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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SEA Games

I happened to be in Vientiane, Laos during the 2009 Sea Games while researching some stories for CNNGo. Below are a few photos from the Vietnam vs Laos woman's game earlier this month.




Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Dinner

Had a great Christmas Turkey dinner last night at Snow and finished the evening off at Joe's Cafe with brownies and hot apple brandy. Both venues had live music to boot. Many thanks to Snow and Joe's for a great evening. I hear Joe's is offering turkey and mashed potatoes and all the trimmings tonight as well...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in Phan Thiet 2009

Below are some photos from Phan Thiet at Christmas this year.










View past Christmas photos HERE. Or read my CNNGo story on Phan Thiet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Publishing News

I seem to be getting published in December faster than I can keep track. That's always a good thing. My story on Christmas in Phan Thiet was linked from CNN's front page and appears at CNNGo. More CNNGo articles are in the works. I also have an article in this month's HCMC-based Asia Life Magazine on all the off-the-radar things to do and see in Mui Ne.

In book news, Insight Guide to Cambodia and Laos, for which evaluated the book and updated the Cambodia section, should be out any day now, as well as DK Eyewitness Vietnam, for which I updated the entire book. I'm currently working on other titles for Cambodia and Thailand as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BBC Say Vietnam Says No on Facebook

According to the BBC, in a rather cynical report, Vietnam denies it is actively blocking facebook, despite claims of employees from a variety of ISP companies. If that were true however, then why has it been unavailable through more than one ISP, running through different servers? Anyway, read the story here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vietnam's Facebook Block Saga Continues

An article by The Press Association Sheds a little light on the current Facebook black-out in Vietnam:

“Government officials and managers at several of Vietnam's state-controlled internet service providers did not respond to a request for comment.

But technicians at two of Vietnam's largest internet service providers said they had been swamped with calls from customers complaining they could not access Facebook during the last week.

A technician at Vietnam Data Corp. said government officials had ordered his firm to block access to Facebook and that VDC instituted a block on the site on November 11. He declined to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the media.”

Most of the article merely rehashed current discussion on the internet by users within Vietnam, but the above quote, if it can be believed, suggested something more sinister is going on. Granted, the only difference between journalism and hearsay is whether or not one gets paid to dispense it, but at this point in time, any little bit of information is very illuminating for users in Vietnam now who are largely now cut off.

Quite a few of my own contacts have told me that this move by Vietnam deals a serious blow to the expat community in Saigon and Hanoi, who relied on Facebook heavily for career networking and social activities.

Read the full article HERE.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Electronic Guidebooks

Below is my response to travel author/tv host Rick Steves, who recently wrote a story for World Humabout the trend toward electronic guidebooks, and asked for input:

"I'm a guidebook writer for SE Asia myself, so very interested in the topic. Those of us in the publishing industry know that it, like similar industries, is in very hard times. As you pointed out, there is a lot of excitement over electronic books, aps and readers, so I think its only natural to go in that direction. I just tested out Lonely Planet's new iPhone city guides. They were fun to use, and features like the maps with GPS, and ability to click on websites and phone numbers and make immediate calls were very helpful. However, there were some notable disadvantages. Tables of Contents, directories and lists tend to be very long and unwieldy. It's impossible to get the overall feel of the city with an eguide like this --it can only be read in bits and pieces--so it only really works if you already know where you want to go but want more information about a sight or venue or how to get there.

An iphone ap or electronic book does present the opportunity for a publisher to update the content more often (after all they don't have to pay to re-publish a paper book if a few phone numbers change--they simply issue an electronic update), however with the low budgets and stone-age business models guidebook publishers still use these days, I don't see this happening. And this is the problem... technology and platform can never replace good content... but the outcome I propose may not be what you expect. The interesting thing in all this is that the advantages of publishing with new electronic platforms, specifically things like iPhone aps, are geared more toward small publishers and individual developers--rather than the large book publishers. In this game, anyone with time, skill and expertise has the capability of producing a competing guide--with much more up-to-date content than a big publisher can manage. Inevitably everything will probably move to electronic format of some kind, but in the end, I think the big publishers will still be the big losers down the line--unless they revolutionize their processes behind the scenes.

Still for now, I know I appreciate putting my reference books all on one device if I can. As a guidebook writer that likes to work on my books while on the road, I otherwise tend to have to carry a whole heavy reference library on my back, which is not very nice!"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Phan Thiet Celebrates Status as Second Rate City

Vietnam Net Article

I had a good laugh at the title of the article linked to above. They obviously have no idea that it suggests Phan Thiet is something less than a nice city.

