more indietronik stuff

March 26th, 2007

there\’s just too much good music coming out these days. over the last couple of weeks, i\’ve thrown together a new mix in my spare time. mostly some indietronik stuff, but some other random odds and ends as well. it\’s a bit all over the place in some ways, but there\’s some pretty sick tracks in there. check it out and leave a comment to lemme know what you think. also, last time i uploaded a mix, i guess pretty much everyone had issues downloading it for some reason. too large of a file maybe? so this time i\’m also including the mix broken up into three chunks for easier download… each of the chunks should seamlessly come together if you have itunes w/ gapless playback.

Download the entire mix here: Question mark mix.

or, download it in 3 chunks here: Question mark mix part 1, Question mark mix part 2, Question mark mix part 3.

(oh, btw, the last track is pretty NSFW so dont play it for your boss or your mom)

Tracklisiting below:

1. David Byrne – Dance On Vaselin (Thievery Corporation remix)
2. The Martin Brothers – Stoopit
3. Freeform Five – No More Conversation (Mylo Remix)
4. Man Like Me – Oh My Gosh (Hoi Polloi Mix)
5. Gameboy/Gamegirl – Sweaty Wet/Dirty Damp
6. Yelle – Je Veux Te Voir
7. Klanguage – Priceless Things
8. Crystal Castles – Air War
9. ELMar – Suck That (Colt 45\’s Remix)
10. Alan Hostage – Let\’s Pretend (PornScar Remix)
11. Cajuan – Dance Not Dance (Digitalism Mix)
12. Riot in Belgium – La Musique (Van She Tech Remix)
13. GoodBooks – Leni (Kissy Sell Out Remix)
14. Cut Chemist – What\’s the Altitude (She Wants Revenge Remix)
15. Au Revoir Simone – Fallen Snow (The Teenagers Remix)
16. The Valentinos – Kafka (Bagraiders Remix)
17. Le Castle Vania – Tigertron (Feat Factory Aire)
18. Spank Rock – Bump (Pink Skull Remix)
19. Thunderheist – sueños dulces
20. Spank Rock – Lindsay Lohan\’s Revenge

*v

Never a dull moment in the Deco Ghetto

March 19th, 2007

I was working from home today, as usual, when i heard tons and tons of sirens outside my house. this is not uncommon around here.. it seems like all the time shit is going down. usually it\’s probably the police. this time it wasn\’t though. when i looked out my window i saw a ton of black smoke gushing out of a building less than a block away. i grabbed my camera and ran outside to see what was up.

it was nuts!! this building was smoking like crazy and every once in a while you\’d see all these flames gush out of the top. there were at least 6 fire engines around, and lots of ambulances etc as well. a large crowd had gathered and we all stood there staring up at the fire. eventually, as time passed and they sprayed more and more water on it, the smoke changed from black to gray and soon i could tell that the fire was pretty under control. i\’m still not sure what caused the fire. it was so crazy though!!



the rest of the fire photos are here .

*v

Votigo.com

February 24th, 2007

for the last couple months i\’ve been working at Votigo.com, and we just beta launched our site last week. dude, it\’ so cool to see this website go live. it\’s really neat that this site that was built by me and just a tiny handful of others is now on the internet and being checked out by a bunch of users. seeing the site slowly grow is so dope!

in case i haven\’t already told you, the point of the site is online contests. people can submit either photos or videos into various contests, and then other users vote on them. also, any user can create their own contest, so as the site grows there will be more and more cool contests to check out and interesting videos/photos to watch.

right now, we\’re running this promo w/ epic records. anyone who\’s got photos of this band Augustana (i hadn\’t heard of them, but they\’re semi-big… been on letterman, vh1, etc) can submit them for the chance to win a camera. in just the last 10 days or so, the contest has gotten almost 12,000 views! not bad for a website that was just launched!

if any of you have some time, i\’d love it if you checked out the site! the url is www.votigo.com. try it out… start your own contest, enter someone else\’s contest, or just vote in contests. the more contests/photos/videos we get on the site, the better… and who knows, you just might get hooked. also, i\’d be down to hear any feedback you have. how does it look? is it easy to use? are there any things that make no sense, or could be better? any general suggestions? any help or thoughts would be great!

lemme know what you think!

a few things to keep in mind:

a) you\’ll have to register to make entries, vote, etc.

b) the site is LIVE… if you make entries/comments/whatever, make sure they are relevant and not just gibberish \”asdfgdsagfd\”, swear words, or anything else. dont mess up the site, and dont get me fired!! i hate being fired! ;)

thanks peeps!!

