Nai Yang Beach, Phuket

Today I managed to escape from overcrowded Patong. I drove North along the West and every beach turned out more calm. I stopped at the last one “Nai Yang”. Here starts a National park with a long sandy beach and there are only a few resorts on this stretch – with room prices from 500$ upwards. Not for me :)

Instead I rented the following:

A veritable bamboo hut – right on the beach. No air condition, no warm water – but electricity, a fan, a mosquito net and even a bathroom – which makes it ultra-luxurious. :)

Here is “my” beach:

How long I will be able to endure this simple life I don’t know yet. As I am also not such a beach fan any more. We will see. I am paying by the day. And I still have a good supply of Havana Club from Vietnam (re-bottled in plastic coke bottles). And checked out the neighbourhood store (more a tourist trap, de facto!) where I can buy cold coke and bags of ice.

And this is exactly what I am having right now. At 9 pm I am sitting on my tiny bamboo veranda and listen to the noise of the wind in the palm trees and the waves hitting the beach. In the distance I see lights from fishing boats…and I am the only living being around.

Dinner was a disappointment. A lot of seafood places here but the two I visited had typical tourist food, e.g. the shrimps in chilli paste had no chillies! Hopefully I will find something better tomorrow…as having dinner on the beach can be so enjoyable!

The question now is: to swim or not to swim. Well, there is time for another Cuba Libre to make up my mind.

I don’t remember when I have stayed the last time on a beach – with only the sounds of nature. The wind has gone quiet now – but the sea cannot be ignored! The smashing sound when the waves break and then the following three seconds of “gushing” sound when the wave ebbs off. Every wave with a slightly different sound profile from the previous one… impressive! Powerful beyond stupid human imagination.

By the way, this is the Andaman sea. That was hit hardest by the Tsunami in 2004(?). The Thai are very good people and try to do everything in the best way. At every beach and every resort nowadays there are signs with “Tsunami evacuation routes” leading to higher terrain.

Oh, my neighbours just came home. My only ones. They run a small (unsuccessful) beach restaurant about 20 metres from my hut (no clients but on the expensive side). And theirs is a hut too :) But an illegal one. Built on the public beach. Tomorrow morning I will have a spicy breakfast soup there – after a swim and probably still drenched in salt water. Hehe! Yeah! And I will coach them on how to do business! If they don’t turn out like “Banskalii” who know everything and the last thing they wanted would be advise…

I should say good night now as it is already late but…the WiFi is working (it took the owner 1-1/2 hours today to install a new router and fix it on a bamboo pole to give me internet :) I am afraid, it will last only till the next serious rain…but by then I will be gone…

In addition I still have ice, Havana Club and Coke. And, although I am sitting here in the open in only my swimming trunks at 22:37 pm I am sweating nearly from head to toe. So, I am not in a great hurry to retire…I can start the day lazy, in fact, as I won’t be driving around much :)

And in the morning I will see the damage that the mosquitoes have been doing to me in the last few hours. Who cares! I am a big boy!

Now, off to a swim. Have to take advantage of the high tide we have at the moment. So, the water is 20 yards closer :)

Good night…

 

Beach time!

Today was quite eventful – in a different way from Viet Nam. Realising that I have to find an alternative to the dump I am staying at and which I booked from far away, I drove along the coasts and beaches in my area. And there are some nice beaches indeed. Have a look:

To look for a pleasant place to stay. But these beaches do not give me much hope, Because they are packed with tourists – at least 80% of them being Russian. Nothing wrong with them. I much prefer them over my Bulgarian tourists (of which I had 3 couples on the plane from Bangkok to Phuket – uzhas!).

