Siska's rants.. and some other things

A lot of new things happen in my life and surround I decide to write everything comes up in my mind, to remind me again of all the silly and interesting bits and pieces...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Snake wine

For Elvy's request: One of the things that I've tasted in Vietnam is Snake Wine(rượu rắn).

On the left is the picture that I took. And on the right is the picture from Wikipedia. I went to a day tour to Mekong Delta, when in one of the stop they took us to see the traditional coconut candy and cake making. In the same shop, they also showed the snake wine and give a glass for each of us to taste it. Some of us wouldn't even think of smelling the glass, but some other had a silly curiousity of tasting this new things. The taste is a bit akward, basically it was a rice wine, but instead of the bitter-sweet taste it has, it has no sweetness at all.
The stinky smell that normally had by reptile is not so strong. This wine is wellknown in asian culture as one of the aphrodisiac and also a good medicine to improve the health. Don't know if this is true.. but to make it real tough, normally they drink this with fresh internal organs of the snake itself as accompaniment.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Today's quote

" To ask is always good, since the worst can happen is you'll get a "NO" as the answer"
Alain Desiderato - ST-1 intructor
Kuala Lumpur 13th November 2006


Drinking milk before going to bed is good

"Lack of sleep is the single most overlooked health problem in the country — and it's only getting worse. Many Americans are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation impairs memory, well-being and even endangers life. Milk contains a protein that tells the brain to sleep, improving sleep quality and next day alertness. Dating back to 1500 BC, the oldest medical text advises poor sleepers to drink a glass of milk before bed. Are you among the estimated 126 million Americans who experience insomnia symptoms? Relief may be in your refrigerator! Try drinking milk at bedtime instead of taking a pill. —Sources & Recipes"


I drank a lot the night before I left Saigon, that is true.. but unfortunately: nothing of that I was drinking contain milk..
1. Gin-tonic
2. Heineken beer
3. Gin-tonic (again)
4. Champagne.. (I love the bubbles)
5. Vodka-tonic
6. Vodka-cocholate (Tasted sooo good that you wouldn't think that it would be harmful)
7. Rum-kahlua
8. Draught beer
9. Vodka-cocholate (again... remember when I told you that it tasted soo good?)
The night was Novi's b'day party. She had it in the terrace of Norfolk Mansion, the luxurious apartment that she's staying.
Despite of having been a great host for me.. she added it up with a party at the end of my staying:p.

The food was great: collection of bbq meat, kangaroo (first time I ate this meat), beef, pork, chicken, prawn, fish, sausage, lamb. Salads, and several lovely finger foods.
With the alcohol in between each bite and swallow.

Then the party was partially ended and we went to a small bar called Blue Gecko. And second half of the party started..

The bar was tiny, with just enough people inside, to give enough space for everybody to either sit down or stand and chat. Altough the music was a bit too loud...

And there it went.. my over consumption of alcohol that made me regret it not so long after I finish my last glass.

I went to bed in a very very very awful feeling and bad headache.. knowing that the next day at 7 am I have to got up and go to the airport.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vung Tau: a touch of Europe in Vietnam

