18.06.2008 - 19.06.2008 29 °C
We’re now in Bali. Yay!
…looking back though, I feel compelled to tell you that the food in Vietnam is TERRIBLE! We tried everything, local, international, cheap, expensive, in the city and on the beach, and at best it was mediocre. I felt depleted when we left due to the lack of nutrients – every day, when the next meal time rolled around I started to feel sick to my stomach, and just the sight of noodles made me want to barf. Mostly because that’s ALL I had been eating on a regular basis.
Aside from the food, the city of Saigon is pretty cool. I enjoyed watching the thousands of mopeds whizzing by in all directions at all hours of the day and night, and in all weather conditions. I did not, however, enjoy the intermittent smell of the sewer. As you’re walking down the street, you’ll sometimes get a whiff of the sewer (I think)…it’s kind of like walking down Mission Street in San Francisco during a particularly hot day. Ya know, you can smell the bum’s piss baking on the sidewalks…gives the experience a certain je ne sais quoi, oui? It was also crazy to see raw meat displayed on little carts up and down the streets, right out there in the hot sun. Seems a bit like the E. coli special to me, but to each his or her own. One person’s lunch is another person’s food poisoning. Which brings me to water. I did actually have drinks with ice cubes in them, and did not get sick. I also brushed my teeth with the tap water in the city as well as at the beach, and did not get sick. I understand the reasons behind why it’s a good idea in some places to drink bottled, purified water, but I think the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, for one, has truly exploited the fear of getting sick. And by doing so, they sell millions of dollars worth of water to travelers and residents alike. Conspiracy theory? Maybe, but I have read articles about the poor quality of bottled water: Dasani particularly, is a Coca-Cola brand notorious for having carcinogens leached into it by the poor quality material from which the bottle is made. It was actually banned from the shelves in the UK as a result. This will conclude my rant on bottled water. =)
Another somewhat unsettling scent in the air in Saigon was that of the durian fruit. This is the fruit that looks like a huge puffer fish, and smells like the rotting corpse of one. There were piles of these things everywhere! Carts and street-side stands were cutting them and selling them to passers by. I had to hold my breath when passing them, a dire necessity as the trip wore on and I became more and more nauseated by the thought/sight of food. Although, nearing the conclusion of our stay in Saigon, I started to acclimate slightly to the smell…funny what you can get used to, eh?
An experiment Mike and I tried to do in our room was to sit like the Vietnamese. Almost anywhere you look on the streets, you’ll see someone crouching very low to the earth, feet flat on the ground and butt almost touching the ground behind the feet, arms folded over the knees or busy at some task. Imagine the lowest squat you can…that’s it. It’s impossible to do, well, for me anyway. I fell right on my butt on the hard tiled floor of our room. Sometimes during or after a yoga class I can do it, but I have to be warmed up and stretched out. These people have some strong joints, and good balance!
Back to Bali….oh lovely Bali, with edible food and lovely beaches all around, great waves (I’m learning to surf), and wind (!), I adore thee. We are staying at a hotel in Sanur (which is on the south east coast of Bali), right on the beach. In Bali, like Manila, most people seem to speak English. All along the beach where we’re staying are little booth-type shops selling beaded necklaces, sarongs, crocheted tops and bathing suits. The unfortunate thing is that some of the shopkeepers will gather at the intersection of a street and the beach path, and verbally accost you as you pass. Not only do they try to get you into their shop, they follow you down the path saying things like: “Manicure?”, “Hair braiding?”, “Do some shopping?” – it’s really annoying, and makes me want to avoid the shops even more. I might have looked around, but I can’t abide someone breathing down my neck as I shop. Grrr!
That said, I did actually go into a shop, because it looked like no one was there, and a huge shell pendant necklace caught my eye. And yes, I bought it – it cost 30,000 Rupiah, talked down (thanks, Mike!) from 50,000. Sounds like a lot, but in reality, it’s only about $3. The trick to haggling here it seems is to walk away, and you can pretty much get your price, and everything is negotiable! We got our room discounted because I was frowning and said “What? It doesn’t include breakfast?”. The manager knocked off another 10,000/day in exchange for our staying for 3 weeks.