01 May 2015

You asked for photos...

First, I'd like to correct something that I wrote very early-on during my trip from HCMC to Hà Nội in December 2013. At some point, I'll go back and find and correct the original post, though for now, this will have to suffice.

I remember writing that I planned my travel days so that I would be in a larger town or even a city because the smaller towns and villages don't have hotels.

Technically correct and WRONG!!!

There are many sleeping establishments that are not called "hotel" (khách sạn, pronounced heck-sa). Instead, they are Nhà Nghỉ or, as they are known here, love hotels.

Google Translate gives the translation as "hostel", though the literal translation is "his house". This interesting article tells of a more basic side. You could, and I did, ride right past hundreds of them without seeing the rare sign that also says, "Hotel" and never have a clue. If you're planning a road trip in Việt Nam, I can assure you that since reading the article I've stayed in a few of them and all were as clean as a comparably-priced khách sạn. My trip would've been a bit more relaxed had I known of them then.

Thanks to Neil Robinson for recommending my blog and for his compliments. Neil is a Brit I met during one of my trips to HCMC. He's done and written about a couple tours of VN, most recently an interesting adventure north of Hà Nội. Check out his blog, Nambusters, especially his Useful Links page. If you're still reading me, Neil, my apologies for my tardiness in passing your writings on...

As I typed that last bit, I briefly reverted to my eighth grade typing teacher's admonition to put two spaces after a period (and a colon) before I remembered what fellow writer Dan R. told me a year or so ago—in the age of computers only one space is given after either a period or a colon. I mention this for you fellow old farts because a couple weeks ago I read an article that quoted a Gen-X (or maybe Gen-Y, who can keep them straight?) HR person as saying that any application received with two spaces after was immediately rejected as submitted by "an old person" who learned to type on a typewriter and was, therefore, someone in whom they would not be interested. So... if you're using two, you can stop now.

As reported earlier, I've been to a few Vietnamese birthday parties... in mid-April I was invited to my first Vietnamese wedding! No, not MY first wedding... that's still in the "Never Happen" column. I mean the first VN wedding to which I was invited as a friend of a guest. I was, again, the only Westerner and the guy with whom everyone wants to shake hands and/or have a beer. I doubt they believed "I'd love to have a beer, but I'm on prescription drugs (true) and the alcohol kills the little guys (also true)" or whatever my friend really told them, but they didn't push too hard, so it was okay.

The entire event is at what we would call "the reception hall"; there is a beautiful female professional MC; light show; rear-screen projection presentation; choreographed dancers; a professional band; and a karaoke DJ for the amateur entertainers, a.k.a. the wedding guests.

Yes, she's holding one of the table centerpieces...

A good number of photos run through my iPhone (my real camera is among the things I left in the U.S. in care of good friend Liz until I'm sure this is my new forever home) and most of them just sit there or on my laptop.

For those readers who ask for more photos, here are a few that've been gathering dust on my hard drive...

From last December:
A crane? What's that and why would we want one?

There are many other examples of how the Vietnamese people make due with what they have to get the job done:

The food delivery scooter is obvious; can you find all three elevated workers and their supporters?

The photo immediately above is the air filter from my cruiser. During one of my visits to the mechanic I no longer use, he determined that the factory air filter was dirty. Without saying anything to me he ripped out the paper filter and put in a thin piece of open-cell foam that didn't even cover the entire opening. WTF??? By the time I realized what he was doing, it was too late. Fortunately, on my next trip to HCMC, friend/mechanic Cong at Flamingo Travel Motorbike Vietnam Tours was able to procure a factory replacement.

The shop that did the highway bars, rear seat back, luggage rack, headlight, and handlebars on my cruiser also does some amazing from-scratch metal work. If you can describe it or show him a photo or drawing, he and his people will build it.

I want this bike when it's finished!
During one of my visits, the owner was doing some preliminary work on custom metal saddle bags for a big Kawasaki. I arrived after he started the left side, so the last couple shots are of the beginning of the right side. He cut out and then hammered a flat piece into a beautiful curve that fit quite nicely and most of what he did was by feel and sight.

It reminded me of watching the Memphis Mission Of Mercy surgeons cut and re-work a cancerous lip into a normal lip:

The doctors said that without this surgery (the lip was only part of the procedure), he would be dead in three to six months. When we returned to the village 18 months later for another visit, the patient came back to thank the doctors who saved his life. I didn't recognize him as the same man...
Although the result was obviously less dramatic, I wish I could've stuck around to see the finished saddlebags.

Click HERE for some very cool 360º panoramas of Ho Chi Minh City. It might be more interesting to me because I am familiar with many of the areas, though they're beautiful art in their own right.

A couple months ago I went to an "Arts & Crafts Festival" in HCMC's District 2. The festival was too small to call miniscule, though it was worth the ride to see the area in which it was held. They had some interesting shipping containers that'd been turned into workspaces...

During my 10-day trip to Lao a few months ago (I'm already renewing my visa again), I didn't have any photos, so I didn't tell you about the BIG rocks I would occasionally encounter on the road 30-50 cm from the edge—right where people are driving, or in my case, riding. Is someone just making sure we're paying attention?
Photo Illustration
It took me a while to figure out what they were, and since my return, I've noticed a few similar rocks growing out of the road surface here... all about the same distance from the edge... so I thought I'd share my discovery with you. When a truck breaks down, there is often no place to pull off the road—so they leave it in the road. In the driving lane. On an incline you want to ensure that the truck will stay where it collapsed, so you get a big-ass rock to put behind the tire.

No problem. Then, when your truck is running again, you drive away... and the big-ass rock is left to crawl back off the road on its own. Apparently, they move very, very slowly.

Almost as slowly as I write new posts...


  1. Hey, John, I am pleased every time I receive a new post from your blog. Some people experience life through their children; I travel a far off place through your writings and photos. Thanks for the adventures. Sylvia

    1. You are very welcome, Sylvia! I'm glad you're enjoying them.