*v

Hong Kong

February 3rd, 2007

Our flight to Vietnam was via Hong Kong, so at one point I decided that it might be fun to cut out a couple of days from Vietnam and check our Hong Kong real quick on our way back. Also, I had agreed with my work that I would be able to work form Hong Kong for a week, so in the end, I had a few more days as well during which I could work during the day and explore town at night. Our flight to Hong Kong was god awful early… 6:30am. Which meant we need to be at the airport by 4:30, and thus be awake by 3:30. waking up at 3:30 is fucking crap. We didn’t sleep on the flight, opting to watch the latest episode of heroes instead (that show is so good!), so when we got to Hong Kong, we were completely dazed and confused. We wanted to go out and explore, but we were just too damn tired… we had to take a nap. We had rented a room in a short-stay apartment building, and when we got there it was all crazy… the hallways all glowed blue, the room was all nice with excellent views, and the shower oddly had a glass wall between it and the living room (in case you wanted to watch people shower? Or watch the living room TV while you shower?). this place was pretty sweet.

Hong Kong is a crazy crazy city. It’s a huge maze of skyscrapers, traffic filled streets, pedestrian walkways that zig zag in all directions above street level, and lots and lots of shopping. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a town w/ so many skyscrapers. Pretty much every building here is one, and they go on for days and days. It makes our financial district in SF, or any areas of LA etc look tiny. Hong Kong island has a harbor separating it from the rest of Hong Kong, and when you are at the waterfront, you can see that both sides have skyscrapers that just stretch on and on.

Hong Kong is basically built on a mountain, which makes navigating the city pretty interesting. They actually built the world’s longest escalator here so that during rush hour, people could commute to work, and then in the evening, the flow of the escalator reverses and no one has to walk up hill to get home. Because of the mountain, the streets here aren’t laid out in a grid like other places, instead they curve, bend, and go in all directions, making navigating really difficult. Plus, there is so much traffic, that you can’t cross many of these streets and are forced to take these pedestrian overpasses, that also turn randomly and often send you in the opposite direction from where you want to go. To get anywhere in town, you hardly ever can walk in a straight line and have to make a bunch of turns and loops. Parks are built right into the hillside, and Hong Kong has lots of them. Surprisingly they somehow are designed to really make you feel like you’re somewhere out in nature and you almost forget that just yards away, on the others side of some trees or a small hill, there lies a huge sprawling concrete jungle.

People here love to shop. Shopping is everywhere and I’ve never seen anything like this. There’s a shopping mall on every corner and then there are other stores filling in the gaps in between. And then, every other nook and cranny is filled w/ a starbucks/mc donalds/7-eleven/etc. On many streets you can almost not see the sky through the millions of neon signs, ads, and lights begging you to buy, buy buy. Everyone talks mad shit about how America is such a consumerist materialistic society, but I really don’t think America can compare to this. This is just too much! Plus, all the shops are mad fancy… every store is Gucci/prada/tiffany’s/rolex/etc. on the streets, everyone walks around wearing their chi-chi freshly bought clothes, pretty much everyone in town dressed in suits and designer threads.

Hong Kong is also an incredibly fast changing city. A lot of the things mentioned in our guidebook, which was published just a year ago, were gone. People here are in such a hurry to build everything bigger, better, richer that all the old stuff in the city is gone. There are hardly any old buildings left, and the ones that remain are being pushed away to make room for big business. Our guidebook mentioned how one of Hong Kong’s oldest buildings was blocking a new high-rise from being built. The building had historical value, so in the end, they reached a compromise where the building was taken apart piece by piece in order to be restored elsewhere. Unfortunately, the govt lost some pieces. Oops! A decade later, the pieces were found, but the chalk numbers that told how to reassemble the building had rubbed off. They tried to randomly assemble it, and got it sort of working, except somehow ended up w/ 6 columns left over. Oops again. When we walked to the pier, there were all sorts of leaflets and posters put up by people who were disgusted by how the govt keeps destroying parts of Hong Kong. Just recently, a famous pier had been torn down. Posters were everywhere to “save the clock tower” (kind of reminded me of back to the future). I guess Hong Kong is just trying to rush forward a little too fast…

I had been pretty excited about eating Chinese food while I was here. Chinese food is the first type of food I remember being really excited about as my family would go to Chinese restaurants often ever since I was a little kid. I had often heard that American Chinese food is nothing like the food people actually eat in china, and I was interested to see just how different it was. The are many different Chinese restaurants on Hong Kong, each serving one of the many different styles of food ranging from Cantonese (the most common here) to Sichuan to Hunan etc.

