Teacher Ty, 9 years old

This is Trương Nguyễn Lê Huy, but everyone just calls him Tý. He's only 9 years old but is Pazu's Vietnamese teacher. One day Pazu wanted to send a letter and photos to My Anh in Qui Nhon, this boy helped Pazu to correct all the spelling mistakes, Pazu said, "Ty is better than Kim Tu Dien (an e-dictionary)!" Pazu made some fun of him by calling him Teacher Ty, he was very shy and embarrassed, kept saying, "No no no, don't say this!" But he was actually very happy. Today Ty gave Pazu a special farewell souvenior, a Kamen-Raider mask (Masked Rider, a Japanese animation)! Pazu mounted it in front of the bike, and now we can be as powerful as Kamen Raider X! (Vietnam: Hội An (會安), 20050331-00120)


Children of Mymy

These two kids are the children of Sister Thach My the Tailor, Phuoc and Thien. Thach My always said, "I don't know how to deal with them!" But Pazu found them very funny and lovely, if not a bit crazy, so let's put a picture in our blog. (Vietnam: Hội An (會安), 20050329-00119)


Liberation Days almost everywhere

Thirty years ago it must be a very different place here, we saw so many celebrations these days, from Phan Thiet to Danang, all with one theme only, LIBERATION (Giai Phong). It's the GF Day of Nha Trang, it's the GF Day of Danang... So why did we come to Danang City (30km away from Hoi An), there's a Lao Consulate, we came by bus to get our visa, and returned back to Hoi An. It was so terrible on the bus, the driver just kept horning his horn, it was like a Nitendo game, whenever he saw a bicycle or motorbike, he pushed his horn as if he could get some score... some interesting point worths mentioning was the price of the Lao visa, it costs US$25 for Hong Kong Chinese, or US$14 for Mainland Chinese, $40 for Canadian, $8 for Malaysian... (Vietnam: Hội An (會安), 20050328-00118)


Back to another dear Hoi An

After a short ride, we arrived back in Hoi An. It's one of the two most favorite places in Vietnam for us (the other is Qui Nhon!). We met again most of the old friends here, Sister Thach My the Tailor who said she had better business than last year, the Old Headmaster is still selling porcelin outside his home near the Japanese Bridge, Uncle Phieu (標) is also sitting inside the Teochew Community Hall and chatted with the old man who checked tickets everyday. Today is the last day of the Le Hoi (festival) of Culture, with a very big show featuring some artists from Yunnan of China, Spain, France, Japan, and of course, Vietnamese. It was so crowded with people that we almost found it a bit dangerous to cross the short bridge across the Thu Bon River. Here Kong Junior was standing behind a group of models (from Hanoi) at the backstage. (Vietnam: Tam Kỳ (三岐) to Hội An (會安), 63.6km, STAY: Khách sạn Hợp Yến, 16A Nhị Trưng, 0510-863153, 0914020637, hopyenhotel@yahoo.com, $7 for a very big room with hot shower and satellite TV, it's a bit expensive, but that's quite the norm in Hoi An, and we really like this hotel. 20050327-00116)


Cycling in the rain

Today shouldn't be a day for cycling, it's a raining day! The raining was so strange that whenever we found a shelter and stopped, the rain almost stopped immediately. We did it more than 5 or 6 times, and every time it took about 10 minutes for the rain to stop; and when we went back on the national highway for 20 minutes, the rain started again! Pazu said, "Oh that's more annoying than the drivers playing their horns!" We stopped at another house shelter again (with nobody there, god blessed us!), and Pazu read his book for two hours. The basic pattern for today's ride was almost like resting for a long time and riding for a very short distance... we passed through some guesthouses on the way but Pazu just didn't feel like stopping. It's perhaps because of the loneliness caused by the farewell that he just wanted to keep riding all night. So finally we arrived at a place that we didn't know the name, found an empty cafe bar, and stayed there for a whole night watching the traffic on the national highway. It was a very special experience and we enjoyed it a lot, though it's a bit cold out there, the raining was quite romantic anyway. We arrived at a place call Quang Ngai the next morning, it's a big town, and the staff at the hotel are very friendlier! About the photo, it's a frequent scene on the national highway, there's even a proverb in Vietnam that if you come to Vietnam without seeing To Quoc Ghi Cong, you haven't been to Vietnam yet. "To Quoc Ghi Cong" means the Achievement of the Fatherland, a big memorial for the martyrs who died fighting for American, or South Vietnamese... (Vietnam: Qui Nhơn (歸仁) to Quảng Ngãi (廣義), 180.77km, STAY: Khách Sạn Kim Thành, 60000d for a room on G/F, 18 ÐL Hùng Vương, Quảng Ngãi, tel: 055-823471. 20050325-00115)


