Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Same, Same but different

As it is and as it goes, we are drifting along in Vietnam in a steady ho-hum existance of work and home and work and play. We are in a pattern now, much like Taiwan and Canada before that. It doesn't seem to matter what part of the world you find yourself residing in, it always comes back around to the holding pattern. Karen is working at her new job and getting up every morning at 6:30 am, while I am getting up at 8am. This keeps us in most evenings or at least home reletively early. I imagine this will stay fairly constant until Christmas time when Karen and I will both have a month off and we head back to Thailand.
We still try and mix it up a bit on the week-ends, but it is much different here than in Taiwan. Taiwan had very few tourists and most of the people you met were expats who were sticking around for a while. Vietnam is a very transient place with most of the people we meet being tourists staying in Nam for a short time. Also, we seem to be attending exit parties for the few expats we do know every week.
At least we are not here alone. Karen and I are together and that is making all of this possible. If I was single, I would have fled Vietnam long ago.
I would not be exagerating if I said that the North Vietnamese hate us. This is something a tourist does not notice in the short time he or she stays. It is a realization that builds over an extended period. It is in a lot of little ways that accumulate and then become unmistakable. They actually hate us.
Many travellers and expats we meet all say the same thing, "It is better in Saigon." We have yet to visit Saigon and now that we have signed contracts it looks like we are stuck in Hanoi. "People are more laid back in Saigon." and "The people are friendlier" are the most common sentiments we hear from people who have lived in both places. This last one, which struck me the most was delivered in a whispered, conspiritorial manner and was simply... "They don't hate us in Saigon."
I hate to say it, but the feeling is becomming mutual in Hanoi for me. I think Karen and I need to think long and hard about relocating to Saigon. I am beginning to get very irritated here by the behavior of what I know to be only one portion of the population, but they are the biggest portion and that is what makes dealing with it so difficult. There is a huge amount of ignorant, uneducated, hillbilly, rural folk in Hanoi that move here from thier little communes and small towns. They are disgusting individuals who, like our own Canadian trailer trash, are always the loudest and most noticable in any given situation. The educated, more worldly Vietnames are wonderful, welcoming and kind people who are a pleasure to interact with. Unfortuantely, however, they are depressingly outnumbered by the ignorant masses.
Anyway, I am ranting, so thank you for allowing me my ventilation and I hope you enjoyed a little insight to where my mind is right now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Halong 2 The Return

So after hours of research and many painful attempts to aquire airfare out of Vietnam at the last minute we were stuck with ground or sea transportation as there was nothing in economy left out of Hanoi on Saturday or Sunday. We decided to go back to Halong Bay where beaches and beauty abound. I won't bore you with the details of the scenery as it was all talked about after our first trip. I will, however, talk about some of the differences between the two trips. We did everything the first time around. All of the excursions and treks that left us more tired afterwards than when we left. This time there would be none of that. We were looking for some hardcore R&R and there would be no mountain treks, cave hikes, kayaking or cycleing for us. It was all about the lounging, sipping cocktails and taking in the breathtaking scenery on display in Halong Bay.
We found ourselves alone for an hour or so while the rest of the folks went off to gawk at the largest cave in Vietnam. This was fine, the next stop was Kayaking, and we didn't want to do that either so we were left on the boat. The tour guide said we could take a swim if we wanted, and then took off on a kayak with the rest of the tourists.
We lounged around the boat for a little while and watched the Vietnamese staff preparing the bar-b-cue dinner we were going to have. Then the engine started up and we motored away from the Kayaking place for almost twenty minutes. We arrived at a beautiful little bay where there were a lot of big Junks anchored off the shore. The captain of the boat approached us and utilizing all of his English ability, mimed the action of swimming. Karen and I glanced at each other and shrugged, "Why not? Let's take a quick dip." We changed in to our swimming suits and dove in to the water. The water was emerald green and so warm it was barely refreshing. We waded away from the boat for a few minutes to take in the rest of the little island, when we heard the engine of our Junk roar to life once more as it pulled away from us and floated off in to the distance.
This was a troublesome turn of events as we were alone on a very small island with no money, no water and no sunscreen as we had only planned on jumping in and then getting right back out. "I'm sure they will be right back>" I announced cheerfully as Karen eyed the retreating boat suspiciously. We decided to make the most of it and go for a swim around to the other side. It was about 1 pm and close to 40 degrees with the sun a constant, scorching madman. Fifteen minutes in to this ordeal and we knew we might be in trouble. With the sun directly above us in the sky the small island offered no shade at all, so we figured we would be better off in the water. We tried to stay submerged and not expose too much skin to the blistering fireball in the sky. A solid hour passed before we caught sight of the first kayaker from our group approaching the island. We then saw our Junk returning in the distance. Needless to say, I was burnt to a crisp and would suffer from it for the following two days.
We continued on with our tour and maddeningly boring and personality-less tour guide until Cat Ba island, where we had dinner and bade farewell to most of the people we had spent the last 30 hours with and went out with a small group to an insane nightclub where all the Vietnamese adults were up on the dance floor dancing like they were disabled and they were all stone sober. We took that madness in for one drink and then fled by ourselves to a less psychologically demanding scene.
We found a nice little pub and had a few cocktails listening to much better music and contemplating our next two days. That was when a friend of ours from Hanoi walked in to the bar. Mao, from Mao's Red Lounge strolled in to the bar with some of his friends. He greeted us warmly and we all laughed about how strange it was to see each other in Catba island, many hours outside of Hanoi.
We made it an early evening as the previous two days had been a whirlwind of 6am risings and long periods of travel by bus and by boat. We had our first good night sleep and woke up at noon the next day. We spent our last day and night in Catba on the beach and then a nice dinner in a restaurant.
It was a nice break from Hanoi, but kind of stressful in it's own way. I embark now on a four month stretch 7 days a week working. After that, we will need a proper vacation, probably back to Thailand for a time. So that was our long week-end. Tune in next week when the Beaver gets a C- on his mid-term and is afraid to tell his parents. Wally tells a lie that he wishes he could take back and Ward decided that it's all just too much to bear and runs off to Vegas with a cocktail waitress.
Bye for now.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I must be Crazy!

Once again I find myself agreeing to work 7 days a week for the next four months. This is some kind of psychological issue or some kind of employment masochism, but whatever it is, it has led me here.
What now? The answer to that is obvious, of course, Long Weekend and a jetplane. We have yet to decide on a destination as we have just decided to go. It is 5:45 pm on a Friday as I write this and we are looking to depart at 5:30 am tomorrow. We have not booked our flight yet.
So, that leaves us flying to any destination that is within our price range and still has seats left to sell us. The only requirement is BEACHES. It is funny how my requirements have changed so much with my advancing years but sound so phonetically similar.
So now I will keep you all balanced precariously on the edge of your seats until my next post, which will be sent from the beach of wherever we land. Keep your collective fingers crossed.
Talk to you soon,