A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: DavidPearlman

Hoi An-Meeting Randy the Cali Copier and the Photo Tour

Yesterday, I awoke early and went for a walk. i didn't have much to do until 3:00 pm, when I had a photo tour planned, so i walked around the town again, past all the various restaurants, tailor stores, and the like. I crossed a bridge on to Cam Am Island, got a great message which cost $5.00, and found a bookstore called Randy's Book Exchange. This bookstore had been listed in Lonely Planet as recommended.

I entered the bookstore, which looked more like a cottage, and a bearded 60ish man who sounded like he was from the US appeared. He actually said "Wow...a customer!" We talked for a while. I found out Randy (I guess he was Randy), was from Southern California, but retired to Vietnam 12 years ago, and bought his cottage for $15,000, and put about that much into repairs-so for $30,000 he had a Key West style cottage in the tropics. He mentioned that it has been easy to live here, and he has had a tourist visa for 12 years. He was able to live on his $700 monthly social security check just fine in Vietnam, He had a phone call, so he excused himself, and told me the English books we're upstairs. I told myself that since I liked the guy, now I have to buy something.

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I walked upstairs and looked at the books, and found out that they we're pretty much all Xerox copies of actual books, with a colored cover and black-and-white pages, and this included Lonely Planet guides. So the Lonely Planet was promoting a shop that seemed to be illegally copying it's own materials
I didn't feel like paying $6-7 for something that is sort of fake, so I left.

I walked back into town and faced the crowds-and there we're bigger crowds today, as the Voyager of the Seas was in port, and hundreds of Americans and Brits it seems descended.

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At 3:00 that day, I had an afternoon and evening photo tour. i have never been on a photo tour-so I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know where I would be with respect to others on the tour, or if there we're any others.

It turns out that there we're 4 of us on the tour (which was $45), An Australian Mom and her 15 year old son (she was just accompanying him), a 20ish woman from Singapore and myself. The tour guide lived here for about 12 years, and did professional photography.
He put is in a van, and we drove out to the surrounding fields, where we took photos of workers in the light. He told us the best way to photograph workers, and how to use the light to our advantage. He went into a river and I followed him, where workers we're digging out clams. When I went in, I found out quickly the thick mud went up to my knees, and I had trouble getting out. I think he was impressed I was the only one who followed him into the river.

He taught us how to speak to people, so they would let us take their picture. He knew everyone around, it seemed, as he did there tours every day, so we took a lot of pictures.

We all had a beer at a cafe (Except the 15 year old), and then went into town, and he told us about panning, for night shots.

It wasn't rocket science, but I learned a lot, and got some new insight. It was a worthwhile afternoon.

I walked back around and had dinner downtown, by the night market, and then went back to the hostel and went to bed early.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 17:04 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam-An Oid in Hoi An

Yesterday, I got up early to catch the bus from Hue to Hoi An, which is the next stop on a so-called tourist trail. The bus ride was relatively pleasant, The bus had wifi, which worked for approximately half of the ride. Wifi doesn't seem to work often, even on buses that say they have wifi- so that is a plus.

The issue was the hostel in Hoi An advertised they would pick me up from the bus station-I just needed to let the hostel know which bus company I would use-as there we're many. Being that I arranged the bus transfer through the hostel in Hue, I asked them, and emailed the hostel the night before.

The hostel in Hoi An sent me an email back saying they we're unfamiliar with that bus company. I asked the man on the front desk in the hostel in Hue to call them and tell them-he agreed to do so and did, at least I think he did-as I have no idea what he said-as it was in Vietnamese
Anyway, yesterday I took the bus on the incident free ride, and around 11:40, ended up in Hoi An. I was the only person on the bus, I seemed to be on some quiet side street, and there was no van waiting to pick me up, so I had no idea what to do or where to go. Fortunately, I was able to access the internet, and use Google Maps to find the hostel, which was only about a 10 minute walk away.

When I arrived at the hostel-the front desk asked why I wasn't there when their van arrived to pick me up, and I asked why the van wasn't there to pick me up. I didn't want to fight after waiting in the heat-so I dropped my bags off- (check in was in another hour).

I walked around the town-it had old architecture, as Hoi An wasn't really affected by the war. The town was filled with shops, many we're tailoring shops selling suites. There we're lots of restaurants with signs in English, and I ate at one. The food was just ok. The streets we're filled with tourists. I walked to a market selling fruits and other vegetables.

