in early January. I will try and make a few trips in the Hanoi area and then we will probably meet up on the 15 th in Saigon when Iris flies home. I have seen Hue, Hoi Ann and Dalat in 2006.

Friday Feb 5 Sapa Vietnam

Friday, February 5th, 2010

I had never seen a train in Vietnam in this or any of the previous visits. There was the usual confusion getting on the right platform and the right train. The train was made up into 12 cars, a baggage car and a wagon for the light motor bikes. We shared a 4 bed sleeper compartment with a young Scottish couple. The berth was hard but we all slept reasonably well. The train left right on time at 5 minutes to 10 p.m. and arrived at 6.30 a.m. It was another 25 k.m. bus ride to the hotel where we could clean up and get breakfast. The hotel has a superb view of the valley and the mountain ridges the highest peak is above 10,000 feet and they get an occasional dusting of snow. The aboriginals here are the Black Hmong and there a couple other ethnic minorities here. They all wear colorful embroidered traditional dress and silver jewelry. The women and girls hawk their handicrafts in a rather aggressive manner. The men leave you in peace. But don’t we always? After breakfast we took a serious hike down to Cat Cat village. The air was crisp, morning clouds were drifting low over the valley, the smells of cow dung and wood fires made it feel like I was hiking on a fall afternoon in the Alps. The pink peach blossom branches are being gathered now and shipped to Hanoi and elsewhere for the Tet celebration. The terraced rice fields are now barren in the dry season but a sight to see in a few more months when they change to a bright green. Tomorrow we go on an all day hike and have lunch in the valley.