Thursday, October 12, 2006
The people in Vung Tau wear their religion on their sleeve. This beautiful relief was spotted next door to one of the many Catholic Churches on Vung Tau and was typical of alot of homes Catholic and Bhuddist that I saw there. I was surprised by the size of this relief and the color of the house it was attached to. Beside the size of it which was impressive, I was amazed at the detail.
Friday, October 06, 2006
View from the Hydrofoil on my way to Vung Tau. Left over Russian boats that are abit dated but provide adequate service, better than the bus I'm sure, leaves every hour on the hour till 5:00pm. Met an Ex Pat Aussie veteran visiting his old haunts in Vung Tau and had a nice chat. His first time back and was having a ball he said. His wife had planned the itinery so he didn't have much knowledge about where he was staying or where was his next stop but was loving every minute of his stay.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
At the dock near the Continental Hotel I bought my ticket to Vung Tau for $9USD and was eagerly waiting take off when the ticket taker showed up, quite more pleasingly dressed than most ticket takers I've seen in the states. The 1 and 1/2 hr trip to Vung Tau is met by a throng of hawkers selling everything from siteseeing tours to "you know what". I headed straight for the nearest watering hole "Ned Kelley's" place across the street from the dock and waited for the activity to die down. The boats arrive on the half hour and everyone knows it so they wait. After 10 minutes calm presided and I was on my way to the closest of the 2 beaches "Front Beach " a short 5-10 minute walk downhill all the way and a pretty lil park filled with parents and children on holiday and taking pictures with the Disney characters in the park. Postcard salesmen and women abound and everything from peanuts to "you know what" are on sale at all hours of the day. A moto driver approached by the name of Vu and we had a chat and agrred on a price for a tour of the beaches and the sites, many wonderful churches and pagodas along with a delightful lunch at an Italian place called "David's" and a 2 hr tour by moto of the more popular "Back" beach and the town itself of Vung Tau, I have it from reliable sources it was an R&R spot for the VC during the American War. The large Jesus Statue erected atop a hill is somewhat reminiscent of the one in Rio Brazil but not quite as large
Ben Thanh market stall #1004 was hosted by these two lovely ladies hawking there only item Pho Bo or the Vietnamese national dish Pho "bo" or beef version. The girl on the right with the more than stern look was always telling me to "go outside now". I was always having loads of fun with them and ordering other items from other vendors and eating it on their counter which is a no no but I just pleaded ignorance. I went to this stall every morning for a week and had a delicious bowl of soup at 6:30am and a serving of sliced mango and some iced coffee to round it all out with. Both these girls are married and are about 30 years old, they looked 12 to me but they were great fun to be with.
I was asked by a friend to come to this Private College to talk to the students that are taking English so that they may hear from a native speaker. I guess it's difficult to arrange native speakers for English with there being mostly Australians visiting Vietnam now and the locals don't consider Ozzie's to be speaking English, go figure. I had a very nice time there and the students all in their 20's were so shy and some did come around and speak directly to me. The school is looking for a partner college to cooperate with and maybe have a student exchange so if there's anyone that knows someone that knows someone..........have at it.
These children are some of the kids who were helped in this years tuition assistance program at Hoa Lien Primary School. Along with the SPELL program through EMWD these children will not have to struggle to raise the money necessary to go to school for the year. Most here are handicapped or orphans living with grandparents and really have a tough time making ends meet. I asked the principal to choose the children based on need and after hearing their stories I was moved to tears knowing that this year they will have it alittle easier and maybe not have to make some difficult choices between staying in school and dropping out to help earn money to live. This little waif was so cute I couldn't help but take a picture of her as she wondered why she was called to the office, she was the first to arrive and to have me waiting there for her I think she was alittle more than frightened.
My 2006 trip included a visit to Hoa Lien Primary School to see my special little friend Trinh. She has grown so much during this year and is still so beautiful and full of life. I think the attention she gets when I visit puts her off alittle and embarasses her somewhat in front of her friends. The principal of the school still greets me with alot of warmth and gratefulness for helping some of his children. The other children were soooooo adorable and most were orphans living with grandparents or were themselves handicapped in someway. The children were overwhelmed when they were presented with their tuition certifactes and could not express their appreciation enough. I hope to continue to visit Hoa Lien School and maybe do more for the school next year as well as keeping the tuition assistance program growing. Last year was 2 children and this year I was able to raise enough money to help 13 children in 3 different schools. One being Trinh's brother and 2 others at Hoa Xuan School where I assisted in another Outreach along with East Meets West Dental. The staff there has helped me tremendously and I'm very grateful for all they do for these children. Each time I visit I'm so impressed with the spirit of these children and how hard they try to learn under very difficult circumstances .