Our first time getting Cantonese didn’t really leave me impressed. Well, it was good, don’t get me wrong, but I just wasn’t very excited by it. One of the things I love about Chinese food is that it has so many bold flavors, everything is so spicy or tangy etc. this food was more… well, bland. Very little sauce, and the sauce that was there was very mild. Here, in all the different restaurants, they try to limit sauce like crazy.. if you ask for soy sauce or chili sauce or whatever, they’ll give you a tiny saucer with like 5 drops in it. Our meal actually started off with a nasty surprise. They brought out these little bowls and put them in front of us… inside was this super gnarly blackened egg with a transparent outside and a greenish mucky paste in the middle… this was the infamous 1000 year old egg. I cautiously took a bite. Mostly it tasted like a normal egg, but something was just gross about it… some kind of funky flavor coming form the greenish slimy yolk part. Caryn noticed that people were eating their eggs with ginger, and when we tried it like that, it was more palatable and I choked mine down, though caryn said she thought she might vomit. We were off to a good start! The restaurant we were at was famous for it’s fried goose, so we got some. I’m usually not a fan of duck etc, but this was pretty good. Everything else was just so-so.

Another night, we went out to a fancy Sichuan restaurant. This food was much better than the Cantonese. It actually really reminded me of the “Spices II” restaurant in sf. We had deep fried shrimp drowning in a huge mound of crispy garlic and then we got black chicken in chili peppers. Dude, they brought this enormous bowl that pretty much filled the entire table and the whole thing was completely full of red peppers. It was madness! Somewhere, beneath the surface you would find pieces of chicken, and man, they were HOT! And yeah, they were black. The skin was black, the meat was grayish, and the bones were black. It was so crazy. It turns out that there is actually a species of black boned chicken out there. how weird?!

So yeah, the rest of the Chinese food I saw in Hong Kong was kinda funky, smelled odd, and was just not really appealing. Coming to Hong Kong, I thought I was going to be eating Chinese food every single meal of the day, but after just a day or two, I didn’t want anymore at all. I suppose it might just be an acquired taste. The one exception to this is dim-sum. I *love* dim-sum, and for the most part, the dim-sum served here was similar to back home. Delicious pork buns, shrimp dumplings, etc. and surprisingly, some places even had soup dumplings. Soup dumplings are one of my favorite foods, and I crave them all the time, but I’ve only seen them one place before, and that’s at this small restaurant in the mall across from my parent’s house.

For the rest of my time in Hong Kong, I tried to stick to dim sum as much as possible. As there is usually no menu, and many of the people don’t speak English, there was often confusion when trying to order, but everything usually worked out. Just as the Chinese food back home is different than the real thing, the American food here was different than in America. At McDonald’s, you could get lobster bisque along w/ your extra value meal. Kfc served porridge. And weirdest of all, I read about a taco bell in china… it’s a sit down restaurant instead of fast food, and all the food is toned down for Chinese palates: no sour cream, no refried beans, little cheese, and they have margaritas?!

So what did we do w/ our time in Hong Kong? Not much…we really had very little time. We walked around town just to take it all in and explore the parks and high-rises. We checked out the shopping. We ate dim sum. One night we went to go watch this laser show. Usually, when I hear about a laser show, I instantly imagine that it will be super cheesy and lame and basically a tourist trap. But this actually sounded cool… you could look across the harbor at Hong Kong’s lit-up skyline and see lasers shooting all over. Well, in the end, I was right… the laser show was soooo cheesy, but checking out the view of Hong Kong at night was cool. One day, we took the tram to the top of the peak to see Hong Kong form above. The view of the city below was phenomenal. Seriously amazing. Of course, in true Hong Kong style, there was a 4 story shopping mall there too… just in case you couldn’t handle spending an hour w/ no shopping.

On Sunday morning, as we walked through town, we noticed that there were women sitting around on blankets everywhere. The sidewalks all over town were lined with small picnic blankets with groups of women hanging out, chatting, eating from Tupperware’s, playing cards. It was so random. Why were they all here? What were they all doing chilling on the sidewalk, and why hadn’t we seen this the day before? We found the answer in our book. A lot of people here have live-in maids, most of them from Indonesia, Philippines, and other poorer countries. These women usually only get one day off per week, Sunday, and since they have no real home of their own to invite people to, they all go and picnic w/ each other outside. It still seemed crazy just how many of them there were and how this whole section of town had turned into a large chill out area.

