Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gilli Trawanagan

I have reached the wonderful island of Gilli Trawangan. Can't post a lot as being I'm on a 800 person island consisting of huts and bungalows. Anyways, we just got here 2 days ago after a hellish journey from Bali, which some hostile 17 year old Indonesian kids from the town of Bangsal (where we waited for our boat) threatened to beat us up and not let us on the boat. The issue was over a bottle of mosquito pray and some mosquito coils, which Blair and I were looking for to prevent dengue fever on the island. Eventually the situation got pretty bad so we ended up buying it at a reduced price to prevent an all-out brawl. Have to watch out when your haggling here, things can get pretty dodgy with the wrong crowd. Anyways its wonderful here, I'm on a tortoise shaped island with turquoise colored water that is bathtub warm. I'll post more eventually when I have more time, I have to return to my bungalow now for a afternoon nap.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

We shall never cease from exploration

After having some personal time of meditation and quickly nearing the one month mark of my trip; I thought it would be a good time to make a reflective post on my overall travels thus far.

I never realized the importance of getting out of your own shell and opening up to see the world. I never traveled much before this trip, and this trip has casted some different ideas out of me. Part of it is the pure goodness of experiencing foreign cultures, languages, and people, it is hard to figure out just how much of your own cocoon environment is just a self-sense of comfort that we most often take for granted. How much of our sense of "normalcy" and "civilization" is really just having our own culture accepted as normal in our ideology. How orientalists view the world are much different once a traveler is transplanted to a environment that is completely different from home.

There is no real normalcy or the civilized in this world, I believe we all lead our lives differently, and there is no one way that is better than the other. Traveling has been good to my soul, to be often remind that, apart from our family and friends, we are a very small being in this universe. History is so deep and long that we would all fall into the dark lonely abyss without someones shoulders to lean on. This world is so vast that we could easily get trapped in our own environment without exploring others. How unfortunate would that be.

It's good to realize that America, Liberalism, and unabashed over-consumption is not the way of life for most humans. The United States is not the center of the universe. My lifestyle and cultural preferences are not the "norm" of humanity. I believe in our hearts we all know that, however, it is good to be reminded of the fact.

It's good to be completely out of the North American way of life and into another culture. It feels great to be bewildered by another language that I have no idea how to communicate in. I've been trying to learn new words and phrases in every country I go to be more respectful. It is extremely refreshing to talk to the locals, who think their small little village, their city, and their small possessions are all they need to make them happy. Happiness in life is in you to lead and have, its their for the taking. Growing up you often feel this unrelenting pressure to meet lofty ambitions, obtain new possessions, and seek un-needed pleasures. However, love and happiness are simply too beautiful of a thing to fit into strict guidelines of wants and needs.

Traveling has definitely taught me to exhibit a greater sense of humility
. We're all missing out if we don't embark on this journey, and we all find just a little bit more of who we are, on a visit to our neighbors in this wonderful world.

Hope everyone has enjoyed reading thus far,
Much Love,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Just got into Bali last night from Singapore. So far so good, did a bit of surfing today, was out till 4am last night wandering around the township. The city is quite nice, although our place is not, three people sharing one bed makes for an interesting night. Woke up this morning, had some breakfast, and headed out to the beach for some surfing. I was quite tired having only slept 3 hours last night, but I did manage to get out and catch a few waves. The water is warm and not frigid like the Pacific North West (Tofino), so one can manage to stay in the water longer. Also you don't need a wetsuit, which allows you to move easier out there. This makes it better for getting out far into the ocean. Other than that, not much to update thus far, Indonesia is quite the place and I plan to spend the next few weeks exploring it!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Le Garden City

Happy Happy Days! Sorry I haven't been posting as regularly as I usually do, the last week has been busy taking care of the logistics and planning of my trip to Indonesia, which has a very strict visa policy. My 3 days in the Garden City aka Singapore has been quite magnificent. I arrived early in the morning at around 9ish to my good friend Bobby at his Singapore house, which is also better known as the mansion. Bobby is a good friend of mine who I worked with 4-5 years ago at Electronic Arts in the QA department. Actually, Bobby was actually one of the people who hired me for the summer co-op job. I am quite grateful to have someone to stay with here in Singapore, also someone to show me around this great city. Singapore is really the Mecca of Southeast Asia, it is also considered the most westernized nation in the area. This comes with a lot of benefits, like clean air, greater environmental awareness, and safer streets. However, this also means the cost of living and travelling here is comparably higher than other SE Asian countries, by at least 5-6 times when I was in Vietnam. Beers are 5-15$ and generally the prices for goods and services is the same as what we pay in Canada if not a little more. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled to be in this part of the region, my parents have often raved about the beauty of Singapore while I was growing up. Indeed it is very beautiful, there are stiff fines for littering so there is no garbage anywhere on the street. Singapore is a convenient places, where Bobby lives there is restaurants and hawkers (roadside eats) just in the back of his place.

