A Travellerspoint blog

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Good morning Vietnam!

all seasons in one day
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Today we were up at about 5am, and ready for breakfast! We putzed around the room for a bit and then headed downstairs to greet the day. The lobby was already alive with activity, since our room included breakfast (and dinner), people were down there eating. Breakfast was a baguette with butter and jam and coffee or tea. So we obliged the girl offering us our breakfast, and sat down to eat. We weren’t really full from just a bit of bread, so we headed out to Café Zoom for some more Vietnamese coffee and omelets. I didn’t realize that baguettes are so popular here, but you get them for breakfast with pretty much anything you order.

We sat there in amazement as the motorbikes passed us by – so many people on their way to work!


Venturing back out into the heat of the day, we opted to check out the War Remnants Museum, not too far from where we had breakfast. As the museum closed at noon, we had to hustle (i.e. shuffle along slowly so as to not get heat stroke!). We made it in plenty of time to see more than enough – I believe we saw 5 of the 7 buildings/displays. It was a very sobering experience. I hadn’t seen any of these pictures of people (of ALL ages) who had been injured by phosphorus bombs, and agent orange bombs.


There was one whole room dedicated to giving you the play by play of the tortures people in prison camps endured. Women had snakes put up their pant legs while they were held down. Top halves of people’s heads would be shaved, and then the person would be strapped to a chair, while water would drip on them, drop by drop by drop. Each drop felt like a heavy blow to the brain. One I found particular disturbing (of course, they all are) was this: a hose is inserted into your nose, all the way to your stomach, as you’re strapped flat on your back to a board – declined with your head lower than your feet. Into the hose they would pour limey water, or sometimes soapy water, until your stomach would bloat in a strange way. Then they would punch and kick you in the stomach until bloody discharge would come out of your nose and mouth. Did I mention that you’re gagged as well? …terrible, awful, nasty things…I can’t imagine laughing and watching someone suffer.

I was wiped out by that experience, so we headed back to the room for a nap to revive our tortured souls. And then the rains came! There was thunder and lightening and a terrific downpour that lasted about 2 hours. We ventured out after the worst of it stopped to find the street in front of our hotel flooded.


We slogged through to find some pho…tasty tasty! We each had a bowl of the noodle soup and a soda, and the bill came to 49,000 dong, which is about $3. …I think we napped again at that point, but I’m not sure…we’ve been sleeping a lot! Later that night we grabbed a quick dinner down the street and went back to sleep. Jet lag is hell!

All in all, I loved Saigon, but I’m still unimpressed by the food. =(

Posted by kmpossible 20:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Exit Manila, Enter Saigon

all seasons in one day
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Ok ok, so let me just say, Manila airport isn’t THAT bad…just on arrival there’s no air-con, upon departure, there IS air-con. There seems to be a strange trail of paper we’re leaving behind us here…everyone likes to give you a bit of paper to sign – for instance when we got a couple towels near the pool at our hotel in Manila, the attendant gave me a receipt saying that I had two towels. So I signed it and he was happy…seems a bit unnecessary when they have the room number, but whatever.

So we left Manila airport at about 11pm on Cebu Pacific airlines – which must be the worst airline EVER. Upon first inspection, it looks and feels just like any other airplane, except the fact that it was colder than a meat locker (mmmmmm….meat!). When you sit down, you start to notice little things, like the exit signs that are just a little too brightly lit, and the arm rests don’t have the requisite channel change and volume buttons…there’s nothing there! Luckily, we thought, the seats do recline – no small feat of engineering for seats that are literally 12 inches apart front to back. Taking off on our 3 hour flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), we realize that our particular seats DO NOT recline. Oh well I thought, until the people in front of me reclined, putting my nose securely on the back of their seat. Hummph! Grrrr! Well, at least I can’t fall forward in the event of a “water landing”. I wonder if they really DO have the oxygen masks and floaty seat cushions, or if it’s all for show.

I somehow manage to sleep fitfully, waking up every 10 or 15 seconds saying audibly “Aaaaaoooooooooow(ch)” and then nodding off again.

Did I mention that we’re actually having a good time??? No really, it’s great, just some things – most things - aren’t exactly how I pictured them.

Arriving in Saigon was a treat. The airport is expansive and shiny, very clean, and immigration and customs were a breeze - possibly because it was 1am. Our bags came, once again, faster than they do at SFO. We were met by a boisterous man with a sign bearing my name, who prompted us into a taxi...our kite bags were put into a SUV type car, and we were taken separately in another car, which scared me a bit. My fear wasn't squashed when Mike said "That's probably the last time we see those bags." I didn't realize he was kidding, and went into panic mode until our car caught up with the other taxi containing our bags.

We stayed that night and the following night at Madame Cuc's in Saigon. We arrived very early in the morning, so the gates were locked in front of the hotel, and a very sleepy girl opened them for us. We stood there in the dark just inside the doors trying to figure out what she was saying (turns out it was "passport"). She was gesturing to us, but as it was so dark, we couldn't see what she was doing...it was very frustrating for all, since we were all tired. We finally got the passports out, which they hold at the front desk in a safe until you check out, and more importantly, pay. The hotel was very shiny and clean, and that was comforting. Following the empty-handed girl, we lugged our 50lb kite bags plus our backpacks up what seemed like 5000 flights of stairs, the lower floors having shallow steps. Each floor the stairs got steeper and steeper, which didn't make the climb any easier, and on no sleep and little food. Check out the photo, can you see the bottom floor? This photo was taken from the floor below us, so we were even further up:


Finally, we got some sleep after turning on the air conditioning...ahhhhh.

