Archive for March, 2009

My new thing… communist artwork.

Throughout my travels in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of billboards and posters bearing the kind of imagery I really thought didn’t exist post cultural revolution/soviet union/cold war. Most of these huge posters are positioned along the motorways just outside the major cities and, as such, often have to be photographed from the window of various buses and taxis. There are a lot of these about, and the examples above are by no means the best/most interesting, but so far they are the only pictures I’ve managed to take. Some of the H.I.V prevention posters are pretty intense, featuring lots of needles and withered zombie-like people being restrained by muscle bound arms drawn in the classic angular style associated with communist propaganda. While i don’t claim to understand the messages behind a lot of these billboards, I have to admit that I’m struck by the power of the images. 

And I threw in a picture of a hat and an American soldier falling into a spiked booby trap. They we’re taken at the CuChi tunnels near Saigon. If you don’t know about these tunnels, google them. Or better still, go to the library and do it the old fashioned way. Truly inspiring, but equally unsettling.

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Lifetography.

Here’s an assortment of pictures taken on the way from HoiAn to the Mekong Delta. I’ll update this post with more details about what you are looking at when i’m not knackered from twelve hours of buses and boats from Saigon to the Delta and slap bang in the middle of a Larium enduced mood swing. Most of them are self explanitory though; just interesting things i saw along the way.

Just a quick one.

Just to let whoever actually checks this blog know; we leave Vietnam tomorrow bound for Cambodia. The journey will be a slow and watery one along the mekong river, and we should arrive in Phnom Penh in two days time. This, of course, means that there is a high chance of me not being able to check or write my blog, potentially for a long time depending on the Internet situation in Cambodia. How will the information super-highway cope without me? Easily.

Anyway, we are currently holed up in the Lovely An Phu Hoi An hotel in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh city if you work for the Vietnamese government) in possibly the strangest Dorm room I have ever stayed in. Situated on the top floor of the building, commanding a magnificently mediocre view of the imaginatively named “area 1”, almost swallowed in a cacophony of beeping horns and shouts of “you buy hammock!”, it stands proud as a shining definition of the word “afterthought”. Constructed, as it seems to be,  entirely from the leftover pieces of 500 D.I.Y greenhouse kits, it also stands as a more than adequate definition of sustainability. All four walls are glass, the toilet sits proudly in a nook in the corner in possession of a door but no ceiling, and the shower only works below waist height. But I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m sure i could market lying on a plastic coated mattress on the the floor of a glasshouse in 40 degree heat as some kind of weight loss program and make a fortune.

After re-reading my last paragraph, I feel it sounds a little negative. I have had a very good time in the aforementioned dorm room, due in no small part to my co-occupants, and the two seconds of bliss that occur when the oscillating ceiling fan breathes it’s luke warm draft over my sweaty pile of a body.  I have never taken well to the heat.

Hanoi Boo skateshop.

Just to re-iterate this point: Hanoi seems to have a thriving skate scene and I’m a bit gutted that i only discovered it on the last day of my stay there. If you ever visit Hanoi, don’t make the same mistake.

Boo Skateshop

Quote of the week:

“I’m so hungry i could eat a baby’s arse through a wicker chair”

just something i overheard someone say a few days ago. It got stuck in my head and i feel the only way to exorcise the mental image it left me with is to share it with you.

Links…

I’m currently sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Nha Trang sweating profusely, being harassed by a wasp and waiting for my travelling companions to awake.  I was crudely awoken myself by the night guard fella who decided that 5:30 a.m. was a suitable time to commence a long and shouty monologue aimed at his mobile phone, so i decided to attempt to beat the scorching heat and go for a skate down by the sea front. Suffice to say that my attempt was a downright failure, as i was swiftly reduced to a sweaty heap by 7o’clock. And things will only get hotter from here on in, as we enter Cambodia in a couple of weeks and the temperature there is already in the mid thirty’s. As a distinctly white person born from Scottish and English stock, i am not exactly thrilled by this. In the past two days I’ve already used two bottles of factor 50, one bottle of factor 15and roughly a litre of insect repellent, all to no avail. While not exactly sun-burnt my face has returned to it’s standard summertime tone of deep red, clashing wonderfully with my ginger beard and snowy white, almost translucent shoulders. I have never looked good in the summer months, and as southern Vietnam appears to have nothing but summer, you can expect to see some photos of me resembling a greasy and pink version of shrek pretty soon.

As for Nha Trang, it appears to be a strange mish-mash of Miami and a building site. It’s the first real resort town we’ve been to on our travels so far, and it’s development is going strong. It’s a stark contrast to most of the cities we visited in China, which on the whole didn’t seem to have payed foreign tourism much attention at all. I get the feeling that China has so many Chinese tourists already that the foreign element is a bit of a novelty/nuisance at the moment. The exception that proves the rule is Yunnan province of course, but it borders Vietnam, is green and sunny for most of the year, and is generally considered part of the well trodden Mekong Delta travelers circuit so it doesn’t count as China proper as far as I’m concerned. However, even Yunnans tourist industry pales in comparison with Vietnams, and Nha Trang is one of the best examples. Like Blackpool or Skegness, it’s hard to find anything to actually do here aside from doss on the beach or find a bar to swill down beer in. Unlike Blackpool and Skegness, however,  the beach is worth dossing on, with clear blue water and palm trees, and the bars aren’t full of fat people shouting. There seems to be plenty to do outside the town, and in fact i am currently surrounded by advertisements featuring pictures of happy people snorkeling, drinking at floating bars and having a good old fashioned knees up in obnoxious flowery shorts. Personally, i find few things less appealing than organised tours for the simple reason that you never know what kind of revolting specimens of humanity you will end up sharing a boat or coach with for days on end. They could well be lovely people, but on the other hand they could be a pack of howling “lads on tour” wearing multi coloured sombreros and swigging vodka at nine in the morning. For me, the risk of annoyance is simply to great. This may be a very snobbish and aloof attitude on my part, but to be quite honest I have run into a few truly embarrassing examples of the British people and I am amazed that they were ever allowed to get on a plane in the first place. I would have taken them round the back of Heathrow and had them shot.  However, this is developing into a classic Blog rant and that was never my intention.

My initial intention was to inform anyone who cares that I have added lots of new links at the bottom of the page. Click them. It might help if you can read a bit of Japanese for some of them, but there are also lots of lovely pictures to look at if you can’t. Also, if anyone has any good suggestions for links I should add, let me know. I’m sure some of you lot have good websites or blogs, and if i know/like you I will sling up a link.  

Relaxative.

Hanoi Boo Skatepark…

If you’re in Hanoi, you should probably go here:

http://www.booskateshop.com