The mansion is quite beautiful, Bobby and his roommates (Brian and Wayne) just moved in from their former apartments. Bobby and his roommates all work at the animation and movie company Lucas Arts, which is quite big in North America, located in the San Francisco bay area. There are three floors and I was situated on the second floor in the guestroom. This was a nice change from the extremely dodgy places that I stayed in Malaysia, where you could hear gun-shots going off almost consistently. Obviously, this wasn't in all parts of Malaysia, but where Blair and I stayed it seemed extra-dubious. The mansion is spacious and has lots of room for us to entertain ourselves.

On the first day we went to the Singapore flyer (see wiki), which is a well known Ferris wheel like establishment in Singapore. If you ever been to London, its much similar to the London eye, and the Singapore flyer is bigger than the London eye. The flyer takes you high up and lets you see a lot of the city, its new construction, and its beautiful skyline. Each flyer trolley can take up to 12 people, and we did see a lot of people having champagne dinners in the trolleys. Apparently the trolleys are popular places for formal engagements and weddings. We saw two weddings taking places in a matter of 45 minutes. The flyer could get quite expensive for the extra frills, since it was just myself, Bobby and his girlfriend we got the cheapest trolley, which Bobby was nice enough to pay for us. I managed to take out my well-used DSLR and took a few pictures on the flyer, which some turned out better than others.

After the trolley we went off to browse the city and its shopping centers. The city is quite modern, even more so than many North American cities. The stores and department stores are all very current, some of which are recognizable from home. We then decided to see a movie downtown, the Ugly Truth, which I have seen prior to. Since we were all running on 3-4 hours of sleep, we headed home for some rest.

The next day we ventured out to the tree top walk and attempted to visit Sentosa island. Sentosa is a sort of Disney does Singapore like creation. It has a beach front much similar to those in Southern California. It's one sparse island has been transformed into a Disney like wonder, with imported sand and fresh water from Malaysia. It also has palm trees and other such exotic imports. Unfortunately we were not able to venture out there due to a torrential downpour that was taking place. We managed to take a 16km hike in the outskirts of Singapore, where we were confronted by many a monkey. The hike was a nice get-away exercise from being in the city so often. After the hike we went out to the Hawkers near Bobby's place for some Indian grub. I had a roti-john-king which is some sort of Indian sub sandwhich with various odd sauces on it. I enjoyed it and we went back to Bobby's to watch some Band of Brothers DVDs then went out to bed.

This morning I went to Little India and the Arab district to check out the wares there. It was exciting, I had more Indian food, and was on my way to Changi airport to catch my flight to Bali. I will miss Malaysia and Singapore immensely, I do hope to return one day with more money. I love the Indian food here, and have been enjoying it with great abundance.

I'm coming up on the 1month mark of my trip and so far its been better than expected. I hope everyone back home is doing well and in good health. I do miss everyone back in Victoria and Port Coquitlam. I have sent some post-cards home! My ten minute time at this Mcdonalds free computer is coming up, so TAH TAH! until next time!

Much Love,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ooompa Lumpur

I just arrived at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Things are going very well, Blair, Cei and I spent the first two days visiting the towers. The Petronas towers are free to go up to the sky bridge, and it is a magnificent wonder. The towers were built in 1998 and we got an informative seminar on how the towers were built. Impressive indeed! We loved it! The KL tower wants 10$ to go up so we just viewed from the outside. Apparently you can get a really nice view from the top, we would have done it but 10$ was too steep for us. Unfortunately, Malaysia is just a stop-over for me and I won't be spending enough time here as I would like. On my next trip I would want to go up to Penang and Melaka and the surrounding areas. Things are really cheap here, we have been eating on the street for 1-2$ maximum, you could really spend a lot more, but Indian food is just magnificent here. I feel like I'm in India, there is a nice mix of people here, and I quite enjoy the atmosphere here.