The article discusses the annual "Tourism Festival" in late October in Phan Thiet. The "festival" is largely a naval-gazing event that is never even advertised to the very audience it is allegedly intended to serve--foreign tourists.

Dinh Thai Thim is indeed a very interesting festival, but it has nothing to do with what the government is putting on in Phan Thiet, and it is more than an hour away.

They go on to mention that the event is a chance to honor tourism companies in the area... of course those tourist companies are only the ones that are Vietnamese-owned and in close partnership with, if not owned outright by, the powers that be...

Shipping from Vietnam

If you happen to need to ship anything from Vietnam, you may be interested in the response I just gave someone:

By normal post it's always been extremely slow to ship anything (anywhere from several weeks to several months), and things have a tendency to break. If you are sending anything that might break, I recommend using one of the Styrofoam boxes used for packing seafood. You can often find them for sale--very cheap--at shops near docks, ports and harbor areas.

Couriers are much faster--I've averaged almost two weeks no matter who I use. They are of course very expensive. DHL and EMS have been cheapest and provide good service. Many of the couriers have free pick-up service, the only problem is you have to wait around half the day, or all day, and they may not show up at all. For that reason I find it best to schedule the pickup for toward the end of the day, so your waiting is at a minimum. The post office often has a pickup service but I've encountered some corruption and unreliability with it.

Note that whatever you mail, particularly large boxes of mixed items, will be unpacked and searched before it is shipped. This can cause problems if you brought it already safely packed because all of that will be re-done and might be re-packed haphazardly. Make sure you insert yourself into the situation so you can control how it is re-packed.

Note that media like DVDs and CD's with movies and music can not be mailed back, at least unless it has the little government-certified stickers on it. Photo CDs and whatnot are fine. I've never mailed books out of the country, but that might be a problem.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Notes From Mui Ne's Streets

My friends tell me there continue to be numerous fatal motorbike/automobile accidents in Mui Ne and Phan Thiet, including some decapitations recently.

A friend of mine is a motorbike taxi driver in Mui Ne. He recently gave a ride to a Vietnamese person from Saigon, who was visiting Mui Ne. The passenger acted strangely and instructed him to go to an uninhabited area in the countryside. Fortunately my friend knew something was wrong, and instead dropped the passenger off and went immediately to the police station. Surprisingly, the police actually responded and went and picked the guy up and searched him. They found on him a knife, pair of gloves, and drugs. They concluded that he intended to kill my friend, rob him and steal the motorbike. Lesson learned: don't give rides to strangers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kinda Gross



This was so nasty I just had to post it. It's a sign out in front of a hospital in Cambodia. It appears to be a photo montage of various serious health ailments, combined into a single "person." I blurred out a key graphic element... still pretty nasty!

Adventure Travel Has Its Disappointments

Sometimes as a travel writer I arrive in places that are real dumps, and sore disappointments, such as Koh Kong, Cambodia today, on the border with Thailand. I can relate to Alec Guinness here in this "lost scene" from Star Wars (warning, R-rated for language).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vietnam Purges Expat Community

The following comes from Vietnam News Agency. I don't normally like reposting things, but this item was so telling of the current situation and I'm afraid it might be taken down at some point. First are letters from two expats echoing the concerns of many, followed by a response from the editor.
*********************************************************************************

Dear Viet Nam News,

The main topic of conversation amongst the expatriate community at the moment concerns the sudden withdrawal by the immigration department of the six- month business visa. This visa is what 90 per cent of the expats living here use and now only being able to get a one month visa extension will make life here quite difficult. Apart from the cost, there is the difficulty in being unable to travel, go to the bank, etc., because we won’t have our passports for one week for every month. Also we will have to register every month with the local People’s Committee. Why has it been withdrawn? Why is the expat community being treated like this? Does the Government no longer appreciate the wealth of experience, and to not mention money, that this group of people bring to Viet Nam? Are there any plans for the State to return to the six-month visa policy?

David Wood Nha Trang.
***********************************************************************************
Dear Sir,

I had a visa from the Vietnamese embassy in the UK for one month. I had several of these. Then I had a one-year visa, then I could only get a six-month visa. Now we can only get one month visas that are single entry.

I have lived in Viet Nam since November 2008 and find that the B3 visa is now so restricted that it is of great concern. This rule also applies to foreigners who have been here five or 10 years.

Does the Vietnamese Government not want the British, Europeans and Americans to live, work and pay relevant taxes in Viet Nam?

