Friday, May 29, 2015

At the Sanctuary

I've travelled enough now to realize that this "OMG What the FUCK have I got myself into" feeling is most likely just a phase that will pass.  And it mostly has.  

It's really hot and very muggy.  With lots of bugs.  The mosquitoes are mostly just morning and dusk, but bad enough to require caution.  Ants in the bed don't bother me too much since they aren't fire ants.  I love the jungle sounds of the bugs screaming from the trees.  They almost helped drown out the all night Friday rave that went from 11pm to 11am this morning.  Here's a photo I took around 9am.  There were about 40 people dancing or hanging around.  It was VERY loud!

My workshop space is very nice - though a bit of a trek up the hillside to get to it.  Bad news if it was raining!  I've met all but 2 of my workshop folks and all but two are very excited and happy to be here.  The woman from Inida is especially positive.  I don't think she thinks it's hot here!
Here's a photo of Zen Hall.  It's screened on 3 sides.  

The other two are struggling a bit - the kid from Canada is just having trouble with the heat mainly.  The other gal has a basket of 'sensitivites' that have made her quite miserable, and then last night she encountered two cockroaches in her bathroom - she has a full on cockroach phobia!  Or had, until I spent an hour or so tapping with her.  

I know that she'll be a lot happier after going through the 7 day workshop.  But she was all set to leave last night until I made it clear there would be no refund.

The food is very good here.  And it's very pretty.  And exoctic.  I'm hearing wild bird calls I don't recognize at all and last night I finally swam in the bay.  It was gorgeous and serene.  If I can get a massage in today I might just be through the OMG phase entirely.  Oh, and there are just swarms of butterflies - I even saw a few on ferry ride over - way out over the water!

Here's a picture from our breakfast table.  At 10am the sun was already too fierce for me to swim.  I look forward to actually teaching - I know everything will just get better and better once we're underway!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Bit of History

Yesterday I hired a guide and it was a really good move!  He took me to this little alleyway street food place for lunch and it was the best thing I've had to eat for a very long time!  30,000 vnd, which included ice tea.  So I guess that's about $1.50.

The eating was after a fairly greuling tour of the so-called "Hanoi Hilton" which was actually a horrible French prison built back in the late 1800s.  There's only a little bit left, but it was enough.  The French were undoubtely some of the worst colonists ever, and that's a tough competition to win.  My guide told me they killed something like 2 million Vietnamese by starvation - exporting nearly all of the rice, back before the war.
The photo below shows how the prisoners were kept - shacked by one ankle all day long.  Except for the really uppity ones.  They were kept in isolation and shacked by both ankles.  

I don't know about you, but I'd never encountered an actual guillotine before!  Holy shit.  It's one thing to read Tale of Two Cities - quite another to see one in person.  There's a photo there of three faces with baskets around first I didn't know what I was seeing.  Then I read the caption and realized these were just heads - severed from political activists and put out on display to discourage the locals from rebelling.  Didn't work.

The museum focused much more on the French than the Americans, but there were photos of the captured pilots.  Supposedly they were treated relatively humanely.   At least compared to the Vietnamese prisoners of the French.    

After the Hanoi Hilton we walked over to the Women's Museum and I got another dose of Vietnamese reality.  Basically the women are the backbone of the country.  The do most of the hard physical labor it seems, so that the menfolk have time for alcoholism and gambling.  
So this is what a communist mother goddess looks like, apparently.  

There was one video that had interviews of all these different street vendors - all women - who have to come into Hanoi and work from 3:30am to 7pm trying to sell shit on the streets to make enough to bring home.  They only get to see their families once every few weeks.  It's really hard and cruel and made me think twice about ever haggling with them - store keepers yes!  But not these women who carry two baskets hanging from a pole across their shoulders.

I think my favorite was all the propaganda posters depticting women.  They couldn't have kicked our asses (nd the French) without the women totally making it happen.
And there was something about this photo I found very compelling.  You rarely see these women smiling - at least not in the war photos.  Or maybe I'm just a sucker for a pretty girl holdig a machine gun?
The woman's museum also featured many many displays of tribal costumes and lots of jewelry.  Very impressive but there were 6 or 7 floors - and the stairways were NOT airconditioned, so by the end I was sadly losing interest in that really cool stuff that goes on when people aren't trying to kill the Vietnamese.
And finally, sitting on the tiny plastic stools,  lunch....