In the end, I cant say I was all that thrilled w/ HK. I mean, I’m definitely glad I got to check it out, but I just wasn’t as into it as I thought I’d be. I guess I’m just more into developing countries. Also, HK just seemed to stuffy suit-style for me. There was just something about the vibe here that I wasn’t into… like everyone was here to either get rich and show off how rich they’ve already gotten. Plus, it was just sooo expensive to be there. the cheapest hotels cost around $100. when we’d go get Chinese food, our dinners would cost like $100 for a mediocre meal for two. Everything was bank.

Partially because I wasn’t into it, and partially because the internet link that I depended on for work was a bit faulty, I decided to come home a few days early. Oh yeah, one thing I’ve forgotten to mention… there was a Bathing Ape store in Hong Kong. If you don’t know, BAPE is a Japanese clothing label that is famous for making cool and very limited edition clothing. when in Japan, we had gone looking for the BAPE store, and couldn’t find it, so I was really excited to just randomly spot a BAPE store here. Each time I walked by, there was a long line of people that wrapped around the block waiting to get inside, but one time we were able to get in. The store was DOPE. You walk in, up rainbow colored steps, and you are on a clear floor w/ shoes rolling on a moving walkway beneath you. The whole store is just designed so slick. I instantly wanted to just go on a buying spree. The whole thing about BAPE though, is that everything is very limited edition. If you buy a t-shirt, sweatshirt, whatever, you know that you will be one of a small handful of people that will ever own that exact item. You look through the racks and it’s like, oh yeah, they have this item but you can only get it in this one size and this one color… that’s your only option.. they just don’t have any more cause no more were made. Since these things are so rare, the prices are NUTS. Ok, sneakers for $200 don’t seem too crazy, but $70 for a baseball cap? $100 for a t-shirt? I asked about a sweatshirt I liked…. $280… for just a sweatshirt. Reversible yes, but still nothing crazy out of the ordinary. . I understand that high fashion designer clothes are expensive, but usually they are made in some crazy design or style or whatever, and not just a regular t-shirt or sweatshirt with a unique print. I totally wanted to buy something, but I just couldn’t spend $300 on a sweatshirt, I just couldn’t. meanwhile, I saw people in the store buying shoes for their 5 year olds. $200 shoes for a 5 year old. Dayum.

The morning that I was to leave HK, I woke up and really started regretting not having bought any BAPE stuff. Then, all of a sudden, I remembered that my parents had given me some money as a gift to spend on my trip. I hadn’t spent it yet. Plus, they had given me $$ for my Cuba trip as well that I had not ended up spending. Hmmmmm. I decided that this would be the perfect gift.. something really cool that I wanted, but would never be ok w/ buying for myself. So, I packed, got everything ready, and ran out to go to the BAPE store. I was really worried that the line would be too long and now that I had finally decided to go for it, I wouldn’t be able to get any BAPE after all. But when I walked up, there was no line. The store was shut. DOH! I was so bummed. Why hadn’t I bought the stuff earlier?! How many other chances would I have to go to a BAPE store. Argh.

I got the stuff from my hotel, and walked to the metro to catch my flight. As I walked by the BAPE store, I looked at it… still shut. Damn. I crossed the street, and just as I was about to keep walking, I glanced back, and holy shit, the roll up door had been rolled up part way. No way. I ran over, and wondered, should I just go in? will they be pissed? At that moment, a woman walked in and when I asked she said the store opens at 11am. My flight was at 12:50. if I was super quick, I could probably buy something. So I waited outside till the store opened, and walked in with my huge ass backpack, a duffel bag, and a bunch of other crap. Unlike many people who work at expensive shops, the people at the BAPE store were super nice. It’s funny, they are so anal about arranging every little thing perfectly, down to the inch. Also, when you try on a t-shirt, they cant let you try on the actual shirt, you have to try on a plain black shirt of the same size, so you know if it fits. I bought a few things, and was hella psyched. I almost contemplated buying *2* sweatshirts, but didn’t, heh.

I couldn’t believe how perfectly it had worked out. If I had walked by the sore just a few minutes earlier, it wouldn’t have been partially open. So lucky!! Well, I guess things hadn’t worked out exactly perfectly. When I got to the metro station, I was told I was too late for my flight. By the time I took the airport express, it would be too late. I begged and pleaded etc etc… but no. I had missed my flight, and had to pay $100 for a flight on the next day. Damn!! Back at my hotel, pretty much everything was booked, but they found me a room that they had been repainting, and I spent the afternoon working while breathing paint fumes. 

The next day, I made damn sure I wouldn’t miss my flight. Phew.

and here are my hong kong photos.
*v

last set of vietnam photos

January 31st, 2007

here are my last photos. these are from our last few days in saigon and our side trip.