We spent today resting and we attended a Mosque for a bit before we headed home. The Mosque visit was quite nice, we had a nice tour guide (Abdul) who showed us around and explained some parts of the Islamic religion to us.

Not much else to report, it is raining hard again, and I plan on catching up on some sleep tonight. Tomorrow, I will be getting a haircut at a less-dodgy location and hopefully organizing parts of my Singapore arrival. I will be seeing my good friend Bobby there and a few other people so life should be good there. I would like to write more but internet is expensive and the keyboard is quite rank. Happy Happy Days!! Cheers!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grande Capital

Rain Rain Rain and more Rain! that is simply how I would describe Hanoi thus far. Although the city is aesthetically pleasing and the buildings remind one of why this city was chosen as the capital of French Indochina, the rain has drowned out a lot of the potential fun that could have happened during the first two days. The monsoon has officially hit Vietnam, and its effects are as treacherous as they are volatile to my carefully laid out Hanoi plans. It has been raining non-stop since I got here, and it looks like its being rather unrelentless in its wake. The rain is not something I particularly fancy and I am somewhat relieved that Hanoi is my last stop on my Vietnam tour. I'm currently living in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, in a Aussie-style backpack hostel. The travellers here are great and it is a great place to get advice from others about travelling in South-east Asia. So far I have visited a few museums, and the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum, which were all exciting for a culture vulture like myself. I declined the farther attractions due to the weather and accessibility.

I did find Hanoi to be more historically and culturally appealing than Saigon was. Hanoi did not represent the follies of sprawling toxic capitalism, it had a classical french colonial feel to it, which I had a particularly strong appetite for. I managed to frolic around the city quite a bit on my first day. The OQ (Old Quarter) is the place to be in Hanoi, and I have come to quite adore its classical ambiance.

The highlight of my trip was on visit to Halong City and subsequently the Halong Bay cruise. I will be posting many pictures from the boat ride, because words do not do justice to the beauty and grace of Halong Bay. A group of eighteen of us took a sleeper junk (a type of boat) into the Bay for 3 days and 2 nights. The group was filled with a variety of PHd, law, and undergraduate students, which made for many interesting conversations. Most of the travellers were from England and other parts of Europe, some who were from Austraillia. There were also some belligerent and obnoxious Belgian girls on board. The cruise included swimming in the sea, which was quite warm. You could dive off the 10meter boat at 3 in the morning visibly quite dark and still be quite alright. We did a number of activities including rock-climbing, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving. The rock-climbing and kayking was the best part, the rocks were a soft limestone making it a lot easier on the hands. The kayaking was intense at times, Blair and I took kayaks out to untouched beaches and epic epic islands. Again, see the pictures to be posted later. I did meet a lot of interesting people on this trip, most of were around the same age as myself.

Anyways, its pissing rain outside, and I should get some sleep. I will post more later. My itinerary has changed quite a bit. I will be travelling to Singapore and Malaysia with Blair on the 17th or 18th depending on when we can catch a cheap flight. We will stay in Kuala Lumpur for 3 nights then head to Bali, Indonesia for a good few weeks. Then we will round up to North Sumatra and to Thailand for the rest of our trip. I decided not go to Laos till later due to some complications and dodgy situations recently at the Laos border. I will venture there on my way back from Thailand to Vietnam, and I certainly do not want to miss its marvels. Anyways! I'm gonna look for a flight for Blair and I, short update today, but stay tuned for more. Much love to the people back home!


Saturday, September 12, 2009


Just reached the capital city of Hanoi, not much to post as of yet. I've booked my boat tour in Halong Bay and will be making my way there in the morning. I will be traveling on a sleeper junk which should be exciting. I've been wandering the old quarter in Hanoi, quite beautiful indeed. After that I will proceed to go solo into Luang Prabang in Laos! Thanks for reading all! more to come soon after my 3 day halong bay adventure. Cheers

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Happy Days in Hoi An

Before I get to the Hoi An arrival, I have a mildly hilarious, potentially could have been very-not-hilarious story from my last day at Nha Trang. So Brian and I thought it would have been a good idea to rent a motorbike on the bustling less-busy-than-Saigon streets of Nha Trang. We rented one for 3 dollars, gassed it up, and were prepared to have an epic adventure up at the Lo Son Pagoda in Northern Nha Trang. Ten minutes in our motorcyle gets very wobbly, and we geniousely thought it would be a good idea to pull over. Next thing you know our back tire is flat. Great! we are in the middle of the countryside on some random bridge far away from the city. Next thing you know, the Monsoon hits and it starts raining and we are pushing a sub-standard popped tire motorcyle down the street. Luckily to our delight a local flags us down and starts laughing hysterically. I guess the situation is kind of funny! well not really if we have to push the thing for another 15 kilometers, yuck! That idea was met with a terrible moan. Good thing the local had a spare tube on him and tools, we pulled our bike into his shop and promptly put on a new tube in 15 minutes. Turns out our old tube had been patched several times, by several I mean everywhere possible on the tube. Since the monsoon hit, we decided to just head home and take our bike elsewhere some other time. I watched "hitch" (don't laugh) on HBO and promptly went off to bed.

