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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Expat Blog

Joined this site awhile ago and hope it helps anyone who maybe thinking of moving to Viet nam permanntly......ME!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

View of the Fields.

Another pic from the farmstay website.
This is Bich and Ben's place.  Beautiful home where they live with Bich's parents Mr. and Mrs. Le.  Very wonderful and gracious hosts.

Phong Nha Farm Stay

People working on the farm in the Phong Nha area.  Some of the photos taken from the website.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Phong Nha Farm Stay

As per my visit last yaer at this time I will include a link to my friends Bich & Ben's farmstay in the Phong Nha Khe Bang area.  I had a great time with this family and was one of the highlights of any trip I've had in Viet Nam.  The email for this wonderful place is  I can only say it's a fun place to have a great adventure off the beaten path.

Monday, June 14, 2010

La Gi and Pho Bo

I decided before my trip back to Viet nam that I would stop in La Gi which is several hours north of Sai Gon.  My friend is from there and I wanted to visit her family and see her hometown.  It's a small town between Phan Thiet and Sai Gon along the coast.  Located on a river, which Vietnamese town isn't and is bigger than I thought it would be and a nice clean little town.  I spent the day exploring and visiting Trang's parents and her nephews.  This pho stall is directly across from my hotel which was very nice and centrally located in the middle of town.  Lots of activity here and the pho bo was excellent.

Typical street scene

Here you have a slice of Vietnamese life as it happens everyday.  get in the shade and have a drink of something cold and chat up a neighbor or co worker.  Up and down every street this happens countless times and is part of the charm of this country.  They do have a great cafe culture and reflects their interest in family and friends.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Nuoc Mia

Here as anywhere in Viet Nam the popular Nuoc Mia stand, or crushed iced sugar cane juice.  A hand cranked press squeezes out the sugar cane juice and it's served over crushed ice.  The sweetest and most refreshing thing there is on a hot Vietnamese day.

Catholic Church in Ton Lam

On our way through this little town I spotted this small Catholic Church and decided to take a quick snap, the small boys can never resist the chance to interact with a foreigner and throw the iconic peace sign, somehow I just don't get that but they all do it.

Owen in Ton Lam

Owen and I took alot of day trips while I stayed in Nha Trang at his hotel.  One day we went shopping for green mangos so his wife Mai could pickle them.  Only a certain mango would do for this, a large grren mango from near Cam Rahn Bay.  After a drive on a small access road to Hiway #1 that exits near the CRB airport we cruised the hiway searching for something to do.  We came upon this little town called Ton Lam not far from where I was stationed in Dong Ba Thin, about 10k north.  We made our way down the back alleys and visited the local's market and even found a small Catholic Church hidden back off the highway.  We reconned the area and stopped for a brief respite at a local food stand.  Good marinated pork cutlet done on the grill with rau muong (sauted morning glory) and rice.  Locals love it when you rub elbows with them and "DARE" to eat what they eat and break bread with them.  That's one of the most fun things to do and what holds the biggest attraction for me in Viet Nam.  Why travel 10,000 miles to sit in some resort and eat western food?  Were you in Viet Nam?????  I don't think so. 

Cham Tower

This is the Cham Tower in Phan Rang from a different angle.

Cham Tower Phan Rang

This is one of the famous Cham temples located in Phan Rang city but it's really in Thap Cham which is a small city 5km away but it's technically all Phan Rang City.  I didn't go into this temple but there is a more famous one in Nha Trang that I've visited.  Most are built up on a small hill like this one and they're quite remarkable in their architechture.  Especially from a people of that era.

I'll have a cold one!

This little lady is stopping at the local drink stand for something cold on her way home from work or after a day of shopping.  This is one of my favorite things about Viet Nam is you can pull over and get just about anything on the roadside.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Coffee Break!

Ladies at the Banh My stand stop for coffee and chat up the neighbors.  I had some fun with these ladies as I was taking pictures they were giving me the once over and offering me a date, first with one then with the other lady, quite the scene with all the sign language going back and forth...hehehe!

High Tea at the Gold Lizard!

