Saturday, May 29, 2010

Continuing north (scheduled)

If you haven't already noticed, I started in the south of the country and have been making my way north. By now, I should have arrived in Hanoi, the capital of both the north and the country. I just took a 13-hour train from Hue. Since it was during the day, I was able to see a lot of the countryside for which I wouldn't otherwise have time. Sure, I could have taken another cheap flight, but this should be a chance to relax, in air-conditioning, and have an adventure at the same time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I did it my Hue (scheduled)

From Hoi An, I took a taxi back to Danang and boarded a train for the 2-hour trip across the central mountains. For the next 2 nights, I'll be in the ancient capital of Hue, where there are emperor's tombs and a Forbidden City modelled after Beijing's. Arriving in Hue, my trip is about halfway-over.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tam biet, Vietnam Airlines! (scheduled)

If all goes according to plan (and really, what are the odds?) I've just taken my last domestic flight in Vietnam. I've left Nha Trang behind and arrived in Danang. If you didn't just sing to yourself, Danang me, danang me, why don't they get a rope and hang me, you need to rewatch that movie. But I'm not staying in Danang, it's just the closest airport to my home for the next two days, Hoi An. This is supposed to be an ancient little town with a lot of charm. We'll see...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not exactly according to schedule

Almost as soon as I arrived in Saigon, I received an email from Vietnam Airlines that they'd changed my itinerary. Talk about panic when I saw that subject line in my inbox! They decided to cancel my morning flight from Saigon to Dalat and rebook me on the afternoon flight, so the timing of the scheduled entry you previously read wasn't quite accurate. Nevertheless, I made it to the mountainous resort of Dalat. The temperature drop was immediately apparent, as was the inverse relationship to my mood (higher, that is). By the way, Vietnam Airlines operates just like any western airline- no surprises there.

Last thoughts about Saigon, for the moment: I had read that monks had once set themselves on fire to protest political activities in this country. I don't think that's exactly accurate, I think it was spontaneous combustion. Yes, it's that hot here. I was not, however, worried, because I was drenched in sweat which would surely quench any flames.

Dalat was awesome. A smaller city of maybe 200,000, the pace of life is much slower. It is also extremely fertile (not unlike yours truly) so the mountains are covered in green and there are flowers everywhere. Zelda, if Jethro ever talks you into coming to Vietnam, insist on coming to Dalat. I was reminded of the pacific northwest or parts of the big island of Hawaii. I went to a lakeside monastery (gorgeous, see photo), the summer home of the last emperor (sad, dilapidated), and something called the Crazy House. Google that last one, because it defies explanation. I ate a wild boar curry, some grilled deer, and some rather plain pho. The deer was the best thing I've eaten so far, which is not to say that the food sucks, just that the deer was that good.

Nha Trang is hotter than expected. It was 37 degC when I arrived this afternoon, which is about 197 degF if I've done the math correctly.The beach is beautiful and I've got a great room at the Novotel. I had a very nice dinner on the beach of fish, squid, shrimp, and clams with a pina colada. The main drag here reminds me of the main strip at Waikiki (hence the pina colada) and the beach itself reminds me of Mexico. There are TONS of tourists here (my flight here was nearly 50% whitey) and they probably outnumber the locals. I'm not really sure what I'll have the energy or inclination for tomorrow, but it's time to hit the sack.

Umm, waiter, I asked for no salt on my margarita (scheduled)

By now, I've arrived in the seaside resort town of Nha Trang, having taken a flight from Dalat back to Saigon, then another flight here. Booking flights on Vietnam Airlines is as easy as booking with Continental or Southwest, but they don't fly from Dalat straight to Nha Trang even though it's a lot closer. It's cheaper too- all flights cost about the same, which is only about US$80 each, no matter how far you're going. I expect to be lying on the beach for the next two days eating seafood.

Toi muon mua margarita.
(That probably just cost me 200,000 VND, which is a big wad of Dong!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back to the airport (scheduled)

No, I'm not coming home so soon, I'm off to see more of Vietnam. I should have just arrived in Dalat, Vietnam. Dalat is a small town up in the south central mountains and should hopefully be a lot cooler (and quieter) than steamy Saigon. I'll be here for the next two nights, then moving on again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saigon actual

It's a good thing that I pre-arranged a bunch of entries about my trip. Although each of my hotels has wi-fi, internet access has already proven itself to be intermittent. If you haven't already noticed, I've denoted those entries with "(scheduled)" and will try to fill in around them where possible.

Arriving in Saigon was a trip. The doors from customs & immigration open up to the street where, waiting behind barricades, are several hundred people shouting at several hundred other people. I tried not to make too much notice of the fact that at 5'9" I tower over most. And even at 11pm, the heat. It was a definite fear that coming to Vietnam in May would be a mistake, and those fears are nearly realised. The weather app on the computer in my hotelroom says it's 32C or 90F and "feels like 105F". Although, it said there were afternoon thunderstorms, but with hardly a cloud in the sky it felt a lot hotter than the supposed 95F high temp. I very nearly over did it, my first day of walking around. There are lots of other tourists here, so even though I stand WAY out in crowd, I'm not a total curiosity to the locals. Freak, yes, but they've seen plenty of that here. Sights, sounds, smells... all in overwhelming excess here. Information overload. May wander over to the park this evening to watch the singing & dancing extravaganza they've put together in honor of Uncle Ho's 120th birthday (officially tomorrow). Caught a glimpse of it on the way in last night, seeing young girls in traditional outfits and young men in army uniforms singing and prancing. I love a good prancing soldier.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Xin Chao, Saigon! (scheduled)

In keeping with my theme of optimism, my plane has just landed in Saigon. Ya know how all you wacky conservatives at home love to call Obama a socialist? Well I'm now in a country where they put that right in the name - the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Yes, I'm well aware of the dichotomy of calling one's state a "socialist republic" but since this isn't a political blog, I don't care. I'm more disappointed that it's not a "people's republic" like China, so I can't blog about arriving in the People's airport, riding the People's bus, and picking up my luggage at the People's carousel.