Nola Cafe

Last night I came across the trippiest place - the entrance was virtually a hole in the wall!  Not really, but it was a very funky looking doorway to a very long cave like tunnel.  I'd read about it on TripAdvisor otherwise there's np way in hell I'd have seen it, let alone thought to enter.
I'd actually come during the day and took a few photos, but at night it was a whole different animal!

The long rough passage leads back to a warren of rooms going up 5 or 6 stories, some of them open air patios.  It looked very old French and somehow hipster Vietnamese (this was the only hipster-esque thing I've seen in Hanoi).  

Aside from a few young staff who seemed to speak no English, I was the only one felt so spooky!  What was this place?!  It had so many rooms...I think it could host about 100 patrons.  Where were they?

Anyway, I had an avocado mango lassi and soaked up the vibes.  I just wished Krista was there to experience it.
I was glad I'd found this place, even though I got hopelessly lost on the way back to my room.  I ended up taking a cyclo - a bicycle taxi, which was a real treat anyway.


I have so many photos now, I finally started putting them up on Flickr:

 Here's a link to my Hanoi set.
And here is a teaser....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

First day in Hanoi

I'm not sick.  I can say that much.
But I'm not feeling too great.  I think it's pretty much standard, jetting to the other side of the planet with very little sleep and stepping into a rather hot, muggy and very chaotic environment.  My belly feels weird.
So I'm hiding in my room for a bit.  

I got scammed today.  I went out to see the famed water puppet show, which was pretty cool.  On the way back I stopped to take a photo, or maybe a video of this crazy intersection with a jillion scooters, bicycle taxis, buses and pedestrians all sorting it out. All of a sudden this kid runs up to me kind of shouting and pointing at my flip flop.  It might have been on fire or something, the way he was acting.  Before I know what's happening he's got it off me and is putting super glue or something on the bottom and slapping a piece of rubber on to "improve" it.  Then cutting away the excess with a sharp and scary looking knifeOnce he'd done one side I had to let him do the other.  He demanded 300,000 vnd for the job.  I gave him 200,000 (about $10) which was still a rip off.  I just walked away while he yelled at me!

Worst of all, the flip flops aren't as comfortable now.   I guess they'll last a lot longer, but it kind of shook me up.

It's hot and muggy here but not nearly as bad as I expected.  Nor is crossing the street as bad as rumor has it.  The architecture here in the old quarter is amazing- all tall and skinny buildings, some modern and very fancy and some ancient and ruinous.  And the streets go every which way!  

I think I'll go out again soon.  The sun is down and the daytime stools will be all rolled up by now.  I was out last night but way too tired to enjoy it.  I needed to eat and couldn't find restaurants!  Not in this neighborhood.  Just tiny stools on the street with some kind of noodle soup on offer.  Not so good for a vegetarian....
Not that many westerners about either.  Not like in Chiang Mai at all!  Which in some ways is very cool. This isn't such a tourist ghetto.  But a little daunting on first arrival.

And here's the iconic family on a scooter shot.  Wouldn't be SE Asia without that!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Gearing up for SE Asia 2015

Well, I'm off again in just a few weeks!  I've set up a 7-day EFT training at a place called the Sanctuary on Koh Phangan in Thailand.  My yoga teacher has been doing month long workshops there for the past few years and it sounds nice!

Of course, it's totally off-season and may be hotter than hell in SE Asia.  And just to make sure I get enough hellish heat, I've decided to head up to Hanoi for a few days before the workshop.  I've never been to Vietnam, and this 1000 year old city looks amazing - heat or no.

I'm looking forward to bumming around the Old Quarter, checking out Vietnam's famous coffee and just soaking up the exhaust fumes from 12,000 scooters a minute going by.  Oh yeah, and risking my life crossing every street.

Here's a picture just to get started of the magical Ha Long Bay (which I probably won't have time to visit....but might cram into my insanely short visit).

I may be crazy, but I'm almost excited at the prospect of cramming into my little coach seat on China Airlines for the 14 hour flight to Taipai and then the 5 hour flight to Bankok and then the 1 hour flight to Hanoi.  Counting all the layovers I'm looking at maybe 26 hours from when I leave home to my nice hotel in the Old Quarter!  Okay, I am crazy.  And it's going to be so worth it!