I will probably move to a bungalow in the jungle for two or three days tomorrow. No life around there – but a small pool, internet and only Thai people…the beach being 10 minutes away by car…anyway I booked the place for only two days, telling the owner that I should first experience if I like it – and if I do I will extend my stay…

….and tonight, again, was “tom” night. “Tom” as in Thai for shrimp/prawns…Raw ones as a starter, then a mild “Path Thai” with shrimps as a main dish – and a “Tom Yam Kung” as “dessert”…and the Tom Yam was so rich and loaded with lemon grass, galangal, ginger and lime leaves (not to mention the chillies) that every chopstick or spoon full found new “delight-buds” in my  body somewhere…and made me sweat like mad…

 

 

 

Back in Thailand…

My first (half) day in Thailand after 7 weeks of Vietnam. What should I say?! Not easy – because I do not want to hurt anyone.

Vietnam was an absolute adventure trip. The people there: different from the rest in this part of Asia – absolute survivors, capable of enduring on next to nothing. Men – weak like in most poor countries, prone to drinking. Women – they run the country. In charge of everything. Food: good and bad. Everything vegetarian is delicious. A little too much “fermentation” in the meat and sauce preparation for my taste. Fresher would be better but I accept that this is not possible everywhere.

Thailand now (after only a few hours): feels like home to me. Nothing new or exciting. No surprises. Boring, kind of! But not when it comes to food!

I booked a cheap place (“Coconut Club Resort”) at Patong beach on Phuket. My first time on Phuket. Always avoided it because there are billions of tourists here. OK, not only sex-tourists but those that you would expect to see in Brighton or Mallorca or so…Well, it’s for two nights. I have a rental car and will venture about tomorrow to, maybe, find some areas on this island where there are less tourists and life is more real.

Food is the key here (for me). I walked to the local market (closed, of course, but three  restaurants around it).

I chose the one that said “sea food and Thai food”. The other two said: “seafood, Thai food, European food”…and I think I got it right. It looks like the Russians have become big players in this market here. I will find out tomorrow by interviewing some locals…

I ordered some squid in chilli sauce to start with – and as it turned out I did not have to specify that I wanted it the “Thai” (hot) way. It was hot!

As seconds I had the Thai version of Sashimi: raw Tiger prawns with some salad stuff – and a hot, hot sauce…Oh my god! These prawns were fresh!

One thing I like about Thailand is that since many years in the type of restaurants I go to the price for a main seafood dish is on average 150 baht (7.50 Leva) – which, of course, has the downside that more often than not I have two or three main courses…

I just crave the Thai food! The seafood more than anything else (and this is just a very simple restaurant at the market!):

OK, enough for today. I bought some “honey tangerines”, green oranges, small bananas and pineapple on my way from the airport and should eat part of it now before going to bed…

Oh, one difference between Vietnam and Thailand:

I walked here in Thailand only for ten minutes and immediately came across dogs that barked happily and from their heart. At other dogs. No such thing in Vietnam. Dogs there are always subdued. And never looking at you straight and clear. Maybe they realise that they may end up as dinner quicker than expected if they do not behave. I don’t know. But it feels like this.

Even the cat here in Patong had  no problem on top of my rental car. Amazing!

 

Good bye, Vietnam! Thank you for having me.

This morning I left controversial Vietnam that gave me pleasure, upset me, made me happy and also sad – but never left me untouched.

And I parted in style. I went to the fancy Bobby Chinn fusion restaurant after all.

To get rid of my usual shyness I had to revert to some Mojitos…they did their job quite properly…notice the morning-glory-stem instead of a straw :)

Well, it was not my fault that they had Bollinger champagne not only on the menu but also cold in the fridge! Since my motto is: “mit mir trinke ich am Liebsten” (or: I, myself, am my favourite drinking companion) I could not resist.

I had various things to eat – but can’t remember properly what it all was. It was good, no doubt. But not mind boggling.

Somehow, the champagne ended too quickly (as always) and I had to rinse my system with a few gin & tonics:

The youngsters behind the bar turned out to be some extremely nice people from the country. We had great philosophical and general discussions till late … and they even hailed a taxi for me on the streets to make sure that I would get home OK.

Oh, and somehow the bill amounted to about 8,000,000 Dong, by far the biggest amount I have spent in Vietnam in one go :) Yeah!