Every morning while in Nha Trang, as  Owen slept the best part of the day away I would have my morning tea at the Gold Lizard Cafe.  The morning sun coming in through the trees and just above me in the pic you can spot the retractable awning they would close about 6:30 or 7:00 am to shield you from the sun.  Great little cafe except no breakfast, just cafe' and tea.  All the scenery was beautiful!!!

Strike up the Band!

Strike up the band we're having a funeral.  This little bit of drama was accorded me one morning when I noticed a funeral procession rolling down the side street justafter my morning tea.  The casket in a small truck followed by mourners and monks in another truck, followed by 2 large buses with mourers and then this smaller truck with the band.  Quite a send off, must have had alot of family and alot of money.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hot Vit Lon!

Here I am sampling the famous Hot Vit Lon or duck egg fetus.  It is quite good and the little lady beside me was more than enthusiastic that I was trying the local delicacy.  Owen and I stopped here on our trip to Phan Rang and it was just outside the hotel door on the next corner.  The local Bun Xeo was on offer also and we had some of that too.  The HVL is eaten firstly by opening the small end of the shell by striking the spoon lightly around the top and picking out pieces of shell if any.  Then you drink the "water" as my friend explained.  Vinegar, salt and finely ground chili are added and then spooned out and eaten for your dining pleasure.  The taste was not unlike a hard boiled egg but the texture was ....uh lets say NOT like your typical hard boiled egg.  The texture component was not off putting though as it was slightly lumpy is all.  I did have to spit out a few bits of beak and or bone.....not all that bad though.  More a psychological thing than anything and not the worst thing I've eaten in Viet Nam by any stretch.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Talkin' loud and drawin' a crowd!

We made it to Phan Rang and with alot of help from Owen and some of the locals we managed to have our own little reception party arrange just by stopping to have a cold drink. As is the custom here everyone gets in on the act tryin' to locate my friend Ho. With an incomplete address to go on we were in the right neighborhood but couldn't pinpoint the street. After some digging in my papers which is a comlete other story "insert brain fart here" one of the locals found a nice girl that could speak great English who was home from working in Malaysia. Her name is Lan and she helped call the lady in question who was supposed to know the where abouts of Ho. To no avail she was mistakenly just trying to direct me to where someone else could help me. Lan was a real help and she has since told me her and her friend are opening a new restaurant in HCMC. This was quite the little party and everyone here seemed to have a good time and Owen, never one to let a laugh go by, made it clear that I was single, unmarried and quite available to any and all propositions that might come my way in the matrimonial department. I beat a hastey retreat and made my apologies and "got the hell outta Dodge".

Chow time on the road to Phan Rang!

Here owen and I stop in Cam Rahn City to have a bite to eat before continuing on to Phan Rang and what hopes to be a joyous reunion with my old friend Ho Moc San who I got a lead on by putting an ad in the news paper during the Tet holiday this year. I've been on a quest to find him for 6 years now with no luck and many a wild goose chase. The soup pictured here was very light and flovorful with a hint of pork but it also included bitter melon which doesn't agree with me. This versio was quite good despite the melon and the rau muong accompaniment was really good, not greasy and not too garlicy. The BBQ pork was very tastey and cut up with kitchen shears which is quite comical to me being a hairdresser and using shears very differently

Infant car seat Vietnamese style!

Don't be alarmed at least this person has an infant seat. Usually children or 3 children are squeezed onto motos between parents or siblings without helmets mind you and driven everywhere in this country. No one seems to mind that kids don't obey the mandatory helmet law. I thought these were so cute though and very ingenious. Leave it to the Vietnamese to come up witht something. Most times the kids stand in front of the parents on the floor boards of the scooter. This one also has a seat belt. Notice the many chalk marks on the seat? This is how the lot attendants keep track of motos when you visit a cafe or a store and they can also make sure to get a little tip also maybe 1000 or 2000 dong. Just for insurance purposes mind you. I'm sure they have to periodically scrub those of.

The ice man cometh!

You don't have the money to buy and ice machine? No problem! He comes to you just like in the old days back in the states but without the walk up. This guy dressed in rain gear delivers ice to all the cafes and places along the street that need ice. Good machine made ice is a premium and more expensive than block ice that is viewed as being made without the benefit of purified water. I've never had a problem with either but I've been lucky. I've never had any GI problems what so ever in Viet Nam but that's just me. The Gold Lizard was my daily ritual for morning tea. I didn't drink alot of coffee in Vn because I prefer mine with cream which you would be hard pressed to find anywhere. I drank Lipton tea, hot, with sweetened condensed milk added. I now drink it that way at home.

