Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Scammed and Scrammed!

Greetings from Hanoi!

In the past couple of weeks I have:
  • Come uncomfortably close to being scammed (and quite possibly held for ransom) for $26,000 by some Philipinos in Saigon. It's an unbelievable story and would make a great movie-ette!
  •  Quickly fled Saigon (see above)
  •  Been really really hot, then really really cold
  •  Seen a bunch of overpriced tombs and pagodas while starving on a bunk dragon boat in Hue.
  •  Eaten at least a gazillion spring rolls. 
  •  Gone on a very long hike to see some very short phalli (yes, that's what she said!), the enormiosity of which was grossly exaggerated by TBWSNBN! (see previous blog post)
  •  Lost all my shirts except one. Lost items include my "cowgirls need more than an 8 second ride" shirt, which I am still mourning. I think it must be somewhere in the vicinity of Angkor Wat - dang.
  • Realized that apparently all the stupid t-shirts in stupid Vietnam are made of synthetic material which I refuse to wear (see dot #6)
  •  Been up the coast via sleeping buses to: Na Trang, Hoi An, Hue, and now Hanoi. We had to skip some places on southern itinerary due to dot #1 (see above).
  •  Come to terms with the fact that everything in this country is marked up about 400% for honkies. I am not exaggerating. It gets exhausting  bargaining for a cup of coffee, a bunch of bananas, a place to sleep - argh!
  •  Bought a ticket to Bangkok. (see dots # 1-10 above). We fly out tonight on Quatar Airlines. I ain't never heard of Quatar Air - have you? Please send energy of the "happily and safely airborne" variety!
  •  Tried and tried in vain to log onto Facebook. Damn commies have it blocked. Not too big on freedom of speech. Facebook's dumb anyway - screw it!
  • Acquired a kickboard and have been toting it around since Saigon- man, I'm such a swim-dork! At least it doesn't weigh much!

And now I am off to pack once more...
I'll be back in Thailand by this time tomorrow...will write more later from civilization, where it's warm and safe and they have soft clothes!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Bible-Backed Python Survives Saigon

There are approximately 10 million people in Saigon, and somewhere between 6 and 7 million motorbikes. There may or may not be some sort of road rules; if there are, no one, and I mean NO one, is following them! So crossing the street, any street, is an excercise in blind suicidal/homicidal trust. The Book-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named (ok, it's Lonely Planet, but shall herewith be referred to only as "TBWSNBN") suggests the following tactic for crossing the street without getting maimed, killed, or otherwise hideously impacted:

How to Cross the Street and Live to Tell the Tale
If you don't want to wind up like a bug on a windshield, pay close attention to a few pedestrian survival rules when crossing the street, especially on the streets of motorbike-crazed HCMC and Hanoi. Foreigners frequently make the mistake of thinking that the best way to cross a busy street in Vietnam is to run quickly across it. This does not always work in practice, and could get you creamed. Most Vietnamese cross the street slowly - very slowly - giving the motorbike drivers sufficient time to judge their position so they can pass on either side. They won't stop or even slow down, but they will try to avoid hitting you. Just don't make any sudden moves. Good luck!

Penny is blind in her left eye, which we have found very helpful in street-crossing. We put Penny on the side closest to oncoming traffic (that would be the left side, yo), while I hold onto her right arm and look straight ahead. This way, neither of us can see what's barreling towards us and therefore we cannot freak out/freeze/otherwise put ourselves on the brink, 'cause we just don't see 'em coming. So far, this seems to be working alright. That said, if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks, then perhaps this wasn't such a great tactic after all... :)

motorbike blur


There's an old Vietnamese man who walks around our neighborhood with a bible and a pink back scratcher - you know, one of those plastic jobs with a claw on the end. He makes daily rounds through the streets talking about jesus and heaven and sinners and hell and what's gonna happen "when you kick the bucket". I'm not sure where the back scratcher fits into the picture. Maybe he uses it for some good ol' fashioned bible-thumping when he gets far enough into his spiel. I've found that saying "NO JESUS!" in somewhat loud and devilish voice usually makes him mosey on over to the next potential recruits. Mind you, I wouldn't mind a good back-scratching, but the price seems a bit steep...(also, where the hell did he learn a term like 'kick the bucket'?)


A couple of days ago, we went on a boat tour of the Mekong Delta which was, surprisingly, as good as it sounds. We went to a honeybee farm and drank fresh honey-lemon tea with a sprinkling of bee pollen, then proceeded via our wee little canoe to a coconut candy factory, which was vaguely reminiscent of that famous "I Love Lucy" episode...same same but different, as they say.

But wait, there's more!

At said factory they had, somewhat incongruously, a 20-liter jug of snake juice, which allegedly increases a man's virility.

