Monday, 8 January 2018

A Saigon homecoming: I'm back in..., I'm back in..., back in my H C M C

Time to check out and walk to the bus stop.  Thank God for Google Maps: This way of traveling would NOT have been possible even 10 years ago.
13 Baht per person for the ~4.5 km as-the-crow-flies distance to the MRT terminus station.  As is common in these parts, the bus-fare collector woman tells each and every Westerner where to get off the bus for their respective destination.  Another 45 Baht per person to get to Souvarnabhumi Airport.  Total cost US$ 1.80 per person. 

What to say about the airport?  Airports are BORING.  Mindbogglingly boring things.  As expected, Zu has to show her Viet Visa approval letter to get her boarding pass.

Food at Eat Tion is lousy.   

About as bland as soup made with my Grandmother's old socks

15 minutes before the scheduled departure, the ground crew of Jetstar Pacific is still UNloading the luggage of the just arrived passengers.  Very unlikely we will depart on time.  But at least the plane is actually physically there already.

I miss almost the whole flight because I sleep through it.  I wake up 5 minutes before the descent commences and curse myself for having left the camera in the overhead compartment (Emergency Exit seat !) because the plane slowly comes down over the endless meanders of the Mekong Delta.

This time it's Germans that complain about having to pay 5000 VND (18 Cents) extra for their outrageously large luggage placed on the floor in the 152 bus.  I politely explain to them that they have to pay because their luggage occupies space that could be occupied by another passenger.  So'n Quatsch ! is the reply I get.  I wish I had earplugs to not have to hear the ensuing conversation among the Germans about all that is WRONG with Vietnam.  If Germans don't like the rules and customs of the countries they visit why don't they stay home instead?  

Christmas lights in Sai Gon
My mood changes instantly when we get out of the bus and walk the well known streets.  Zu also right away notices the amazing vibe that Vietnam radiates.  This place is ALIVE !

After checking in, I take a quick shower, and we hit the streets.  Instant Viet coffee; check.  Ruou Vang Trang from the little store across the alley: check.  Corkscrew:  Waddayamean you lost it already?  Let's walk to Coopmart: Corkscrew; check !

By the time we get back to the hotel it's 9 pm and none of us has any energy left to hit the streets again.  But the wine is VERY good ;-)

4 am.  Let's just call it The Magic Hour, LOL

I admit to having a glass of wine (or was it two?) before calling Grandma.  Mut antrinken is the expression in German.   Shouldn't really be necessary when calling one's Grandma, but .... It is what it is !

It must be daytime already ;-)
The wine also mixes REALLY well with that music I've been playing CONSTANTLY on YouTube.  A recorded Twitch (I'm too old to know what that is) live broadcast of a jam session of DenManTau.  Watch it HERE !


Let's go for a walk ;-)
light of gold in the morning

Zu's FIRST Banh Mi !
Also note: Big Booty clad in tight vivid fabric !

French-built ;-)

We're almost back at the hotel, when I notice this gap in the buildings of Bai Vien Street.  The gap almost coincides with the position of ...... OMG; I frantically look up and down the street in the hope that what appears to be tragically true may turn into just a brief moment of unfounded fear.  But NO,  My beloved Mackerel restaurant USED TO BE exactly HERE, where right now I'm staring at the empty lot of a construction site.

8:30 am

nap time ;-)
At Coopmart I discover a Chilean Sauv Blanc for 150,000 VND.  What is better:  Coopmart is a national chain, which means that I will get this wine all over Vietnam, LOL.   The stuff is CHEAP and it's even GOOD.

Maybe TOO GOOD because I need another nap....

Time for a walk to complete on of today's REQUIRED errands: 2.5 km to Ga Sai Gon.

Then we see this sign over an Apple computer store.  WTF? 
I've lost my tieng Viet knowledge? Sua Chua is supposed to mean yogurt (milk sour).  We see the same thing again written on the window of another computer store.
Solution to the riddle (I look it up later): Sua chua (identical accents) means BOTH yogurt AND repair.   Talk about a difficult language to learn.
French-built !

Gotta LOVE these motivational posters

To deal with the Viet's inability to stand in line (EVERYONE swamps the teller), the train stations have implemented a pull a ticket / wait for your number system, which brings order into the chaos.

I buy tickets to Thap Cham (why does the ticket seller grin when I say that?)