Kind Regards,
Mark Tu
************************************************************************************
Dear Viet Nam News readers,

Above are letters from two readers, who wrote to the newspaper expressing their concerns about recently approved visa procedures, which have stopped the issuing of six-month visas. Regarding these issues, we have talked to the Deputy Director of the Immigration Management Department, Le Thanh Dung, to seek answers.

Dung confirmed that the regulation on visas in Viet Nam, approved since 2000, has not changed. The only difference that was made since the passing of Decree 34 pertained to the recruitment and management of foreign employees, which happened last year.

According to the decree, all foreigners, except for diplomats, staying in Viet Nam for over three months will have to get a work permit to stay in the country. Within the next three months, if they do not get a work permit, they will be sent back to their countries.

Details about Decree 34 can be found at the website of the Ministry of Justice:

http://vbqppl.moj.gov.vn/law/en/2001_to_2010/2008/200803/200803250001_en

The Decree is part of the efforts to reorganise the foreign labour market in Viet Nam in order to attract skilful workers to the country.

Regarding the concerns of tourists, Dung explained that the Government encouraged the development of tourism and wanted to attract more and more overseas tourists to Viet Nam. However, with regards to national security and social stability, this was the way the Government had acted in order to ensure expats’ equality as a Vietnamese citizen, while they are living in Viet Nam.

Dung also said that this was an effort by the Government to attach responsibility to the Vietnamese companies and offices that hire foreigners.

He said that under the regulations, issuing visas would be based on the purpose of the individual entering Viet Nam. Companies that recruit overseas labour would have to take legal and social responsibility for the safety and social rights of these workers while they are living in Viet Nam.

For individuals who are coming to the country to work, they should have long-term contracts with a legal entity in Viet Nam. They can also get a temporary residence card, for one to five years, in accordance with their work contract and passport duration.

As the conditions for each case are unique and with the agencies possibly trying to extort foreigners, Dung suggested that individuals work directly with local immigration departments in order to follow the exact procedure. In the event that an individual is pestered by a bureaucratic staff member, he/she can directly contact the Department of Immigration Management Department and Ministry of the Public Security by post at 40A Hang Bai Street, Ha Noi or contact them at vnimm@hn.vnn.vn by email.

Dung confirmed that if foreigners had been living in Viet Nam with clear purposes, and had documents to prove their skills then their visas will be approved without any difficulties. An individual that had been living in the country for years legally should be able to get a visa extension.

He also added that the department would strengthen their enforcement in the near future. The issuance of one-month visas would also be reviewed. Individuals who had stayed in Viet Nam for a long time, but had failed to find reliable sources to state their reasons for why they are here, would be dismissed from the country.

Therefore, our advice to those concerned is to quickly contact the nearest immigration departments. In case they still have difficulties with the procedures, please provide us with specific information about their job, employer name and living location in Viet Nam, and we will try to help find a solution.

Best wishes,
The Editor
*****************************************************************************

My favorite paragraph:

"Regarding the concerns of tourists, Dung explained that the Government encouraged the development of tourism and wanted to attract more and more overseas tourists to Viet Nam. However, with regards to national security and social stability, this was the way the Government had acted in order to ensure expats’ equality as a Vietnamese citizen, while they are living in Viet Nam."

These references to ntnl scrty and scl stblty are a little bit alarming. Exactly how are the average expats a threat to this? Can we expect crackdowns in other new areas as well?

As regards "equality as a Vietnamese citizen." LOL. Will I be given the right to vote? Right to travel freely? Own property? Not in a million years... But would I also lose some rights that I already have?...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Typhoon Destruction in Quang Ngai, Vietnam

From a Vietnamese friend in Quang Ngai:

"I have been witness to a very violent storm and flood which came over to our area like never before. It was on Sept 28th-29th, 2009, during 2 days and 1 night. It was so terrible, so strong with level 12, 13 and effected most of the houses here (most of the tile-roof were taken away...and the water came in the houses made everything wet in the house, even food). The crops also suffered damage because of the water-logging. Some Enthic Minority houses were completely collapsed and they are now sleeping under tarps and have no food. My house was affected by that storm, too. Our area was overwhelmed by water for 1 day and 1 night."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bag Snatching in Mui Ne

Uhg. I just heard a report that last night some thieves drove up on a motorbike and tried to steal bags from someone arriving on the 1am bus in front of Saigon-Mui Ne Resort. Thank God the victim fought back and knocked the motorbike over. Someone then ran the thieves off, who abandoned the motorbike and ran away on foot. The motorbike was turned over to police today. The question is, will the police actually do anything about the crime?

