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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't Let Foreign Bosses Do Whatever They Like

I'm not even going to offer my opinion on this article from the state-run Thanh Nien news agency. I think a fertile mind can glean everything they need to from the article titled Don't Let Foreign Bosses Do Whatever They Like. The inserted comment on visas is particularly illuminating.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vietnam Changes and Experience Becomes Memory

It's a sad thing when the things we treasure disappear and can never be restored.

(Before) I had a favorite swimming hole, pictured above, just 2 hours north of highway 1 in the mountains. It was situated behind an remote Rag Lai village in NE Binh Thuan Province.

(After) I was distraught to return over Tet and find that the government was in the process of pulling down the mountain and building a dam over my swimming hole.

(Before) Previously the villagers had built a lovely waterworks. The trough on the left had water about should-deep. It was crystal clear and the little minnows were friendly. They'd come up and nibble on your skin. You could ride the current in the trough to the end like a river ride at a water park.

(After) This rock pile now sits in the trough. It's easy to understand why the government would want to built a lake at this spot. The valley here forms a perfect crater and is pinched off to a tiny exit here, with a distinct ridge on each side. The troubling thing is, from the top of the ridge, this valley has a distinct sort of super-volcano look to it. One has to wonder if the added pressure of a lake could have some unintended consequences. I'm not sure I'd want to live in the Rag lai village with a big new dam at my back door either. The resulting lake will probably be lovely, assuming any part of it is accessible--but it will be five to ten years before the muddy water settles and the vegetation fully regrows around the disturbed areas.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Whale Funeral in Bac Lieu

Cau Ngu Whale Worship Festival in Phan Thiet (pictured above)

The AP/Washington Post reported on a whale funeral held in Bac Lieu province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta today. I've often written about Vietnam's whale-worshipping "cult" and the whale temples built by fishermen to house whale bones, for guidebooks like the most recent Insight Guide to Vietnam (2009). Very little has been written about the subject in any literature or media, so I've had to become a bit of a local expert in order to understand the phenomenon. You can see my previous posts on the subject which include lots of photos from whale worship festivals like Cau Ngu and Nghin Ong.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Binh Thuan Not Protecting Its Coral Reefs

For the seven years that I've been in Binh Thuan, there have always been coral stands--by the dozens, on display beside Highway 1A, hawking poached corals to Vietnamese tourists. It's obvious that these pristine specimens, bleached and dyed, were plucked live from the reefs and did not die and wash up on the shore naturally. It is a shame that at Ca Na, where one of the best reefs in the country is to be found (which isn't saying much any more), that the locals are seeking to destroy the reef and in doing so, their own economic futures. The reef could be promoted as a major tourism point of interest, particularly with the included island and cham temples.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eve of Tet (Lunar New Year) in Phan Thiet

Below are some photos of festive lights and lanterns from Phan Thiet on the Eve of Tet (Lunar New Year). All are from back alleys in residential areas of the old city or temples around the areas.

Tet in Phan Thiet

My story on Tet in Phan Thiet is currently linked from the front page of Read it here at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lotteria Phan Thiet Upgrades

Serious Mega Kudos and Dittos to Lotteria Phan Thiet. After featuring soft-serve ice cream on their menu for two or three years, ice cream is indeed finally now available at the location in the COOP Supermarket downtown. Besides cones and dishes (with or without chocolate sauce), there are now Dairy Queen-style blizzards in flavors of green tea, oreo, chocolate chip, peanut and rainbow sprinkles (isn't that just confectioner's wax and food coloring?). While the ice cream isn't quite on par with Dairy Queen (which doesn't do business in Vietnam yet), it's overall pretty good.

Lotteria isn't the first vendor to sell soft-serve. There are a few street vendors selling ice cream near schools and internet cafes downtown. However, whether you order chocolate, strawberry or vanilla (all in infant-size servings), it all seems to taste like durian.

Also of note, Lotteria has apparently doubled the size of their soft drink cups--and no more handing customers just half a glass when you order no ice! Great job guys! And don't miss the new line of double burgers with cheese! Mmm mmm bulgogi burgers!