*v

last days in \’Nam

January 31st, 2007

1/24/07

We only had a few brief days left in Vietnam after we left Hoi An. What to do with them? The one main place that we wanted to check out still was Dalat, but it really didn’t seem like we had enough time to. So, we decided to just fly back to Saigon and spend the last few days there. Coming back to Saigon, it really struck me as to how big of a city it is. It didn’t really hit me as hard when I was coming from the US, but after traveling around the rest of Vietnam, returning to Saigon with it’s 20 story buildings and bustling downtown was quite a shock. It really seems like Saigon should be the capital here, not Hanoi… but I guess that’s what happens when you are on the losing side of a civil war. first thing we did upon getting in was to have some pho at Pho 24. this chain is super big here… practically like starbucks as you can find one on every other block (yeah, yeah, if it was really like starbucks there’d be 2 or 3 of them per *each* block!). later that night, we went out to a few chi-chi bars… one of them being on top of a fancy hotel with great views overlooking the city. It’s pretty trippy being at a bar where if you grab a cigarette, the waiter will run over and light it for you.

1/25/07

There is this religious sect in Vietnam called Cao Dai. Their religion is an interesting mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and spirit worship. At one point in time, the religion was growing like crazy here, and it’s leaders pretty much ruled a huge chunk of the country. But, after the war, they lost a lot of the power they once had. Their main temple is in a town called Tay Nihn, which isn’t too far from Saigon, so we decided to hire a car and do a day trip there.

The temple was all bright and very colorful, and the worshippers were too. They wore white, red, yellow, and blue robes which stood for various things though I cant remember what. All of the worshippers filed in, walking in even rows, and then sat down to pray while some people up in the balcony played instruments and sang. It was really cool, and super unique. I’ve been to tons of churches, synagogues, mosques, Buddhist temples, but never something like this.

The second thing that we had wanted to check out that day was Ba Den mountain. But before that, we had to get some food since we were starving. Our driver pulled over at a random restaurant on the side of the road. When we walked in, the few people who worked there went nuts. This area gets pretty much no western tourists, and so they were totally not expecting us at all. Everyone jumped up, and frantically started pushing chairs and tables around, putting table cloths on, etc etc while shyly giggling the whole time. Finally things were ready… but none of them spoke English. Hrm. One of them ran to the car to get our driver, but as they ran off, I knew it would be hopeless… our driver knew pretty much no English either.

So there we were. Everyone staring at each other, laughing, and not knowing what to do. Finally, someone hopped on a motorbike and raced off. They came back with another girl who handed us a menu. The menu, of course, was written in Vietnamese. So, we pulled out our guidebook and laboriously tried to translate the menu. Unfortunately, hardly anything we saw on the menu was to be found in our book… but luckily, we did find one thing, so we ordered that and also agreed to some shrimp when the girl pointed to a picture of shrimp. We were then herded back into our car and driven to this other restaurant (apparently the first one, despite setting the table etc etc, couldn’t make food?!), where we finally got fed. The whole episode was really damn funny, and is a great example of what I love about traveling… whacky confusion like that just doesn’t really happen at home, but here you never know what to expect!

At the mountain, it was a long and hot hike up… but somehow we made it up in half the time the guidebook said it would take us. We didn’t really know what top expect at the top, and you couldn’t really ever make stuff out through all the trees until the end where there was a long narrow staircase that I raced up… at the top, there was a large beautiful temple with a huge reclining Buddha a bit farther up the hill. Monkeys ran around from tree to tree and pestered people for food. There was some kind of ceremony going on inside the temple, and when we came to watch it, this old nun, with only three teeth, hobbled up and with a huge grin, gave us some tangerines. It was really cool.


huge dragon on the hillside


caryn, glad to be almost done

We took a gondola on our way back down the mountain. Looking to the side, it turned out that there was this huge metal slide that goes all the way down the mountain and you can rent these little carts to zip down. That would have been so crazy fun! back in town we had some delicious sushi, and then decided to go check out a club for a bit. This club, Apocalypse Now, was one of the longest running clubs in Saigon. The atmosphere inside was so random. There wasn’t much of a dance floor per se, mainly just a bunch of high tables scattered throughout the room, with a small dance area to the side. But people were dancing and stuff at their own tables, or between the tables, or wherever. And then, the soccer game was on and people were watching that too. This was like a cross between a bar and a club all mashed together. The music was all cheesy top 40 hits etc, but people were really digging it and it was actually a pretty fun atmosphere.

