Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My arrival to Laos

When I got to the border of Laos and Vietnam I wasn't sure what to expect. I was hoping I'd be able to get a new visa for Vietnam on arrival but this wasn't the case. So I headed into Laos. I was worried about both borders because I was coming over via a motorbike that technically I did buy but the papers are in the name of a vietnamese person. I had read that both borders have been known to give foreigners a hard time and usually a bribe is involved. I also read that even though the border I crossed at is open, Bo Y, that sometimes the Vietnamese officers turn you away and say it isn't. All this said I have to say that the whole thing was a breeze. I was in and out of both checkpoints relatively fast. Once into Laos you have to travel 120km before you come to any sort of a proper town, glad I got gas before coming into the country. The road is beautiful as you drive up, around, and down mountaintops. You can see from the near get-go the difference between Laos and Vietnam in the nature. So much vast land of just fauna. The road was almost empty of other traffic and the land seemed almost untouched. But I also realize I'm in a pretty new part of the country that is slowly starting to be developed so I am not chalking too many of my experiences up to being factual yet. One thing I wish I took a picture of was this sign before you got to Laos that said "Frontier Land" I didn't know it when I saw it, but this really summed up the area I was heading to.

As I was driving those long 120km I kept wishing I had taken more water with me and then I remembered something, I'm in Laos! I couldn't wait to grab a Beer Lao after the hot drive. Not a huge drinker but Beer Lao is very tasty, especially when compared to the watered down stuff they call beer in Vietnam. When I got in, no one was at the hotel I was staying at so I decided to wander around for a bit. Did I tell you that I came during Laos New Year? Yep, my 3rd new year of 2011. For new years kids shoot water guns or sometimes just dump/throw buckers of water on you. So I was greeted, fresh on arrival, from the people across the street by having water poured over me. Shortly after a Beer Lao was handed to me, and the drinks seemed to keep on coming. Soaking wet and getting a little buzzed what better to do than dance to Laos music? Houses would have mini sound-systems set up pumping out loud music, sometimes with karaoke mics attached. As you ate or drank beer, danced or sat down, kids would constantly come up behind you and pour water down your back. Occasionally someone would have powder in their hand and covered you in face powder, baby powder, any type of powder, maybe lipstick or other makeup. Though I didn't understand a thing, I went with it.

Having not really eaten much all day, being in the sun with little water and then downing a bunch of beer needless to say I got buzzed and I got tired. I headed back to my hotel to see if people were there yet. They were and she was Vietnamese, which meant I could somewhat talk with her. She fed me dinner and I headed to my room after to unpack. I planned to go explore this city some more but fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke it seemed maybe a bit too late to go out to explore more of the new year festivities.

Alas, one thing was clear. This is a very different place than Vietnam.

The next day was still part of the new years celebration so I wandered around some more and was invited to more peoples houses, offered more beer and got to try other Laos food. (What's sort of funny is that I'd been looking for balut for the past year and bought some a few days before in Vietnam. Now after finally trying it and having it in my radar, I was being offered it in Lao.) Sadly, I don't really have any pictures because I was afraid of having water poured on my camera. Again I took a mid day nap brought on by heat and Beer Lao.

The next day I'd wake up early and head off to Paksong, Lao's coffee capital.

this guy was hammered on the new year and kept having me dance with him. he also kept trying to grab my special regions. Oh the joy of being in Asia.

Eating Balut

Since coming to Asia I had wanted to find and try Balut. Balut is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. Sounds absolutely disgusting.. which is why I wanted to try it. Balut is the name I know it as which is the Philippine name, in Vietnam it's called Trứng vịt lộ. I had heard both good and bad things about it. In the end, I have to say it wasn't that bad. I don't know if I'd seek it out with the same pizzaz as I first did but I'd eat it again for sure. In fact, when I got to Lao it would be given to me as part of the New Year celebration.

it's just a normal bunch of boiled eggs, right?

even in a little cup like my mom used to serve me

wait.. that doesn't look like a normal egg. what's going on?

definitely different..

not the most appetizing to look at.

but it can't be that bad if I ate it all. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kon Tum, round 2

On my way to Laos I had to head back up the Ho Chi Minh Trail from Saigon. I was excited to go back to the Central Highlands as I really enjoyed my time there before. Buon Ma Thuot has some of the best coffee I've ever had, and Kon Tum was a very friendly city with some sights we didn't get a chance to see. I stayed in BMT for a night with a great couple that I met on couchsurfing. They were so nice, and Trang made a delicious cup of coffee. They even had durian trees in their backyard, but it wasn't the season for them yet. :( boohoo.