To my surprise I woke up at 6 am – which gave me time to have breakfast in peace and get packed so I could head to the airport at 8 am.

Now I am in Thailand. Phuket. At Patong beach. And it’s 6.30pm – pitch dark and time for dinner. So I will stroll out now to see what the street vendors offer :)

See you guys :)

 

Bits and pieces…

…middle of the night…and no internet since last evening. At least no access to servers outside Viet Nam…

The “funny” thing is I went to bed tonight at 8pm…but could not sleep, so sipped away on Cuba Libre and watched TV. Still sipping and still watching HBO…and nibbling on those little meat packages that I showed you a picture of yesterday. They are fiercely HOT! And make me “sip” a little bit more.

Anyway, my last days in Saigon are not exactly as expected. No night life till the early hours with booze, broads and the rest…this is what happens to you when you start looking more and more like Karl Lagerfeld. When the mirror tells you you should hide more and more of your body parts, maybe even start using shirts with collars that hide your neck and the skin on your throat completely ?! Well, OK, I am not quite there yet but I guess you know what I mean :)

So, I am not into “finding a Vietnamese woman”, despite that so many Vietnamese women and men I met on my trip wanted to help me in this endeavour. And I am going out to meet and to talk to interesting people and have some good food. Not to “bars” where the aim is to get drunk and maybe find a victim of some kind.

Last night e.g. I started with some beers and a snack I wish I would have back home: chopped up dried squid with a special chilli sauce. Not cheap (50,000 Dong a go) – but it will give you hours of pleasure:

Do not underestimate the power of the chilli sauce and the rewarding satisfaction you feel in your mouth when chewing the dried squid that gently and slowly releases its taste…

That was just a starter (that I “doggy-bagged” to take home after finishing my 2 beers).  Next thing I found myself in a street restaurant around the corners…and choice became more difficult. I had focused on three things as a starter and needed to make up my mind: crocodile ribs, beef penis and chicken testicles. “Chicken testicles” I had never sampled before, but when I contemplated my choices I felt that the the chicken balls might be a rather minuscule food portion…”beef penis”, as they called it, I have eaten before in Asia (as well as the “balls” of the freshly killed bulls in some Southern French “arena”) so: the baby crocodile ribs were my choice.

Can I swear that these were really baby crocodile ribs? I cannot, never having caught, killed or dissected a crocodile. But they sure tasted like it – comparing the taste with alligator meat that I have been eating in Florida, there was a subtle but still existing difference…—————————————————–

Somehow this was to be released yesterday…but then the internet stopped…

Today is a completely different ball game…and my last night in Vietnam for that matter. I qent through some last minute pressure purchases and found out some unpleasant facts about my surplus of Vietnamese Dong…and so on.

Anyway, I have decided to spend a million or two on dinner tonight, to conclude my trip with the best food the country has to offer. There is nothing like fond memories, is there? :)

But I am torn between “Bobby Chinn”, the Vietnamese-Pacific fusion king, “Quang Nuong”, BBQ on top of a Hindu temple and Song Ngu, the seafood place.

Or maybe, I just bail out completely and conclude my trip with food from the hawkers on the streets around my hotel.

In any case I am doomed. Today I realised that I still hold 15 million Dong in cash. And tomorrow morning I will leave the country. So I went to some banks to re-change my Dong to USD. OK, 15 mil. is about 750$. The banks told me: no change from Dong to Dollar! Sorry!

Really nice :) So, what to do? Have an orgy, using all the dong :) ? I even arrived at buying a smart phone like the Samsung Galaxy 3 (32GB) for 14,000,000 Dong. But then: what to do with it and for what to use it?

OK, I heard that you can change dong to $ at the airport when leaving. That’s what I will do then. Probably with a heavy loss – but then it was all my fault anyway. I just had assumed I would be spending much more money in Vietnam than I actually did. So, let them screw me on the exchange rate, lesson learned and accepted, and I will cope with that by spending less in Thailand :)

La vie en rose!