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Mr. Security at the Ngoc Ha Hotel. What a guy, he took me for a drink after work one day and produced a dried squid for the proprietor to grill for us. It was quite good and tastey with a salty chicken wing texture to it. We munched on it for about a half hour while he drank his SaiGon beer over ice as most Vietnamese drink their beer. I stayed with "Coca" for the duration of my stay because I didn't want to give my gastro intestinal tract a ride.
Thang, is a taxi driver I met outside my hotel who agreed to drive me to Dong Nai which is the next province east of HCMC. He further endear himself to me by translating all my requests to help find my friend Ho who was supposed to have moved there from Nha Trang but, we had no luck. What a great guy though and I found out his wife is from Ban Me Thout in the central highlands and her family lives in LA but she has no desire to move there. They have a daughter who is 7 years old and attends International School in SaiGon. Not only did he drive me but we had many cafe sua da's (iced Coffee with milk) and lots of interesting conversation to boot. He owns his own cab which he laments is 5 years old but it has AC and no visible dents... so all in all he's doing well.
Afew of the girls that work at MiMi's near my hotel in SaiGon. This salon was quite nice with a full service body massage for $5USD and the usual shampoo, manicure and shave all for under $10USD. The girls treated me so well and after I found out how long they work 9:00am- 9:00pm six days a week it makes you appreciate how good we have it. I enjoyed buying them frozen yogurt in the evening from the pushcart vendor and letting them listen to my MP3 player. They think all Americans are millionairs and I guess to them we are. They all live very simply and work very hard
My friend Kellie from Tarentum and Quy Nhon introduced me to two of her friends who are now living in SaiGon and working there also. They were kind enough to come to dinner with me my first night in SaiGon. Yen (Yeen) or Kitty as she is known and Houng on the far right. Kitty knows alittle more english than her friend Houng but we still had our troubles and both were quite shy too not having had much contact with Americans but since I was a friend of their friend that made everything OK. Later when I returned to HCMC we had dinner st the Ben Thanh outside market and ICECREAM at the Famous Bach Dang Icecream Parlour on Le Loi St. Where they both went crazy over icecream and the beautiful view over the busy intersection.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Beautiful tree lined avenues in most Vietnam cities and towns and everyone is numbered and catalogued as to type and size and location. Not much goes unnoticed in the cities by the authorities and for the most part that's a good thing. Just in case some needy city dweller decides he'd like some extra firewood to keep the old homestead warm.
Steel plates with the no.'s stamped in them are nailed conspicuously to every tree.
Very interesting statue along the busy city street in District #1 near the Pham Ngu Lao area. A short walk from my hotel the Ngoc Ha on Le Anh Xuan St. "Cyclo Sir?" "1hr. 1 dollar" yell the cyclo hawkers trying to sell the services to feed the family...or so they say.
Traffic is picking up this morning around the Pham Ngo Lau area of SaiGon. I was out walking about 7:00am and caught the first bits of moto traffic around the famous statue at the turn about. Lots of people on moto's and bicycles. No one makes a big deal if you get cut off... not like here in the states where you take your life in your hands for not giving an inch at the merge points. Everyone just flows into a smooth meld of bee swarm like coaggulation. An occasional scraped knee or torn pants is in the offing for the unwary xe om rider. Just a fact of life in the busy world of SaiGon traffic.
