Thursday, 17 August 2017

Why are my eyes wet? MNL to SGN to UIH

Manila @ 4:30 am

I might as well check out now.  I get my 100 PHP deposit back and get a ride in the hotel’s Service Car to the airport for PHP 250.  Traffic at 4:45 am is CRAZY, LOL.

I'm awake enough to plan ahead.  I know that the visa stamping fee in Saigon will be US$ 25, so I buy those Dollars from the FX counter using left-over Pesos.

They detect my corkscrew already in the X-ray machine that my luggage has to pass through just to get INTO the outer airport.  Bye Bye Corkscrew.  Too bad, it was a nice one ;-(  But then I got it for free around the neck of a bottle, LOL)
At least there is nothing else to take in the actual security check.

I finally get some food into me by means of a Honey-Mustard Hot-Dog in the airport’s secure area.

To get Wifi, you have to enter your cell phone number and they send you the access code by SMS.   Thank you, oh retarded Canadian Freedom Mobile for not having entered into a roaming contract with a Philippine telcom!  And thank you Ninoy Aquino airport for having such a silly system to distribute your Wifi. My phone doesn’t work here.  So I don’t get Wifi.
That’s OK, I can work on my translation without Wifi.  And I get a spectacular show as the day progresses from pre-dawn to dawn to sunrise right in front of my eyes.

I particularly like this picture because of the symbol on the plane's tail ;-)

The plane takes off towards the East and then swings around towards my destination West of here.

Thank you pilot, for providing me with a series of sweeping views of the Moloch Manila !

We're in the middle of nowhere !  Ocean in all directions.  But WHAT is THAT?
Islands in the middle of nowhere between The Philippines and Vietnam?   These must be the Spratley Islands that were on the news before Trump decided to blow up the North Korea story.  
We're almost there.  

WHAT the hell is that pilot doing?  Is he DRUNK?  Ah well, we were early and air traffic control probably told him to waste some time, LOL.

I'm not really surprised when my eyes tear over as soon as I see the Mekong Delta outside my window.

Home is where the heart is, they say.

Elvis sang that he left his heart in Heidelberg.

Mine has been in Vietnam since I first entered this country in 2015 and it only seems to be beating properly when I'm here.

Is that a friggin GOLF COURSE? ... but .... Charlie don't golf !
I get my Visa quickly. 
Wait!  Visa?  Why am I getting a Visa?  
Because the 15 days I will stay in Vietnam are 1 day longer than the Visa-exemption period for Europeans, which means that this 6th trip here will be the LONGEST uninterrupted time period that I have ever spent in Vietnam.

1st cigarette & walk over to the domestic terminal. There is no more discovery excitement going on here, because I've been here before and walked here before.  But I notice instantly that my internal pace has changed.  
That stupid grin has appeared on my face and I feel relaxed. 
Silly really, but that's the way it is.

Boarding pass for my connecting flight. Check.  

I check out what is available at various food stalls and finally find what I'm looking for.

Hidden in the hidden 2nd row of stores in the parking building across from the domestic terminal.   Banh Mi.  Just looking at that baguette I know that it will be delicious.  And I'm not disappointed. The Daicon, the liver pate, the pork baloney.  This ranks among the TOP Banh Mis I've ever had.  30,000 Dongs, about $1.50.

Time to go through security (I KNOW that they have a smoking room in the domestic terminal, so there is no point waiting ;-)

When I leave the Phu Cat terminal building (that term is a joke for the existing shed, but they're building a new one to welcome the expected hoards of future tourists), I hear a Viet shouting TAXI.  He probably doesn't believe his luck of seeing a Westerner among the people on the plane that just landed.   I have to disappoint him though. I know my cheap way around by now.  I'm taking the Vietnam Airlines bus for 50,000 VND.  The bus driver is an absolute maniac. With wild honking he even passes individual taxi cabs on the 30 minute drive to Quy Nhon.

is he Waving ????