Kisses,

Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One, two, three – go!

It all started with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi and it looks like my expedition to Vietnam will end in Ho Chi Minh City. I will stay here till the 14th. Then I will fly to Thailand.

The last few days will be devoted to the good Saigon city life. Time for me to finally participate in Vietnamese night-life also. And Saigon is just the place for that. The headline “One, two, three – go” is the young Vietnamese people’s”Trinkspruch” (mot, hai, ba – yo) which makes it acceptable even for girls to drink alcohol (in a group) – and you empty the tiny glasses in one go (10-15ml each?), drinking liqueur with probably 25% alcohol or so. Really heavy :)

I will recover from these debaucheries on Phuket – where I will be a good boy spending my  time at the beaches and eating at the night markets – which will give me the time and peace of mind to reflect on all the aspects of my experiences in Vietnam, many of which I have not even mentioned on this blog as it would have made me spend most of my time in front of the computer writing – instead of being out there with the people…

In the morning I had a long breakfast, starting with a Pho noodle soup, continuing with rice cakes, pork with vegetables, springrolls – then moving to the Western side with coffee and OJ, French bred with butter, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes with bacon, sausages…finishing sweetly with pancakes with honey, a fried banana – and a small assortment of fruit (rambutan, mango, dragon fruit and these teeny, weeny lovely bananas…)

Then I posted the previous blog entry. And headed for the Coop Supermarket. A little further away than I had expected – and when I arrived I was drenched in sweat. My light cotton shirt was dripping – as was the sweat from my head along my hair – dripping from above onto my ears! Uzhas!

I spent half a million Dong – on extravavaganzas like Gillette razor blades, French baguette, some Vietnamese meat snacks, milk, chocolates – and the best toothpicks I ever came across in my life!

These toothpicks – I came across them first on the farm…

…are made of very robust, quality wood and are much thinner than anything I have ever seen elsewhere – which means you can get into any cavity with them and they do their job properly!

Tooth-picking is an integral part of Vietnamese life. Even the most primitive restaurant will have tooth picks on its plastic tables. Whether out and about or at home, after every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever) every Vietnamese (old, young, male, female) will engage in tooth picking – without any shyness, on the contrary. After all, clean teeth are a valuable asset :) No wonder, they are the masters of tooth-picks :)

On the way back from the Coop, passing the ex-presidential palace for the umpteenth time (my hotel is just around the corner from it) – and after fending off all those riksha and motorbike-taxi guys that see me melting away and think if there was ever a victim for them it was me – I had to stop for an ice coffee – “ca phe den da” in the parallel street to my hotel. Next to the old French era law court that is not listed in any tourist guide but is one of the few originally maintained colonial buildings (still in use).

The locals also like this very much and, as you can see, spend their Sunday mornings here:After returning to my hotel, showering for the second time at 11 am and changing rooms I have started with CL (Cuba Libre) exactly at noon (58 minutes ago) and after writing this I am out of coke now.

The drawback is that about 10 minutes ago a torrential rain set in that makes the idea of leaving the room look absurd. But once it stops it will take about 15 minutes to evaporate all the water on the streets…

Anyway, now at 1pm only tourists, idiots and young people in love would venture out into this tropical humid heat that makes New York in summer feel like a very dry place…

So, maybe, to open a bag of snacks:

…and then to have a nap or so. I am hesitant to eat that stuff, though. I had such things, wrapped in banana leaves and plain newspaper, homemade in a small “zech” (workshop), in the village where the farm was. Simply delicious. This, however, is from a supermarket and is probably fake…

Later I am planning to find some laundry service. Because I have very few clean things left to wear. I have been washing my underwear by hand so far – and my shirts a few times. But for the “bigger” things like trousers and polo shirts  I have used laundry services. And that’s what I want to do today. To have things washed in the hotel is out of the questions. The polo shirts will cost me more than what I paid for them in Thailand some years ago. Other laundry services charge per kg. These are my guys.