What is Mui Ne becoming? Why do we have to become like the very worst of Saigon and Nha Trang? Why don't people care?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Socialist Art

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bia Hoi

Read the Wall Street Journal Article Here

Very informative article about Bia Hoi vs the onslaught of foreign beers. Bia Hoi is definitely a very good bargain, although vendors are caught from time to time, and noted in the Vietnamese "state-run" media (as opposed to the American "state-run" media) adding formaldehyde in small quantities as a preservative. I'm afraid the prime beer-drinking age extends far beyond the 20-40 range mentioned in the article--in fact I'd wager teenagers and 50-somethings consume much more than the latter group in Vietnam.

I just saw an amusing ad for Miller Beer here (as well as some banner ads at a shopping center), declaring that "Miller is American Time." I guess this is a twist on their old slogan, "It's Miller Time," and trying to play on the idea that Vietnamese often think anything American always has to be better... Oddly though, alcohol can't be mentioned on cable TV in Vietnam. Every time Discovery Travel and Living has a segment on alcohol for example (whether it be an episode of Globe Trekker, Samantha Brown, Hanoi's own Bobby Chinn, or Anthony Bourdain) there's suddenly 10 minutes of rainbow bars on the screen.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Movie "Editing" in Vietnam

Brining the subject back to Vietnam...

I'm in Saigon at the moment to, among other things, making a movie run at the cinema. The cinemas in Vietnam have vastly improved over the last 5 years. We now have screens with audio systems and seating that rival those in the USA. We have access to movies at the same time as the USA too (most of the time), although distribution has been delayed a few times (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith being a good examples) due to silly Vietnamese ideas about lucky and "auspicious dates."

I'm almost embarrassed to admit I did go see GI Joe. The juvenility of the movie was just a little above Power Rangers, I'm sorry to say... but it still was entertaining. The poorly-translated Vietnamese subtitles aside (as well as overlooking the fact that the censors didn't allow certain catch-words to be translated into Vietnamese, regardless of context). It was annoying to see all hatchet-job editing the local censors did to remove "objectionable" violence. I remember at least 3 scenes that jumped awkwardly in the middle of dialogue and action, to a resolution which no longer made sense. Further surprising was the next movie I saw, "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but was rather surprised to see so much skin in a couple of scenes--and more-so that the local censors apparently found it unobjectionable and declined to edit. I'm really curious what the standard is in using to edit films.

I suppose it's not as bad as the way Discovery Travel and Living gets "edited" in Vietnam. Every time there is a travel or cuisine show with a segment on alcohol, the screen immediately switches to rainbow bars until it is over.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Book on the Shelves



One of my latest books to hit the shelves this week is the new "World's Greatest Cities," published by Time Out in the UK. I wrote the Hanoi entry. Click on the image above to order your copy from Amazon.

I'm currently negotiating book #15. More details in the future...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Literate in Cham



As of today, after just less than a month of study, I'm proud to say I can read Cham script. I'm one of not only a small handful of foreigners who can read Cham (the others probably all PhD students), but a small group of people who can read it at all. The benefits? Along with further vocabulary comprehension, this allows me to read signs, inscriptions, steles and histories for myself, without having to take someone else's word that the translations are accurate (usually they are not). It gives me an invaluable insight into the Cham culture and history that I could have no other way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rice Cake Candy in Phan Thiet


This family in Phan Thiet makes the candies by hand, in their 200-year-old house.


Candies dry and firm up in the sun for a few hours before packing.


Packaged candies are sent out all over Phan Thiet and other cities including Saigon and Dalat.

These candies can be purchased at Binh Thuan Authentic and tours to see these and other local crafts in Binh Thuan Province (Bee Keeping, Cham Textiles and Pottery, Hilltribe basket weaving) are available through Fish Egg Tree Tours. For tours, contact 094.431.3287 or email us through Mui Ne Beach.net.

Bear Grylls Vietnam Episode

The following four clips are for Bear's upcoming show (premiering 8/26 at 9PM ET/PT) in Vietnam. I was in talks with Discovery Channel reps about interviewing Bear for the episode, but unfortunately none of my publishers showed much interest in publishing the interview.




Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pogo Charity Event

Last night Pogo hosted a charity buffet and dance party to benefit the Friends of Blind People's Association and The Classes of the Heart (to finance construction of two classrooms for disadvantaged children in Long Son school in Mui Ne Village). The event looked to be a big success.