And then it's time to walk those 2.5 km back to the hotel again.  My poor feet ;-)

After a short rest, I intend to take a picture of the construction site where my restaurant used to be when I see this other hotel entrance parked full of scooters only 20 meters from the construction site.  I make the eating movement to a Viet woman there and she says "5 o-clock".  Oh Thank Mackerel.  There will be good dinner tonight !"

The ketchup has GARLIC in it ;-)
How did Bourdain put it again?   
I'm back.  Back in Vietnam. 

Shit-eating grin for the duration.  A silly giddy foolish man beyond caring.
mackerels (or rather what's left of them)

Bui Vien Street in all its glory; including you women using too much whitening body wash.
But who cares. I'm here for the FOOD.
goat breast (?!)
Two orders of mackerel with Japanese sauce, 2 orders of French fries, and one order of Goat breast  (which we couldn't finish) later, we stumble back to the hotel with full happy bellies and tired heads & legs.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

3 nights in Bangkok (no oysters though ;-)

The first morning in Bangkok.  We're both up at 3:30 with jet lag.


About time to leave the building and show Zu the sights.
Let there be light !

The Khlong is awakening..

Plumeria !!!!!

I'm happy to see his image still on display.  The Good Man of Siam.
There are no better peanuts than the ones you buy in a hole in the wall where the seller asks "You want salt?".

2nd breakfast

The first excursion is the Golden Mount.  I take some great pictures (ok, good ones), but accidentally delete them all when I'm trying to clear up the OLD storage chip inside the NEW camera ;-(   This stock photo will have to do.

After a mediocre Fish & Chips at Canal View it's time for a nap

Well, let me qualify that. I WOULD have slept a good sleep if the new neighbours right next door weren't the type to LOUDLY SHOUT good night to someone right in front of our door.   Manners?   Not in the dictionary anymore, apparently. They continue to prove their peasant manners by moving their chairs in the common area without lifting them (by now it is 1 in the morning and someone is trying to sleep only 10 feet away)  So I finish my wine between midnight and 1;30, sleep until 3:00 again and commence the day ;-)

What would a Monk-feeding be without a stupid tourist standing right next to it?

 In a brief stop inside a 7-Eleven, I finally get the times when the booze fridge is UNLOCKED. 11:00-14:00 & 17:00-00:00.  Odd hours, but then I don't have a choice (except building up a reserve, LOL).

OK, it's time to show Zu at least a few of the standard Bangkok sites ....

Plumeria at Wat Whatsitcalled
Wat Pho: The Reclining Buddha ;-)
Why are these tourists locked up?
They're NOT.  Just trying to get a good picture of the whole length of the loooooong sleeping guy....
Like this:
And here is his back ....

Old Man in front of end-of-days sky:

While we're here, let's just take the little boat over to Wat Arun. Since July ticket prices increased from 3.5 Baht to 4 Baht per trip per person.
Zu finally lets her guard down  ;-)
Our legs are telling us that they don't want to walk any more, so we take the SAME BOAT right back.

Just as when I was sitting in this restaurant in July, the COOK grabs my camera, briefly fiddles with it, and then takes a picture of me/us.   But this time I know right away that that she will stick out her hand at time of bill payment for a tip for that picture ;-)

After walking back for 2.6 km, I feel justified in buying TWO bottles of wine at 7-Eleven.
I sit down (jubilant legs), have my first sip of wine, and check Google News.  I shouldn't have.  Only 6 days ago there were many news articles declaring that 2017 was the safest year to travel in a jet engine plane EVER.   Today an empty plane backed into a plane carrying passengers and caught fire.  HOW can that happen?  No idea.  And the worst part:  I'm not the least surprised that it happened in Canada.  A Mari usque ad Mare:  From the First world to the Third.   Go Canada Go !  
But worry NOT, because Canada's Junior Hockey Team beat Sweden to win the Gold.  Canada is the greatest country on the planet, eh?  Go Canada Go !

8 pm Canal View Restaurant.  It's a good thing I have Zu with me; we share dishes so I don't have to eat the whole fat tourist portion.

Try as I may, I'm again wide awake at 3:15. 


Time for a morning walk.  
 How about Wat Intharawihan?   
 It's close by and it's impressive, LOL. 

 Unfortunately NOT as impressive as in July, when the giant Buddha was not getting a facial behind scaffolding. 

10:15 a last glass of wine at Canal View and On Y Va, it's time to head to the airport.