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.