And there is an area where all the “backpackers” that are flooding Vietnam (of whom I have seen many in the cities – fortunately from a distance – but amazingly few in the real countryside) stay in cheap hostels – and where such inexpensive laundry services supposedly abound. And this area is rather close by. But still a 15 minute walk that will make all the juices flow out of my body! And then I should go there again tomorrow (or the day after) to pick up the ready laundry.

Or shall I just make do with what I have and have everything laundered in Thailand (where I am sure to pay a higher price but will have the comfort of my air-conditioned rental car) ?

Life is tough. And “Free Cuba” (Cuba Libre) is only a nice concept as long as both (Cuban) rum and (American) coke combine and flow freely…and here in my hotel room the balance has collapsed due to lack of coke. Also the rain has stopped. So I will pack a plastic bag with things to launder and wait for my chance to go out and get things done. On the way I might be forced to have some ice coffee, however…

I————————————————————-

Update:

It helps to talk to the people. When I told the reception staff that the hotel’s laundry services are too expensive for me they pointed me to another hotel across the street  :)

In my hotel I would pay per item, e.g. trousers 35,000 washing, 20,000 ironing; Shirt 30,000 washing, 15,000 ironing. In my case: 2 trousers, 4 shirts, 3 T-shirts: 195,000 washing plus 145,000 ironing: 340,000 Dong (17$ or 25.50 Leva) In the place opposite my hotel I pay per weight (2.40kg x 25,000= 60,000) plus 8,000 per item for ironing shirts and trousers (48,000)= 108,000 Dong! (5$ or 8.30 Leva. ) Maybe this sounds very avaricious to you. OK. As I tell my Bulgarian friends all the time: you do not get rich from spending :)

Why should I pay more money when I can get one and the same thing cheaper? Especially when there is no personal relation involved.

So, that’s the good side. I saved money. And a lot of sweating since I only had to cross the street :)

The bad side is that I still decided to have an iced coffee and I walked around the block. And sat next to an elderly couple from New Zealand. And ordered an iced coffee from the young girl serving there. And received a bottle of beer and a glass with ice in it!!! NO ONE has misunderstood me so far when I ordered an ice coffee – and not only in Saigon. This gives me the confidence that it was not my rotten pronunciation but  the  lack of brain on the girl’s side that caused this misunderstanding. Anyway, being in the “happy Buddha mood” I settled for the iced beer :)

After a nice chat with the Kiwis (cultivated people, both working at the Auckland university and very familiar with Europe) I strolled back to my hotel checking out the shops.

Before my trip to the Mekong I had seen this little chocolate shop around the corner. So, since I had time I said, let’s have a look what they have to offer.”Boniva” is the name.

Big mistake! They produce pralinées, not chocolate bars.

Prices for these rare delicacies (we are not talking about rough Belgian pralines here – which I detest for being so peasant-like) were nearly the same here like elsewhere where there are people capable and willing enough to go through the immense trouble of producing such delicate cochonneries for connoisseurs. But how could I resist? After reading about ingredients like durian, lemon grass, mango and many other things no French patissier used to have in his repertoire – not even Lenotre. I had to order at least a small selection of not more than a dozen pralinées that set me back the price of a gourmet dinner :)

…I won’t show you the second layer :) But, amongst us pious people, after trying the first two of those sin-carriers: I consider myself lucky that I will stay here only another three days. Otherwise I might ruin myself either financially or morally (or both) with these chocolates :) )))))))) The next step would be to find one of my favourite French Cognacs (Otard XO would do the trick) as I have a real weakness for the combination of cognac and pralinées…and I would be back in the old spiral immediately. How could you possibly have the finest brandy on the planet with chocolate that “shovels out” endorphins without complementing it (OK, OK you women, without “topping it off”) with the finest sex that can bring two people together?! You could not! Or, maybe, you could but I couldn’t…

Goodness, it’s only 4:30 pm on this lovely afternoon in Saigon. But time flies. So I better  shut up now and do some planning and arranging for tonight :)

A bientot…Mesdames…;-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mekong Delta Impressions

The Vietnamese call the Mekong “Nine Dragon River” as it splits up into 9 branches, that create this astounding area.