It is a small quiet oil town located in South Vietnam at the tip of a small peninsula. The name VungTau means anchorage, it was known as a swamp town for the ship stops during 14th and 15th centuries. 140 km sq has around 250 000 inhabitants, some of them is fisherman, work in oil industry, and also some Russian community who have been there for a log time ago. They work for the joint operating Oil Company.
VungTau is also wellknown for the tourism, with its extensive and beautiful 2 beaches, called front beach, where people go for seightseeing and back beach, where people go for swimming. It also has a huge statue of Jesus Christ, standing on top of the hill, overlooking the front beach. The statue made of white rock, with some room and stairway to top, a park and stair way was built to the statue.
We took a ferry from Saigon and took us around 2 hours for the trip, around 130km. The ferries are operated by 2 companies and cost us around 75000 vnd per person (around 5USD) and run back and forth 3-4 times during the day.
It was cloudy and raining a bit on the way, I as so sleepy but couldn’t sleep during the ride. We arrived in front beach around 11 am and the office drivers picked us up and dropped us to the staff house. Novi went to the office and left me alone. My plan is to go to see the statue of Jesus and maybe ride the bike around the city.
So, without wasting too much time, I went to the direction of the statue, there were almost no people or vehicles wandering around the street, very different condition compares to Saigon, which is too crowded with people and mostly with motorbikes.
The streets were huge, empty, well built. It reminds me of infrastructure in intercity highway in Europe, just if the weather is not this tropical-hot weather, maybe I will mistaken it as a small town in Europe. The trees and parks were so well maintained, as well as the beach that is very clean. But again, almost nobody around, maybe because of the hot weather and on weekday. I walked and walked along the beach, it was a bit uphill. Then I went inside the park of the statue and found that ahead of me, pile of stairways lead to the statue. So I walked and rested and walked again. The wind was blowing not too much, but very relieving for a hot day like this. Several times, there were couples that climb up, teasing each other, and none of them, even the girls, who showed a tiredness climbing the stairs. I was wondering how strong those Vietnamese ladies. Some small groups of tourists’ form of middle aged men and women, which I guessed that they came either from Hong Kong or South Korea.
The stair way was decorated in some points by some sculpture of angels and churches characters as Mary and Joseph. There are some small parks for resting with some chair, overlooking the beach. Decorated and bordered by bougainvillea and other flower plants.
Finally I reach the statue, which is a moderate sized room, inside there is a seller of church’s accessories. I went up and up through a circled stairway. As I climbed up and up, I feel scared, a bit silly since I know that the stair is safe and there were some children who even run down and up fast. But my anxiety of height made me suffered. But I push myself to keep climbing and finally, after being cramped up with 3 other tourists who seemed confused whether they want to stay up or go down, I managed to come out of the shoulder. From this point we can see to the beach and sea or to see back to the town. There was 1 old guy who asked me to take a picture of him, which turned out to be rather difficult, since the space for both of us is very limited. I tried to take his picture with some part of statue and the beach, so that the picture will not reveal only him with the sky as the background. I showed to him the result to see if he pleased with my effort, but no expression could I read from his face. I hoped he understood that I already tried my best.

After a while I decided to go down, which is, again because my fear of height, made it a bit difficult task. I went down very slowly, and sometimes need to stop and take a breath. There was another old man behind me, and seemed that he was a bit upset since this silly girl took ages to go down. I am sorry grandpa, but I can’t do any better than this.

Arrived back at the leg, then I went out and met another stairway to back to the street and walking back again along the beach. I met a group of people taking a scene for a movie, my guess. There was a cute guy, driving a cool car very slowly and each time, the other person shouted at him to stop and asked him to repeat the driving. So complicated.

I arrived back to the staff house, after meeting a fruit seller and bought a half-raw mango, which tastes so nice for this hot weather. I managed to open the gate and enter the park, but my unlucky thing that I couldn’t get the main door opened; I knocked and knocked, but nobody around. So I waited and went to the back door, but no avail.
After sometime, I became impatient and decided to walk out again; the entire plan to bike was destroyed. I walked to the other direction, which apparently should lead me to the town center, but instead I was turning back to the beachside. The sun was very hot and burning, seemed that I am the only person who was crazy enough to walk under the sun, without any clear destination. I stopped in one small stall and fetch myself a (More precisely – half) Vietnamese sandwich, filled with ham, which tasted very very delicious.
After a while, I decided to go back, feel that I will not find anything interesting ahead and the sun was too hot.
I went back expecting somebody is already in the house, but still none’s around. I waited and waited, sat in the chair of the gazebo. I slept and woke up again, and felt asleep again.

Finnaly I heard a sound of the main gate was opened, I was so thrilled, finally, somebody’s coming!. I rushed to the gate and met a guy, then without any explanation I shouted at him “ could you please open the door for me?”
He was so startled and confused, which after I knew him, he told me that he was surprised and thought that I was a crazy-lost person who has broken into the house.
But he still opened the door for me, so I can enter the house, fresh myself. He is Novi’s friend at the office who stays in the same house. After that I didn’t have any interest to go out of the house again, instead I watch the movie.
In the evening, Novi asked me to go for the dinner with her colleagues in a seafood restaurant called bamboo.
There were around 20 people there, the place was nice, it was outdoor venue, unluckily it was raining in the middle of the dinner, and so we have to move inside.
The people were friendly, just similar as my colleagues back in balikpapan. They talked and teased each other, and I merely the spectator since I am the new guy and barely know them.
The food was great, they served usual Vietnamese spring roll which we have to make it our self, contains the deep fried fish, boiled crab, snail, a type of clamp, vegetables and cold beer. They taught me to cheer in Vietnamese..”mot, hai, bai” which literally means one-two-three.
Then we went back home after the dinner finished with fresh fruits course.

