The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vietnamese Menu--Foreigner Menu

I went to the supermarket today in Phan Thiet for lunch. They have a food court on the third floor. I don't usually eat there because the food's not very good. I wanted something different today though. After I finished my fried rice, BBQ chicken, sour soup and fried bamboo, I went to the "Tra Sua Tren Trau" drink stand to get a Bubble Tea drink. The waiter in broken english shoved an English menu in my face. Whenever I see English menus, I always immediately look for one in Vietnamese. They didn't want me to look at it. Sure enough, there was a Vietnamese menu on the counter--and all the drinks were about 5000VND cheaper. I was infuriated. It's not like I don't know foreigners nearly always pay more anyway. But its been a long time since I've seen two menu's--one for foreigners and one for viets--here in Phan Thiet. The last ones I saw were at the seafood restaurants on Phan Thiet's Doi Duong beach 4 years ago.

Occasionally I see this when I check hotels for guidebooks. The government-owned Saigon Tourist hotels (IE "Saigon-Mui Ne" and Saigon-Quy Nhon) often post one price for English-speakers and a much cheaper price for Vietnamese speakers. The hotels owned by the Vietnamese (and Viet-Russian) oil companies do likewise. Once a hotel accidentally even gave me their price list with separate prices for Vietnamese, Thai and "Other." I despise these institutional separate price systems. Its very demeaning.

So after I scolded the staff at the tea stand, I marched down to the manager's office at the supermarket. He was a very nice man. He assured me he wasn't aware they were doing that, and did not approve. He said the whole point of the supermarket was to establish standard prices for everyone, and he assured me his would go speak with them and tell them they needed to change their menus. I believe him. I hope people learn a lesson and this kind of thing stops. I don't want to see it creeping back up in Phan Thiet.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dragon Boat Racing for the Cau Ngu Festival

Phan Thiet is the center of the sport in Vietnam, with one of the most important dragon boat races occurring during Cau Ngu.

More Cau Ngu Photos

Below are photos of Cai Luong and Hat Ba Trao (traditional Vietnamese opera forms) at the Cau Ngu festival last night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cau Ngu Festival for Whale Worship in Phan Thiet

View some of these photos as broadcasted on CNN International.

Van Thuy Tu Whale Temple with fishermen in full ceremonial costume

Fishermen worshiping a humpback whale skeleton
housed in Van Thuy Tu

The whale temple flag is an emblem of the festival and local fishermen

Lion dancers are obligatory at any Vietnamese festival

Fishermen in full costume

Fishermen from Vung Tau came for the festival

See more photos at All of the above photos are copyright 2009 Adam Bray. They may not be republished without written permission

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Phnom Penh Driver Recommendation

If you are looking for a driver in Phnom Penh, moto or tuk-tuk, I would like to recommend Sky and his brother Jai-An. They wait on the corner in front of the two Happy Pizza restaurants, just up from the FCC on riverside. You can reach Sky at 097 663 8859. These guys are good drivers--I've used their services many times. They speak English well enough, and they know the city very well-including things not on the tourist map--something that can not be said of a lot of the drivers on the riverside. They are also one of the few drivers NOT soliciting other (illegal) services on that corner. Their younger brother "Mario" has also worked as a location scout and camera man on some small film projects, so could be an additional asset should you need to shoot some film.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bear's Blog: Vietnam Special

Bear's Blog: Vietnam Special

Apparently Bear Grylls was injured this week while filming a new Vietnam Episode of Man VS Wild (aka Born Survivor). He doesn't actually say where he was filming (if you know, please send me a message), but as it was a jungle shoot, that means it probably wasn't anywhere right along the immediate coast (where all the cities and tourists are), or in the highlands themselves. Best guess would be somewhere along the edges of the central highlands, between the coastal plains and the plateaus, between HCMC and Hue.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Name your poison: 'Snake wine' seized at airport... How about Monkey Wine?

Adult Macaque in Rice Wine in La Mat Village, Outside Hanoi

CNN ran a story today about a bottle of snake wine seized by customs in Miami. I guess the CNN folks in the US haven't spent enough time in SE Asia to be as familiar with the product as we all are here. The Vietnamese will put just about anything live and wiggling in a bottle and drink it. Most of the snake wine seen in tourist areas is sold for tourist consumption. As such, it's not made in a traditional fashion--the animal is killed and positioned to look "pretty" in the bottle. Traditionally the animal (whether it be a snake, monitor lizard, scorpion, giant centipede, sea horse, monkey, eagle or sun bear) is thrust into the jar live (so as to drown), and the rice wine poured in to capture the life force of the animal in the alcohol. The drinker then gains the powers of that animal. Sick stuff...

Read the CNN story HERE.