The next morning we caught a plane to Hoi An, which took maybe 45 minutes. This seemed like a better altnerative than taking a 12-14 hour train that would have cost 20 dollars less. Hoi An is a beautiful beautiful city! it is one of the only cities never to be bombed by U.S. forces during the war. Quite possibly one of the most pleasant places I've been to date. If Saigon is known for its sprawling symbols of capitalism, and Nha Trang for its beautiful beaches, Hoi An must be known for its tailors. It boasts over 400 tailors in the city. I didn't waste any time, and popped into the first tailor recommended by my friend Laura. All said and done, I managed to get two 3-piece cashmere suits, 2 dress shirts, 3 ties made, and 1 winter coat made. Total costing just under 400. Quality day for sure, the suits were very decent, and they finished them in 1 day. The good thing was, the suits were fitted down to a T, which makes for a very nice fit. I can see why Hoi An was known for its quality tailoring and good service, it was also nice to know where to go and where not to go by fellow travellers. Since I will probably be looking for some-type of job when I go home, the suits would prepare me well.

After the suit-making soiree, I decided to rent a bicylce, figuring if the tire pops I wouldn't have to lug it too far. I rode all the way down to the beach, which was quite decent. The water is very warm here, I could stay in forever, nice waves also. I waded in the waves for a bit, it felt like Tofino, except minus the cold. Then the monsoon hit again, and I rode my bike all the way home drenched in the pissing rain. The rain here is actually not as a abominable as the rain in Vancouver or Victoria. It's generally large droplets of warm water with literally no wind. I spent a local pub conversing with other travellers, some from Britain and Austrailia. The beers here are .60 cents, which is music to my ears.

I woke up at 6ish and headed of to Mỹ Sơn, 2 hours outside of Hoi An. My Son is a cluster of ancient ruins left behind by the Cham dynasty. I won't go too much into it, but they were made and dedicated for the Hindu God Shiva. Feel free to visit the wiki link for more info on it. The ruins were magnificient wonders. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it was not 35 degrees outside, which along with the humidity made for a very sweaty and stinky day. I managed to take a few pictures, which are on my facebook. The ruins took up most of the day. Afterwards we went to a woodworking factory, a ship yard, and back to the harbor for lunch. Hoi An is on the Central coast of Vietnam, so it enjoys a wide ranging varieties of seafood. But.......I have to run now! poor internet, sticky keyboards, and the English calling are driving me to the bar! Best wishes to those reading from home!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Nha Trang

Hello Hello! I finally found some time to post about my numerous Nha Trang adventures. I arrived pretty early in the morning around 5ish via train from HCM city. The train ride was moderately acceptable; we were in a 6-person cabin, which was pretty small on its own. It ended up being only Brian, I and one other local in the cabin. Then the oppressive music playing ensued, the local lady promptly pulled out her cell phone and started to play Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" loudly and abruptly. While I do appreciate her love for popular Canadian artist(s), I did not particularly enjoy such obnoxious banter at 11 at night after being up for almost 20 hours. However, she fell asleep fairly soon and I turned her phone jukebox thing off. The train ride was 6 1/2 hours, I slept for most of it, when I woke up we were just a few minutes from Nha Trang.

