A Travellerspoint blog

USA-Back At Home

Yesterday, I came home. Tuesday evening, I flew 3 hours from Ho Chi Minh to Tapei, which was late-so I ran to the next flight-12 hours from Tapei to San Francisco, which in turn was late, so I went through customs as quick as I could to fly from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale. The final flight was 5 hours long. I broke the overhead bin trying to put my bag in. It wasn't a great flight-Jetblue's little tv's weren't working, so I slept and read, I arrived at 7:45 am.

All wasn't lost, though. Somehow, getting from the airport to home, I decided I would rent a car-that way if there we're any big issues at home and my car wouldn't start-at least I had a car that would run. Picking up the rental car, however, after over 20 hours of flying, I had to wait a few minutes at the rental car counter-and had to go through three different cars.

(1) The first car I was given was a Hyundai Accent. This was fine, but when I left the counter and went to the garage-I noticed there was no key in the car. I spoke to the woman working in a booth, and she told me the car wasn't available (as if it was my fault)-she gave me another car,

(2) This car, a Hyundai Elantra, seemed fine. I put my bags in the trunk, and started to drive-but noticed the low tire pressure light was on. I drove to the booth and told the lady. She wasn't friendly, but took the keys, and directed me to another car-towards the end of the lot. I told her I would drive the car up, and to open the trunk on the Elantra so I can take my bags out.

(3) I drove the new car, a Toyota Corolla, to the booth, except noticed the Elantra was gone-with my bags in it. I told her I needed my bags, and she panicked and called the garage who eventually drove the car back.

After nearly 20 hours of flying, and the car fiasco I finally made it home, I made it home to see the new cell phone (to replace my lost one)-had never been shipped. Additionally, my car-which the condo guy was supposed to start every week so the battery wouldn't die-battery had died. So I had no phone (except my home phone which doesn't work anymore) and I couldn't go anywhere in my car.

Eventually I was able to use my home phone to call AAA, and I got the phone company to hopefully deliver a phone the next day.

Then it was to face unpacking, picking up the cats, cleaning up the house, laundry, food shopping (still not done), and all sorts of stuff now that I'm home. It is just a dream-the people I met, the trails I walked, the citiies visited, the dorms and busses slept on. It was all a dream. Now I am home and it is real.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 21:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam-Rockin the Last Day

Yesterday was my last day in Ho Chi Minh city, and the last day of travelling before I go home. i wanted to make the most of the day.

First thing I did was walk to the Venerable Thich Quanc Duc Memorial-this was the memorial for the Buddhist Monk who set himself on fire to protest the South Vietnameese President Dinh's persecution of Buddhists. The memorial was touching, and I stood there for a moment-but there wasn't much to see.

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I then walked for about an hour. i stopped at a place for some macha tea, (green tea which is delicious). One of the folks working there was learning English, he had his workbook in front of him-so I quizzed him and his wife for a few questions. They we're pretty good.

I then walked to the Jade Pagoda, which was a combination of both Buddhist and Tao faiths, and was supposed to be one of the most spectacular temples in the Ho Chi Minh area (according to Lonely Planet). Actually, when looking for it-I passed it by at first. I didn't think I saw it-but I did. And it just wasn't that spectacular. It was a two story building (i think) with the usual dragons, horses, Buddha, and menacing looking figures. It just did nothing-maybe I have seen too many Buddhist temples. I was quite far from the hostel-so I continued walking-got caught in the rain. I passed by a car dealer, with used cars from dealers in the US, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, which beautiful but closed due to renovations. I got to the nice part of the town, and found a shopping mall, with my favorite overseas store where I have never bought anything-called Pull and Bear. They usually have all sorts of weird Americana stuff, like Florida/California things-but I didn't see anything I wanted (once again).

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I then wanted to go to the Bitexco fianncial tower, to the top floor-but it was a little early-so i went back to the hostel and took a nap. (It was a 20 minute walk to the hostel, roughly).