I'm ready for my close up! Mr. De Mille

A better view of the morning fish market. Lots of variety and very bright and vibrant coclors on this fish to attest to it's freshness. Scales at the ready and make your choce. from little ones to big lunkers all kinds to be had.

Mo better fish for sale!

Fish fish and more fish for sale. What do you want we're right on the coast here baby! Lots of morning activity here every day as the mongers ply their wares. Looked very fresh and some of it still moving. I never did get to buy some and have it cooked by Mai but next time I will.

Next Aisle Produce!

Here we go to the produce aisle of your local Vietnamese mini market. Not to be confused with the larger outdoor markets located in most centers of town but just a little stop and go kinda place. All sorts of fresh veggies here.

Fish anyone!

Morning catch arrives at the market ready to go. Every morning the ladies sell their catch here on the street. Lots of different fish to be had. As fresh as it gets. I enjoyed my morning strolls here going for morning tea at the Gold Lizard cafe.

Sunset room 203

Another borrowed pic from the hotel website. Just to make sure everyone is very jealous of my digs. Not bad huh? Try finding this view anywhere for $13 USD a night...I dare you. That's the moon there I'm guessing and I'm no astrologer. Bad form to not know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west like they did in the movie "The Green Berets". Bad form, terribly bad form!

Borrowed Pic from Owens blog "Bia Hoi"

I wouldn't want to steal someones photo but I didn't have one of my own and I'm sure Owen won't mind. Our evening ritual at the local Bia Hoi stand. "Mot hai ba JO!" 5:00pm and it's time for a cold one baby! A brief walk down the lane and it's "Chillin' time". We parked our butts here most night s for a bia hoi...cost a whopping 70 cents a pitcher....yes you heard me 70 cents a pitcher. Good, cold over ice, and tastey. Served up on your typical Vietnamese table and of course what else, blue chairs. I happen to have a red one. Don't miss this place if you're in Nha Trang.

Bike on the beach

I was out taking snaps this day and came across a bike on the beach. Afew fishing boats moored out in the bay and a couple of locals walking and swimming. This is as busy as the beach gets here during the day. Which is fantastic, no one to bother you. The hotel does have some lounge chairs to take to the beach if you like, I never did. I was having too much fun!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Fix a Flat

Get a flat tire fixed or get some air put in a tire. The universally understood signage of the tire placed at the curb. sometimes it's hung in a tree for better viewing. I got a flat on the way to Hoi An and had it fixed, two patches actually, and on my way in 10mins for $1 USD. Amazing how easy things work here. Back in the US it would have to be towed $50USD fixed $10USD and then picked up time wasted 2-5 hrs.


Moto drivers waiting on fares play cards or Dominoes or Majong while they wait. They liked having their pictures taken and even gave me some good natured barbs about....boom boom! There was also a small moto repair sign posted which is 2 tires inter laced showing that here they fix flats and do minimal repairs.

Local Cabbies take a break from the heat!

Some local cabbies parked under this tree to get in some shade while they wait for a fare. I stopped here on my way from the train station to ask directions to the Tide and was sent to a different hotel. The Vietnamese always say they know where someplace is but they never know. I don't understand it, they don't want to be embarassed by not knowing so they send you on a wild goose chase. I'm quite used to it now.

GMC Club, Hip Hop Nightclub

The GMC Club is really hopping at night here. They have search lights visible through out Nha Trang advertising the place. We stopped one night because there was a famous Vietnamese singer supposed to be performing one night but couldn't get in the place. People lined up outside, we did make it inside but we were told no seats were available and that there would be some later. Owen, Mai and I decided to forego the night life and take a walk about. Some idea, I was sore for a week. We did find a place I almost stayed in called the Paloma which was located very near The Tide. Resembles a villa with elaborate grounds but not in a very good location.

Look at this beach will you!