We had no idea where we were staying so we caught a cab to go to the beach. We were pretty excited, Nha Trang is known for its pretty beaches and clean water. It is also one of the most popular destinations for local Vietnamese tourists and international backpackers. The beach was quite beautiful, although their was some litter on the beach, it was not so much that you could not enjoy yourself and "paddle" in the water. We ended up finding a hotel that was recommended by Lonely Planet, we paid 14$ for 2 of us, which we deemed as very suitable. First day didn't involve much; we hung around on the beaches, drank a few beers, and met an asset manager from Singapore named Shohn, pronounced like Shawn. The water was really remarkably clean, so I went for a quick dip. There is considerably less traffic and peddles in Nha Trang, which is a pleasant change from HCM City where one could not walk 30seconds without being asked to buy goods or services. It is actually illegal to sell your wares on the beaches here now, the government has implemented new rules to where you can or can not sell your goods. This was witnessed as a sunglass saleslady was dragged away by local cops despite her strong objection. Apparently when you get dragged in, they take all stuff away, this time being sunglasses. We saw met up with a friend Blair, had a few pints, and a nice meal at our hotel. We went to bed pretty early that night, due to severe exhaustion.

The next day we went on one of the best boat trips ever. We were picked up at 830am and shipped off to the local port to visit four islands. There were numerous Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and English tourists on the boat, which made for an interesting mix. On the first island we went snorkeling for a bit, there is a plethora of neatly arranged corals on the ocean floor, which was beautiful. I didn't snorkel for long and went about to sit on one of the beach chairs with my new friend Laura from London! London, England not the one in Ontario. Turns out we had to pay for the chairs we were sitting on, 100,000 VND (6 USD) per hour to be exact, being the budget cheap travelers we were, we decided to go sit on some less-comfy concrete steps instead. One must be careful where he/she puts their bum on in Nha Trang. Everything from beach lawn chairs to chairs under the shady trees is pay-per-use. We found that out pretty quickly, the lawn chairs in Nha Trang was only 30,000 VND for the whole day, which is far more agreeable. Turns out Laura is a corporate lawyer in London from a top50 firm in the UK. Exciting news indeed! You meet a diverse group of people when traveling. We entertained each other for a good hour conversing about politics in the UK, British Labor, and life in the legal profession. I got some good advice that I undoubtedly will use later on. She was on her way from North to South, so her next big destination is down to Saigon where we just came from. Turns out she was on an economic recession holiday due to the credit crunch in the UK, thanks Gordon Brown.

On our next island we ate lunch, which involved a variety of fresh seafood, including shrimp, cutter fish, squid, pork and beef. It was quite light and refreshing. The Vietnamese seem to eat much healthier than greasy deep fried Western diets. Most people here seem pretty fit and slim compared to people back home. Then we all dove into the water for a "floating-bar" party. This was probably the best part of the trip; we all jumped from the top of a two story boat and floated in inner-tubes while being served a Vietnamese wine. I had maybe half a bottle and came out of the water a bit tipsy. There was a fair amount of dancing, music playing, and debauchery going on, which made for some delightful entertainment. We headed back to the boat and headed for the third island, there we sat around, chatted, and relaxed while watching travelers go para-sailing. We got some good R&R and time to sober up with a few beers of course, as Laura described it, it was pinch-yourself moment. It was times like that, that made you not miss anything back home, especially not work..

The next island we stopped of at an aquarium. This was the shortest part of our trip. We saw a few sharks, turtles, and various fish that were indigenious to that area. Then we were on our way home. The whole tour including food was only 7$ and was well worth every penny. After which we went back to our hotels, got dressed up, and went out for dinner at the sailing club. The Sailing Club was a great establishment that catered to western tourists, thus prices were higher than usual. The Indian curry there was quite delightful. We were able to shoot some pool, which I lost miserably. My pool skills seem to have gotten significantly worse after leaving Canada. After pool we headed off to a local brewery, had a few pints and called it a day around 1130. Took the long way back on the beach, and dropped Laura of at her hotel! It was one of the best days and evenings on my trip, perhaps the best, and I hope I will meet more interesting travelers on my backpacking trail. We fly out to Hoi An tomorrow morning, being a UNESCO heritage site, there should be lots to see and do. Much to entertain indeed. I'll try to post again soon, and will upload pictures from my Nha Trang adventures.


P.S. Happy Birthday to my good friend Jessica who turns 24 today

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Kong

Just about to run out and get the train for Nha Trang on the Central/East coast of Vietnam, thought I fire off a quick blog post before I leave. Today I was up early at 6am to go on a day-trip to the Mekong Delta, which as usual left me rushing for the bus after a breakfast involving a french baggette, scrambled eggs, and lots of coffee. I made my bus, and proceeded to make the 3 hour journey south to the Delta. I was surrounded by excited tourists, travellers, and a few locals. I find long bus rides in Vietnam much more agreeable and excitement filled than long bus rides elsewhere in B.C. or Canada. It may be because I'm in a foreign country, and there is so much to see and stare at, the city fascinates me, and the driving is downright ridicules. Although to the first time observer, the driving may seem outrageous, it really is the best form of managed-chaos that I have ever witnessed. Anyways, two hours went by, and there I was at the Delta with our guide Master P (no relation to the rapper).

