單車尖帽 Non-la on your helmet

Another modification of Pazu's bike accessory is a non-la on the helmet. The typical conical hat that you see in Vietnamese movies or streets, is called non- la in Vietnamese and became almost a national symbol. In the old time people of both sexes wore this to keep them cool, now it's almost strictly used by women only... Why? We don't know! What you need to do is: Either keep the whole hat, or cut the top of it. Pazu cut it because of "better ventilation", and also he thinks it may be of lesser air resistance (not proven yet). He can also attach my Cateye flashlight on top.

Side-effect: It has an unexpectedly enormous comedy effect, Pazu guessed because non-la is something so native and familiar to Vietnamese, any modification would be seen as extremely outraged, exaggerated and thus hilarious. I'll ask him to upload more photos later. (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050225-00103)


單車防狼器 Rape alarm for your bike

Since Pazu didn't have a lot to do in My Tho these days, he made some modification to his bike, most of them were useless. Have a look here - Pazu said, " Personally I have already established an emotional attachment to my bike, I would get hurt if you touch it, don't even try to ride on it or I think you're sexually harrassing it! So let's do it now, set a rape alarm for your bike!"

A. Material - 1. Fishing string (as thin as possible, don't use dental floss as substitute, it'll be broken sooner or later.) 2. Clip (steal one from your office) 3. Rape alarm (US$1-2, you can find it in those one-dollar/10-dollar /100-yen Japan shop easily), buy a smaller one, it's easier to be "hid" on your bike.

B. Modification - One side of the alarm is a key-ring, the other is an alarm trigger, pull the trigger out and you'll need ear plugs. Now attach a fishing string on the trigger hole, tie a knot with the clip on the other side of the string. Cover the alarm with a waterproof plastic bag, then try to hide the alarm on your bike near the seat tube. Use any of your sense to fix it tight, cover with duct tape etc.

C. Play it right - Clip the string on the rear wheel's spoke, as shown in the photo on the right. Can you spot the string? Better not.

Now ask your friend to ride on it in a crowded area. (Note: the original idea of setting a rape alarm on a bike was suggested by Guru Oat, Thailand) (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050224-00102)


白金牙醫 Dentist Kim

Anh Luan the Accountant was pretty anxious to get back Pazu's passport ASAP, Pazu knew he gave Anh Luan some trouble to "skip" our record of staying at the hotel, the police wasn't an easy folk to deal. So time had come, and we went to Ho Chi Minh City for a day trip to get back the document, Anh Luan also took the time to visit some of his friends while Pazu did the following: 1, Cut his hair. 2, Buy some good coffee powder (something difficult to find in My Tho). 3, Fill his teeth. The third task was actually quite out of sudden. When Pazu finished cutting his hair in the Friendly Guesthouse (Bui Vien Street, you won't miss the newly made grand salon of Perm Beauty), he was wandering around and saw a big Vietnamese dentist clinics building, Pazu was always skeptical about the medical service in Vietnam, but the clinics was opened on 25/1/2005, the building was big, it was pink like a hotel and they had an elevator! The check-up was free so why shouldn't he give it a try? Once inside, it looked even more impressive, it was quite like the governmental dental clinics in Hong Kong (" . "), the dentist was a lady who was born in 1978 and graduated from the Medical University of Ho Chi Minh City, her name was Trần Thị Bạch Kim (hundred golds, 陳氏白金). It might be the fault of Pazu to ask so many questions, Dentist Kim almost yelled (in a very soft tone though), "Do you believe me?" "Okay, I put my faith on you!" Pazu said. Dentist Kim was like the Khmer kids on the road who almost laughed to death because of the presence of Kong Junior. Pazu's teeth was at a temporary risk. Nonetheless the composite filling was perfect, and it's only 100,000 dong (US$6.3), a polishing costs another 150,000 dong (US$9.6). So here's the address, in case you need their service. Trung Tâm Tẩy Trắng Răng, 125 Lê Thị Riêng, P. Bên Thành, Q1. ÐT: 08-9256501, 9256502. Morning: 8-12; afternoon: 1330-2100; Sunday closed. (Vietnam: My Tho <-> Ho Chi Minh City, 20050221-00101)


