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Back in Saigon

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The bus ride back to Ho Chi Minh city was thankfully less painful, and concludes the forever rides of Vietnam. The driver (who had lived with us for the past 6 days, ate, slept and drove for free) was given 8 million Viet-dong and was sent on his way. Not a bad way to make a living in Vietnam.

The sentiments of family is a universal, “thank GOD we’re back.” As a sort of treat to ourselves, we went to the cleanest Pho restaurant dong could buy, followed by dessert at our neighboring establishment: Beauty Salon Duyen Dang 2. A massage parlor.

TheĀ  brochure itself is practically a catalog of the girls they have to offered. Luckily my mother and her sister’s agreed that there was little to no Black Magic risk at the salon. The hotel receptionist I talked to would care to differ though. Only after leaving the place he goes “girls no good” to me. I pantomime scratched my crotch while cj said the Vietnamese word for crab, and his response was to shave. I then said “dee-dee-dee-dai” (Go, pee pee) and made a pained expression, he laughed and repeated “girls no good”.

I’ve since rationalized that the gonnorhea etc. is worth sitting a room full of groaning relatives and hearing Andrew yell “Oh YEAH!” when turned into a pretzel.

The cj, Stewart our cousin Loan (the newly wed) and I ended up visiting the club scene of Ho Chi Minh. What we really did was end up crashing a birthday party, dancing by ourselves on a techno-flashing platform while being watched by 3 plus security gaurds. I don’t know if you’ve ever had security gaurds watch you pee, then have them smile at you and tell your cousin “we are here to protect you, have fun”, but it is definitely club life Vietnam style.

Today is my last day, unfortunately, in Vietnam. We will visit the tailor for a second fitting, maybe catch one last Cao Dai temple, see the house my mother grew up in for 16 years and then celebrate my Uncle’s birthday.

Written by Daniel

November 3, 2008 at 2:13 am

Posted in vietnam

Best CM Hotel

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Paid for by liquor sales in Boston, Best CM Hotel owes its foundation to a VietKyu (refugee returnee) who invests one year working at his store in the old bean town, and the other checking in Australians, Americans and otherwise at his nine story marble and concrete wonder.

Although I landed in former Saigon, the family packed into two buses (one a 14 seater Mercedes Benz, the other a 30 plus seater just shy of a real coach bus) and made our way south to CaMau (our grandmothers home city). Even though it’s just about 125 miles south of Ho Chi Minh city, the drive took over 8 hours in contorted positions listening to pigeon Vietnamese-English, full on full blown Vietnamese, and Andrew singing Hannah Montana.

Here at the Hotel though, we spent a day of rest while my Grandmother’s direct family coordinated efforts for today’s funeral/memorial service. From the little we know, we need a lot of bug spray, there will be mud, it might rain, and there is a canoe ride to get to her temple. What follows is a 3-4 hour service, some touring, and the hour bus ride back to this hotel.

More about the hotel later.

In 17 minutes we get back on to those two buses. But with less luggage, and a few hours of sleep behind us, it should be more comfortable.

Keep checking Picasa for pictures.

Written by Daniel

October 30, 2008 at 12:44 am

Posted in vietnam

We in CaMau

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For three days now the family and I have been in South Vietnam. When I say family, I mean we are related to everyone, apparently. The further we went in our bus caravan (loaded with tapioca bars, vietnamese balogna, unmarked bags, and bagettes) the more cousins, and cousins of cousins we picked up for our trip to our grandmother’s temple.

I took a five hour flight in from Kansai International into Ho Chi Minh city. For a second it felt like maybe I was flying over the Mississippi river with it’s bottomless mud reflections, maybe by some fertile country side, maybe somewhere else, Ireland, not sure, somewhere known for this shade of green, that rice field green. But the sight of rusted aluminum roofs sticking out of those water revealed the now flooded villages.

Leaving the safest city I’ve ever known was a difficult task. Listening to the passengers split into the different lines for immigration, made me mourn losing Japanese. Staring at the officer as he pointed at the blank “Intended Address” box in my form, simply brought on the culture shock that had been building.

But, the sight of cj and Stewart waiting in the mass of Vietnamese outside of the airport, relaxed me. We road a taxi with one of the first of many cousins. Unlike the lines of cars, the sound of the Japanese folk songs at cross walks, traffic in the former-Saigon is an open buffet of cutting, beeping, and swerving. At first I thought, oh at least they drive on the right side of the road, my brothers then detailed a story of driving head on into a cloud of motorbikes and mopeds as they parted around the car and moved past like a school of fish.

Entries will be shotgun style from here on out.

I am writing this on the marble steps of this Wes Anderson dream hotel, where the poverty line is equal to the property line.

“We are going sight seeing” says our Grandmother’s sister’s half-asian daughter.

Here are some pictures so far:

More pictures are posted under “Vietnam” in my web album. Expect more posts soon.

Written by Daniel

October 29, 2008 at 3:29 am

Posted in vietnam