I left BMT and was heading to Kontum, about 220km away. Unfortunately on the way there my clutch started acting up. I was able to deduce where the problem lied but not how to fix it. WIth no clutch it's sort of hard to get into first after kick starting, so I stayed in top gear most of the time and tried to not stop at all. When I would stop, I'd look for hills nearby so that I could bump-start into second and go from there. When I got into Kon Tum my hotel recommended a mechanic for me. Though he never worked on Minsk's before and couldn't speak english I was able to show him where my problem was and he was able to help fix it. I then had him put a new back tire on as mine was pretty worn down and from what I had heard the roads and Laos are pretty rough so good treads would be needed. I can not tell you how smart a move this was. I then took the new tire for a test drive in the local villages. Off-roading with good tires is much more fun, though less skiddy. I did get stuck in the mud at one point while crossing a stream. One of the fun part of having a simple bike like mine is that you aren't as scared about having your bike go through water. If it gets wet it just needs time to dry. :)

Shortly after leaving BMT I passed by this bike. Not sure if you can fully see it but he has cages full of chickens on his back.

Fields in the villages outside of Kon Tum

Around one of the villages

The wooden church in Kontum. Though not one for churches, this one was very beautiful. I'm sure this has to do with it being made out of all wood, which gives it a different type of feel.

one of the porches at the wooden church

inside the wooden church

another central house of sort in a different village

rice fields

So all throughout most of the central highlands are tons and tons of coffee fields. I wish I had done more to tour or learn about them but I didn't. I just drove by them. This is a picture of a coffee plant, but I didn't see any beans.

traffic on the way out of Kon Tum.

Around Saigon

some random photos from around saigon

hello fresh durian!

playing around with the hotels pet scorpion

thai che. a vietnamese take on desert. Coconut milk with durian and fresh jackfruit as well as tapioca/jelly type goodies.

the hotel families older son, Thuan (pronounced like two-juan) on Adam's minsk

the younger son Huong on my minsk. he's such a kidding type.

all the boys

at the zoo

One day we took the kids from our hotel out to the zoo. They really wanted to go as well as, I think, wanted to spend time with us. At first I didn't want to go but gave in and ended up having a fun time. Anyone who knows me well knows I love looking at and playing with animals, especially elephants. I had a blast, each new cage had a new surprise and something for me too ooh and ah at.

Elephants doing some tricks.

he walks the line

does a little yoga

you can't fully see it here but two are playing harmonicas and one a tambourine. making sweet music


taking a bath in lovely clean water

I fed some grass to these ladies

who's a thirsty fella?

just loving it

goats really eat anything. so cute though

hippo hiding

hungry hungry hippo

asian black bear

emu's are ridiculous looking birds

just look at them

lazy tiger

white tiger, such a beautiful animal


they got that scary look

ready to snap

king of the jungle

this picture really explains vietnam. Foreigners pay while vietnamese don't. grrrr

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Tho

A small city on the Mekong is My Tho which doesn't have too much to offer besides quite possibly the worst drivers in all of the country. But one nice thing in the town is the big buddhist temple. We stopped here on the way back to Saigon.

Lotus pond at the temple

funny looking (sorta creepy) big buddha statue


Getting my first Thailand tattoo

No, I didn't get a thai tattoo like Jack got on "Lost" I got what is referred to as a "Thailand tattoo." This is when you get one of those nasty burn marks on your calf from coming into contact with a scorching hot exhaust pipe on a motorbike. See I had a little mishap. I came off a steep bridge and onto some dirt which made my bike skid out fall on me and I burnt my leg. Luckily, I had good friends nearby to help clean (Adam taking some liquor and then spitting it out on me) and calm me down. After the whole thing I had to laugh, but during it.. I was pissed and in pain.

all photos courtesy of Adam and Kaja

The start of the drive was great... at one point Kaja had an issue with her bike so adam stopped to fix it, but with all my weight and lack of friction on the dirt road I was forced to go right instead of into them. Going right meant going off the road. I couldn't see where I was going for a few seconds and was incredibly scared. I got so lucky and landed in a pile of sand. For a split second I thought I was going to die... luckily I didn't.

A lovely well made road. One of many bridges we'd cross on the route to the ferry.

going up the hill

If you look in the back right you can see me talking with Kaja. I actually just took a mango from a tree. My foraging this mango from someones yard may be the reason I got hurt. Karma can be a bitch.

after the fact, the "tattoo" all dressed up. you can see how happy i look

Kaja's great wrapping job

the road that got me. right near the top you can see the bridge and road are a bit rough.. well, yeah I fell for it. :)

another awesome and fun bridge to cross. After my little accident I was scared to do pretty much anything so this bridge didn't make me happy.