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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Typical Beach in Binh Thuan Province

I am so sick of all the garbage on the beach in Vietnam. You can't go swimming in Mui Ne without wading through plastic bags, fruit rinds, dead fish, bits of fabric--even dead rats, leftover bits from butchered pigs and raw sewage. The problem has reached an epidemic.

Unidentified Gecko... New Species

Found this unusual Gecko in the NE end of Binh Thuan Province. I've named him Bray's Champa Gecko or Gekko champai. There are 2 different specimens pictured here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More Illegal Baby Monkeys

Yet again, a baby macaque is being kept illegally at the white sand dunes north of Mui Ne, by one of the drink sellers. These poor little guys are robbed from their mothers--who may be killed in the process, if taken directly from the wild. Macaques were once common all along the coast of Vietnam, but now locally extinct almost everywhere but the mountain forests (and there quickly disappearing as well).

Memories of Israel

Barely Asia, but I was delighted to see this BBC article with a photo of the wine press cave, excavated by my grandfather in Psagot, Israel. I've been to the cave myself.

BBC Article

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Highlights from Nui Ong Nature Reserve

Below are shots from my recent visit to Nui Ong Nature Reserve, a couple of hours Northwest of Phan Thiet, at the foot of the central highlands.

As nice as the forest was, it was heartbreaking to see all the logging and poaching, which would seem to be illegal, done within the reserve. See photos of this at in the current top story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sea Turtle Still On the Menu in Vietnam

I have no problem with locals developing Binh Thuan Province's Phu Quy island. It's their island, and they have a right to some prosperity. I was interested to find an article today describing a new restaurant on the island, published by the Saigon Times:

Read the full article here

"A fisherman’s dream of building an eco-tourist site"

"Duong Van Vi, a 40-year-old fisherman, has opened a restaurant on Binh Thuan’s Phu Quy Island, to provide tourists to the coastal city with an ideal venue for enjoying seafood while admiring the surrounding scenery."

The headline illustrates a typical misunderstanding that Vietnamese have about the term "ecotourism." For many Vietnamese, even a karaoke bar can be an ecotourism spot it you plant a nice garden outside. Anyway, a restaurant on the island would be great. There's really no place to eat out there. But when I came to the following paragraph, I was a little upset:

"Located at the foot of Thay Tomb relic site, Long Vi Restaurant is a wooden, bungalow style building overlooking the sea. Patrons of the restaurant will experience the unique sensation of hearing the whispers of waves lapping at the shore while they enjoy fresh seafood dishes, which include grouper, lobster, crab, ray, and tortoise."

In the absence of true native tortoises on the island, and given that this is a seafood restaurant, one can only assume tortoise means sea turtle. Sadly, this would not be uncommon. It underscores Vietnam's lack of commitment to international law on trafficking in endangered species. It is also a bit disturbing that the Saigon Times would write about it matter-of-fact as though nothing is wrong.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rainy Season Critters

These little guys slip under the door during heavy rains and hop around the room. After they have a look around the head straight back for the door, suggesting they have a very good sense for navigation and problem solving.

These giant beetles flock to lights. They feel like rubber bullets when they hit you while driving a motorbike.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Photos on CNN

2 of my photos from Phan Thiet's recent Cau Ngu Festival were shown on CNN International this week. View the clip online at:

Monday, June 1, 2009

On the subject of Police roadblocks for tourist drivers

I received this today:

"You are correct when you say that the police are destroying the tourist business in Mui Ne. I went through your town on my way to visit my family in Nha Trang. I thought it was the most beautiful place in Vietnam (that is say a lot!). I had planned to come there for a week vacation with my wife and daughter this March, however the disgusting targeting of tourist for what seems to be under-the-table profits for the police kept me away. You should know, that was at least $5000 of profits that did not go to Mui Ne. Instead we went o Hue where the police do not use tourists to steal their money. If this persists, your town is doomed. Good luck to you. I hope these stupid police learn the lesson before you all lose your businesses."

--Mr. KW, California