Saturday, August 8, 2009

Whiskey Mountain


Whiskey, or "Big Titty" Mountain is well known to the American Soldiers who were stationed at the LZ Betty in Phan Thiet. A Helicopter Landing Pad was stationed at the top, where at least one serious crash occurred. The mountain now hosts communications towers and is cut away at the base by several unsightly quarries. Seen here from the town of Ma Lam, north of Phan Thiet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Strange Developments


By some standards, this new hotel may be Mui Ne's first high-rise building, at 11 floors (if we can believe the architect's rendering on the sign). I thought there was a regulation that no building could be higher than the tallest coconut trees, but apparently, if that ever was a regulation, it has gone out the window. It looks like it will be a nice building. No doubt this will be the start of a new trend in development for the beach.


New construction in the middle of the beach. Looks to be a seafood stand perhaps. I was always told this stretch belonged to the government, to be administrated as a park, but apparently this was or is no longer true. Seafood canteens have begun sprouting up in this area. The secret of their popularity is not only good food, but cheap food. A few smart folks finally learned that if you don't make foreigners pay more than locals, you actually get more customers.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Latest Gossip: If Pigs could Parasail.

It appears the parasailing folks from Nha Trang have moved in. They've set up station at the derelict, unfinished resort on the west end of the beach. Word is that on their very first day a Russian fellow had a nasty crash on their jet skis, seriously injuring himself. Several customers also got tangled and dragged through the water.

The problem here is that the winds in Mui Ne are probably too strong for the sport. I have no problem with the activity in theory. It looks like fun. But I cringe at the idea of these jet skis and speed boats weaving in and out of the swimmers. It's hard enough balancing the kiteboarders and swimmers on the same beach. My suggestion is that the parasailers should set up a sign and tent on the beach in Mui Ne, then bus their customers up to the next beach (between Mui Ne and Hon Rom) where the waves are calm and the beach is void of swimmers, and frolic safely to their heart's content.

Pig Flu. Word is that it's all over Saigon, and appears to be present here in Mui Ne as well. As I said from the beginning, I think it's much ado about nothing. Less serious than the normal flu. I think its being used as a ploy for government agencies to secure increased funding and new authority. That being said, I was told that masks are getting passed out on the train between Saigon and Phan Thiet, and everyone is wearing them.

More on the Garbage Crisis in Mui Ne

I received this message from a friend:

"I've just read with interest your recent blog on the beach pollution crisis. I am still unsure whether the source of the problem is due to the growth of tourism or the lack of care from the local fishermen or perhaps even some other reason. According to my casual conversation with the locals, the pollution is seasonal relating to the ocean currents. It has always been here even before tourism. The interesting part is that the individuals that I spoke to believe that the local fishermen are only partly to blame as much of the rubbish arrives from other areas outside Vietnam.

I am curious about your thoughts and possible solutions."

My Response:

Yes, the locals are right that it’s seasonal. The currents and wind changes direction over the course of the year, blowing the garbage one way or another (into the beach here, or out to Khe Ga). The problem I see now though, is that there is such a large volume of it being pumped into the bay that it is no longer being washed out, and it’s all getting trapped here. I see it as a combination of things—the fishermen and locals dumping trash in Mui Ne, the resorts dumping waste water in Ham Tien, and the city of Phan Thiet dumping garbage in the Ca Ty River and Phan Thiet bay. It occurred to me today that I know the city like the back of my hand, yet I’ve never seen a city garbage dump—I’m sure because it all goes in the bay. That’s a scary thought. I’m sure the garbage comes from many places, but when you sit beside the Ca Ty river and watch the constant flow of garbage floating out to the bay, I think it’s safe to say locals are responsible for most of it.

I think the solutions are probably pretty simple. They need laws to ban dumping garbage with serious fines. They need to ban plastic bags altogether like China. The local government needs to enforce the law requiring resorts to have waste water treatment plants, and stop penalizing the 3 resorts that actually do obey the law. They also need to develop a legitimate garbage dump and waste treatment facility for the city.

Cheers,

Adam

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mui Ne Beach Pollution Crisis

I used to go swimming every day... but now the beach is so dirty I can't stomach the idea of getting in the water. I stopped swimming a few months ago.