Farewell Qui Nhon

Friends in Qui Nhon always asked us, "How long are you going to stay here this time?" Pazu's answer has always been 3 or 4 days, yet we stayed for a week! It's not long when compared to what we did last year (2 months in total), but we have only a very short visa this year, and have to cycle to the Lao border in a very short time, so a week is already quite like an overstay already. So let's have a farewell dinner, we'll say goodbye tomorrow! (Vietnam: Qui Nhơn (歸仁), 20050323-00114)


又回到歸仁 Back to our dear Qui Nhon!

So we are backed in Qui Nhon and met so many friends here, it's always like coming back home when Pazu came to this place. Aunty Lien was hit by a motorbike a few weeks ago but she's fine now; Monk Quang Thong is still in Qui Nhon and he still didn't know when he could go to Taiwan; Younger sister Hau is going to America with her American boyfriend soon; English teacher elder sister My Anh had some problem with her computer lately... so many friends to see here and we must say it once more, it's so happy to be back here again. Here's a picture of the Vietnamese opera to worship the elephant fish, who protects the fishermen. (Vietnam: Qui Nhơn (歸仁), 20050318-00113)


國旗被偷 Flag stolen

Do you notice that we have a flagpole on the trailer? It's not only for fun but for safety too, most drivers wouldn't expect a trailer was attached to a bicycle, the flagpole can attract their attention. But to Pazu's dismay, after cycling in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia for 2 or 3 months pleasantly, somebody in Vietnam stole the flagpole while we were climbing a mountain pass. We found it out only when we were on the other side of the mountain so we couldn't be bother to go back and search for it. We never understand why but Vietnamese are the only people in the region who really love touching other's stuff, your book, your PDA, your watch, and of course our bicycle, they touched it while we were riding the bike! To be frankly, we found some people in Vietnam really determined to get some pleasure by giving you annoyance, definitely we're not saying all so don't accuse us of being racist, but we haven't met any other similarly annoying people in the region, ever! So welcome to this very different world. On the flagpole was a Chinese and Hong Kong flag, and Pazu was upset to find them stolen, and he kept riding for a whole night and arrived at his favorite place in Vietnam at 1am because he wanted to see his good friends there. (Vietnam: Ðại Lãnh to Qui Nhơn (歸仁), 141.85km, 20050317-00112, STAY: Kiwi Cafe, 80000 for an okay room, 18 Nguyễn Huệ, Qui Nhơn, Việt Nam; 056-892921, 090-5108589, nzbarb@yahoo.com)


蕉餅 Banana cake

Today is quite eventful except that we cycled through a wrong way and thus made a retour of the National Highway thus cycled about 10km more than we needed. We arrived at Ðại Lãnh very late and we didn't know anything about this place. On the way we saw somebody put some brown cake to dry, later we asked a friend in Qui Nhon as to what it was, she said, "Hmm... it's banana cake!" No, it's actually dried shit, Pazu saw the same thing in Tibet a few years ago! (Vietnam: Nha Trang (芽莊) to Ðại Lãnh, 100.09km, 20050316-00111, STAY: A hotel near the railway, 80000 with public bathroom only, bad value, and the girl loves singing Karaoke in the morning!)


芽莊 Nha Trang

Isn't it nice to come back to Nha Trang? This is a big city, touristy city, a very developed beach, lots of bar, western restaurants... nothing seem like Vietnam. We met some old friends here again, Ms Tam (daughter of the hotel owner) is now pregnant, Ms Cuc (street vendor) is sick so she's working hard to earn more money and go back to Hue to see a doctor, Mr Hide (the Japanese) is now a manager of a new Japanese restaurant named Okinawa... everyone told Pazu that he looked so "dark", so "thin", but they are impressed by Pazu's bike trip. Okay, after staying there and taking a rest for 2 days, we're going! (Vietnam: Ba Ngòi to Nha Trang (芽莊), 60.99km, 20050313-00110, STAY: Khách sạn O-Sin, 75000 for a very big room, good value!)


