Traffic. Traffic is terrible in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
It’s been about 14 months since I was here last and I swear it feels like traffic has gotten worse – or maybe I’ve just forgotten.
Amy has forgotten how to drive here. She rented a motorbike and drove out. 20 mintues later she was back – she wasn’t able to cross the roads in this chaotic city. Red lights are taken as suggestions. You must be constantly aware of your surroundings.
After less than 24hours we’re ready to leave this city.
Vietnam, the place where you can get a Pho for a dollar and a freshly made pineapple juice for 50 cents.
Da Nang. The pearl of Vietnam. Where the traffic police isn’t corrupt and where the streets are clean. Good food, good people, amazing beaches and weddings by the dozen. We’ve established ourselves, got upgraded to an appartment with two rooms and a kitchen. Life is good
I got on a motorbike for the first time in a year – shaky at first but I’m getting the hang of it again. Traffic is nowhere near as bad in HCMC but still – rush hour in the city center – not for everyone.
I’ve spent the first part of this post talking about traffic. It says something about the impact it leaves on you. But there are other things…
When you come here you’ll see everything from “hamburger bros” selling western style burgers to local places serving pipefish, ostrich, pork belly and other local delicacies. Where you can point at the fish while it’s still alive and you can make sure the food is fresh.
The place where you can get a Pho for a dollar and a freshly made pineapple juice for 50 cents.
An hour massage will set you back about $12.
Vietnam, where the toilet doubles as both the laundry room for the family, and where the dishes are washed for the guests. Where you learn some perspective about what hygiene is. In western culture we’re obssessed with cleanliness.
All of the above and many more things is why I love Vietnam. It’s like I feel at home here but it also feels like I’ve been away for a decade. It’s so vastly different from my home culture. When I’m driving on my motorbike with Amy on the back I’ve got a sensation of freedom and fear in equal parts. Of adventure and uncertainty.
Oh, how I’ve missed the joy of open-ended long term travelling. It’s good to be on the road again
At around 20:00 (8pm) we arrived at Tangier port. With a beatiful view to the oldest part of the town, Medina, and the walls surrounding it, we entered Africa. Immediately we were approached by a seemingly friendly guy that wanted to show us around and help us find a hostel or a place to stay. The prizes he quoted seemed reasonable compared to what we could find on the internet but as we didn’t want to book the first the best thing we got offered, we decided to say no. He then offered us to buy some hash instead which we also politely refused.
We walked for about 5 mins out of the harbor (about 5 guys asked us if we wanted a taxi) before another guy told us not to go the direction we were heading because it was dangerous. We decided to follow his advice and go another way. He followed us and started talking to us and of course he wanted to show us a hotel he knew (very good price – best price and good beds) – this guy, however, didn’t stop following us until we gave him some money. It turned out that this was neither the first nor the last time that “helpful” locals offered us their help. Later that evening after we had found a hostel we walked around the town for a bit and a guy offered to help us. A “no” and “please leave” didn’t deter him and after we told him more and more sternly to leave (and gave him some money) he left us with a “Fuck you!” as his last words. We then had a tea and pondered upon our recent experience.
For another hour we walked around Medina and looked at the people and the surroundings. This place is like taken directly out of a James Bond movie with extremely narrow streets and odd buildings. People hanging on every street corner and small shops selling all kinds of things and trinkets. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and something worth experiencing! It was very easy to get lost and we did so too a couple of times which resulted in us ending up in dead ends of various more or less illuminated alleys. Despite dark dead end alleys it all seemed safe though.
Second day in Tangier
We had a delicious breakfast at the hostel and ventured out. People kept approaching us to help but we got better at saying no right away. Telling them we knew what we wanted and where we were going helped, politeness and no thank you didn’t. We walked around and outside Medina to see if we could rent a scooter but with no luck.
Instead we got to see alot of the town and some nice views over the Mediterranean Sea and we found a local watering hole with a very (genuinely) friendly bartender who talked to us and explained things while we had a beer. He also kept bringing us tapas of various kinds, until we were completely full – for free! He was indeed very friendly and made me restore faith in people not wanting something for their help 🙂
He also told us where to get a Shisha and surprisingly we found the place about 10 mins away very easily.
I am now back in the hostel and it was actually a very nice day. Tomorrow we plan on going to see Chefchaouen up in the nearby mountains which is apparently a very nice place with excellent views!