In the morning, it was raining heavily; I planned to go back to Saigon with a 10 am ferry. So I fetched a taxi, which deliver me to the ferry port. From there, I bought the ticket, the ferry was not full with passengers, and barely a quarter of the seats are occupied. I slept during the trip and finally arrived back to Saigon. The very different town compared to VungTau. VungTau with all the scenic and quiet landscape, where you hardly saw other people around. The houses was so well built. The greenery area is well maintained and a lot. The road was huge and good. The hilly part was ample and beautiful, and not mentioning the extensive beaches it has. I heard also that it is famous for golfing.

Quite a close escape out of the hectic town on weekend.


Pnom Penh and Siem Reap: What a surprise!

I went to Cambodia; Pnom-Penh and Siem Reap on a weekend during my staying in Vietnam. Went there with Novi, with a plan to go to a trip which is cheapest as possible:p.
So we start our cheap Charlie plan by searching in Internet to find a cheap motel, and we did. We found the motel called Jasmine Lodge with the price for 1 room and 2 people: 2 USD, so we book for 2 nights (p.s.: that price is including airport pick-up!). At that time, we didn’t even dare to imagine how would the room look like. Even if it is just a hut without any water and electricity, we couldn’t complain with such price.
Then we went to one of travel agents in Pha Mu Lao, tourist area and book 2 seats for express bus to Pnomh Penh. It costs us 11 USD per person and takes around 6 hours. We depart the next morning at 7:00 am; it was a minivan with 7 people inside including the driver. We passed land route to Moc Bai, border town between Vietnam and Cambodia. The road was good, with the scenery of fields, houses, small village and swamps. We spent most of the time by sleeping. We arrived at the border around 1 pm and we waited while the agent processing our passports and visas, and to our surprise that we, Indonesian were expected to pay for the visa 24 USD. We thought that as one of the ASEAN members then we would be visa-free. We tried to argue with the lady, but didn’t avail. I mentioned to Novi, it is ok, we have to pay, as long as we got a new stamp on our passports (somehow that we’re obsessed with more and more stamps inside the passports, so that we feel that our passports is useful). We stay in the restaurant for long time, waited for other to finish the lunch, while we didn’t take our lunch; instead we bought a can of chips. We joked that the other person were thinking that these 2 poor girls is so cheap, maybe they don’t have enough money for food, by judging the way they look at us. In fact, yes that we don’t have too much money with us. Only 500 USD that Novi brought and another 100USD which I have. We’re afraid to use credit card since according to Novi’s friend that Cambodia is on the black list of the country which often has electronic breaches of credit cards. After the stop then we continued the trip. The scenery in Cambodia is slightly different compare to Vietnam, especially on the shape of their temple; Cambodian Temples are more close to Thailand temples. Overall greenery is the same, but it is obviously seen that the rural area along the way to Pnomp-Penh is not that developed. We crossed one big river and must wait for the ferry to come and took all of us together in the car. The ferry is full with other big cars and trucks, not mentioning the people. In the ferry stop and market, they were a lot of seller, who offer their goods to the passengers. They sold French banquettes, bright-red boiled small shrimps, raw mangoes, cigarettes and candies.
Finally we reached Pnomp-Penh, a hectic city and look brown to me, maybe because of the color of most buildings, or because so much dust around. Tuk-tuks are everywhere; tuk-tuk here is basically a normal motorbike, connected with a small cart (enough for 2 persons) inside, which is sometimes scary, especially if the driver makes a sharp and quick turn. We stopped in the agent there and tried to find another way to reach Siem Reap as soon as possible. Finally we decided to go to the tourist center in Central market, where they told us that they have a bus schedule to Siem Reap. We took a tuk-tuk and surprisingly, they accept USD everywhere, even the tuk-tuks! This is somewhat a surprise to us, Indonesian, where USD is rarely seen being used widely, so seeing the 1 USD notes was a bit strange as well. So the tuk-tuk dropped us in a restaurant/travel agent, which was packed by tourist having the lunch. We tried to get the information of how to go to Siem Reap, but to our disappointment that the fastest available boat is only on the next day. So, we decided to go to the airport and take the flight, well, this is a little deviation to our cheap Charlie plan, but we can’t have too much flexibility with our short time. We took another tuk-tuk to Airport. This city is hectic, a lot of people, as what normally cities in Asia looks like. Too bad that we didn’t have time to wander around this city. Uniquely, the streets names in Cambodia is numbered, which is for me is much better, since sometimes we are not familiar with the names, but if it is numbers, then, it will be a lot easier to remember, plus it will be more organized.