鹽雪 Salt snow

On the way to Ba Ngoi (near Nha Trang), there're quite a few photogenic salt field. The owner is from the north and they're selling these salts back to the north. As usual for the Northerners (nguoi Bac Ky or nguoi mien Bac), they aren't in a mood for chat. What made the people in the north and south (or central) so different in Vietnam? We never know, but we can always see the difference. Look at these shepherds who are the countryside people, they're more lovely, always have a big smile on or underneath their faces. But it's quite hot today, isn't it "cruel" for the sheep with such a thick layer of insulating hair? Oh I hope they would send a barber for them as soon as possible. Stay: Khách sạn Mi Ni (50000 dong for a dirty room on the ground floor so at least you can put in your bicycle. Address: 58 QL1 Ba Ngòi, Thị Xã Cam Ranh, 058-854417) (Vietnam: Cà Ná to Ba Ngòi, 78.12km, 20050312-00109)


濕水事件 Be wetted!

After staying at Phan Thiet for two days, we're going to Ca Na, another beach resort. But today there was a very minor but annoying accident. Pazu's camelbak water bag was leaked! It wetted the passport and Kong Junior! Pazu was upset that some records in the passport was washed away by water... anyway, we arrived at Ca Na today, staying at a guesthouse with a grand name, "Ca Na Resort" (80000 dong for us because the owner Mr Trao "thuong" us very much, or 100000 normally for you or other people. Address: Km 1589, QL1A, Phước Diêm, Ninh Phước, Ninh Thuận 63401. 068-861955, 091-8274726, traothanh@rediffmail.com). It's really quite a nice place so we decide to stay for two nights. The guesthouse is right on the beach so it's difficult to dry the passport and Kong Junior, Pazu felt sorry but he had to tied Kong Jr like this to let it dry! (Vietnam: Phan Thiết (藩切) to Cà Ná , 116.96km, 20050310-00108)


舞獅團 Dragon dancers

We stayed with the family of Mr Tam Gioi for only a night, but they're really nice that we felt sad to leave. Pazu gave them some energy drinks, aloe vera gel, shirts, pants and a shortwave radio. I think the greedy guesthouse lady would never understand why we didn't pay her 30000 dong more while voluntarily giving out quite a lot of stuff for this farmer family. Pazu was very thankful for them because they not only gave us some food and a bed to sleep, most importantly they showed us a totally different world of Vietnam. If they didn't come up and took us to their home last night, we would probably be in Phan Thiet, thinking back about this town full of cheaters. As they told us, "Some people are bad, some people are nice, everywhere is the same." Thanks for showing the two sides of the world, we'll send you back your photos. And today we arrived at Phan Thiet, a town only 10km away from the beach resort of Mui Ne, which means that not many foreigners would stay here. It was a very busy, yet quiet town, people seem to be more friendly, asked us a lot of questions about the bicycles. There's also quite a big Chinese community here (about 3000 people), with a few Hoi Quan (Chinese Community Hall), we visited the Cantonese one, met a group of dragon dancers busy preparing for the performance on the 19/4, the liberation day of Phan Thiet. Stay: Nhà Nghỉ Thu Hiền, 17 Trần Hưng Ðạo, TP Phan Thiết, Bình Thuận (平順省藩切市陳興道街十七號), 062-824944, 60000 dong for a room on the ground floor, you can put in your bike. (Vietnam:Xã Tân Phúc to Phan Thiết (藩切), 63km, 20050307-00107)