I then walked back to the hostel, checked in, and took a nap.

Towards the late afternoon, i walked back amongst the crowded streets, and towards a Japanese Bridge, which was built in 1590. This was among the river. I kept walking along the river, looking at the various shops selling lanterns, There is a lantern festival on the full moon of every month, but even without a full moon the town celebrates with lanterns.

As I was walking, I walked past an Irish Pub, and started talking to two Dutch ladies, I had a couple beers with them, and then returned about 11-11:30 pm.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 18:31 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hue Vietnam-Lazy Day

I woke up late yesterday, not sure what I was going to do today.

I sat on the patio of the hostel, working on my computer. It is nice to have a patio, because there is a sink-i can wash my clothes in the sink and leave them out to dry on the patio. Because it is hot, they are usually dry within a few hours. As I sat up there, two twenty something British folk, a guy and girl, started to smoke and drink beer. They offered me a beer which of course I accepted. They started playing music from their phone-Earth Wind and Fire. They are big disco freaks.

After a while, I walked out into the heat, and walked across the river to the market once again, where I enjoyed some tropical fruit. I then headed for the pagoda, which was a few kilometers down the road. I was tired of walking through the heat-so I saw a park by the river complete with a shaded covering, and trees with beautiful purple flowers. The grass was a bit overgrown and there was some garbage, but otherwise the park looked like an inviting place to sit in the shade. Nobody else was there. I laid down on a short brick wall. It was relaxing. But I felt some reason why I shouldn't be there-and I knew the reason already (from travelling a lot). From the corner of my eye, I saw animals scurry up a tree. I thought it could have been squirrels, but as i sat I get a clearer vision and saw two rats climbing the tree. IMG_2242.JPG

I walked up, and continued walking in the heat. I found the corner of the citadel, which is the very edge of old town, and walked around it and through. I stopped for lunch at a place with a crate for tables and stool for chair, in front of their house. In fact I used the bathroom, which was in their house. The food was good.

I continued walking through the citadel, I learned I went the wrong way to the pagoda, but I kept walking and i think I found it-it was more of a Buddhist temple with women praying. I kept walking back to the market, and watched the fruit sellers. I then went back to the hostel and took a nap.

After a while, I went down to the first floor of the hostel-so the owner could help me with transfers from my hostel the next day in the next city of Hoi An. We talked-I found out he learned English in school-but like Japan, it was only writing and no speaking-so he never picked it up. Then he worked at his aunt's hotel in the city-where he leaned more English from a tutor. He told me that he rented a room near a factory where a lot of ladies worked. The owner was able to connect him with the owner of the factory, which is how he met his wife.

After that, I went out for dinner and drinks with Mr and Mrs disco from the morning, We sat on the porch, and played more Bee Gees, Wild Cherry, and other disco-and then went out for more drinks.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 18:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

DMZ Vietnam-Happy 4th From the DMZ

Yesterday, I awoke early to take a trip to the DMZ in Vietnam.

I went to the DMZ in korea just a month or two ago, so this wasn't my first DMZ tour-this was different of course.

The bus to the DMZ was a long two hour ride. On the van was myself, a 50ish or so couple from the Netherlands, a 50 ish/60'ish New Zealander with a younger Thai girlfriend, a woman from Hong Kong, a 20ish girl from Germany, a Korean guy who didn't speak much English-and coincidentally, the two I shared a room and tour with from Boston University. After about 1 1/2 hours, our tour guide got on the bus. He was a very nice man, very passionate about his trade-it was just hard to understand him as his very broken English was very very fast.

The first part of the tour was a Rockpile visible from the road-which at one time held a US Marine Corps base, It is actually a 230m high karst moutain, and was a base for long-range artillery. It was interesting but not overly exciting as it looked like any other mountain.

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We then saw the Dakrong Bridge-which was a bridge on the Ho Chi Manh Trail It was built in the late 70's-80's. for the Ho Chi Man trail-used to get supplies from the north to south. It was originally built in 1958 to facilitate trade. The bridge was new-it used to be a flimsy bamboo bridge. Again, not much to see, but it was interesting. The guide mentioned that Hamburhger hill was nearby, a name somebody gave because all of the mangled bodies we're mixed together like hamburger, supposedly.

