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Friday, December 23, 2011

STILL IN SAIGON

TWAS THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND ALL THROUGH SAIGON

[For clarity, HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) = Saigon]

I really intensely dislike going out at night in a new town until I get a feel for the town. I'm not sure if it's being paranoid or just plain cautious but I like to know what I'm getting into. The night time is when it cools off significantly and the towns in SE Asia really come to life. It is a short lifetime for most of the countries as everything closes up somewhere between 21:00 and 24:00, after the residents have worked through a twelve hour or longer day.

Hunger drove me out earlier than I'd wanted through the streets of Saigon. If I have to go out at night in an unfamiliar town, I try to play it safe and stick to the main streets close to where I'm staying. The safety may be illusory but it is something. In the four block walk to find food, I was accosted by several groups of threes. Three people wanting to offer me rides, three prostitutes offering me the opportunity to make a small sperm donation for a large cash donation and four groups of three people wanting to sell me useless shit. You can buy anything - recreational drugs, food, unidentifiable food, books, pirated DVD's, mops, etc. Everyone is interested in gnawing at the teat of the tourist for some of that sweet, sweet money.

There are a ton of Russian tourists here. I'm not sure why - English is still the lingua franca of this area. Maybe because Vietnam is a communist country it is more attractive to them. American tourists are easy to spot - a lot of them have extra kilo like I do or boom their voices. Like I do. It makes me sad that I am such a stereotype.

The area I'm currently staying in has both an upside and a downside. The downside is the non-stop barrage of 'give me money' requests coming in. The upside is that they have a few westernized restaurants I have eaten at without getting sick. Although I loved Thai food (who doesn't?) and would sometimes just eat western food there to break it up, I've found that I really don't get enjoyment out of Vietnamese food. Their big dish is pho. That's noodles in soup with a couple pieces of some meat as a garnish. It's a lot like eating ramen without the flavor packet.

In Saigon tons of tourists are in the tourist district (district 1). I have made my way through long walks on foot into other districts but risking the amazingly heavy traffic doesn't fill my heart with joy. To me, Saigon is a fix up station of sorts. Today I spent $10 to get my teeth cleaned, and another ten or twenty on refilling a couple medicines. Refuel so I can head back out to somewhere less congested.

I wanted to see about correcting my Acer netbook. According to the monitoring program the Amazing Bert had me download it had been running pretty hot. I had gotten the address of the Acer repair center here in HCMC. I was pretty happy to get that address. Rather than play the 'fuzzy directions' game which never has any winners, I just negotiated with the motorbike drivers to get a cheap set of NDE's (near death experiences). We made our way over there. One one of the journeys I was trying to count the number of times we almost hit someone or was hit by someone but I gave up. Anyway, we got there and I talked to a very nice man who spoke excellent English from having lived in Australia for several months. The problem with the temperature of my computer was a flaw in the design and has since been fixed in subsequent products. I gave him my "if they knowingly made and sold me a fucked up product I'm not going to give them any more money" look and asked what could be done about it. The only thing he could recommend was an external fan. He gave me 'computer parts street' address. Remember the Asian business ideal of 'if someone sets up a business and has any success you should set up the exact sort of business and sell the exact same shit at the same price and you too will be successful'. This strategy causes all the businesses of one type aside from pharmacies and small grocery stores which are everywhere to get into large clumps. I took another scooter over there and bought a very small fold up external fan for my netbook ($5). Despite it's weak assed fans, it seems to be doing the job according to the sensors. Weird.



THE TALE OF THE DOOR WEDGE

For those who have been reading the blog for awhile, this is a piece of gear that I've had sitting unused in my backpack for quite a few countries. In SE Asia, it has gotten plenty of use. Usually in hotels, they have a door chain or bolt you can pull. Many of the places I've stayed have not. I'm not sure why but they haven't. Because I'm not an ultra light sleeper with catlike reflexes and a burglar dissuading kukri, I've been using the door wedge as well as locking the door.

Once I found the door unlocked but the wedge still in place.

Did I accidentally leave the door unlocked? It is a possibility but I feel better for using the wedge. It is not a preventive, just a small time waster and that may make it a small deterrent. Yes, I sometimes do put furniture in front of the door as well. Not heavy stuff as I am not physically strong, just stuff that will make a racket. After getting robbed twice so far, I hope that I will be forgiven for having 'trust issues'.

And speaking of trust issues...



THE TALE OF THE HAT

So I'm wandering around in Saigon going for one of my multi hour stomps around the city playing in traffic. I'm near some statue they set up at a roundabout and some guy approaches me. Because natives who approach me invariably want to sell me stuff I don't need or want I am instantly on guard. "That's a nice hat." He says indicating my camo boonie. I instantly know there is something up for four reasons:

1. His English is too good.
2. He is not wearing a hat.
3. His micro expressions and body language are not showing open, friendly, relaxed. They are showing something more calculated and honestly made me nervous.
4. It is NOT a nice hat.

He then asks if he can see it. Meaning touch it and hold it. Despite his objections I warily back away putting up my hands in the universal "I don't want to deal with you" thing. I'm putting on a show for the ever present other people. After backing up far enough that I should hear him run to get to me, I turn and resume my stomp. In the background, I hear him yelling obscenities and such. Had he yelled for me to have a nice day, I'd have thought that perhaps I had made a mistake. People who yell obscenities after you when you leave are not your friends and are best avoided. I'm not interested in handing anyone anything I'd like back. What if he kept it and said it was his all along? He speaks the language, I don't. I am the outsider. I would lose. Or if he simply ran off. I could follow him for the first meter but after that, he's gone. Or some sort of other 'make friends then scam'. FTS.



HAPPY CHRISTMAS

I hope people of all religions can come together at this time of year to celebrate the birth of Santa Clause. Have a good celebration even if you don't worship the flying spaghetti monster.

2 comments:

  1. When someone approaches you using wierd excuse, look behind for other people tring to rob you at the same time.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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