Here some unsorted pictures to give you an impression of life along the water.

Riverfront shops in Cai Be.

Rambutan fruit on the way to the market..

Vegetable sellers…

A house with a flower-loving missus.

A riverside restaurant:

Nearly rammed by the ruthless ferry-man…

One of the many pumping stations, used to pump water from the rivers to the rice-fields…

A big rice-storage facility:

Vinh Long…

…a quick visit to the Vinh Long market to buy some fruit and some dried shrimp…

…oranges: they grow all year long

…the “usual” green stuff…

…different kinds of eggs:

…and “my” dried shrimp in various sizes (even here not for “free”; the bigger ones cost about 1 million Dong per kilo – 50$):

…in the back you see the continuous kilns of the local brick factories near Sa Dec.

Floating houses near Chau Doc (close to the Cambodian border)…

…one of the locals on his way to inspect the progress at the brandy distillery…

Some fish out for drying…

…one of the “home-delivery” shops…

Here you see some storks that they like for eating. This way they keep them fresh until needed…

That’s what I would call “heavily loaded”! I saw so many boats where I was surprised how they were able to keep above water!

…a floating café/bar…

…and a “full-fledged” restaurant…

…watermelons galore…

…back stream life:

An absolutely magical place, off the beaten track: the Tra Su forest. Huge, home to many strange birds – and completely covered in water. The only way to get to/through it is by boat:

It looks as if the birds are walking on ground and not on floating plants:

…this forest left a deep impression of still existing paradise on me…we also stalked some birds, rowing in the dense forest…but my battery had gone dead…it was a great experience.

There is a lot to write still about the Mekong delta – but, as you know me, I always have “more to tell” :)

Right now I have to leave my Saigon hotel and do a little shopping…

 

Mekong – Khong, the Mother of Water…

Finally I have been to the delta of the river that was the main reason for me to come to Vietnam in the first place. Having travelled “the Greater Mekong Region” with my dear friends Achim and Volker, the “end” of the river was the missing piece in the picture for me.

And this delta is indeed like a culmination of all the power that the Mekong amasses on its long way through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Mekong may be only maybe the tenth longest river on the planet – but the experts say that it is number two in biodiversity – after the Amazon.

Having travelled on a boat on the Mekong in Northern Laos, through canyons and long stretches of wild, uninhabited nature one would not assume how full of life every square centimetre in the Mekong delta seems to be.

There is one property next to the other along all the roads and waterways. Countless families share the richness of this fruitful countryside – where three crops a year are the norm…

The further you move South-West from Saigon the more lush the vegetation becomes and the huge rice fields and big plantations are more and more being parcelled out by channels and water ways. And once you cross the My Tho branch of the Mekong, transport infrastructure shifts from road to water.

There are countless channels and river-branches – and I wonder how many of the 16 million people in the area live on boats  – or floating houses? Life is bustling and connected in one form or the other to the water. While there is still a lot of traditional extensive farming and fish-breeding there are also industrial outfits now that breed 200 million fish in one spot to supply the needs of Western people! 200 million! Guess what they feed the fish?!

To give you an idea of the traditional business. Here you see some houses of a typical village, floating on the Mekong river:

People live on them with there animals and everything. Underneath the floating houses there are fish cages. As big as the house and between 3 and 4 meters deep. Some people breed different varieties of fish and you will find them at different levels of the cage, others only one kind (like catfish).

To feed the fish you just lift some wooden boards on the house floor and throw the feed (in the background you see the sitting room with the altar for worshipping the ancestors).

As rice is the universal commodity in this area the feed is home made pellets, made from rice bran.

The bran is cooked and then left to cool off and afterwards pushed through a machine that makes pellets of it.