1/26/07

It was our last day in Vietnam. Started off the day by going to Pho 2000. I got the vermicelli bowl. I usually like to add chili sauce and hoisin to my vermicelli, even though I do realize that those are mainly for pho. So, I reach for the chili sauce, and just as I do that, the Vietnamese girl across the table totally jolts up, looks at me with a horrified expression on her face, and starts shaking her head frantically. It was SO funny. She really really freaked out! Well, I went ahead and added it anyways… I like it, what can I say?

We spent most of the afternoon rushing about and trying to buy souvenirs. A lot of frantic and fast bargaining, and I think we did a fairly good job of buying junk. We were in a hurry because we had an appointment for that afternoon. Now, I’ve never been one of those sissy boys that likes to go around getting facials or anything… well, until that day. One of the things that sucked about Vietnam in comparison to Thailand, was that there was no Thai massage. Dude, I wanted my Thai massage dammit! well, actually, there were *some* massage places, but those were the kind w/ the “happy ending”. So, on our last day we decided to go to a nice place and get real good massages. We both got these 3.5 hour packages which included a massage, a foot massage, and… a facial. Ok, now, why anyone would want to sit around and get a bunch of gunk rubbed on their face is beyond me, but it was included, so I figured, why not?

In the end, the whole massage experience was hella dope actually. It started off with this sauna part, which I actually didn’t really enjoy at first. It was soooooo hot, I could barely breath from all the steam, and it was pretty much painful. Eventually I got used to it though, and when they brought the iced tea in… dude, that shit was soooooo good. Next came the massage. 1.5 hours, and the chick did a really good job… crazy relaxing. Then, the facial part. Even though I thought it was gonna be lame.. I actually really enjoyed it. It was like an hour long face massage, and surprisingly, even all the various creams, towels, and this-and-that’s that they used were super cool. It was definitely a bit odd.. like sometimes they cover my whole face with a towel with just my nose sticking out so I could breathe, but still really cool… and my face was damn shiny afterwards! The last part, the foot massage, was great as well… and I left there feeling like a new man. Sooo chill and relaxed.

We had a one final dinner at “one of Vietnam’s best restaurants” which actually ended up being unimpressive, and that’s it… Vietnam was done!!

*v

and even more vietnam photos

January 29th, 2007

here are my photos from Hue.

here are my photos from Hoi An.

*v

Hoi An

January 29th, 2007

1/20/07-1/24/07

Hoi An is a small town in central Vietnam, not too far to the east of Hue. As our bus rolled into town, it stopped to pick up a travel agent who proceeded to hold us hostage for the next half an hour. She had the bus drive to several of her hotels, badgered us at each one to get off the bus and book a room, and would not let us go into town until she was done w/ us. So annoying!

Hoi An is a really nice town. They have all sort of laws here that don’t allow the buildings to be changed, so the town looks a lot like it did a hundred years back with really cool architecture and even though it’s bursting at the seams w/ tourists, it somehow maintains a relaxed small town feel. This was definitely the vietnam we had been hoping to see. We spent some time wandering the streets and checked out some of the temples, old houses, etc in town.

Hoi An is also really famous for its food, and here we had some of the best Vietnamese food on our trip. Pretty much every meal we ate here was super good. On our first afternoon, we at this tiny outdoor eatery. The owner came out and brought us a ton of food without us saying anything. She proceeded to show us how everything worked: you put an egg roll and some grilled pork into a wrapper, added fresh herbs and Kim Chee, and then dipped the whole thing into chili peanut sauce. It was so damn good! As we ate, the owner chatted w/ us and taught us how to say various things in Vietnamese. At another restaurant, we tried three of Hoi An’s specialties: white rose (a shrimp dumpling), fried wontons, and a special kind of noodle soup w/ croutons. Everything was super good… so good in fact that even Daniel liked it! Daniel is an extremely picky eater, more of a fan of macaroni or pizza than Vietnamese food, but he has been giving Vietnamese food a shot and to my surprise, tried a whole bunch of stuff over the week he spent w/ us. A lot of it I could tell wasn’t really his thing, but a bunch of the food in Hoi An went over quite well.

Another thing that Hoi An is famous for is its shopping. The town is exploding w/ tailors and this is *the* place in Vietnam to get suits made for cheap. You go in, you choose your fabrics, you choose the style, they measure you up, and you end up getting a suit specifically tailored to you. And it’s not just suits, you can get shirts, jackets, shoes, etc etc. show them a photo of something in a fashion magazine, they’ll copy it in just a day. A lot of the stuff we saw while window shopping looked really good, so we all decided to get some clothes made. And not just a little… each of us got a bunch of stuff.