After roughly 1 1/2 hours of nap and reading-I walked back to the tower, and went to the 52nd floor. Actually, the observation deck is on the 48th floor-but if you buy a drink you can go to the bar on the 52nd floor-for roughly the same price as the observation deck with no drink-and that is what I did.

The tower is like an office tower in most big cities-big name retailers at the lower floors-security guards ushering me to the correct elevators. I took the fast elevators up to the 52nd floor, where I was greeted by well-dressed hostesses, and they showed me a table near the window. (all the ones by the window we're taken). i paid approximately $12 for a mixed drink ( A beer was less-but It was my last day travelling, and I felt like celebrating). Soft jazzy music was playing in the background, and the lights of Ho Chi Minh City we're shining. I felt out of place in my shorts and Hawaiian shirt-I felt like I should have wearing a nice jacket-except everyone else was dressed like slobs as well. Mostly tourists from hostels I assume.

i stayed for about 1/2 an hour-I met a Taiwanese guy traveling alone and we talked for a while. He just graduated from school, and was visiting his sister who was living here.

I then walked out, bought a few shirts at a market, and sneakers (I lost one somewhere along my travels). and walked along the bar district back to the hostel. Along the way I stopped for dinner at a roadside cafe with vermicelli and spring rolls. On the bar street, I watched a far breather, and his playing with a snake.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 18:06 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam-Slow Mekong Delta and Fast French Football

Yesterday, I took a day tour to the Mekong Delta, which is south of Ho Chi Minh City. The descriptions of Mekong Delta seemed to indicate it was a beautiful place with lots of greenery, but that isn't really what I saw.

The tour comprised of a full day in the Mekong Delta-which comprised of a few different activities.

- The first stop was a bathroom break at a Bamboo and coconut museum/shop-where we we're encouraged to make lots of purchases from everything from towels to bamboo toothpaste. We we're here for about 1/2 an hour.

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- The second stop was to get off of our van, and onto a boat that took us across the muddy river. We went to a cabin on one of the islands, which was surrounded by all sorts of developments, where we ate dragonfruit, mango, pineapple and watermelon. The dragonfruit and the mango were good, while the pineapple and watermelon didn't taste ripe. We also had coconut tea, and listened to some entertainers singing traditional music-they had looked bored.

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We then waited to board canoes which took us down the muddy river-except the rain started to pour, and it poured hard. We went down the muddy river, with lots of towns on the side. The canoe took us to another island, where there was a bee farm. The tour guide picked up a square full of honeybees, and we all posed for pictures-and we had a cup of honey tea. I also posed with a big python.
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Then we got back on another boat-to another island, and had lunch. The lunch was free, and it was pretty good. We we're supposed to stay on this island for a long time-and have activities such as riding a bike or relaxing in a hammock, but the rain precluded all of that-so there was none of that. There was the activity of crocodile feeding. There was a crocodile pit, and we we're able to buy a meat patty, and using a fishing rod-feed it to the crocodiles. Many we're teasing them. It was sort of funny-as the crocodiles wait expectantly for the food with a big smile on their face.

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After that-we took the bus back to the mainland-and stopped at a Buddhist temple. I have seen many Buddhist temples, so this was another one. Then we got a bus back to Ho Chi Minh. During the time of the trip, I discovered that the key to my padlock at the hostel was missing. I also found out that a button on my camera wasn't working-probably due to keeping it in the rain for too long.

I wasn't happy-as in the past few days I lost my cell phone, and part of my electric toothbrush. But I took the bus back and took a nap as soon as I got back.

i awoke for the nightly free beer at 7:00 pm. I went out for dinner to the main street-walked a little, and found a cheap dinner for $1.25 at some place on the street (my favorite-with crates as tables and foot stools as chairs). As I walked back, I met some of the guys from my room-a few British folks, one from Brazil and one from Sweeden-they we're going to the bar street to watch the big world cup match-and I joined them.

The street was absolutely packed, millions of people it seemed we're watching the game. We tried to get into a bar, we finally did-and watched the game there. EVERYONE was for France it seemed. I don't know why. Vietnam was a French colony, and they fought the French for independence-now they we're celebrating France's victory.