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After the bridge, we saw the Khe Sanh Combat Base, which was the site of the bloodiest battles of the war. It is now an interesting museum, with lots of pictures, and captured American Aircraft on the ground. It was earily quiet.

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We then saw a minority village, where all of the houses are raised above the ground, as farm animals are raised beneath the houses. The kids are all of Laotian decent, and are very poor. All of their expenses are paid by the government.

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After that, we went to lunch at some cafe in town, which served mediocre food and had an unsmiing server at high prices. Like many tours, lunch wasn't included-but we stopped at a restaurant with nothing else around-so that is where we ate.

After lunch, we drove to the Vinh Moc Tunnels, which we're buried underground, and are where 90 families lived for years during the war. There are wells, kitchens, and bathrooms, in addition to meeting room/schoolrooms for the kids, and places for them to play. Families stayed completely underground for up to 10 days. It felt claustrophobic and I had to bend over a good amount of time to walk through the tunnels.

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It was an interesting day. What was most interesting was the tour guide, who explained all sort of little facts-such as that in the tunnels, the cooking was done in the morning-so the smoke combined with the morning mist, and couldn't be spotted. And that the ventilation hubs we're made to look like bomb craters. He mentioned that Vietnam never surrendered because they knew that American men missed their wives and girlfriends and would eventually get tired-while they kept going on. He also mentioned that Americans counldn't handle the mud, swamps, and heat-while the Vietnamese we're used to it.

He shared facts of Vietnam-like how woman could drive motorbikes-but not cars, and how the north and south still felt a rivalry (and not necessarily a friendly ones). He mentioned that those from South Vietnam who we're for the old South Government, can get government jobs, but would never be promoted, and how the northers could tell the differences from the southerners (although he didn't explain how). I also learned how under communism, religion was outlawed, but was once again allowed starting in 1986.

Very interesting. I liked how the older folks amongst us we're fascinated and we're asking questions, while the 20ish somethings , including the duo from Boston University, looked thoroughly bored.

I came back, rested for a while, and then went to dinner to a vegetarian restaurant.

Posted by DavidPearlman 20:15 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam-Hot ol' Hue

Yesterday, after getting off the sleeper bus, I sat in a cafe for a long time by a hostel where I actually had a night for free (as part of buying the bus ticket at the previous hostel). I sat there and used their wifi and stayed pretty cool with the fans.

I decided not to stay at the free hostel, as I don't think anything is free-so I booked another hostel just a twenty minute or so walk away (it was about $3.00 per night-so not a big deal).

I got there-and was able to check my stuff in early and decided to explore the city, once in the heat.

Hue is a pretty city with a river that runs right through the town. I walked about 20 minutes to a large market, which was called the Bong Da Market, it was a standard market, but much bigger, with ladies selling fruit, butchers cutting meat, and the usual stuff. I had lunch, of chicken of some type, and a cold sugar cane type of drink. I also was suckered into buying a new watch, new shoes, and a new shirt. I needed the new watch, because my watch broke which was my fault for putting it into water when I went swimming. The new shoes I didn't need but they we're $4.00. The new shirt I didn't need but it was bamboo, and the woman showing it to me pressed under her boobs to demonstrate I needed a new shirt so I bought it. It was $8 so more than I liked to spend but I learned later it was actually pretty comfortable.

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After the market, I walked over to the Imperial Palace. First, some people who said they whose shirts said English Tour Guide started to ask me questions-rather a whole group of people, like my name, where I was from, etc. They didn't seem to be proficient enough to be tour guides, but I enjoyed talking to the group of them. I learned they generally all come from families with 1 sibling, and they like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, but don't know other singers like Justin Timberlake, Maroone Five or Bruno Mars, (or said they don't know).

After sitting with them-I entered the Imperial Palace, which is huge-this was the Capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, with different governors. It was similar in design to the Imperial Palace in Beijing, as they we're both huge. The difference is that while the one in Beijing is postcard picture perfect, the Imperial Palace in Hue was still largely a work in progress. The palace was largely destroyed during the Vietnam war-so many parts we're uneven, the grass was unkept, and large empty spaces stood stilll-for that reason it was sort of neat, and not too crowded either

I looked at that for a few hours-then took the long walk back to the hostel, and went to bed after dinner.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 05:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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