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

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bye bye Facebook... and other websites

As internet users have come to discover all over Vietnam this week, Facebook is no longer available--at least not by changing the DNS servers on your internet connection--which is what many began doing last November when ISPs around the country began complying with a government directive passed earlier in the year. The government mandated the blocking of Facebook and several other sites.

Likewise, telephone services like Vinaphone finally got into the act this week too. The Facebook iPhone app--one of the ways internet users in Vietnam thwarted the censorship--is now also effectively blocked in Vietnam.

This comes on the heals of a Hanoi mandate that internet service providers in that city must install software, which Google believes, will be used to block websites and gather user information.

Fortunately there are a few work-arounds left... Click here to connect using one of them now:

Further Reading:

PC Magazine: Google Criticizes Vietnam's Net Sniffing App

AP:Google Calls Vietnam's Internet Rules Restrictive

Previous discussion of the Facebook problem on this blog

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Six is Better than Three

Hey, quick! Somebody tell her that six is even better than "Three." ...and speaking of Britney Spears, here's a deformed cow:

I photographed this calf born with 6 legs (three useless legs in the place of one foreleg) just north of Nha Trang, Vietnam recently. I promise this will be the only post I ever write featuring the tag "Britney Spears".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My role in Gordon Ramsey's new show “Gordon’s Great Escape: Vietnam”

Aboard the wooden fishing boat in Phan Thiet Harbor

While I was in the USA for a short holiday, the producer of Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay’s  new travel show, “Gordon’s Great Escape” called me. They said that they’d been reading my (this blog) and hoped that I could help them with some suggestions for the show. My role in pre-production for the episode would eventually include consulting remotely for various scenes around the country, as well as some location scouting and talent scouting in Phan Thiet.

The first season of Gordon’s Great Escape took place in India (in England, apparently a season can span just a few episodes). This second season would include Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. The series is sort of a travel/adventure program, that pits Gordon in physically challenging activities and otherwise manly exotic action… (giggle). While the series brings Gordon to fairly standard localities in each country, I was impressed by the uniqueness and rigorousness of some of the situations they wanted to throw poor Gordon into.

Conical Boats are commonly used by fishermen in Phan Thiet for a variety of fishing activities.

They wanted to include a fishing scene so I naturally convinced them to come to Phan Thiet—one of the country’s most famous cities for seafood (and fish sauce). I met the producer and director of the series here in Phan Thiet for their pre-production and on-site research, one month prior to the actual filming. A friend and I went out with the small crew on some boats for a practice film-shoot. It was quite an experience. I was a lobsterman as a kid in the USA (Matinicus Island, Maine), but I’d never been out to sea in one of the local boats here in Phan Thiet. I’ll just say that most of us, including myself, got very sea-sick. My Vietnamese friend, who was sort of auditioning as the local translator (and grew up fishing in Mui Ne), barfed his brains out. After the fishing trip we arrived at the boat captains house for a late-night dinner comprising what we had caught. The first rain of the season fell during dinner, which I take as good luck, though I’m told that dinner scenario won’t actually be re-created for the final show.  
Gordon Ramsay returned this week to Phan Thiet and could be seen riding around in a jeep (the green ones that take tourists to the sand dunes), with a camera crew in the back. After 3 days he moved on to one of several other locations where they’ll be filming in Vietnam.