No chemicals and antibiotics. Still questionable in my view as I don’t consider rice and its derivatives the natural food of fish. But apart from that “organic”.

And the “rice diet” does not work for all the fish they breed. Some need more specific food. Anyway, only about 20% of the fish produced in the Mekong delta are produced in that “traditional” benign way. I could not get access to the industrial fish farms (which I really wanted to see), as the two of them that I had emailed did not respond. So, there is little I can say.  Maybe just that much: we are all doomed – and it’s our own bloody fault!

Doesn’t it look nice in such a floating village?

One of the concerns about the future of this area is the fact that China is planning to build a series of dams along a stretch of 800kms of the Mekong and also Laos is planning to build a huge dam. So, maybe all this unique biodiversity here will be gone in a few years and the waters of the “Mother of Water” will only be used for “substantial” commercial operations.

Sorry, I am getting a little turned off now. I have so many photos of this unique landscape that I wanted to share. But not now. Anyway, I am back in Saigon. So, maybe tomorrow…have a good night…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost and found…

This morning I had an extensive breakfast with all variations of Asian stuff that I got tired again and went back to bed to sleep till nearly lunch :) What a pleasure!

Here is the stunning view from my room, by the way:

Alas, when I wanted to leave the hotel I noticed that my phone was missing, a dual SIM-card one with my BG card (and ALL my phone numbers) and my Vietnamese card (easily to be dismissed). I searched all my belongings – but it was definitely gone.

So I tried to call my mobile phone from the hotel phone – switched off! So, it was clear to me that I must have lost it yesterday evening, most likely in a taxi. The fact that it was turned off suggested that the driver or whoever had found the phone had decided to keep it and just exchanged the SIM-card. Shit!

But the hotel staff was very friendly – and the bell boy took me on his motorbike to a mobile phone shop with low local prices. Where I bought the same Nokia X1-01 that had gone missing for 980,000 Dong (74 Leva) – about the price I had paid for it in BG. Plus another 11 Leva for a new Vietnamese SIM card (including a lot of talking time).

To celebrate the quick and successful decision I went for an ice coffee to the coffee shop near my hotel where I had a few beers last night. After sipping on my coffee for a while, the three lovely ladies in their pyjamas (whose picture I posted yesterday) came to greet me – and one of them asked me if I was missing my telephone. And when she saw my big eyes they proudly presented me with my missing phone. And there was a lot of grinning and smiling from all sides :) We are all family now :)

I could not help but order a beer – and a little delicious snack

And am now back in my room, happy and relaxed – and somehow not in the mood to go out and have dinner.

In any case I should go to bed early as I am leaving at 6am for the Mekong delta. Maybe I won’t have internet for a few days…we will see…

 

Sights of Saigon

Here is a selection of the “must see” places in Saigon:

The square in front of the central market of Saigon “Ben Thanh”

A park in the centre. With public fitness machines…

Life in the backstreets:

There is no lack of cabling in Saigon :)

Regular street life:

How about some duck for lunch?

One of the modern buildings:

Views at the Saigon River:

The first Grand Hotel in Saigon, the “Majestic” (from 1925):

The “Opera” (1899) – for many years the centre of Saigon society and behind it the first “skyscraper” in Saigon from the mid fifties, whose roof-terrace was described by the war reporters as “the splendid stage of dying Saigon”…

The “Vincom Centre”, a shopping mall. I have no clue what it looks like from inside as i stay away from such places as far as possible…

The former city hall, now the “People’s Committee” seat:

Notre Dame – for a long time the symbol of Saigon:

A group of school kids drumming on the pavement:

To a few of them they had given dangerous instruments which they used successfully to  torture the nerves of all innocent passer-by:

Lunch break in the city:

The Vietnamese version of “doner kebab”?

Not really :)

A shop offering classy containers to store and age your alcohol with various ingredients (reptiles, roots, etc)…I was tempted to by one for my own rakia and experiment with it back in Bansko :)

And a really nice flower shop – not for the poor, however…