 Since I am:
   a) not a man; and
   b) virile enough already,

I drank some just for the heck of it. It was quite nice, actually, if you're able to overlook the 10 or so snakes coiled up in the jar...
snake juice

During said tour, we made friends with three wacky Indonesians, including a fabulously gay guy self-named Ivan the Bitch,  and made plans to meet up later for a  "must-see" Vietnamese Water Puppet show. This was hands-down the most dorkazoid activity we've engaged in on the trip thus far. So afterwards, we went out with the 'nesians and washed the experience down with a heaping helping of grilled fish, self-sauteed beef, and a fresh coconut chaser. We followed this with a foray into an ultra-posh club called the Q-bar. It was full of backlit bars and  feather-boa chandeliers and a DJ who played crappy house music and had never heard of Queen, funk, or the Village People.
I ask you, what kind of DJ is that?
Nonetheless, we danced the night away, as the Indonesian trio were dance ho's on a par with yours truly. Dance, baby, dance!


Oh, yeah - before I forget: I put a mofo python around my neck and here's proof:

crotch python

Luckily, that was before I drank the snake juice, or things may not have turned out quite so well. I'm pretty sure that pythons don't take kindly to people drinking the juice of their kinfolk!

I am now shutting my cake hole.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Big ol' Dong and Friends

Some haiku for you:

Pig Rip Bear Trim
Pig spit face to rear
slowly consumed by those who
then go trim their bear.

drinking your nectar
teeth nibbling at tender flesh
devouring the young...

bungalow amputee
unsettling dream of
a bungalow amputee
clawing ground beef flesh

big ol' dong
adolescent minds
giggle at 'nam currency
heh-heh! she said "dong"!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

But this book is different!

Angkor Wat is stunning, amazing, incredible, awe-inspiring, and marvellous.***

It is also highly photogenic:

sunrise at angkor wat

me lean, tree lean

Another striking thing about Angkor, Siem Reap town, and Cambodia in general is a little something called 'touts'. There are adults, children, amputees, tuk-tuk drivers hawking everything from silk scarves to coconuts to bracelets to dirt cheap bootleg photocopies of books (ha! take THAT, Lonely Planet!!). You name it, they've got it.

And everything seems to cost $1, no matter what it is.

t-shirts: $1
jewelry: $1
blessing from a nun: $1

no kidding.

It's like the ultimate country-wide dollar store...the tourists are like walking ATM machines, just like the actual Cambodian ATMs, which for some reason spit out US currency.

These hawkers are relentless, especially the kids. One guy was selling copies of bootleg books (asking the surprising amount of...you got it...$1!). I'd already said no several times and in several ways, such as:  "I don't need a book", "I already have a book", "Go somewhere else with your books", "why don't I tell you where to put your books" and so on.

So he comes up with the best line I've heard so far:
                  "But this book is different!"

He gets points for originality...

However, being the logical little monkey that I am, I immediately shot back with:
                 "ALL books are different!"

This brilliant bit of logic stopped him in his tracks. 

Tout: 0    Jingles:1

This interaction inspired me to come up with a few other efficient and effective hawker-repellant techniques which I'd like to pass along to you future recipients of touty accostationism:

1) Make "bloop-blooping" noises like a fish while making swimming motions, thereby forging a path through the sea of venders. (this both confuses and amuses)

 2) Start Skipping at the critical moment just before verbal contact is made (this stuns the tout long enough for an escape, plus is a good aerobic workout!)

3) Make insane sounds and facial distortions. (actually, this doesn't work as well as I'd hoped, but will do in a pinch - mostly the kids just laugh and keep pushing for a sale...)

4) Poking in tout's direction with a sharp object (method still unproven, am saving for grabby Saigon tuk-tuk drivers)

5) Wild animal growl and lunge (for extreme cases only - this one even scares Penny!)

6) Repeating word for word what tout is saying (works especially well on tuk-tuk drivers); also works to say "my name's not 'tuk-tuk'" (gives 'em a giggle and facilitates ease of escape)

7) Singing loudly and continuously (works especially well with Penny and I in tandem - no break in noise = no chance for a spiel)

8) Dancing like a freak (another 'stun-and-amuse' technique; plus, this is something I already do on a regular basis, so for me, it's basically just like any other snapshot of my day)

9) Logical arguments (see above anectode). I've said some shocking things in the name of logic, which I won't go into here lest I offend the gullistupibese among you :)

 ***For more redundant, repetitive and self-referential adjectives, see http://www.roget.org/scripts/qq.php

So there you have it.


I have now moved on to a place with white sand beaches, crystal clear blue water, palm trees blowing in the wind and mango shakes to my heart's desire. Tuk-tuk free, tout free, full of shiny, happy (and veeeeeeeerrrrrrry mellow people).

I happy.

This is Phu Quoc island, in southern Vietnam.  I haven't worn shoes in 8 days. I am brown as a nut. Went snorkelling all day yesterday. Having grilled fish on the beach for dinner. Just had a 60,000 dong massage on the beach (that's $3 to you and me). I am looking good, feeling good, up with the rising sun, reading Stieg Larsson like a maniac (if you haven't yet read the Millinium Trilogy, hie thee immediately to the nearest book building and get your mystery on!)

We're flying to Saigon on Saturday morning, so I'm heading off now to luxuriate in my last two days of lounging/swimming/mangoing/Larssoning!