So my question is, should photos like this appear on the front of www.MuiNeBeach.net to get people to wake up and do something about the problem before Mui Ne's tourism is destroyed? Or do we keep dumping our garbage, raw sewage and greywater, dead animals, plastic bags and other refuse until the beach itself actually stinks? Your thoughts? In fairness I should say this is more a problem for the easter half than the western half of the beach, but it effects the whole area.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learning Cham



Having gotten comfortable with my proficiency of the Vietnamese language, and finding myself with a little bit of free time after finishing stage one of another new guidebook for DK Eyewitness, I decided to tackle the Cham Language. The Cham are the dominant minority in Binh Thuan and neighboring Ninh Thuan provinces. Their ancient kingdom of Champa would have been the fourth country of Indochina (after VN, Laos and Cambodia) if a few battles had ended with different outcomes.

Cham has turned out to be rather easy to learn. Like Vietnamese, it's all monosyllabic, except for pesky little pre-syllables. The only problem is that the alphabet, an evolution of sanskrit, is entirely unique--and most Cham speakers are entirely illiterate in their own language. I'd assumed my Cham friends were all at least fluent speaker, but as it turns out, they are not. They grow up speaking Cham at home, but later they are sent to school where all instruction is in Vietnamese-only. Most of my friends seem to be only 60%-80% proficient in their native language. Adding to the complication, there are no language textbooks, phrasebooks, dictionaries or listening materials in print, so I have to ask a variety of friends to help fill in the blanks. Still it's a fun challenge and the process of learning is much the same way I learned Vietnamese.

I guess it won't take long to become a leading expert though...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pasta at Sandals Restaurant, The Sailing Club

I had a wonderful dinner last night at Sandals Restaurant (The Sailing Club). They have a new pasta bar (each dish is lovingly tended to by the chefs) with elegant lasagna--a rarity in this part of the world. Feast your eyes on these pics.


One of the chefs rolls out fresh lasagna noodles.



The chefs await guests to select their desired pastas then prepare them individually.



Fresh Cajun Cream Sauce, Bolognese, jumbo prawns and a selection of pasta



Fresh bread with sun dried tomatoes and pasta with fresh olives and creamy feta cheese.


All this on the patio overlooking the pool and the crashing waves of Phan Thiet Bay. My life is so difficult... ;-)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wedding


Congratulations to Nha and Khue

Friday, July 10, 2009

Central Highlands Roadtrip Part 1: Binh Thuan to Dalat

Below are the highlights from my 2-week solo motorbike road trip from Phan Thiet to Dalat to Lak Lake, to Buon Ma Thuat, with a diversion to Yuk Don National Park, then on to Plei Ku, Kon Tum, east to Quang Ngai, then finally a train ride to Phan Thiet.

I’m told I drove nearly 1000km (620 miles), and traveled through 6 provinces (Binh Thuan, Lam Dong, Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Quang Ngai), and the territories of 9 different ethnic minorities (Cham, Rag Lai, K'ho, Ede, Ja Rai, M'Nong, Bahnar, Sedang and H'Re, not to mention the dominant Kinh or ethnic Vietnamese). This doesn't include the ride back by train.

My 4 (really 5) posts are presented in reverse order as it makes more sense for reading.


Rag Lai village in the mountain foothills on the north end of Binh Thuan Province.


Rag Lai men herding cattle


Pineapple grove outside Dalat


Forgotten hilltop French Cemetery outside Dalat


K'ho mountaintop village southwest of Dalat


K'ho woman selling a rich variety of hand-made textiles at Elephant Waterfall near Dalat

Central Highlands Roadtrip Part 2: Dak Lak Province

Dak Lak Province is north of Lam Dong. It was once Vietnam's largest province, but was split in half a number of years ago to create Dak Nong province to the south. The capital, Buon Mat Thuat is famous for coffee, and one of the world's top growers of the beans. The province is politically volatile, and the government only allows foreigners to visit a limited number or locations.


Traditional M'Nong long house on stilts at Lak Lake.


Visiting M'Nong villages by dug-out canoe


A rare white buffalo and baby.


M'Nong longhouse. The M'Nong in this village were relocated here by the government.


M'Nong woman herding cattle.


Water Buffalo on Lak Lake


Riding an elephant in Yuk Don National Park. The staff and facilities at Yuk Don are exceptional, but the park is still somewhat disappointing. The local government will not allow foreigners to explore the center of the park, or go anywhere in the area without a guide. Foreigners are limited to the buffer area of the park, where most wildlife or interesting plant life is entirely absent. It's great for elephant rides and bird watching though.


Drey Sap Waterfall in Dak Lak


Traditional Ede village longhouse on stilts


Traditional Ede longhouse on stilts