素食者 Vegetarian

Toni and Agnes cycled from a different route from Cambodia through the Mekong Delta and we met again in My Tho, Pazu showed them another new magic trick (aka Punjabi trick), Pazu was happy that they were flummoxed again. Agnes exclaimed, "How can that be?" Toni was trying to give out some explanations but failed to convince himself. "Well... perhaps I will tell you the secret if I see you again!" Pazu said. They visited Pazu's grandpa's teahouse, it's a small family business, something Pazu always found so ordinary, but they said it was fantastic and Agnes suggested that we can turn it to a tourist spot. Where are the authors of the Lonely Planet? During the couple's short stay here (2 nights), we went to Uncle Duong's favorite restaurant Chi Thanh (recommended by LP, but Pazu won't suggest you to go) and ate some tiger prawns. Kong Junior said, "Hey but isn't Toni a vegetarian? I saw him eating prawn too..." Pazu said, "Shhh..... it's supposed to be a secret!" So let's see another photo here. (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050220-00100)


西瓜 Watermelon

The big contrast of being in Vietnam is the sudden emergence of endless supply of natural resources, as seen in the field, in the restaurants, or in the market. The right photo was taken in Cambodia, while the right was in Vietnam. What made the watermelon so different in size in the same Indochina region? The Vietnamese gigantic watermelon is a special variety grown for the Chinese New Year (Tet), Uncle Dan said it was big (for decoration), but not delicious when compared to the smaller one... what he meant to be "smaller" was still much bigger than the Khmer melons. The Cambodian Daily had a news about the government of Cambodia wanted to export their products to Japan, but they knew "Japanese requires a high quality", Pazu just wondered what they could export to Vietnam... it turned out to be timber, more than 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) of Cambodian forest were cut down from 1990 to 1995, no wonder the landscape along the highway looked so insipid there. (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050215-00099)


官僚作風 Bureaucracy

It was the end of the Tet festival, everybody came back from their home-towns to start working, but before starting to work, let's have a big lunch! Here's the photo, taken at Pazu's grandpa's home, a tea leaves shop. // During the Tet festival, we were staying at Chuong Duong Hotel, it was US$25 a night, totally out of our budget but Pazu's grandpa paid for everything, Pazu still thought it was too expensive, so after his family left for Hong Kong, he wanted to change to another cheaper guesthouse. Pazu's Vietnam visa was still valid for another 25 days, but because he went to HCMC to send his family to the airport yesterday, he took the chance to extend his visa, something that the lower police in My Tho couldn't do. The Saigon police charged US$10 for the extension and would hold your passport for a week, but interestingly they wouldn't let you do the extension by yourself, Pazu had to do it through a tour company, and paid US$25 instead, I guess the tour company wouldn't be able to get 100% of the surplus US$15. Pazu came back to My Tho and changed his hotel today. The annoying thing about Vietnam was that the hotel manager said they couldn't take him even though Pazu had a copy of all the papers, the manager said he didn't have a passport, he didn't have a visa or he didn't have a "valid receipt from the Saigon police". Do you see the funny points here? Pazu's uncle went to the police station and tried to explain the situation, "No no, you're not allowed to stay here!" was the final reply. Uncle helped us to move all the luggage to yet another guesthouse, and Anh Luan worked there as an accountant. The problem wasn't solved yet, but Anh Luan had his way to register the data, it was a bit out of the line, but remember the first rule of bureaucracy was that there was always a large grey area. If bureaucracy is a problem, it's a phenomenal problem in Vietnam; but if bureaucracy can challenge your temper, it wouldn't have the same effect to other Vietnamese (Chinese or Kinh). Pazu's family took this matter as usual, and said it was just a matter as small as a sesame and green bean. So welcome to Vietnam, the government is wanting your visit. (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050214-00098)