So once I clear customs, I need to exchange money: Must get Dong.
(yes, you can look forward to lots of Dong jokes over the next few weeks)

Konichiwa Tokyo (scheduled)

If all goes according to plan, and if I've done the time-conversion correctly, I should be arriving in Narita, Japan (outside Tokyo) right about now. I'm not staying though, just passing through. I've only got a 3.5 hour layover. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Adios Tejas (scheduled)

If you haven't already guessed, my big project is a trip. Right about now, my plane should be pulling away from the gate and, knowing how the airlines work, I'll be sitting on the tarmac for the next 2 hours and 59 minutes. But I'm on my way to somewhere else. I'll let you know when I get there.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

News about the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

So about that whole 'changing-my-email-settings-so-that-I-can-update-more-often' thing... yeah, I still suck. I hope you'll find a way to cope with my too-infrequent updates, even if it means drinking more than you should. Others might choose to sleep around. Who am I to judge? Just don't become a hoarder, because it's a really trendy disease right now and you'd just look like a poser if you started now. That ship has sailed behind a big pile of clothes and Whataburger wrappers.

My mind has been preoccupied by a number of things, not the least of which is the depression bug. It bit me pretty hard a few months ago, causing a big red welt, and I had planned on blogging about it. But as my gramma used to say, "Plans are like cornholes," (or maybe it was excuses) and then I read some other guy's blog about depression and I got to thinking that I couldn't say it any better than that. So maybe I'd just post a link and add something pithy like, "that's what HE said." But I never got around to it, because that's what depression does to me, get in my way of getting around to it. Then I felt a little better and things were fine. Then things got a little bad again and I said to myself, "Self, fook this, go do something about it." So I made an appointment with a psychiatrist who gave me some little white pills. Except everyone knows that little white pills don't do anything. It's the pink ones or, in a pinch, blue ones that really work.

Oh man, I just read that my chloresterol (pronunciation courtesy of Justin Wilson) pills cannot be combined with grapefruit juice! Daaaang, I love grapefruit juice and I get these energy drinks from Target that are grapefruit flavored. But it blocks the enzymes from getting processed and they build up in your liver and you die. Dyin' to me don't sound like all that much fun, and nobody ever told me until I saw a teeny, tiny warning on the label. Maybe the Target-brand energy drinks don't have actual grapefruit juice. If real juice can kill me, then artificial flavors must be good for me.

I told the psychiatrist that the little white pills weren't making me feel that much better and that I was having trouble sleeping and didn't want to have to take an ambien every night and he said we could either try something else or try adding another drug to the cocktail. And my memory hasn't really been any better, which is a side effect of my depression that long-time readers will recall. But I also told him that I've got this really big project in the works and I was pretty stressed, so it was hard to tell what was weighing on me more. And then I slept really poorly the other night, again, so I decided to stop the little white pills altogether and I cancelled my appointment with him for this week and said that we'd start over when this project is finished.

And that is how I've been. I really just wanted to hint at the big project and leave ya'll wondering what it was. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The time has come

With a title like that you'd probably think that I was giving up blogging, getting married, buying chunky-style peanut butter, or some other life-altering decision, but it's not that big a deal, I guess. I am giving up my time-honored tradition of only posting updates at 11:59PM. If you've read my blog from the beginning, you'd know that I chose 11:59PM because I can never remember whether 12AM is midnight or noon and I wanted to post late at night. But I am now very old and can barely stay awake past 9PM anymore, so if I'm ever going to post again, I'll have to change with the times. (get it? change with the times? see what I did there?)

Another change that I'm making is that I've enabled the ability to post to my blog via email. I never enabled that feature before because I was afraid of someone guessing my secret email address. For real. But I've now given myself the freedom to post updates any time I have access to email, which is just about any time. I still don't have one of those fancy iPhones or anything though. In fact, I'm still rockin my black Moto Razr, which turns 5 years old this month. My contention is that my phone is so old, it's cool again. It's retro, like disco, which once sucked but then was cool again. It's got the original battery and all the original parts, so why would I want to spend $300 plus an additional $30 per month (minimum) for a data plan? Everyone I know who has an iPhone suffers 10x more dropped calls than I do, regardless of whether they're on AT&T or another network with a jailbroken phone. And I know they can't go a full day without recharging, so fook that. But I digress...

I know you don't care what time of day it is, since you're going to read this whenever you damnwell feel like it. And I know you don't care whether I posted this via laptop, a desktop, a smartphone, or via Flintstones typewriter with the little bird inside who pecks away at a block of stone. Presumably you want to know what's going on with me. I realize that's a very egocentric thing for me to say, but hello? Have you read my blog?