The about 19 year old Viet kid in the seat next to me is falling asleep.  The pressure on my side ever increases and at about the 3/4 way mark I feel his head on my shoulder. LOL.  

 I don't mind a bit.  Funny how that is so different from the time when that fat German fell asleep on me in the bus to Ha Long Bay back in 2015.

A Viet guy at the bus terminal makes the motorcycle gesture with both his hands.  Oh, of course!  But he can't read my Google Map, so Mr Motorcyle spots who else but the kid that fell asleep on me and asks for translation.  With 3 people we finally figure out where I'm going and how much it is going to cost.  Another 50,000 VND.  Can't complain.

When he drops me at Barbara's Kiwi connection he stammers BABRA repeatedly, so I take it that he knew of this place beforehand, LOL.   His smile gets even brighter and he chuckles when I say Cam On NHIEU.  

Every tourist knows Cam On, but whenever I say Thank You VERY MUCH, the locals are astonished and start smiling. 

It doesn't take much !

I find my hotel along a street that has 3 or 4 hotels being built along a 100 meter stretch.  
OH NO! Quy Nhon is turning into Nha Trang.
The receptionist shouts something at me after I extend my passport to her.  At first I can't understand what it is but when I seem to recognize the word BOOKING (she leaves out the .COM) and I nod, she right away grabs my passport and her other hand shoots forward with my room key.   

That's IT. 

Check-in is DONE, LOL.

I probably don't have to mention that I probably am the first guest from or any other Western booking site in weeks if not months?

The view from my balcony. I'm 250 meters from the beach.  NO, it is not the luxury to be experienced in the Seagull Hotel (the blue thing in the centre top), but then I'm paying US$ 17 per night and for that amount of money I'm living in true luxury.

Time to go shopping.  I'm on my way to walk the 1.4 km to the local Mall, aka Big C.

Quy Nhon is changing QUICKLY
Right on the above new street a scooter driver stops and INSISTS that I ride on the back of his scooter for 10,000 Dong.   As soon as this helmet-less tourist glides smoothly &effortlessly through the streets of Quy Nhon towards Big C, I am glad I agreed ;-)
Big C (not my picture)
I find the Nivea body lotion (WITHOUT WHITENING) again and also a pack of coffee, some noodle soups and other stuff.

I'm not harassed again in my decision to WALK on the way back so that I can enjoy the strange serenity of Vietnamese streets at night.
The STRANGEST thing happens.   I am about to walk by the establishment in the picture below when I seem to recognize the notes of a song coming from the place "No-body can ever hear him call ...".
WTF?  Supersonic by Oasis??   The song I had playing on repeat JUST before I left my room to head for the Big C?   That's just a ridiculous coincidence !

I cross the street and check the place out.  The young Western backpackers who used to frequent Barbara's Kiwi Connection now are HERE.  The dinner menu consists of Hamburger, Chickenburger, Fish & Chips and they have WiFi.  It's too far to walk back to tonight and it's not really my kind of venue, but I will have to check out the food quality at some point

Another construction lot, another highrise in the making 
Back at Barbar's Kiwi Cafe.  No I don't really want to eat the food here, but I thought I'd pre-negotiate tomorrow's scooter rental. But the woman who offered me the good deal last time is not here today, so I should have eaten at John & Paul Inn.   ALWAYS listen to ridiculous coincidence !


Wow, I'm beat.   I don't think I've ever fought off jet lag this well, but my endurance is coming to a crashing end.  NEED some sleep.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

I simply NEEDED more envelopes, LOL. YVR to MNL

Oh, what a day.  Or should I say: Oh, what a night !

I get the dry laundry from the hotel drier at 11 pm.

At 2:15 am, I drag myself on my gums to the lobby to check out.  The taxi (there is no public transit to the airport at this hour) arrives at 2:30 and the driver is strangely awake and hyper.  I fall asleep.

Last time I only got a middle seat in the plane, but this time I've secured an aisle seat.  Not on the sides but in the middle block of 4 seats.   