春節 Spring Festival

It was the Chinese New Year (9 Feb) and Pazu's family from Hong Kong came to visit us and grandpa in My Tho. Pazu went to Tan Son Nhat Airport to see them coming, it had been a year since Pazu met his Mom, now after cycling and lots of exercise, Pazu became fitter, slimmer, healthier and darker (sun-tanned), but in Mom's eyes it was a different story, she exclaimed, "Oh my goodness, you look like a drug addict! I want to cry!!!" Okay, so we went first to a very good German restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, then once arrived in My Tho to see our grandpa, we ate some good Vietnamese food at the best restaurant in My Tho (called Bach Dong Vien, you wouldn't find it in the Lonely Planet because the authors didn't know Vietnamese food), every night we went to some good restaurants, and Mom brought us several hundred kilograms of snacks from Hong Kong. Ah, Kong Junior was very well fed and Pazu said, "Yes I'm very well fed too!" Pazu's family stayed in Vietnam for 5 days only, and went back to Hong Kong on 13 Feb. (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050212-00097)


花市 Flower market

If your Vietnamese friends tell you they are from a poor country, then ask them to cross the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, it's better than any propaganda to let Viets to feel proud of their country ('s construction). Wow, we suddenly felt for the first time that Vietnam was a very developed place. Roads are filled with colorful and magnificent colors, green from farms, blue from motors and red from banners asking everybody to use condom and contribute to build a rich, strong and civilized nation! Check this old video, a year ago Pazu described the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City as crazy, but after experiencing Phnom Penh we couldn't complain much anymore, we actually find the traffic in this big city a bit pleasant (by comparison of course!), drivers still wouldn't give you space, but the enormous presence of cyclists kept the bigger vehicles going slowly only. There were some flower markets everywhere, they sold flowers only, many locals carrying film or digital cameras kept taking pictures, the biggest attraction to us should be the people wearing colorful traditional dress, ao dai, it's really quite a contrary to Cambodia. (Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, 20050207-00096)


不要碰我的單車 Don't touch my bike!

不要碰我的單車 Don't touch my bike! Sugarcane juice has a high level of sucrose, which can then be hydrated almost immediately into glucose and easily converted to an immediate energy source. Everyday we made a few stops at the roadside sugarcane juice stalls to recharge our battery, the amazing thing is that these people, although apparently quite poor, never wanted more of our money, they see us as richer foreigners but still charged us the same price (500 riel) for a glass, it's quite the contrary of their Vietnamese counterparts. Khmers, you're lovely! This is our last day in this country, but we'll be back! We stopped at another juice stall before we set off for Vietnam, an old lady came and suddenly took the helmet of Pazu, she said, "Bye-bye~!" And waved her hands. She almost rid on our bike! But what happened to her? Click here to see the video. We have told her again and again not to touch our bike, because it's dangerous to your health! We arrived at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border at 15:00, the Khmer immigration officer turned on the fan for us, he said it was very hot here and the exit procedure was amazingly fast, Khmer office bid us farewell. We arrived at the Vietnamese office at 15:05, we waited there for half an hour and the stoned face officer didn't utter a word, just made a gesture as if backpackers waving to those cyclo-drivers, asking them to piss off. So now we were back in Vietnam! What's the border effect? We didn't know. But this side seemed to be obviously richer, greener, even more organized! We heard lesser kids shouting "hellos" (which is actually a blessing, we're tired of it already). We stopped at a roadside noodles stall and ordered in Vietnamese, Pazu had almost forgotten this language, it was awkward to speak it again, like a blast from the past. The hu-tieu noodles was so delicious, the road was extremely crowded, highly illuminated, even safe to ride at night, so here we were, we rid all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, arrived there at 19:00. It was still 15km to the town center, but we didn't want to go there so late, better stay at the outskirt for tonight. stay: Khách sạn Thanh Loan, 60/B Cư Xá Bà Ðiểm, QL22, H. Hóc Môn, TP HCM, 8-835666 (60,000đ for a very big room with shower, full of people renting the room for an hour only...) (Cambodia: Kompong Trabek to Hóc Môn of Vietnam, 138.71km, 20050205-00095)