The Delta, while seemingly to the untrained eye looks dirty and abominable, really is not. According to Master P, the water has a brownish tinge due to the abundance of silt in the water. Much like the Fraser river, although I did see a plethora of garbage and random objects in the water. The Mekong Delta serves to irrigate the race paddies in the area. Vietnam is second largest rice producing nation in the world, and the nutrients in the Mekong serves to replenish the race paddies. There were four main islands that most travelers venture out to; Unicorn, Turtle, Dragon, and Phoenix. All very exciting names indeed. Since we were on the 1 day trip, costing a total of 8$ USED, we only got to visit Unicorn and Dragon, which nevertheless provided great excitement. The boat ride took a total of 20 minutes to get to Unicorn, on the way we saw plenty of fishing boats, junks, and barges. The water was relatively calm and we all made it to Unicorn safely. Upon arrival, we visited a bee farm, and sampled some delicious tasting bee tea, with some bee wine. The bee wine was quite strong, but good nonetheless. After we tromped off to a music show put on by the locals of that island. The traditional music was great, and most of us tipped a few American dollars for the show they put on.

Good to note is that many of these larger islands on the Mekong Delta depend on travelers for subsistence, due to the struggling economy, the demand for fish and rice has dropped significantly. Many of the locals have gone bankrupt and are buried in massive debt. While their persistence and touting may seem overly annoying, it is good to show a sense of humility and not let our ignorance kick in. A simple "no thank you" usually does the trick and the local merchant will move on to the next traveler. Some sensibility will go a long way when traveling abroad, and helps us understand differing socio-economic conditions. In a sense, seeing the rampancy poverty in Vietnam has made me tremendously grateful of the situation that I'm in. While it's easy to whine and mope about the poor indebted student life, it is also good to understand the enormously fortunate position that we are in. My early travels in Vietnam have in a sense made me more humble, realizing that the frivolous and useless items of our society carry less importance than being truly happy. I think happiness eludes many of us because of the great expectations we all have in our lives. To drive the newest car, live in the biggest house, and own the best toys. Anyways,

we proceeded afterwards for a canal ride for about 20 minutes. The canal's in the Mekong are suppose to contain a large amount of crocodiles. We were forewarned to keep our hands and feet inside and sit in the middle of the boat. To my deep dismay, I did not get to see any such crocodile. Our ride went smoothly, and we ended up at a coconut candy factory.... The coconut candies are great, the locals make them from scratch, literally extracting the coconut to make candies to sell in big metropolitan cities. I will post pictures of this process along with others of Mekong on my face book. I purchased a few packs of the candies that I plan to send home, as long as I don't eat them prior to getting to the post office. No promises there. The coconut candy apparently is so good that they many other manufacturers have attempted to counterfeit them.

After the coconut factory, we proceeded to go to lunch after a few boat rides. The lunch involved pork chops, mixed vegetables, rice and tempura. It was delicious, and after a long morning, some of us kicked it back with a few beers. After the beers wore off, I went on a bike ride along the island. The bike ride took me through some of the slums on the island, and left deep saddening in my stomach. As I cruised on my 1-speed, some others joined me, and we ended up riding to a hammock half-shelter. There Brian and I set up hammocks, put on some music from his phone, and took a long nap. Then it was time to set home, taking the boat back, we headed towards the port to go back to Saigon. On the boat ride home I met two girls traveling from Paris, Fran and Marguerite. They were both graduate students who recently graduated from Sciences-Po university in Paris. Funny thing was, my friend Dr. Andrew is currently studying at Sciences-Po University. Fran works at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris and spoke three languages (German, English and French). Impressive enough, she told me she was contemplating an offer to go to the Congo to provide humanitarian assistance and guidance to the people their. She was a political science & history major, with a two masters, one in environmental sustainability and urban development. A girl after my own heart! this is something I definitely would like to get into when I finish graduate/law school.

However, they Fran and Marg had to leave to go to their cousins. I was on my way up to Nha Trang, and probably won't seem them again. They only have 2 weeks of holidays from their important work, and were heading back to Paris soon. I hope to run into more travelers like them, who are smart, multicultural, and have a strong passion for creating real change in the world.

