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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vietnam to expel foreign expats starting in July

Read the original article here.

Basically the government has decreed that they will begin deporting foreigners in July if they are found working for more than 3 months without both a work permit and business visa. This comes on the heals of the government last year all-but eliminating the old six-month visas and requiring most/many expats to exit and re-enter every three months for a non-renewable 3-month visa, and limiting tourist visas to 1 month.

After the visa restrictions last year, new methods of getting black market visas evolved. They are provided by immigration through travel agents. It just costs 2-3 times what it used to a year ago and requires exit and re-entry. Therefore I surmise we could see similar routes to acquire work papers. Unfortunately people didn't suddenly all "get legal" this year--so I don't think the process got any easier.

Everyone says this is just for "the chinese," but everyone seems to bear the brunt of the new regulations, regardless of their nation of origin. So will we have immigration officials visiting all the guest houses and offices soon or no? We will see...

What's your experience renewing your visa this year?

Texting from a Motorbike

Very good article from NPR on the problem of not only cell-phoning but texting while driving a motorbike. Yes, it is very common. The only thing I don't like is the way the reporter has now made that girl a scapegoat for a national problem. Stories like this can have repercussions so its not exactly a nice thing to do to her, even if she is a bit dumb.

Read the story here.

In Response to What to Do About a Hotel with a Chained Monkey in Laos

I recently responded to a question about what to do about a Hotel in Laos with a baby monkey on a chain. Thankfully this is much less common than it used to be in Vietnam, but in rural areas I see it a lot--especially in minority villages. Below is my answer... what do you think?
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It is sad but unfortunately very common. I would like to suggest that publicizing it and explaining to others why its bad and why they might not want to stay at a place with captive wild animals is much better than turning the businesses into environmental orgs sometimes--especially zoos.

Monkeys are stolen from their mothers, usually as infants. Sometimes their mothers--or other monkeys in the troupe--are killed in the process. Quite often here in Vietnam, pet monkeys only have one arm because they lose the other in a snare. As monkeys get older they assert their own will and make very bad pets for anyone except highly skilled specialists. Further, catching these guys in the wild has decimated wild populations and will cause the extinction for many remaining primates over the next century.

However, their life in most zoos here will absolutely SUCK. Further, most zoos and environmental orgs are over-run with macaques and won't take them. Police/Forest rangers who are assigned with the task of releasing animals can't always be trusted to do so. More often than not they re-sell them on the black market or have an after-hours BBQ.

It's a lose-lose situation, but I think publicizing it does more good than anything.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sailing in Mui Ne

Just stumbled upon this article from last September by Ginny Becker (reprinted from AsiaLife). It's a very good exploration of the Sailing potential here in Mui Ne and the very exciting and groundbreaking work that Julia Shaw is doing in sailing. Go Julia! She has also done some great work in conjunction with Wildlife at Risk (WAR) to aid marine conservation in Vietnam.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Tay People of Binh Thuan Province

During a joy ride through a remote area of Binh Thuan Province I came across on a minority group that was entirely new to me--the Thay people.

Two Tay men looking across a new government irrigation project.


Tay people who live between the canal and the mountain must use a barge to come and go from their house.


The Tay people were relocated to Binh Thuan Province by the government about 30 years ago. They originally came from Cao Ban near the Chinese border. They were isolated here in Binh Thuan for almost the entire time, until roads to the village began to be built 2 years ago.


The folks here told me that I was the first foreigner that they had ever seen, and were very friendly and kind. Due to their isolation, many still maintain a very traditional lifestyle (or as much as one can in an alien environment) and live in traditional stilt houses.


Water buffalos resting.


A mud brick home in a nearby Tay village. Nowhere in Vietnam have I ever seen mud brick homes before--not even at the ethnology museum in Hanoi.


Binh Thuan has been a very active volcanic region. The nearby area pictured here was pummeled by volcanic boulders at some point in the past. This family cleared their field of volcanic rocks in order to plant rice. They used the boulders to create a terraced mount to build their house. Other families use the black rocks to build tall walls.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rice Wine Culture for CNN and Other Stories

My latest feature posted on the front page, above the fold, with a photo, is on Vietnam's Rice Wine culture. Read it here.

I just finished a feature on Shopping in Saigon for Oryx Magazine (Qatar Airways). It was a particularly fun article to write and kept me reacquainting myself with District 1 for a few days. I found a few new gems along the way.

I'm currently updating sections in a Vietnam guidebook for a new publisher. My contributions include Mui Ne/Phan Thiet and the Central Highlands. Looking forward to another highlands adventure...