In the end, the whole process got to be a bit stressful. They, of course, try to crank this stuff out as fast as possible. If you’re not super anal and picky over every little thing and examine it carefully, they’re prone to make all sorts of mistakes. If they mess something up, you have to come back after they try to fix it… sometimes again and again and again. I’m not sure just how much time we spent in shops while in Hoi An, but it was quite a bit. In the end, I got 6 shirts that I’m happy with, and a suit that I’m happy with too (I’ll have to look it over again once I get home). I got two pairs of shoes which look ok, but you can pretty much tell they’re cheaply made copies, and then I got this one jacket. The jacket was quite a fiasco, and as soon as I tried it on, I could tell I shouldn’t have ordered it. It looked ok I guess, but something about it just was really off. It was cut all wrong, and I tried explaining this to them, but they just didn’t get it (or didn’t care). I went back several times for them to fix things on it, but the jacket never looked right in the end. I guess when people say that you get what you pay for, they’re usually right!

South of Hoi An, there are all of these old ruins at My Son. We rented scooters for the day to go check them out. The temples themselves were pretty cool, but for me, the most fun part really was riding the scooters. It’s a total blast to be zipping down the road, weaving around traffic and checking out the scenery on all sides. You can take your own pace and stop wherever you please… so much more freedom than taking a tour. Both Daniel and caryn were a bit apprehensive about renting scooters in Vietnam. After seeing the utter insanity of how people drive in Saigon, it definitely was a bit intimidating… but traffic here was a lot more chill. Other than a few crazy intersections, we had no trouble.

On the way back, we decided to stop and get some pho. So far, for the whole trip, we had eaten only at restaurants that we had seen in our guidebook etc… ones w/ western menus that cater to tourists frequently. I really wanted to try something off the beaten path, so we just stopped at a random spot in the middle of nowhere. We pointed at the sign that said Pho, and made a gesture that we wanted 3. it ended up being pretty good, and the couple of locals that were around got really excited that we were there.

Sadly, the next day, my brother had to leave. We went out to one of hoi an’s many bars that night, and just kicked it. That night we saw this douche bag Australian guy take a large bite out of a pint glass and spit it back into the glass. What a dumbass.

The rest of the time in hoi an was spent shopping for souvenirs, more shopping, and more eating. This one restaurant, Café des Amis, was sooo damn good. There’s no menu, you just choose seafood, veggie, or meat, and they serve you whatever they feel like. 6 or so courses worth. Pretty much everything they served was so damn good! So good actually, that we ate there the following night again, when we were served all new dishes. Yum!

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more vietnam photos

January 26th, 2007

here are my photos of halong bay.

here are my photos of Sapa.

*v

Hue

January 26th, 2007

1/17/07

It was still dark when I woke up to go catch my flight to Hue. I was only half awake when I stepped out of my hotel and on the tiny stairs outside (just 3 steps!) I managed to somehow roll my ankle and collapse in a heap w/ my huge backpack on. It’s pretty embarrassing, falling like that, and to make matters worse, my knee was bleeding pretty good when I got up and my ankle was throbbing. Just great. The only thing the taxi driver had for me to put on my knee was a sheet of paper from his dirty notebook. I rinsed my knee with water upon arriving to the airport, but it ended getting infected, I think, and ended up oozing mysterious gunk for the next few days. Yuck.

Pretty much all the flights to Hue had been full that day, and I had been lucky enough to snag the very last seat… caryn had to stay behind and catch a flight the next day. The seat that I got was business class, and only cost like $20 more than economy. Flying business class was actually pretty cool. I got to hang out in the business class lounge before the flight where you could get free soup, snacks, and drinks. On the flight, the seats were all comfy, we got hot towels a few times, and the food was nicer than economy. At the end of our flight, the shuttle to the terminal took off as soon as the last business class passenger got on board, even though there were only like 10 of us, and left the economy passengers behind to wait for the next one. Wow, so this is how the other half lives?

My brother’s flight came in later that day. It was really exciting to see him. We had hung out for a couple of weeks in Japan, and it was cool to get to hang out w/ him in a foreign country again. It had been a bit of a toss up near the end as to whether he would be able to come or not, but in the end, he was able to do it, if only for a super short 6 day trip. We went out to dinner where he told me about his adventures over the last day (he had spent a day in Saigon on his own. Somehow my brother always gets into some zany situations when he’s on his own abroad.

