Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

good_morning_vietnamAfter arriving in Hanoi last night I did go out and enjoy a few beers as well as a great conversation with Jeremy and Bridget, a couple who work in conservation work here in Vietnam. However I was done in after all the drama of the day so it wasn’t a huge night enabling me to get started quite quickly today.

After a delightfully painless, albeit lengthy upgrade to my computer to Windows 8.1 I can now start the Vietnamese leg of my adventures. Keen to turn the frowns of the last two days upside down I say Good Morning Vietnam and am keen to get out and in amongst it. The first thing I am surprised by is the lack of Huey helicopters flying through the air upon arrival here.

Bell-UH-1H-Iroquois-(Huey)_P1For anybody of my generation who grew up watching films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Rambo, etc. you would be expecting a squadron of the attack helicopters overhead at any moment based on the one sided impression of the country that all portrayed.

However I should point out that my usual reconnaissance mission on foot to get the lay of the land around the old quarter of town where I am staying does actually leave me feeling like I have just been involved in urban combat.

amongst-the-traffic-in-hanoiAll the pavements are taken by the mopeds which have been parked upon them leaving pedestrians to walk in the road. Anything you can imagine, and plenty of things you would have thought impossible for a moped to carry, will then whizz past your ears and legs leaving you anticipating a deadly collision from some unseen assailant at any time.

I took this picture trying to cross a road and whilst I wouldn’t condone larking about with photography in the middle of the road in front of oncoming traffic as a rule, I would say that taking the snap was only marginally more dangerous than just crossing the road itself. 

green cross code manIt is an experience I can best describe as stepping out into a mechanised swarm of moped bees all of which act independently and without any correlation to those around them.

Somehow it all works and I haven’t seen anything close to a collision, which is probably due to the sensibly slow speed with which everybody moves about. However the Green Cross Code Man would be having a fit. (As an aside on him, did you know that David Prowse who portrayed him also acted as the physical character of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. His voice was dubbed in later by James Earl Jones.)

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password.crazinessAnother day has been wasted because British Telecom locked me out of my email account and insisted I must change my password, which took two international phone calls on hold even to just discover that fact. I really don’t understand the point of setting up security passwords etc if the company is able to just ignore you using it all correctly and lock you out. I am always told it is with my best interests at heart, however it frankly feels like unwanted attention in affairs that are nobody’s business but my own.

I am already staggered that to maintain my email address with BT (vital for a number of administrative tasks such as banking, amending plane tickets, etc) I have to pay a fee when hotmail, gmail, etc are free. The alternative is changing passwords and emails on every system I have ever logged into since the start of the internet, which brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it!

That I also have to put up with them (and gmail, microsoft, vodafone, … the list goes on) meddling with my account at considerable inconvenience and cost to myself each time they decide to ruin my day, has me ready to kill somebody. Don’t think I am joking about this either. I sit here conjuring up slow and painful deaths for the morons who set up systems so badly that they are of no use to anybody, usually at the point when the poor sod at the rough end is absolutely depending on it. Wankers is all I have say beyond that. I’m sick of them.

windows 8.1I am tired of all the technical problems on this trip now, they are just a boring waste of my life that regularly costs me the ability to be doing something so much more worthwhile. That they are almost always caused by companies interfering with things that I have set up perfectly, just because I happen to be signing into systems from a different country is infuriating to say the least.

So it is with mixed feelings that I am about to attempt the upgrade from windows 8 to 8.1 using the long overdue service pack which should do sensible things like replace the start bar and give me a computer that I at least recognise, even if not actually enjoy working on all the time. Downloading the update will be problematic enough, but if there are any issues installing it I have already decided to enjoy smashing this PC to pieces. I came on this trip to escape this rubbish! Wish this laptop luck, it may need it.

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EmbassyUnusually for me I actually arrive a few hours early at the airport, but in a scene that resembles far too much of my existence on this planet things don’t go according to plan from there.

Keen to check in early and ditch my cumbersome baggage I rock up at the check in desk and am immediately asked for my Vietnam visa documents, which of course I do not have. I soon discover that these are only available from Vietnamese embassies or via an online process that takes two days. Bugger doesn’t quite cover it!

I should have investigated such things I suppose but after having been warned of the visa requirements of other countries when buying my round the world ticket if they were required, I incorrectly assumed that sorting one would be possible upon arrival in Vietnam like most of the other countries I have visited.

Jeremy-Clarkson-Mod-Suite-Moped-Vietnam-Top-Gear-SpecialThe upshot of this lack of key information in my planning was an extremely manic three hour period which entailed international calls, texts and emails, payments to an agency in Vietnam and a bloke screaming around Hanoi on a moped on my behalf (in a very unlike Jeremy Clarkson way) trying to get the necessary documentation together on the slim chance of getting it all done in time for me to board my flight.

Throughout my life I have repeatedly told bosses, family, etc that I don’t mean to be such a walking disaster zone with regard punctuality, but that in fact I am blessed with a talent for chaos in this field which has meant that I have missed planed, trains, boats, etc when really there shouldn’t have been any likelihood of me doing so.

Approval of letter for Vietnam visa on arrivalOn this occasion I feel that because I managed to get this document sent to me from Vietnam and printed off in Hong Kong in under two and a half hours I deserve a medal. That it was achieved communicating with people more familiar with two languages that are not my own is bordering on a miracle!

I run through the airport and get on board the flight with little more than seconds to spare. However all of this nonsense then means I arrive in Hanoi a couple of hours later not having had any opportunity to book a room or even know where I should be going upon arrival. I have no choice but to sit on my bags on the floor of the airport whilst speed reading my guide book and trying to factor in the arrangements for a wedding I am attending here next week. I manage to get a room and a cab to take me there, but by the time I arrive you could certainly argue my fuse has been a tad burnt down by the days events. I needed a beer…

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flag_hkI have run out of time in Hong Kong, which translates to Fragrant Harbour in Cantonese. The smell hasn’t done anything for me though so I pack my bags for Vietnam, which is up next on my itinerary.

It is time to say goodbye to the Ibis hotel which has been my home for the last few days. It was lovely to have allowed myself a modicum of comfort and I enjoyed having my own space whilst staying there

Hon Kong PostI just have time before heading for the airport to offload another postage parcel full of souvenirs that need to go back to the UK.

It certainly lightens the load I have been carrying on my back so far through Asia, but I am sure it wont take long to find other tat to replace it with!

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FlagAmongst Israelis, Brazilians, Canadians, Americans and Germans there are a couple of Vietnamese guys staying in my hostel.

I have made a point of saying hello and trying to have some fun with everybody here so they were no different.

However to say there was a language barrier is a bit of an understatement. Neither side can pronounce the others vocabulary, there isn’t a great deal of similarity between the different dialects and none of the three of us can speak a common language.

pictionaryOnce I discovered they were from Vietnam however, I refused to give up because I am going there later this year.

I came up with the idea of drawing a few things Pictionary style which was just the catalyst we needed to get a ‘conversation’ going. One set of Olympic rings, London 2012, and a couple of family trees later we were off.

I spent most of last night doing this but towards the end of the evening Tuyen who was the most ‘talkative’ suggested we try Google translate on my laptop. For the next two hours we typed into the screen a question or response to the other and just waited for the internet to work its magic for us. It wasn’t always perfect e.g. I still have no idea what he meant based on Google’s translation of ‘Wish intention bees Viet nam’ but it was a surprisingly effective means of building bridges as well as being quite a lot of fun too.

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