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25 April 2019

Ho Chi Minh

The person,

not the city known to the locals as Sài Gòn...

Everyone who is at all paying attention knows that Ho Chi Minh fought for independence against both the French and the Americans. All he wanted was to free his country from colonial and imperial rule. What the great majority of Americans, and probably most people still on the planet, don't know is that Uncle Ho turned to the Communists for help only after his 1946 letter US President Harry Truman asking for aid went unanswered; most likely because a US State Department underling stuck it in a file cabinet and the President never knew of it. Truman, by the way, was NOT blameless. He gave millions of dollars in covert military and financial aid to the French, and the French-backed regime in Saigon.

From the letter:
"It is with this firm conviction that we request of the United States as guardians and champions of World Justice to take a decisive step in support of our independence.

"What we ask has been graciously granted to the Philippines. Like the Philippines our goal is full independence and full cooperation with the UNITED STATES. We will do our best to make this independence and cooperation profitable to the whole world."

Born in 1953, I am of the generation sent by the US government to Vietnam to kill, torture, maim, murder, and otherwise harm the local population.


I came to Vietnam for the first time in 2013, moved here in 2014, and have lived here ever since. I often wonder what the world would be like had that State Department pendejo passed Uncle Ho's letter up the chain of command. How many of the 3,000,000+ Vietnamese and 58,000+ Americans who were killed as a direct result of American presence in Vietnam would've gone on to live happy, productive lives?

How many more people were never born because their fathers and/or mothers were killed?

How many people whose family members were killed or maimed would've had different, better lives?

How many people in Vietnam are still, today, getting killed by 40+-year-old unexploded ordinance or suffering from the effects of Agent Orange and other deadly chemicals dropped by the hundreds of tons?

Although I am only halfway through Nick Turse's book, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the real story of the failed American attempt to stop the "domino" that was Vietnam.

Why have I yet to finish it? Because it is so upsetting that I can barely get through a full chapter before I have to put it down for a week or two and take a long, hot shower.

The good news is that the Vietnamese, thank Buddha, are a forgiving people; more so than any others I have met on five continents.



27 February 2019

It's Vietnam

Just when I think I can let up a bit from the doom and gloom of daily motorbike riding here in Vietnam, something else comes across my screen.

This is a video shared on FaceCrack. Best I can determine, originated on the page of "Container Phú Thành", who apparently builds some pretty cool edifices out of shipping containers.

Their comment was, "Iron wrapped meat against iron wrapped meat 😥"

To me, it's more "Meat sitting on 'iron' against 'iron'-wrapped meat." No way the meat sitting on iron is gonna do well.

Those of us who live in Vietnam see someone pulling this shit every day and most of the twits survive—for the moment. The only thing that surprises me is that more don't end up worm food.

It's NOT always the motorbike rider who's at fault; for example, the guy who gets taken out by a HUGE red truck in the far right lane when the far right lane is for motorbikes and maybe cars, but definitely NOT for big-ass trucks. That said, since motorbikes are toward the lower end of the food chain, you'd think they'd learn.

Unfortunately for many, instead Darwin jumps up and says hello.



Yes, most riders here DO NOT practice situational awareness; they ride as if they're in a video game on which you just hit "Reset" to get another life. Most of the time, they get away with it. Sometimes, they take others out.

No one, at-fault or innocent, ever gets to pick themselves up and hit "Reset".

As I've written before, if you:
1) Ride as if you're invisible.
2) Ride as if everyone is trying to kill you.

You might just survive to see another day.



21 February 2019

Da Lat Coffee

As I read the article below, it hit me that my more recent posts, although very real-world, lean toward portraying Vietnam as doom-and-gloom-you-could-die. While there is that aspect to anywhere one might choose to put down roots, it's no more so here than elsewhere, especially if you stick to walking, trains, planes, and/or taxi cabs.

As mentioned in earlier posts, Da Lat is known throughout Vietnam for the flowers, vegetables, and coffees grown here. Increasingly, it is the coffee that's getting noticed.

Photo by Mervin Lee
As Ed, Ryan, and many, many other visitors to Dalat have noted, "this is the best coffee I've ever had!" regardless of the variety.

From a web site called Saigoneer, "Da Lat, the Unlikely Home of El Salvador's Rare Pacamara Coffee Beans"

Enjoy!

18 February 2019

"Only the good die young"

A few months ago I got an email from a guy in Richland, WA telling me that he was coming to Vietnam to ride, probably with his nephew. He asked a few questions and we developed a bit of rapport.

Fast forward to earlier this month, February 2019, when Ed and his nephew, Ryan, rode up and parked their Honda Winners in front of my house, both grinning from ear to ear.

After chatting for a bit, Ed rode off to find lodging for the next few days while I pulled out my tools so Ryan and could I start disassembling the Winner, looking for where they hid the battery. He had an electrical issue that he thought might be as simple as a loose wire. It took a while, but he found and fixed the loose negative battery wire.

Ed came back to report he had a room for the night, so he and Ryan headed off to clean up and rest a bit. Later that night, we had a beer together.

Over the next few days, in-between them seeing the sights of Da Lat, we met a couple times to share a meal. I even set them up with my local mechanic to fix a coolant leak on Ryan's bike.

Every time I saw Ryan, he was smiling; even when he had bike issues or a bit of a headache.

Last Tuesday, the three of us had breakfast, took a few photos at an Instagram hot spot just up the alley,
Ryan's favorite of the photos I took that morning
and headed out of town together. As planned, I rode with them for a couple hours on their way to Buon Ma Thuot. After a rest stop at a cafe with hammocks (our favorite kind), they headed north and I headed home.