Dinner was pretty good. In Hue, there are many dishes were you put together your own food at the table. They serve you these super thin rice paper wrappers, and you fill them w/ various meats, vegetables, and other fillings. Daniel looked a bit nervous at first, but I think he ended up being ok w/ the food. The owner of this restaurant was this deaf mute guy who was hella funny as he kept miming these different things to us. After our meal, he made us each a bottle opener made out of a stick with a bolt through it. He set each of our bottle openers on a large 22 ounce beer and then made a karate chopping motion and pointed at the two beers. No way. Was he really gonna open both beers at one w/ one karate chop?!? Yup. Smack! And both bottles opened right up. So cool! After dinner, we walked around town for a little longer, but my brother was super jetlagged, and so we crashed out early.

1/18/07

Caryn met up with us today and we went to go check out town. Unfortunately, it was raining. Everywhere, the streets were filled w/ people riding scooters while wearing huge ponchos or riding bikes in ponchos. Often times, there would be like 3 or 4 people on a scooter, with one huge poncho covering all of them, and only the person in front could actually see out while the rest of the people were completely covered. How scary would that be… riding on a scooter in the rain and unable to see anything whatsoever? It’s crazy, scooters are so popular here, that a lot of the ponchos have a clear panel about half way down the front. Why? So the scooter’s headlight can shine through the poncho at night.

Hue is divided into two main parts, the old city which has a huge citadel with lots of pagodas etc, and the new city which is more modern. Since the thought of walking in the rain all day didn’t sound to appealing, we all rented cyclos and had them cart us around to some of the major sites. It’s funny, whenever I would see a tourist in a cyclo, I would roll my eyes and think that it was such a cheesy touristy thing to do… but really, it’s quite a nice way to spend a few hours. It’s pretty relaxing to just sit back and check out different parts of town. Our drivers would give us brief descriptions of stuff that we drove by, at least as much as they could w/ their limited English, and also showed us how to get into some places that seemed inaccessible.

There are several ponds in the citadel area and one of them was filled with an insane amount of koi. This guy would throw food into the water and all the koi would swarm around. There were so many that some of them were slithering over each other and were coming out of the water in order to get at the food!

Later that day we went to go check out the Thien Mu pagoda. It’s this multi-story tower and is for many people the symbol of Hue.

For dinner that night, we ate at a French Vietnamese restaurant. Caryn and I ordered a set menu and there was an insane amount of food… like 8 or 9 courses. Pretty much all of it was really good, but by the end we were sooo stuffed.

1/19/07

We decided to take a tour of the DMZ, the “demilitarized” zone that used to separate north and south Vietnam. I’ve never really been a war buff or anything, but I think it’s important to learn about such things and also, knowing a country’s history tells you a lot about why the country is the way it is today. I’ve been on some crappy tours in my time, with guides who just droned on and on, or were barely intelligible and honestly I didn’t have the highest expectations for this one. But it turned out that our tour guide was super good. He actually had grown up in this area and had hung out w/ American soldiers when he was a kid. His uncle and brother had fought in the south Vietnam army during the war. He had lived during Vietnam’s communism days where all businesses were owned by the government, and people had to live off food coupons that gave them 1 pound of meat for a whole month. All of the stories he told were very personalized and thus extremely fascinating. Other than knowing that the Vietnam war was pretty unpopular by many in the US and about the protests etc, I actually knew very little about the war, so it was very interesting to learn about it.

On the tour we stopped by many areas that played key roles during the war. First, we stopped by the bridge over the Ben Hai river which used to separate north and south Vietnam. The next stop was one of the highlights of the tour. During the war, the Vietnamese built a lot of underground tunnels where many people would live to keep themselves safe from American bombing. A lot of these tunnels are gone now, but some of them, like the vinh moc tunnels still exist and you can walk around inside them. It’s so nuts… these tunnels are so tiny, you cant really fully stand up and they’re only like 3 feet wide. So cramped! It’s insane to think that many many families lived here for years on end. Each family would get a small “room” to themselves that was maybe like 5 feet by 6 feet wide. Just being down there for the 20 minute tour made me feel extremely claustrophobic and sketched out… what if the tunnels somehow collapsed? And, back when people were living here during the war, they had to always worry about bombs dropping on them and destroying the tunnels.


this is how large each family\’s room was

We also stopped by the famous military base of khe san were one of the most important battles of the Vietnamese war happened. Our tour guide told us that sometimes he leads tours here for US veterans who fought in the war. I cant even imagine what that might be like… returning back to a place that must have such insane and horrific memories. All in all, it was a very informative day. It’s interesting that it took going to Vietnam to get me to learn some of my own country’s history!

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