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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Literate in Cham

As of today, after just less than a month of study, I'm proud to say I can read Cham script. I'm one of not only a small handful of foreigners who can read Cham (the others probably all PhD students), but a small group of people who can read it at all. The benefits? Along with further vocabulary comprehension, this allows me to read signs, inscriptions, steles and histories for myself, without having to take someone else's word that the translations are accurate (usually they are not). It gives me an invaluable insight into the Cham culture and history that I could have no other way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rice Cake Candy in Phan Thiet

This family in Phan Thiet makes the candies by hand, in their 200-year-old house.

Candies dry and firm up in the sun for a few hours before packing.

Packaged candies are sent out all over Phan Thiet and other cities including Saigon and Dalat.

These candies can be purchased at Binh Thuan Authentic and tours to see these and other local crafts in Binh Thuan Province (Bee Keeping, Cham Textiles and Pottery, Hilltribe basket weaving) are available through Fish Egg Tree Tours. For tours, contact 094.431.3287 or email us through Mui Ne

Bear Grylls Vietnam Episode

The following four clips are for Bear's upcoming show (premiering 8/26 at 9PM ET/PT) in Vietnam. I was in talks with Discovery Channel reps about interviewing Bear for the episode, but unfortunately none of my publishers showed much interest in publishing the interview.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pogo Charity Event

Last night Pogo hosted a charity buffet and dance party to benefit the Friends of Blind People's Association and The Classes of the Heart (to finance construction of two classrooms for disadvantaged children in Long Son school in Mui Ne Village). The event looked to be a big success.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Whiskey Mountain

Whiskey, or "Big Titty" Mountain is well known to the American Soldiers who were stationed at the LZ Betty in Phan Thiet. A Helicopter Landing Pad was stationed at the top, where at least one serious crash occurred. The mountain now hosts communications towers and is cut away at the base by several unsightly quarries. Seen here from the town of Ma Lam, north of Phan Thiet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Strange Developments

By some standards, this new hotel may be Mui Ne's first high-rise building, at 11 floors (if we can believe the architect's rendering on the sign). I thought there was a regulation that no building could be higher than the tallest coconut trees, but apparently, if that ever was a regulation, it has gone out the window. It looks like it will be a nice building. No doubt this will be the start of a new trend in development for the beach.

New construction in the middle of the beach. Looks to be a seafood stand perhaps. I was always told this stretch belonged to the government, to be administrated as a park, but apparently this was or is no longer true. Seafood canteens have begun sprouting up in this area. The secret of their popularity is not only good food, but cheap food. A few smart folks finally learned that if you don't make foreigners pay more than locals, you actually get more customers.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Latest Gossip: If Pigs could Parasail.

It appears the parasailing folks from Nha Trang have moved in. They've set up station at the derelict, unfinished resort on the west end of the beach. Word is that on their very first day a Russian fellow had a nasty crash on their jet skis, seriously injuring himself. Several customers also got tangled and dragged through the water.

The problem here is that the winds in Mui Ne are probably too strong for the sport. I have no problem with the activity in theory. It looks like fun. But I cringe at the idea of these jet skis and speed boats weaving in and out of the swimmers. It's hard enough balancing the kiteboarders and swimmers on the same beach. My suggestion is that the parasailers should set up a sign and tent on the beach in Mui Ne, then bus their customers up to the next beach (between Mui Ne and Hon Rom) where the waves are calm and the beach is void of swimmers, and frolic safely to their heart's content.

Pig Flu. Word is that it's all over Saigon, and appears to be present here in Mui Ne as well. As I said from the beginning, I think it's much ado about nothing. Less serious than the normal flu. I think its being used as a ploy for government agencies to secure increased funding and new authority. That being said, I was told that masks are getting passed out on the train between Saigon and Phan Thiet, and everyone is wearing them.

More on the Garbage Crisis in Mui Ne

I received this message from a friend:

"I've just read with interest your recent blog on the beach pollution crisis. I am still unsure whether the source of the problem is due to the growth of tourism or the lack of care from the local fishermen or perhaps even some other reason. According to my casual conversation with the locals, the pollution is seasonal relating to the ocean currents. It has always been here even before tourism. The interesting part is that the individuals that I spoke to believe that the local fishermen are only partly to blame as much of the rubbish arrives from other areas outside Vietnam.

I am curious about your thoughts and possible solutions."

My Response:

Yes, the locals are right that it’s seasonal. The currents and wind changes direction over the course of the year, blowing the garbage one way or another (into the beach here, or out to Khe Ga). The problem I see now though, is that there is such a large volume of it being pumped into the bay that it is no longer being washed out, and it’s all getting trapped here. I see it as a combination of things—the fishermen and locals dumping trash in Mui Ne, the resorts dumping waste water in Ham Tien, and the city of Phan Thiet dumping garbage in the Ca Ty River and Phan Thiet bay. It occurred to me today that I know the city like the back of my hand, yet I’ve never seen a city garbage dump—I’m sure because it all goes in the bay. That’s a scary thought. I’m sure the garbage comes from many places, but when you sit beside the Ca Ty river and watch the constant flow of garbage floating out to the bay, I think it’s safe to say locals are responsible for most of it.

I think the solutions are probably pretty simple. They need laws to ban dumping garbage with serious fines. They need to ban plastic bags altogether like China. The local government needs to enforce the law requiring resorts to have waste water treatment plants, and stop penalizing the 3 resorts that actually do obey the law. They also need to develop a legitimate garbage dump and waste treatment facility for the city.