Controversial War Journalist Peter Arnett as the Keynote Speaker at the Historic Saigon Caravelle Hotel's 50th Anniversary

The historic Caravelle Hotel in Ho Chi Minh’s city’s downtown district 1 celebrates its 50th anniversary this week. The hotel invited controversial former CNN correspondent and journalist Peter Arnett to be their keynote speaker for the festivities. I was fortunate to be invited to the associated press conference, as a Vietnam-based guidebook writer.

The Caravelle Hotel sits across from the opera house and around the corner from other noteworthy buildings like the Continental Hotel and the now Rex Hotel (location for the daily US military press briefings known as “The 5’oclock follies”). When the hotel opened on Christmas Eve of 1959, it was the tallest building in Saigon, at 10 stories. The hotel was lauded at the time for its bullet-proof glass and air-conditioning. Caravelle became a favorite base for journalists and diplomats. News agencies like the Associated Press, New York Times and Washington post all set up bureaus there, and Australia and New Zealand even established their embassies in the Hotel. Guests of the hotel during the war included aviation pioneer Charles Lindberg, novelist John Steinbeck, and Jack Lawrence of CBS. Peter Arnett himself was a frequent guest.

Today the Caravelle is one of the country’s top luxury hotels. Historically the hotel has primarily appealed to businessmen, journalists and diplomats. However, General Manager John Gardner stated during the hotel press conference that due largely to the current world economic crisis, their customer base has shifted from 75% to 50% business-related. The other half of their customer base is now made up of international tourists.

Peter Arnett, a native New Zealander, now age 74, worked primarily for the Associate Press during the Vietnam War. His legendary reports were famous for their gritty and straightforward manner of covering stories of average soldiers and dangerous daily events.

Arnett's stories were often perceived as negative. President Lyndon B. Johnson and General William Westmoreland tried to convince the AP to have Arnett removed from his assignment. Likewise he sometimes angered Vietnamese officials. In July 1963, Arnett was punched in the nose by South Vietnamese police while reporting on Buddhist protests.

Arnett's most famous report from the Vietnam War included a quote, on February 7, 1968, of an unnamed United States officer stating of the village of Ben Tre that "it became necessary to destroy the town to save it". Some of Arnett's critics suggested that he fabricated the controversial quote.

Arnett was one of the last journalists left in Saigon after the invasion of the NVA. He subsequently met with NVA soldiers who showed him how they took over the city.

In his speech to the local Saigon press, Peter recounted his years in Saigon covering the war, and talked about his Vietnamese ex-wife and their two Vietnamese-American children, who are both bilingual and strongly identify with each country.

When asked during the conference about government criticism of his own work, Arnett stated that Vice President Cheney once referred to the Iraq press corps as “agents of the enemy.” Arnett said he brushes government criticism off as a regular part of the job, implying that he feels at times is borders or ridiculous.

Arnett went on to criticize media coverage of the Iraq War, implying that it was neither as transparent nor as honest as press coverage of the Vietnam War. He explained that under the rules of embedded journalism, a US military officer must be present for all interviews, and that anonymous quotes are forbidden. As such, only the official government-approved story can be reported. He recalled that none of this was the case during his time covering the war in Vietnam.

Arnett softened his tone however when he exclaimed, “Thank God that the American government only talks with news agencies and publishers” when it criticizes journalists and media reports. He said that “unlike other countries like Russia,” where reporters who fall out of favor with the government may “meet with Accidents or be brought up on charges,” that in America government criticism goes no further than that—just criticism.

Arnett’s work was highly controversial in 2003 when he covered the Iraq war for National Geographic and NBC. At the time, he granted an impromptu interview to state-run Iraqi television in which he made an infamous statement which cost him his job and challenged his renowned reputation.

“Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war against Iraq, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan,” stated Arnett. “The first plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another plan… So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments.”

Peter Arnett now works as guest professor in Shantou University in southern China. He proudly states that his lectures are uncensored and unregulated. His book, “Live from the Battlefield” about his years covering the wars in Vietnam and Iraq is now available in uncensored Vietnamese, and sold in major book stores throughout Vietnam.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama Declares War on Expats

Obama, America's new president, announced a new plan to eliminate legal "loopholes" that allow expats to pay lower taxes.

You can read the articles here:

Of course the IDIOT drive-by journalists don't point this out, or the reason WHY expats pay lower taxes. Expats, and their companies have to pay local taxes IN ADDITION to taxes in the USA, AND, they aren't getting the benefits of any of those tax dollars.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fake Regulations

Andy Brouwer in his blog raises and interesting point from the Khmer Rouge trials. Duch, the commanding officer of S21, the infamous prison-death-camp, is claiming that the infamous 10 regulations of S21 were all fabricated. It seems plausible to me. Follow the link above to read more.