住農家 Stay with a farmer

It was a funny day today, we cycled for 119.24km to a place a Tan Phuc, in the middle of nowhere, we couldn't even find this on our map, but it's somewhere between HCMC and Phan Thiet. There's one guesthouse here. Pazu went in and asked the lady how much for the cheapest room, she didn't say anything, just trying to find a piece of paper and a pen, Pazu told her in Vietnamese again, "Hey you! I can speak Vietnamese, why don't you just tell me by speaking?" She didn't care, she wrote down the price, 50,000 dong (US$3.18). That's indeed quite expensive for such a small and dirty place, but Pazu was hungry so he didn't bargain and accepted it, wanting to put down the luggage and go to eat something first. Just in front of the room, the lady suddenly told Pazu, "Hey you! Listen to me first, just before you asked me the cheapest room here, it's 50,000 dong, but this room, it's on the ground floor so you can put in your bicycle and luggage, it should be 70,000 dong." And then she said it would be okay if Pazu paid her 60,000 instead. Pazu wasn't happy about this, but he wasn't in a mood for bargaining, so he reluctantly accepted it. We paid the money and put down our passport, then had some duck rice porridge and mango in front of the guesthouse, the young mango girl suddenly asked what we paid for the guesthouse, she told us the real story. It should be 30,000 dong only, if you take your wife to go, pay 50,000 instead. Now feeling himself full of energy after eating the mango, Pazu's mood came back already. He was furious about the guesthouse lady's cheating tactics, he asked her in Vietnamese the price, she wrote down an overcharged price by pen, and yet in front of the door, as if she wasn't satisfied at the already exorbitant price, she asked for even more! It's not because of the money that made Pazu angry, it was her greediness that happened twice in 3 minutes that annoyed Pazu. Pazu went back and asked for a refund of the overcharged money, naturally she refused. She was probably embarrassed by her greediness that she became very aggressive, but Pazu was in a mood to play a game now, so he said, "We're going, give me back the passport and all the money right now!" She said, "You already made the room dirty, I will give you back only half of the money, and you go!" No, we want all the money back. She refused. Pazu told her in a tone as if playing with kids, "Okay, now you want so much money like this, so let me tell you, you listen to me first. You don't have any license to accomodate foreigners, I'm foreigner, how can it be possible that you let me to stay? Now I'm going to call the police, you wait here, I don't mind to lose 60,000 dong, but think about it, after a while ten police will come, you have to pay them every person 10,000 dong and invite them for coffee, oh, you think about it!" She looked really brave as if she was the grand-daughter of Ho Chi Minh, so let's go and play this game. Pazu stayed in Viet of Nam for a total of nine months last year, and he hadn't yet tried to call the police, it must be an experience, bad or good, it should worth 60,000 dong. But what's the police hotline? We don't know. We went out of the guesthouse and asked the shopkeeper next door, they were curious of what happened to us, we told them the lady was very ugly and she did something very ugly, people said, "Oh he could speak Vietnamese!" Just when we were about to call the police, the guesthouse lady came back to find us, shouted as if she was barking like a dog, "Now! Take back your money, go go go!!!" That's not the end of the story. It's actually only 63km to Phan Thiet, the next big town, so Pazu thought, "Why couldn't we just go there?" Then suddenly a man on a motorbike with his wife and daughter came and asked, "Are you Chinese? It's very late already, come and drink some water at my home, go tomorrow morning!" His name is Nguyen The Gioi (meaning "world"), because he's the 8th child of his family, people called him "Tam Gioi" (meaning "8th border"). The first photo was taken in the next morning, the wife of Tam Gioi tried Pazu's conical helmet. The second photo was the whole family of Mr Tam Gioi. The third photo was the bed of Mr Tam Gioi, but he let us to sleep there, while he was sleeping on a hammock that night. (Vietnam: HCMC to Xã Tân Phúc, Huyện Hăm Tân, 119.24km, 20050306-00106)


越南假日體驗 Vietnamese holiday experience

After staying at My Tho for 3 weeks, we're ready to go! Yet this time Pazu felt quite sad to leave, "I'll miss the mango there!" Pazu said to his aunt. When Pazu came to My Tho he was reluctant to admit he was cycling fearing that his grandpa would be worried, but out of our surprise, even grandpa seems to be quite amused by the idea of travelling by bike. Whenever grandpa's friends came, he would say, "Hey, see my grandson, he's travelling by bike!" Pazu was like, "oh it wasn't like Grandpa last year..." And now we understood why. What they had in mind was that we travelled with a bicycle inside town, then put the bike on top of a bus or train and travel to other city. No, this is cheating! We didn't do it... but okay, it's good to let them believe that though. We woke up at 3am (very early start!) and cycled to District 9 (Thu Duc) of Ho Chi Minh City. We stopped here because of this amusement park. It's a combination of some funny yet ridiculous mix of historical, mythical and cartoon figures, with a 30-second roller coaster. Pazu would recommend everyone to go there, it's a true Vietnamese holiday experience! The big golden statue at my back is Hung King, the legendery king in Vietnamese history. Stay: Nhà Nghỉ Hoàng Thọ (60000 dong. 07/47 KP. 6, Phương Linh Trung, Q. Thủ Ðức. 08-8897298) (Vietnam: My Tho to Quan 9, Ho Chi Minh City, 91.25km, 20050305-00105)


尖帽二 Conical helmet II

So if you want to see what it's like wearing the "non la bao hiem" (conical helmet), here's a sample. The baby is Minh Nhat (means "tomorrow"), the only son of Anh Luan. (Vietnam: My Tho, 20050303-00104)