And the three seats to my left remain empty.   Many people remember that it is possible to sleep semi-comfortably on three airplane seats if one flips up the arm rests and bends one's knees

I can now report that a 6 foot tall person can STRETCH OUT completely on FOUR seats and still not have any extremities protrude into the aisle.   Karma came through and I sleep 7 of the 12.5 hours of the flight ;-)

Waiting for the washroom, I open the blind in the very back of the plane, look out, and see one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  It is surreal.  We're flying at 36,000 feet over open ocean and as far as the eye can see there are sparse individual cumulus clouds and their reflection in the ocean is crystal clear.  Similar to this picture stolen from the web, but infinitely more serene and beautiful.  I should have taken a picture because I will probably never see that sight again in my lifetime.  It was surreal !

There are two people in front of me at the immigration line-up and I'm out. Back in The Philippines !

Since I smoked my last cigarette at Vancouver airport, I approach a group of people in the smoking area with a 20 peso bill in my hand and ask to buy some cigarettes.  An about 35 year old man with a strange effeminate look (NO, I'm not judging, I just noticed that one never sees that look in Vancouver but that it is perfectly acceptable and normal here) waves away the money and hands me a Marlboro Menthol cigarette.  Namaste !  

Foreign Exchange Booth.  

 I found some English Pounds and Korean Wons from previous travels in my travel chest at Grandma's.   

Brief contemplation revealed that I have absolutely NO DESIRE to visit any of those two countries EVER AGAIN, so I brought the currency to exchange it for Philippine Pesos.  About CAD$ 150 worth.  

I wasn't too happy with my no-coffee-cup-in the-room 'fancy' and very modern hotel 3 weeks ago, so I booked somewhere else.  And a good thing I did, LOL.

I arrive at the hotel at 9:30 am and they don't even point out that I'm here WAY before check-in time. 
No, they just hand me the key and show me to the newly renovated room in this ancient property.


After drinking one of the provided instant coffees, I visit a local grocery store around the corner (If you buy from 7-Eleven, the money probably does NOT go to the people you see there).  San Miguel beer and Marlboro cigarettes (I DID ask what the locals smoke and that was the strange answer. Must try local smokes next time).

I’m HUNGRY.  Makes sense because the last meal I had was at 7 am in the plane.  NO, I’m NOT going to McDonald’s or Burger King, not even to Jollibee.  Google maps reveals a Kuya J Restaurant just around the corner.    I’m the only Caucasian in here.  A good sign !

Not my picture, but my lunch is on the web, LOL
I order something that is best described as stir-fried glass vermicelli with seafood, pork, and vegetables.  Yes, an odd mixture but it is very good. Cost of the huge plate: 175 PhP, about CAD$4.  The menu also lists Sisig (think EVERY part of a pig), but I still need to build up courage to order that one, LOL.  

Total cost of the food and a bottle of San Miguel: 240 pesos = CAD$ 6.  WOW.

I'm hungry again.  There is supposed to be a supermarket not far from here.
I can't find the supermarket.  It's hidden behind all those stalls.
It's HOT.  Traffic of both people and vehicles is mind-boggling !

But while I'm walking through this mayhem, I notice a large partially empty space on the other side of the street with a LARGE building in the centre of it. People are streaming towards it.

I follow them and am dumb-founded.  It is 3 pm on a Wednesday.  The HUGE church is PACKED.  People are touching the nearest Madonna statue with outstretched arms and closed eyes while listening to the sermon.
People are listening from outside the doors because the inside of the church is packed.
I've been to Cologne Cathedral and to Notre Dame, but that couldn't prepare me for this.
No wonder the pope had to come here !

I walk by the 7-Eleven 4 times without seeing it.  The wall of street stands is simply too dense.  Fortunately, 7-Eleven was smart enough to put a store sign HIGH up on the building's wall, so it can be seen above the roofs of the mad stand hedge.

I'm looking for wine.  And what do I find????   ALTAR WINE with 14% alcohol !
NO, I don't buy it.  That would be overdoing it, LOL