Anyways, I need to run! Train is coming soon and I need to cab my way out their. As usual, I hope all is well to those reading this, and I will post when I'm in Nha Trang!! Also, I’ve been posting without reading through it again, if there are grammar and spelling errors, I do apologize..not!

one love,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cu Chi!

Hello all!

I hope you've all enjoyed reading the blog to date. Please keep diligently reading so I will not post in vain. This would be my last post from Ho Chi Minh City, tomorrow Brian and I are venturing north to Nha Trang, which is a coastal city by the ocean. There is much to see and do there, and I look forward to what that city brings. It will also be nice to be in a less-busier and bustling climate. Although HCM city has been great, it would be great to get some down-time in a place much quieter. Our friend Blair has already made the trek via overnight train to Nha Trang, so we will be joining him there tomorrow morning. We are taking the 11pm overnight train to save money on accommodations.

So last night our new friend Sara took us out for drinks at a nearby watering hole, which served the cheapest beer in town; 11,000 dong or about 67 cents U.S. for a pint of beer. The beer here is quite light so one needs to drink a bit more than usual to be drunk. There we met many a traveler, from Blackburn, UK to Adelaide and North Queensland in Australia. I absolutely adored the travelers I met, all were extremely easy going and easy to talk with. The traveler lifestyle is definitely something I can get use to. Everyone was eager to share stories of worldly travels, and we all enjoyed each others company. However, I had to call it quits earlier than usual. Rising everyday at 6:30am and going to bed at 12:00pm is starting to take somewhat of a toll on me. I will try to enjoy a good night sleep tonight.

This morning, Brian and I decided to venture to the Cu Chi tunnels in the northern area outside of HCM city. The tunnel systems were used by the Vietcong as one of their underground military bases during the Tet Offensive. The tunnels were amazing and remarkable in nature, they go 10-20 meters underground and stretch for over 250kms across Southern Vietnam. Vietnam was the heaviest bombed country in world history, more U.S. ordinates, bombs, shells, etc.. than any other war in history, including the First and Second World Wars. The VC strategically came up with a underground tunneling strategy to avoid aerial bombardments by U.S. planes. I have posted pictures on my face book of the tunnels, they are quite fascinating. Pictures will be on my face book! please check them out they are worth a look. I'm sitting here with a severely strained hamstring due to crouching down very low to squeeze through long stretches of tunnel. Nonetheless, the tunnels were not built for people of my size, and it was very uncomfortable. However, just being in them was a unbelievable experience, and I would do it again if I was there. I wrote an essay about the tunnels in my Vietnam history class, and never thought I would have the opportunity to actually be in one. There were sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, wells, kitchens, and weapon shacks in the tunnels. Cu Chi has definitely been the highlight of this trip for me, and I don't regret the 3 hour trip outside of the city to get there. The tunnels were rigged with many booby traps, from punji stick traps to poisonous spiked ones. I had Goosebumps and chills down my back from being in the tunnels, it was quite dark and I could hardly breathe. I could only imagine the feeling of being down there for days and weeks. Needless to say, the tunnels proved to be tremendously successful in stalemating the American experience in Vietnam. In part, the tunnels contributed to the eventual withdrawal of American forces from the war.

At the end of the tunnel excursion, we went down the range to fire of a few semi-automatic weapons. This proved to be nothing but a colossal rip off, I managed to fire a 10 rounds on a M16 and Brian fried the same amount on a AK47. The range was alright, but severely overpriced. It was nice to shoot at targets, my ears are still ringing from the range.

As for tomorrow, I'm waking up earlier than normal to catch a scooter ride to the Mekong Delta and do a few boat tours around the islands. I'm really looking forward to this. I will post another update soon with how it went.

I hope everyone is doing well back at home. I feel rather peculiar about not being back in school right now, and probably will be feeling even more uneasy if I wasn't graduated and abroad. However, I will be back soon so I should cherish these precious moments abroad as another trip like this would likely not come for another while. Alright! time to go mend my wounds with a bowl of pho and a nice sleep tonight. Check out the pictures on my facebook! And I will try to post some on here as well.

best wishes and take care all!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Shock and Awe
Pictures from the Vietnam Museum

It was Vietnam Independence Day 64th Anniversary!