Here's looking up and down the beach in front of The Tide Hotel in Nha Trang. Not too much to dislike. Could use alittle more people walking the sands or splashing in the surf. During most of the day this beach is desserted. The locals come in the morning to swim and exercise and return again about 4:30 pm to have alittle more fun. Kids play soccer and volleyball and there's never any problem when the ball gets kicked into someone else's game. More swimming in the evening also than in the morning. I saw lots of people harvesting a seaweed that they let dry in the sun all day.

I shall return!

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!!!! This is what greets you every morning at the Tide Hotel in Nha Trang. If you don't like balmy breezes, white sand beaches, warm clean water, gentle waves lapping your toes, quite solitude to relax and drain away lifes pressure then the Tide Hotel is not for you. Stay home and let me go in your place.
For about $13USD a day you can't beat the room or the view. A/c, cable TV, all the hot water you like, and a staff that will make your stay complete. I challenge you to get a better deal anywhere. I'm already planning my McArthur moment "I shall return"!

Room 203 with the morning sun shining in on my first day at the Tide. The doors open onto an awesome view of the beach and ocean.. Palm trees, fishing boats, white sand and a soothing breeze welcome you home with open arms, like a long lost lover. It doesn't get any better than this baby! The area is dotted with seafood restaurants serving the freshest fare you'll find anywhere. Cafes also are nestled in amongst the barber shops and bahn my carts selling fresh baguettes with eggs and vegetables. This local area is alive and bustling at 6:00am, fresh fish, vegetables, meats and all manner of things on display for sale. i usually started my day off with tea at the Gold Lizard cafe before a quick walk down the beach. finished off with a Bahn My Opla....described as "alittle taste of heaven".

Stinky Fish Ladies!

The ladies here afore mentioned because of an ongoing dispute with Owen and their careless disposal of fish remains ie "guts" and how they have hampered Owen's attempt to upgrade his local sewer system.. they were always very nice to me and waved everytime they saw me. Marriage proposals were also on offer daily from these hard working women. Fresh fish from the evenings catch along with shrimp, squid, clams, and anything else you would want in the way of seafood were here for your dining pleasure. Kept alive with the help of pumps it doesn't get any fresher unless you cook it on the boat when you catch it.

Room 203 looking south Tide Hotel

Here through the maze of palm trees you can see some of the beach called Bai Duong or Pinetree Beach, according to Mai this beach used to be lined with pine trees. You can just make out Hon Chong Rock in distance. I walked this beach every morning about 6:30 am and as you can see it's very desserted. Locals are there in the morning and the evening to exercise and play.

The Tide Hotel Nha Trang

Upon departing Da Nang city and taking the overnight train to Nha Trang I finally arrived at what would be one of the best places I've ever stayed in Viet nam. The Tide is run by Owen Bell and his Viet kieu wife Mai. What can I say about this wonderful oasis in Nha Trang? I was treated like family and family is what they've become. PLEASE go to the Tide Hotel and I promise if you don't like it I'll pay your tab. The area is located just north of the tourist center of Nha Trang city. Away from the hussle and bussle of that area. A quick motobike ride or bus ride brings you to a little piece of heaven. Amid the locals you can relax without the vendors bothering you incessantly to buy, buy, buy! This is the view from my balcony looking north up Pham Van Dong st.

Elephant Springs

This park is located 62k north of Da Nang near Lang Co beach. Not very accessable and very hard to find. It only has a small sign to announce it's entrance off the main road. The cost to enter the park is 5000k vnd for Vietnamese and 10k for foreigners, I thought that had changes but no way. A small fee for the moto is also charged. the water was cool, and very clear and clean. Small huts with mats are available for rent at 20k too. The lady attendents will offer to cook you a meal of BBQ chicken. It was great! Free range birds done on the grill over coals....mmmm! With vegetables and rice total cost with tip $20 USD with drinks. The rocks are quite slippery so caution is the word upon the approach to the water. My only complaint about this and other sites I've visited is that the locals don't seem to care about keeping the place clean. All manner of debri is discarded and left. Even in the water. What ever happened to "take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints"? The water , depending on the amount of rain is very fast moving but there are ample ropes and huge rocks to cling to for novice swimmers. With Viet Nam having so much water there are very few accomplished swimmers. Life jackets are available for use but if they're not fitted propely they're more of a nuisance than a help.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

City Center Catholic Church Da Nang city

This is the church I attended Easter mass. The english language mass was very nice, the people really got into it. I had a small problem with the accent but I got through it. The churches are very well attended and kept immaculately by the people. I found no holy water in this church but I did find it in Notre Dame Catherdral in Sai Gon.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Easter Sunday Mass

Here inside another church located in the city center Easter service was held with English language which was very nice and where I was asked to be a reader. To the left in the photo confessions where being held up until the beginning of mass so no one had an excuse to not make their Easter duty.