橫渡湄公 Crossing the Mekong

Time is running short as the Chinese New Year is approaching, we have to go back to My Tho to see Pazu's grandpa. This leg of road was much improved last year, it's still not perfect now, but already in quite good condition. Just when we were riding on the road, a man sitting on top of a truck loaded full of pigs suddenly screamed, "hooorrr, horrrr!!!" His sound was so scary, it turned out that a pig felt out of the truck, right in front of us. National Highway 1 connecting Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City is not a complete road, at Neak Luong all transportations had to be loaded on a big ship and cross the Mekong River, obviously a bridge would be built in the future, but just nobody knew when, and definitely it wouldn't be cheap. After Neak Luong, the road became much wider, but traffic was extremely thin because of the "dilution effect" of the bigger road. In a word, this ride was very pleasant, it seemed almost like we were occupying the whole road, we could even ride an S path without any interference. So free! We stopped tonight at Kompong Trabek, a very small town. There's a guesthouse right next to the highway, stay: Guesthouse (US$3, Tel: 016-964287). The friendly owner kept telling us something about "5 to 11", we couldn't understand but wanted to make sure everything was right, he finally found an "English teacher" who told us the electricity supply was from 5pm to 11pm only, after that the town had a black-out. The "English school" was right next to the guesthouse so we went there and had a look, What's your name? My name is.. andyou? Where do you live? I live in Kompong Trabek andyou? What's your nationality? I'm Khmer or Cambodianandyou? Why do you learn English? I learn it for my job, for my future andyou? ... Everything was followed immediately by an "andyou" tag. we really saw some kids questioning in this fashion, now we understand why! The teacher's nationality is Khmer, name is Moeuk Rosaly, age is 22, phone number is 011823899, he said he earned only 2000 riels (US$0.5) for an hour, the kid paid him 200r or 500r for the class. (Cambodia: Phnom Penh to Kompong Trabek, 90.53km, 20050204-00094)


又見面 Met again

Remember Toni and Agnes, the Deutsch-Canadian couple? We met them again near the bike shops around the Capitol Guesthouse. Each of us bought a pair of bike handles there for US$2, and again, we had some Indian Thali at night. Agnes said, "Hey Pazu, Toni kept saying he wanted to learn all your magic tricks!" No no, I wouldn't teach you all except one, a simple one first. I showed them the secret, Agnes seemed to be quite gifted and got it right away, she performed it in front of Toni and Toni's mind was twisted, he exclaimed, "Ah, I'm not very good at it! I need more practice!" They also bought Kong Junior a special gift, it's the Chinese five-star flag, Pazu had been searching it for a long time but couldn't find it (he could only find a Hong Kong flag!), so thank Toni and Agnes, Kong Jr could become a superman even without a telephone booth. At the Indian restaurant we met another Belgian cyclists, S & R they bought a Chinese-made foldable bikes (US$50) and wanted to make a round in Southeast Asia, we weren't very optimistic but wish you guys good luck! (Cambodia: Phnom Penh, 20050202-00093)


失心瘋的交通 Insane traffic

The traffic in Bangkok was busy but non-threatening, we never felt any danger there. But Phnom Penh was really another story, the first rule is no rule while the second rule is go against all rules. Motorbikes come from all directions in full speed, without lights at night, and what made the situation worse was even in the town center the street lamps were dim or even didn't exist. Pazu hated riding a bike here. See the photo, it was taken outside a cinema, we felt we could see these faces on the road in the capital city every day. Besides this, everything in the capital seemed to be quite nice. (Cambodia: Phnom Penh, 20050202-00092)


天氣真熱 It's hot here!

It was very hot, really hot here, the town center was as busy as usual, but the eastern side of town near the Tonle Sap remained to be very sleepy. Imagine you have no bed, no mattress, no hammock, and how can you sleep? So look at this motor-taxi driver. Pazu said, "This is a skill trained possible only in the crazy traffic of Phnom Penh!" Stay: Hello Guesthouse (US$4/single with bathroom and no TV), No. 242, Ph 107, there're a few rooms on the ground floor so you can put your bike in. (Cambodia: Phnom Penh, 20050201-00091)