Howdy folks, here’s another update – This time from Singapore.
The 17. july marks the end of the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar also known of Ramadan where muslims across the world have been fasting from sunup to sundown. This leads to a festival called eid al-fitr which celebrates breaking fast. At my factory this leads to 3 days off (thursday, friday, monday) which gave me the chance to go on an extended weekendtrip and I chose Singapore since my friend Marilyn lives there and I haven’t seen her since San Francisco 2011.
I touched down in Changi Airport, Singapore in the evening around 5pm where Marilyn picked me up in the airport and we went straight to a market at Paya Lebar where I had a delicious Ramly Chicken burger and some thai coconut icecream. We walked around for a while in the extremely crowded market and I bought a white traditional malaysian shirt. Marilyn bought some dresses for her friends in Switzerland.
We then went home to Marilyns place where I was going to sleep for the next couple of nights. I took a shower and then we had to get moving. We were meeting some of her friends for “supper” around midnight. Supper is something practiced in both Malaysia and Singapore (and probably more places) and is basically just eating late at night. I’ve found where Danes meet for a casual beer, Singaporeans meet for some casual food. Food is cheap, beer is not. In Denmark it’s the other way around. The Ramly chicken burger and the coconut ice cream I hadn’t tried before but it was fairly close to “western” food – what they ordered for me here though; Not what my tastebuds are used to! 🙂
Chili sting ray served on a banana leaf, mixed vegetables in oyster sauce, frog legs in porridge and with a brown sauce i couldnt put my finger on and oyster omelet. With that I had jelly lemon ice tea and chinese ice tea. Needless to say, all of it, ALL of it was new to me. So yeah… welcome to Singapore! 🙂
The chili stingray was good and spicy. I could eat that again. Fish and chili spices, why not? The mixed vegetables in oyster sauce was good – very garlicky. The frog legs in porridge… hmmm, well… Frog legs taste like a mix between fish and chicken… add that to porridge and you definitely have a weird combination i’ve never had before (let alone porridge with any type of meat). Add the brown sauce and you have giant mindf*** of a foodexplosion that I was NOT prepared for. I ate a couple of legs and most of the soup/sauce/porridge but then had to give up. The oyster omelet gave me a weird sensation in my mouth and it only took the first mouthful of oyster to leave that dish alone 🙂
So. We went home to sleep around 2am and that was the first evening in Singapore.
Friday we woke up late and decided to do traditional Singapore sightseeing. But first we tried the fabled Durians that everyone talk about. This was the Pahang type as they are apparently quite different. Now, Durians are a chapter by themselves and I won’t go into too much details but they are a pineapple sized fruit with a very hard and pointy exterior and they have a very strong smell. Put this together with a very strong taste it leaves you with a fruit that you either love or hate. If you hate it, you can’t avoid the smelll anywhere so you get to really hate it 🙂 On the other, if you love it – it’s a great fruit to have readily available. Me? I like the smell but the taste is… not acquired yet. I think I can learn to like them and its not like the taste is that bad but I just need to try them a few more times before I’m ready to fully indulge.
The sightseeing involved seeing the Merlion:
It’s called so because it’s a mix between a mermaid buddy with a lions head. Very pretty 🙂 Since it started raining everybody left and we got some good pictures.
In the evening we went up the Marina Bay Sands hotel that you can see in the pictures on 57th floor. Up there I met up with 2 other long lost friends, David and Grace whom I both met back in Karlsruhe, Germany back in 08. Crazy to meet in Singapore of all places. Grace is indonesian living in Singapore and David is an aussie visiting Singapore for a unicycle hockey tournament.
Saturday we woke up and got even more food, and we went to the mall to get me some swimshorts and walked around for a bit. Saw Arab street in Singapore and just did some walking around.
Later we met up with a bunch of Marilyns friends and Grace at a birthday party which involved many good things such as poledancing and auctions (of men unfortunately) for charity. I also went up into the even higher rooftop bar called Altitude which is on 67th floor making it the worlds highest al fresco bar (open air rooftop bar). Marilyn got us on the guestlist, so we skipped the line and the entrance fee. It felt good 🙂
I could proably write another 10 pages just about Singapore, involving things as duckrice, starbucks and Singapore in general but I’ll just sum it up with this
Sunday I left Singapore after a very long weekend with so many new things tried 🙂