Ave Maria Da Nang City

This church in Da Nang has the adoration of Mary grotto outside as do many of the churches here in Viet Nam. I ventured out on Easter Vigil and found all the grounds bursting with people celebrating an outdoor mass. Standing room only and over spill into the street where the participants brought their own chairs to mass.

Not your Wal Mart Greeter!

Here is a better picture of the cute little greeter, same same Wal Mart but different. I stopped here on 2 separate occassions.

Great Vietnamese food in Da Nang

I found this place quite by accident while looking for my friends home. I was in Da Nang and had some treasures to deliver to a Viet Kieu's family. My friend Thu gave me the address but no one seemed to know where it was, so I went on walk about. 2 0r 3 blocks into my walk I came upon this place with a delightful little greeter dressed in au dai. I just had to stop in for a "soda chanh" which is club soda, sugar and fresh squeezed lime juice. Sometimes called "lemon chanh" it's clean cool and refreshing. Better than pop or soda. They have a 30ft. python in a cage on display love it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ho Chi Minh Trail in Phong Nha Ke Bang

Bich and her friend Clint seen here while out on a ride through the Phong Nha Ke Bang park. I had a super time with them this day, swimming with the buffalo, visiting the wood workers, having afew cold ones, did I say having a few cold ones. I needed them after the wicked hot beef curry Bich cooked up. It was so hot but so good I couldn't stop eating it. Congrats Clint I saw the wedding photos on your facebook page....lucky guy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Hang

Hang and I having a birthday celebration last year, her cousin sent along an MP3 player and I became the "mule". Seems like I'm always bringing things to Viet Nam for friends and can never get my luggage down to that ideal "carry on only" that I long to do. One of these days. Hang and I always have a great time in HCMC and she takes me to the nicest places. Notice the carrot juice....better for you than beer but just doesn't seem to do it for me.

The Sleepy Gecko Bar

A shot taken at the Sleepy Gecko Bar in Hoi An, just across the bridge. Pictured here is my trusty driver Tang and the bartenders name escapes me but I have it on good authority she's a member of the infamous Dong Koi Mafia. So named because of the number of girls I know who hail from that village. Sau, Kitty, Buccaroo, Bich this bartender and the other bartender that she replaced all come from DK so I started calling them the DK Mafia and they think it's hillarious. This place is loads of fun and Steve and his wife are really living the dream. They have 2 lovely children despite some deparaging remarks from a few Yorkshire Blokes most people have a great deal of fun at the Gecko!

Monday, April 26, 2010

East Meets West Dental

Here at the EMW Dental clinic it's like Vegas a place that never sleeps. They are always busy. This Catholic Nun brought her charges to the clinic from the school for the deaf. The children were so impressed that I could sign alittle and even though our signs and alphabet are very different we were able to communicate with little trouble. The staff at the clinic are versed in Vietnamese sign language to some degree. We had fun and I always enjoy my time at the clinic and the usual pizza at night with the staff. They are a hard working bunch and although some of the staff have moved on to greener pastures they always seem to find just the right fit employee wise to keep the place running smoothly.

Bo Ne anyone?

This is one of my hot spots in Da Nang. It serves the best Bo Ne, or steak and eggs for breakfast. My driver turned me on to it and it's become a favorite of mine. They also serve the iconic Bahn My Opla baguette sandwich but the Bo Ne is the attraction here. Tender steak grilled with eggs on the side, cilantro onions and peppers all tender and hot as can be, topped off with a baguette and some cafe sua da makes for a great breakie! You can read the street name on the awning. ENJOY!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trinh again!

6 short years ago Trinh was a shy little kindergartener. Now she is growing into quite a lady. Her hair is getting longer , her mother told me she was a real tomboy and that was part of her charm, the reason I found her so cute and different from all the other cherubs.