Posted by kmpossible 21:51 Archived in Vietnam Tagged air_travel Comments (2)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Arrival to Manila through Hong Kong

sunny 30 °C
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Hong Kong was just another big city airport, minus the loud, obnoxious Americans crawling everywhere. It was quiet, even in the middle of the morning when business traveling is at its peak.


Manila’s International Airport was seemingly quite small in comparison. When we entered the concourse, I realized there was no air-con at all, and it smelled like a musty basement. Luckily for us it’s only about 10,000 degrees…yea, phew! It was pretty quiet as well, though there were lots of people waiting to depart in the seating areas as we passed to immigration and baggage claim. There was no line at immigration, thank f*&k. Last time Mike was here with his dad, it took them an hour and a half to get through immigration alone, let alone baggage claim and customs…I think we got very lucky! The bags came about twice as fast as they do at San Francisco Airport – well done, Manila! Customs was very fast as well, and we promptly hopped into a pre-paid taxi (with air!) to our hotel, the Copacabana Apartments.

Passing through areas similar to areas near airports in many other places in the world, I had many random thoughts, including “wow, this is a shit hole”, “these people are truly beautiful”, and “I’ve never quite seen anything like this.” There were people EVERYWHERE…simply EVERYWHERE! "Mercedes" busses called “jeepneys”, tiny little motorcycles, bicycles with sidecars for passengers, personal cars, taxis…all weaving in and out of the lanes around each other. I was surprised at how little horn-honking was happening – these people must have never seen how it’s done in New York City. (I think the car horn is the sacred sound of NYC.) It’s a lot like Tijuana, aesthetically speaking.

The nearer we got to the hotel, the “nicer” things appeared, though very near our hotel are a few really tall, once beautiful, completely abandoned buildings. They look like they were under construction and never quite finished. Right next door is The Heritage Manila, a very large, heavily armed hotel, complete with machine-gunned guards at the doors. Seems a girl can’t swing a fake-Fendi in THIS neighborhood without knocking over at least one militant gun-for-hire.

Next: dinner!

Note: Dinner didn't actually happen since we fell asleep at about 2pm and woke back up around 10pm, only to sleep again for another 5 hours. Oi vai!

Posted by kmpossible 16:12 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Birthday Dinner

French Japanese Fusion, not your every day sushi croissants!

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El Paseo in Mill Valley, California was the location of my birthday dinner last Saturday night.

Mike treated me to a lovely five course tasting menu with wine pairings, coffee and dessert. The place isn't visible from the street, you have to walk down a cobblestone walkway (which is TREACHEROUS in high heels!) between a few buildings, to the entrance of the restaurant. The clientele seemed a bit stuffy to me, but the food...ah the food!

We had split pea soup served in little shot glasses, foie gras with pureed artichokes (served with a glass of 1960 port wine), snapper with caviar, and duck with roasted endive. Every bite made my eyes close, and every sip of wine was like a rush of tingly dancing bubbles on my tongue.

As we sat eating course after lovely, sumptuous course, we could overhear a table behind us getting louder and louder. Mike drew my attention to their table about halfway through our 3-hour dining experience to show me why. There between the 5 of them were about 7 empty bottles of wine...and they were still going! I must admit that I, too, was feeling a bit tipsy...after all, we did drink about a bottle and a half of (really REALLY good) wine each! That of course made the trip back to the truck even more treacherous over the cobblestones, but luckily Mike was steady, and we made it unscathed!

As if this weren't enough, I also got a 2005 Harley Davidson Buell, Firebolt as a birthday gift from Mike!
Of course, he got one too! They're fun and FAST! We'll greatly miss them while we're on the road.

Posted by kmpossible 18:18 Archived in USA Tagged food Comments (0)

This place called Earth

...so many things to learn, so many cocktails to try!

sunny 18 °C

In true KimPossible style, I took myself out for lunch today after selling an old motorcycle helmet on craigslist - to a place called Pacific Catch on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. The food is AMAZING...let me tell you. I truly LOVE this place! Best to go for lunch though, as the dinner crowd is, well, crowded! Between 2 and 4pm you can get a seat at the bar or a little table in front and basically have the place to yourself. However, you can put your little name on a list in the evening, and then saunter over to a nearby watering hole to prime the plumbing for the tasty fresh catch.

Today I had a rice bowl with grilled Mahi-Mahi, and a pineapple salsa that was WAY too spicy for my delicate palette! =) ...maybe I should have had more beer? As I sat drinking my 21oz Sapporo I had a brief conversation with a local named Chris, who happens to be a windsurfer. We talked about the joys of voluntary (or otherwise) unemployment and the doors it opens later in your life, believe it or not. Traveling is a choice that anyone can make...it's the things we tell ourselves we CAN'T do that hold us back. He has made a similar journey in his life to the one I'm about to make, and made note of the fact that most people when confronted with the knowledge that "I just quit my job to go travel for an indeterminate amount of time" will have a physical and visceral response...something like "Ooooooh maaaaan! I WISH I could do something like THAT!!! (while cringing and wincing)" Well, I say: Do it, damn it! You only go around once, and don't look back & say "gee if only I had..." If you really want it, you'll find a way to do it!

Anyway, I intended to try some lovely imbibement (come on, poetic license please!) that I saw on the menu after my Sapporo, but ended up with yet another Sapporo plopped down in front of me just after my fellow traveller left the restaurant. Thanks Chris!

This planet is my home, and I intend on making as many people smile every day as I possibly can...even if the only person that happens for is ME!

Posted by kmpossible 17:09 Archived in USA Tagged food Comments (2)

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