Pho Tai! 2.50$

Hope you don't need to make a call



So I've finally had some time to update my blog! I have finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at 10:45am today after a 1 day delay in Hong Kong. Turns out when I got to YVR to catch my Air Canada flight, the washroom on the plane started leaking. Needless to say, a 15 minute delay turned into a 1 hour and 40 minute delay, so I sat at the airport doing very little. As a result, the delay caused me to miss my connector at Hong Kong to Vietnam. Turned out we missed our flight by 15 minutes, but it was already 10pm in Hong Kong, so there were no other flights leaving for Ho Chi Minh. What resulted was an aimless struggle running around the airpot looking for an Air Canada agent to help us. To our dismay, Air Canada had already left the ticketing office so we ended up talking to someone else after 2 hours of running around a massive airport. For those who have never been to the international airport at Hong Kong, it is freaken massive, outrageousely so. It has hundreds of gates and endless terminals. Nonetheless, Blair, Brian and I were pretty displeased. This is after running on 2 hours of sleep and having been promised that an Air Canada agent was going to meet us there upon our arrival. So we ended up getting put up in a halfly constructed hotel with no food. We had to catch our replacement transfer via Cathay Pacific at 7 that morning, so we had to get up at 530. So I'm writing this post on very very little sleep, meaning 1 hour in the last 48.

However, despite the lack of mental alertness and being physically exasperated, the excitement of landing in HCM city got us very wired. As we got in, we exchanged some of our U.S. dollars with the local currency (dong..) Turns out, 1 USD = 18000 some old Vietnamese Dong. So everything is terribly inflated, and my math skills or a lack of is finally catching up to me. I brought a handy calculator just in case, when haggling and buying goods and services. So off we went, and we were immediately swarmed by locals inquring whether we needed taxis or other services. Knowing our frugal budget that we are on, we decided to look for the possible deal for a ride to our hotel. After various offers to take us for exhorbitant dongs (20 us dollars) we ended up with a guy willing to takes us for 9 after haggling for 15 minutes, and after the taxi driver seeing that we were not going to be paying more than 3 dollars each he decided to take us. The art of haggling is something that I have quickly become accumsted to. We got to our hotel/hostel, and we negotiated a price of 6$ a night each for 3 people, which was somewhat good since hotels here usually run between 10-15$. We unloaded our stuff, cranked up the air conditioning (crucial in 30+ degree humidity, and we were off to the markets.

The most astonishing custom about Vietnam that caused the most shock and awe between us three was the lack of driving rules in Vietnam. There is a ridicules, I mean ridicules amount of scooters and motorcycles. There are no lanes, and people drive aimlessly to wherever they please. Not only that, they usually take more than one passenger with them, so the husband, wife, and often 2-3 kids are on the same scooter. This is the same scooter you see being rented out in Victoria for singles. Quite ridicules indeed. However, there is a crucial language that is widely used in Vietnam, the horn, and lots of it. Unlike Canada, where the horn is used very infrequently and with a tremendous disdain by others and yourself; in Vietnam the horn is used every 1-3 seconds and often much more than that. The horn is used unlike in western nations to show your displeasure for the other driver, but it is used to warn drivers of passing, changing lanes, and sudden stops. You really have to be here to see it, and I should have my pictures up tommorow. In the sudden rush to pack my stuff, I have forgotten my usb cable so I will go purchase one tomorrow, with much haggling of course. Also, crossing the street while seemingly is very hazardous is really not. Although there are a billion cars and motorcyclers on the road, you really just have to not wait for cars to stop, because they won't, you just have to be confident and assert yourself to crossing. Cars and bikes will honk, but they will just go around you, so no big deal at all.

As for Vietnam itself, it is beautiful and I am growing to love it. It's picturesque landscapes and very accessible attractions bold well for my time here. Today we went to the Vietnam war museum, and boy it was depressing. I never felt so sick to my stomach looking at the images and sights there. It really denounces the American involvement in Vietnam, and rightfully so. Many of the pictures and stories tell of deformed children from U.S. biological weapons used during the war. Mainly from the dioide from the Agent Orange. We spent a few hours there, and walked for at least 25km around the city, it was magnificient and I did not feel tired at all despite my lack of sleep for the past few days. We spent the night eating at a local restaurant, and a few beers. Food here is very cheap, I spent around 9 dollars eating and drinking all day, which is great for the budget I'm on. I would love to post more, but I should really run off to bed now, even though the city is far from asleep. Kids are running around, locals are peddling their wares, and restauarnts and still bustling with energy. Brian just came down with the cord, pictures will be up! will post again very soon! hope you all enjoy reading or are reading. Until next time