On Friday, in or near Hoi An, they were involved in an accident. Ryan did not survive his injuries.

Ed has spent the last couple days grieving and healing from his injuries. Ryan's father arrived in Hoi An yesterday and they are working with the government to arrange Ryan's final trip home.



You may know that I've railed against such fundraising efforts in the past when the beneficiary died doing something stupid. This time is different, and not just because I knew Ryan. Because I knew him and rode with him, I can tell you he was a responsible rider who wore a good helmet and proper clothing while riding. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and not the only rider injured in the accident.

Rest in Peace, Ryan Piper. You are now, and will always be, a bright spot in my memory.

09 February 2019

So You Want to Come to Vietnam and Ride a Motorbike? Part 6 — Death

As you know if you've read my blog for any length of time, I don't pull punches.

Motorized two-wheel vehicles are inherently dangerous. That is the #1 reason my parents never let me get anywhere near one growing up. Reason #2 was that, in the 60's, the middle class image of motorcycles was that "only hoodlums ride them", e.g. Marlon Brando in that iconic movie who's title escapes me in my old age.

This is Part 6 of my "So You Want to Come to Vietnam and Ride a Motorbike?" series of posts. To see the previous posts, click on a number to open that post in a new window: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

This sixth part is graphic and unforgiving. That, and the fact that the photos below show dead people, is why it's titled "Death".

I didn't know these people and probably never saw them. Even so, I hope they teach you something. Or some things.

The photos below depict something that happens with such regularity here in Vietnam that I know no one who is surprised when they hear or see of it. That's why I was shocked last week when, after witnessing a man on a scooter get bumped from behind by a car, my seven-year-old daughter who's ridden on a motorbike among hundreds of other motorbikes almost every day of her life, said, "That's the first time I've seen someone fall off a motorbike."

Death is always nearby when you ride a motorized two-wheel vehicle. When you ride without a helmet, death is sitting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear to "Go faster! I got this."

I looked pretty closely at each photo and see no hint of a helmet anywhere in the debris, so I'm guessing that these four people were riding without helmets. I do know none of them had any other protective gear one and at least one was wearing minimal footwear. I also know that every single day I see a dozen or more (especially) young Vietnamese men like the ones depicted below riding very fast and recklessly without a helmet. Often they have a young female passenger and sometimes she is riding sidesaddle.

The laws of physics are the same wherever you are in our known universe, no matter your age, color, intelligence, or looks. As I used to say when I went skydiving, "It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop." Coming off a motorbike at speed, what kills you could also be the slide as your skin and soft bits are slowed to a stop by the cheese grater that is the pavement.

IF you ride, please wear a helmet and proper gear regardless of how short the trip or how long you've been riding. Sometimes what kills is not that you ran out of skills, but that someone else did.

One constant of riding in Vietnam is that every road has twice the number of travel lanes as the same road would in the west because people here regularly ride the wrong way along the curb. I see it every time I ride. It's one of the reasons I tell people to NEVER ride along the curb. Looking at the following graphic photos, my guess is that one bike was going the right way, the other one wasn't, and someone didn't blink. Whether on not this is what happened, four more young people are dead because they rode a motorbike and at least one of them fucked up.






I did not take these photos and do not know who did. If they are yours, please email me at "blog at ridingseasia dot com" so I can give you proper credit.

01 February 2019

"agoda", the hotel booking site, is a POS

Why can't people just
1) Tell the truth
and
2) Admit it when they don't?

In search of a new "regular" hotel for my monthly multi-day stays in Saigon, I went through TripAdvisor's listings looking for ideas. After considering a number of possibilities, I settled on a quiet place with a rooftop terrace breakfast included and that is only a two-minute walk to friends and good restaurants. TripAdvisor sent me to agoda, whose site I used to book the room.

Upon arrival in Saigon I checked into the chosen hotel—Ngoc Minh Hotel—and went to my room. After breakfast the next morning, I was in my room preparing to out when I got an email from agoda.


"Ngoc Minh Hotel has confirmed that your booking is a No-Show."

HUH???

Did I mention I'd been IN THE ROOM for over 18 hours when I got the email?

I tried to call agoda, BUT, because they'd cancelled my booking, the phone system kept hanging up on me. I went downstairs to ask the front desk clerk if she knew anything. She said they wouldn't've cancelled me because I checked in the night before. She assured me she'd contact agoda and ask why they cancelled me.

Agoda replied to the hotel with this email:

"We have checked the booking in our system and found out that it has been cancelled by our customer directly."

WHAT???

You tell me I'm a no-show while I'm sitting in the flippin' room and you tell the hotel that I cancelled. Really???

Now I'm pissed off. Not only has agoda STOLEN my money, they've lied to both the hotel and me. Since they wouldn't let my call go through their phone system, I had to use the "Chat" feature on their web site.


"This is the first we're hearing of this booking being cancelled,"

BUT YOU CANCELLED IT!!! Why was I marked as a "No-show"??? The hotel certainly didn't do it!



"... the booking was mistakenly marked as a no show, which then triggered the cancellation in our system." Who the f*ck marked me as a no-show? According to the front desk clerk, there were three other reservations similarly marked in error at that hotel that night. Someone at agoda seriously dropped the ball and then they sent out emails lying about what happened.

What a cluster-fuck! It cost me a few hours of my time and all I got in return was the money they never should've taken in the first place. At a minimum, they owe me a free hotel night somewhere.

Needless to say, I will NEVER AGAIN use agoda and I will suggest to everyone I can that they think twice before using them. Yes, I understand people make mistakes, but lies are NOT mistakes.

Caveat emptor.