I walked around mulling about the crowds, and got back to the hostel at 1 or 2 am.

Posted by DavidPearlman 19:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City-Kicking Myself

IMG_3858.JPGYesterday, I awoke early as usual. I didn't have much to do today-no tours planned. After breakfast I took a long walk to a walking street somewhat far from the hostel. Along the way, I stopped at the travel agency where I booked the tunnels tour through to see if they found my phone. The weather, while not as hot or humid as other parts of Vietnam, was still humid. I sat, looked at a bookstore. i walked around, eating and drinking various foods. I had a delicious Macha Tea Latte with a muffin, which, (a) Was expensive, (b) was from Mcdonalds.

I ruminated about losing my phone, how I couldn't find a part to my electric toothbrush (I don't know if it fell somewhere or somewhat took it-I don't know why. The base is still there). I also wonder how I am viewed here in hostels in Southeast Asia. Most are in their early 20's here, and I am out of my league. I must look like the creepy middle-aged guy. I was feeling bad about myself.

After a while, I walked back to the hostel. I stopped by the tour office-my phone wasn't found. I went back to the hostel to take a nap (I didn't get much sleep the night before), and read. After a while, I got up and sat in the common area-and had my free beer. Then I played a little Jenga (With the blocks making sure they don't fall-I think that's Jenga), with them. i then walked around and found a place on the street for dinner..

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:06 Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City-Tunnel Vision with not a good tour guide

Yesterday, I took a tour out of town to two different places: The Cao Dai Temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tour left a few blocks from the hostel.

The tour guide introduced himself as Mr Vinh who was 67 years old. He kept saying he spoke very poor English and kept asking if we understood his English. He mentioned he was the real deal but a not a very good tour guide. He mentioned he was originally from Saigon, and went to the US and fought in the US Armed Forces. He also mentioned he came back to Vietnam, and was here in 1975 when the South was united with the North. He spoke about how he his house, car, and motorbike we're seized by the North, and how his sister and brother escaped from the country on a boat for America, and he gave them all his money-knowing the government would confiscate it.

The first place was called the Cao Dai Temple. Mr Vinh didn't really explain much of the temple-not much that I could understand. He mentioned he was Catholic, and He seemed to mentioned that the Cao Dai religion was founded in 1919, and combined elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. The temple was built in 1926, and it was giant, with multicolored columns. A large daily service went on when i was there, with congregants arriving in white dress, and sitting in rows on the floor. Music played as well, with a drum and singing. What was entertaining though is what happened when we entered the church. We we're all required to remove our shoes before entering the building-and I saw this cute little guy slipping in and out of the sandals. I pointed it out-not everyone thought it was cute:

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We stayed there for about an hour.

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We stopped for lunch at an expensive restaurant (for Vietnam-about $4.00 per meal-lunch wasn't included). i sat with a girl and her friend from Hanoi in North Vietnam-and they basically said the tour guide was bullshitting . She said that she learned that the North Vietnamese helped the South after the war, and gave them food. That they didn't confiscate any private property. At this moment, Mr. Vinh was sitting with a couple from Poland eating lunch discussing politics. The girl said you just don't discuss politics with strangers.

After lunch we drove for another hour or so to the Cu Chi Temples. Once again, Mr Vinh spoke very quickly about the temples. He showed us booby traps, and places where skinny Vietnamese could enter but not fat Americans. We went in a tunnel (i went in the tunnel at the DMZ zone the following week-but this was different). It was very tight. I was bent over the entire time. Fortunately, there we're ways out of the tunnel frequently. After a period where i would have had to crawl to stay in the tunnel, I just walked out. Unfortunately, I think my cell phone is still in the tunnel somewhere, which pissed me off.

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Mr Vinh mentioned he was a poor tour guide, and he was right. He wasn't. He never answered any questions, but his life was interesting.

After the tour, I went back to the hostel. I rested, then had some pizza for dinner. There was a pub crawl at the hostel, so I went on the pub crawl to the adjoining bar street and had fun. I felt I needed it after a long day and losing my phone.

Posted by DavidPearlman 18:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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