Spotted this vintage vespa along Le Anh Xuan St. in District #1 while I was having my hair shampooed at Mi Mi's Salon I believe it belonged to the owners son. What a beauty. Also spotted a 1965 Ford Mustang just like the first car I bought back in 1972 at Ft. Bragg NC. for $200 USD. The one I saw was an 8 cyl. auto but it was clean and also was the owner's or his son's.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
This lovely girl is Vy Nguyen from New England and we met while traveling to Vietnam in September of 2005. We were both on the flight from Chicago to Hong Kong and were both moving to the international gate for our flight to SaiGon. Having noticed each other on the walk to the gate we struck up a conversation as travelers doomed to the monotony of layovers do and had a good chat about Vietnam and where we were headed, she to south of HCMC and me to Nha Trang and northward. We had a bit of a time at the baggage claim and customs because Vy was bringing steamer trunks full of gifts and things to relatives piled to the ceiling and I only had my ever ready backpack to slow me down, so I gave her a hand. We had exchanged email address's and off we went on our separate ways. I lost her email for almost 6 months and having gone through my document carrier before my next trip low and behold I found it. I dashed off a few quick notes and to my amazement she responded and also through the wonders of technology she appears to you in living color. Her picture here taken from a recent trip to Times Square .....hey guys she's cute and even cuter in person and as nice as can be to share her time and frienship with me on a long flight to Vietnam.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Vietnam is truely a seductive place. The sights and sounds come drifting back to me in dreams. Once in awhile I catch a smell or hear a sound that reminds me of my times there. The beautiful women in their Ao Dai's floating down tree lined avenues in Hue or young boys playing soccer in an open field. The playfulness of the young firefighters practicing their craft in the streets. teasing each other and posturing for those who might be watching. The steading parade of xe oms zooming in and out of every roadway, oblivious to other traffic passenger or vehicle. The smells of bread baking in the morning and of street vendors hawking their wares up and down the busy streets. The sun coming up over the ocean and the lazy palm trees swaying in the morning breeze in Nha Trang. I really can't wait to go back and rekindle those memories. I will post more photos on my return. September seems so far away.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Vietnamese are very ingenious when it comes to these things. Necessity is clearly the mother of invention. Here we have a vintage jeep trailer left over from the war being used with a brahma pulling it for multi purpose work I'm sure. I noticed lots of these type inventions in my travels in Vietnam.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The Vinh Moc tunnels in North Vietnam were a major distibution point along the Ho Chi Minh trail. supplies coming in from China were broken down and transported inland or down the coast from this important supply line. The US decimated the town and surrounding countryside in hopes of shutting this vital link down but it just drove the people underground to do their work. Many people lived in the tunnel complex and it was much more elaborate than the CHu Chi complex in the south 114 miles all together including trenches to and from the different villages in the province, it had many levels and rooms and openings along it's path and one out to the sea at a very beautiful beach area featured below.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
This room was wonderful and capped off my stay in Hue City at the fabulous Saigon Morin Hotel. The rooms are spacious and the service is everything you would expect from a 5 star hotel. The window area is actually French doors that open on to a balcony that overlooks the wide tree lined street next to the Perfume river, where you can get tours to the pagodas and temples. Fresh fruit is replaced daily as is a delicious little nugat candy covered with sesame seeds. Each floor has it's own desk so if you need anything you don't have to go down stairs for it. The pool at the Morin is also nice. I spent a refreshing afternoon swimming there after trekking over "Hell, creation and half of Hue City" searching for a particular Convent.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
This fine afternoon of walking around DaNang was topped off with a delicious lunch at this neighborhood eatery. Rau moung was on the menu, which is the simplest of Vietnamese dishes. It features a delicate water lily or water spinach and it's sauteed in garlic and oil....lots and lots of garlic, but it is sooo good. The waitress had a bit of a time with my digital camera but after about the 3rd shot she finally got it. Dr. Ha and nurse Hien along with Hien's cousin who is going to be a dental assistant came along on the walk-about. I was tersly told not to film any military installations, which I didn't and after that I just wanted to hide, the Army regular was pretty touchy about me tryin' to film a likeness of "Uncle Ho" that was painted on a wall outside his base. he was on guard duty and he was probably puttin' on the show if his seargent was watching or if I was a test spy sent in to try and put him off his game. I should have asked his 1st general order and waited for a response. Which is "I will not leave my post until officially relieved" or some such nonsense. We had a great lunch and then it was time for me to get packed for my little trip to Hue City through the Hai Van Pass by car, NOT by the tunnel or train which I had originally wanted.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
