Monthly Archives: February 2014

Living in Saigon

Life is good!!!!

My days are easy, a nice hotel, breakfast on the roof, long walks, sitting at my favorite coffee bar watching the people on the street and downloading podcasts and movies and night time rides on the back of motorbikes. It is nice to be settled in one city without packing and catching busses.  I needed to slow down a bit.


My coffee shop

Here is a list of somethings I have done:

-Cuong took me to the Mango Garden an hour out of Saigon. It is a beautiful nature preserve with ostriches, crocodiles, lakes and a swimming pool

-Lee took me to get a hair cut, head massage, shave and an excellent ear cleaning

-we also went to a spa for a shampoo, head massage, and a face peel, this cost $2.50

-I visited many coffee bars, lemonade bars and karaoke bars. They all have young ladies who sit with you and pour ice tea for you

-I have gone fishing twice


-every day I am lucky to go through Saigon on a motorbike, most tourists never get to see all the parts of Saigon that I have seen.

My friends are keeping me busy here is this vibrant city. The month has gone so fast, next week back to Thailand..


Back to Vietnam

Hard to believe that I got back to Saigon for the forth time. Adi drove me to the Bali Airport but on the way it started to rain. He flagged down a taxi for me and we said a quick goodbye on the busy highway.

My 2 months in Indonesia was great. Adi, my tour guide basically stopped working for 2 months to take me to many places in Bali and Java. There is no way I would have seen so much without him.

Thank you Adi and thanks for showing me how a good Muslim lives. I hope to continue your example of generosity to the poor in my life and thanks for helping me continue my vegetarian ways in Indonesia.

Jetstar took me back to Singapore and after a 6 hour wait I landed back at Saigon. I shared a taxi with a rich UK businessman and checked into my favorite hotel. It was a long day but I still had enough energy to walk to my favorite Indian restaurant.

Both my friends, Cuong and Lee came to see me and my days in Saigon have been filled with night rides through the streets of Saigon. The experience of riding in the bike madness of Saigon is something words can not convey.

The first night Cuong and Lee took me to dinner; we rode for an hour through many parts of Saigon. The decorations for Chinese New Years were still up and Saigon was beautiful.

We then visited a coffee bar….nice to be back in Saigon.


Saigon Coffee Bar

Lee took me to Chinatown, the temples were holding festivals for this year’s first Full Moon. The crowds were amazing. Not many tourists get to see these things from the inside.

Full moon festival

Lee took me to Karaoke and I sang some Johnny Cash, Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

We also went with a group of international types to Red Scorpion Island. My third visit. It is a picnic area about an hour east of Saigon.

That night Lee took me to one of his meet ups. We went across the river to the new section of Saigon. The Cresent Mall is new and one of the nicest malls I have seen.


Crescent Mall

Lee hosted a group to practice taking pictures, we even had a model. We went up the escalators taking pictures. A strange experience but pretty normal with my luck.


Crescent Mall

Not sure what else I will do in Vietnam for the rest of the month. My first week has started off great. Will let you know.


My take on Indonesia

I have spent 3 months in this country..but only on 4 of it’s islands..Java, Bali, Lombok and Gili. Here are some negative things.

Too many people……. everybody has to have a child, the kids are everywhere and many are not in school. The people of Indonesia are crowded into cities, villages and along the roads.

Too many people smoking everywhere….young and old and the cigs are too cheap, they cost just over a dollar a pack and are advertised everywhere, Very effective ads… handsome male models look down from gigantic outdoor signs and say ‘never say maybe’. People smoke inside restaurants and stores.

There is a great deal of litter, mostly plastic bags. Most rivers and streams are full of plastic stuff. Bali’s beaches are beautiful but the junk in the water and on the beaches is terrible. There is talk of banning cheap plastic bags in Bali.

Most people get around on motorbikes. Many people drive recklessly. I have had many close calls on the back of a motorbike. The roads are okay, and are being improved but there are places where open holes appear and are very dangerous. Nobody uses turn signals and most go from lane to lane trying to pass vehicles and trucks. Many busy intersections run on the principal. .who is the most macho. Not too much cop presence; I have just seen them checking for license and registration at check points. Sometimes you see them trying to direct traffic. Most stores have someone with a whistle who helps get vehicles out onto the roads…they all want 10 or 20 cents to keep an eye on your vehicle.

Every once in awhile you get stopped to pay a road toll. Very informal and strange. Sorta highway robbery, not a good way to collect taxes.

The Internet is spotty at best. The people are forced to pay for every pixel on the internet.

When things break there is no sense of urgency. Things like VISA swipe machines. They break and nobody knows/cares when it will be fixed.

Like most of Asia nothing seems to be finished. Buildings are not complete and there are piles of stone and bricks to finish the construction sometime in the future, it just is not done yet.

Now for the good things Indonesia has.

Most people are happy, smiling and nice

Families stay together, they live and work together, there is a sense of community and neighbors hang out together.

The food is excellent and I will miss it. Perfect for a veg person like me. You can not imagine how good the fruit and juices are.

This country is developing fast, the young people are plugged into the web and they want what they see there.

Indonesia is beautiful. Not the cities so much but the countryside. I have seen it from trains, busses and the back of a motorbike. Palm trees, coconut trees, tea plantations, rice paddies, volcanoes, waterfalls, beaches and tropical fruit trees.

I hope to see Sumatra next year, I have a friend there and as long as the volcanic action stops I will visit.

Georgia Carta?

I have been here before, the first capital of Indonesia….Yogykarta. It has a funny pronunciation,sounds like George Ja Carta. Another big city but downtown is for tourists.  Nice to see some pasty white people again. There are 2 kinds of tourists. The privileged sort, they have nice clothes and take taxis and buy expensive tours, they do not eat street food.

The other kind of tourists are the scruffy ones. You wonder how did they get here and how do they exist on limited funds. They walk to get around and do not take tours.  They usually “go native” and most should have gone home years ago. They eat all kinds of questionable street food.

I guess I am in both camps. I am on a budget but have enough to enjoy my travels. I am going home in 3 1/2 months.

We took a taxi from where the bus left us off. Looked at a couple of hotels and picked a nice one with a beautiful pool.

14 months ago I visited this town. I had my act together just enough to be able to visit the old Buddhist Temple of Borobudur which is 25 miles out of town. This time I got to see much more.  We rented a motorbike and went all over the place.

I always regretted that I missed the large Hindu Temple of Prambanan outside of town. This time we went but did not go in. They charge natives $3.00 and non-natives $20.00. That to me was just not fair. So I decided not to go in. Sometimes you just have to do what is right.

We ate twice at a fish restaurant. I ate there last time I was here and it is still a great place to eat, just locals no tourists and tourist prices.

We visited the Sultan’s Palace and a nice lady was our guide. As usual’ young people always want to take a picture with me. I am a curiosity.


The Yogakarta Sultan's Palace

We got a taxi to the airport and after an hour flight, we were back in Bali. Our 3 week tour of Java was over. We got around by walking, trains,  busses,  motorbikes, boats, taxis and bike taxis. We visited 7 cities and were tired. I got a good taste of Java, now 1500 more islands to explore.

2 more weeks left in Indonesia, then I am off to Vietnam.