This very pretty girl is Dr. Ha, one of the dentists at the East Meets West Dental Clinic in Da Nang. Her boyfriend is also very nice but doesn't know much english, why should he. We were out on the town this particular afternoon and when we returned he had arrived. Dr. Ha is one of the newest members of the staff and she is very vivacious and quite the talker. Always making jokes and teasing me especially. I hear the Humanitarian tour is in Da Nang this week and on "Outreach" which makes everyone nervous and very busy because there's so much work to be done preparing and upon clean-up. It's all worth it though when you have the kids smiling at you and thanking you for helping them. These NGO"s "non governmental organizations" do wonderful work all over the world and hopefully they 'll be allowed to continue this very important work, not just the dental work but the goodwill it spreads for all of us.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
This little access road runs between the old HWY 1 and the new HWY 1. The new being a divided 4 lane with all the amenities and the old hwy being the 2 lane that ran the length of Vietnam in the 60's and 70's. Many parts of the hwy have been redone near the major towns but close to Cam Rahn and my old base Dong Ba Thin it's still the old hwy. One of the funny things I found out on my return trip this year having visited my old stomping grounds near Cam Rahn was that a small town next to our base that we used to call "My Thanh" was actually named Tam Thanh and that the large sign we all took for the name of the town was in fact just an advertisement for one of the popular coffees "My Thanh". Ok so we were'nt the sharpest knives in the drawer, everyone still knew where we were talking about.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
For those of you who may think this is a picture about nothing you may be right. Although there was a time back in 1967-1971 that this little strip of land was known as Dong Ba Thin, home of the 92nd Assault Helicopter Company and the cows in the background are grazing on what's left of the flight line. This is the one side of the base, the larger one on the Cam Rahn Bay side of HWY 1 and below is the side I was stationed on the smaller side. I spent close to 6 months in this location before being restationed to Camp Holloway in Pleiku with the 3rd AHC. Hopefully I will visit Pleiku on my next trip to Vietnam and maybe my friend Tom Han from Los Angeles and formerly of Pleiku will come with me and show me the sites. I heard that most of Pleiku city was destroyed in 1975 upon the take over by the North and with fierce fighting near the center of town most of it was demolished. Notice the mountains in the rear, when I traveled by train through this area last September 2005 the train goes behind those mountains and reappears further up the coast near Nha Trang. Beautiful train travel in Vietnam
Friday, January 06, 2006
This is my little friend My. Her grandma owns a small stall behind the Saigon Morin Hotel in Hue City. I stopped there everyday for a cold drink or an afternoon tra "ja" which is tea. My would come right up to me and jump on my lap, not afraid of me at all. She was facinated with my digital camera and when she saw her own piture she said"MY!" Her family treated me so nice and I had my laundry done there also. Boys from down the block would stop in to buy 1 or 2 cigarettes at a time, as they played cards or dominoes. Most of the workers at the hotel parked their xe oms (scooters) behind the hotel and alot of them would stop for tea or "bat xeu" which is expresso coffee mixed with condensed milk....very good but alittle on the sweet side for me, served hot or on ice it's very good and very popular.
I was strolling down this avenue along the Perfume River not far from my hotel. Shortly after I took this picture I heard a school bell ring, just behind the wall on the right. Then there was bedlam as a mass of teenage kids got released from their hot midday school rooms for lunch. Then it's outside for a quick trip home for lunch or icecream and a snack from many of the food vendors along this busy street. These wide tree lined avenues are very common in Hue City, that's what makes it one of the most beautiful in Vietnam. Sadly over 80% of the city was destroyed during the Tet offensive of 1968 and the fierce fighting that took place house to house .
This church is located near the Saigon Morin Hotel in Hue City. It is tucked away behind large trees and not very easy to find. The court yard is beautiful and shady all day so it gets alot of locals hanging around and having their lunch there. Spectacular building and I would have loved to go inside but it was closed, maybe on my next trip I'll go there on Sunday. They still have mass there.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
This tiny lady offered me such hospitality when I visited her convent in Hue. I was looking for a friend I had met last year and when I introduced myself she brought me into her office and made me tea and gave me a very delicious lime flavored yogurt that she had made, it was quite good. The convent was in the middle of a renovation and was adding dorm rooms for the new nuns. They were being trained as teachers and nurses. There was quite an impressive computer library on the premises also.
Monday, January 02, 2006
This little church is located just outside of the Lang Co Beach area on the Hue City side of the Hai Van mountains. Nestled into the mountain side it's protected from the storms coming off the ocean. Hue City has many Catholic churches and convents as I came to find out. I met a French speaking American outside the Saigon Morin Hotel in Hue on the final morning of our visit in 2004. Renee was his name and he had served there in the 70's like me and we swapped small talk about the country and he's now a semi retired tennis pro. He comes to Vietnam and lives in a convent in Hue teaching French and English to students. He is a very interesting guy and upon my return I tried to locate him but couldn't find him. I visited 3 of the 10 convents in Hue and had no luck. I also tried at the tennis courts but the workers didn't remember him either. I couldn't believe there were 10 convents in Hue and each had 40-50 Novices.