The airport is nice and looks new, we bought 2 tickets to Siem Reap and cost us a bit more than 200USD per person, the girl who served us was very nice, even we can went inside her office and borrowed the phone line to confirm the airport pick up with the hotel owner.
One other thing I notice there that everywhere we go, there will be somebody who can speak enough English and understand what we’re talking about. It is quite different than Vietnam, there, even if they understand English, then their accent is hardly understood. Cambodian accent is very clear and they speak slowly. The people is more similar as South Thailand, more to Malay than Chinese, the woman traditional dress is similar as Thais as well, with a look-alike kebaya. We’re waiting for the flight and decided to go to the café in front of the Airport for a late lunch. Novi ordered fried rice and myself a fried noodle. The taste is good, but no specialty from Cambodian.
The plane left ontime, when we went inside, we can see more that the Airport is really good. We’re looking for a fridge magnet, but couldn’t find it.
We arrived as scheduled in Siem Reap; it was dark outside around 8 pm. When we’re looking for a cab or van that might be the pick up from the hotel, then we saw a guy with Novi’s name in the paper, so we came to him and to our surprise again, he showed us a tuk-tuk! Novi and me looked into each other eyes and try not to smile, both of us knew what the other person might say that no wonder they can provide the airport pick up with 2 USD price.
The road was big and good, and along the way there were a lot of hotels, motels, huge villas, lodges and you named it, start from a luxury building to a small and decent houses, all for tourists. It was very nice. The weather is fresh and a bit chilly. After 20 minutes driving, then we arrived to that Jasmine Lodge; again we have to be surprise that in fact for the 2USD, this place and room overall is much much better. There was no AC of course, but we didn’t need any since the weather is nice. The bathroom is including and it was clean. In front of the rooms, there is a veranda in the second floor, which is open aired, only covered with a bamboo roof. It is the dining room and also the owner office. The owner is a young man with his family and again, his English is very good and clear. Seems that tourism is managed well in Cambodia, somewhere in the way, even I saw a sign of a French-tourism school. We talked to the owner of how to get to Angkor Watt and he told us that the tuk-tuk driver can drive us there and we must leave early on 5 am to catch the sunrise there (I knew what Novi thinks in her heart to know that we have to get up very early..:p).
Then, we decided to just walked out and went to the what called traditional cultural event, which turned out to be an over crowded night market, with some children plays and lots of cheap accessories goods to be sold. We didn’t stay that long there and went back.
We slept early, since we were already exhausted with the traveling during the day.
The next morning, the air was so fresh and nice; it was still dark when we went out of the room and find the tuk-tuk has been standing by in front of the house. Then we took around 30 minutes to reach the entry gate of the temple. We have to pay 20USD per person for 1-day pass, if we take 3 days or even 7 days, it will be cheaper for a day rate.
What we didn’t know before this is that actually Angkor Watt is just 1 big temple and there are actually a lot of other big temples inside the complex, so it is like a village of temples. As Borobudur times 20 (no need to mention that I’ve never even see Borobudur yet, although 1 stay for 4 years in the city which only need 1 hour to reach that temple). It was completely dark when we reach the first temple, which is Angkor Watt. We waited the sunrise raises over the big pond in front of the temple. It was so fascinating and great, there are a lot of people also watching nearby us, but when the sun came up, everybody was silent, even the sound of breath was not heard. The air was clear, and we can start to see the whole building of the temple with the huge gate. The temple condition is still good and clean and some parts of the temple are still used for religious practices.
After that, we went around with the tuk-tuk, visiting each temple, countless temples, for Novi, and me who are not really temple lovers.
We passed an entrance gate and bridge, with the carving border of big statues.
There are small stalls in front of the temples selling the food, water and some accessories. I bought batik slayers from the kids who chased after us with a very cheap deal of 1 USD each. Novi bought 2 bamboo flutes. I bought a t-shirt with Cambodian drawing for 1USD as a bonus for Novi, since she bought a traditional Cambodian dress for 4USD, and also the postcards. Good deals we had. All the prices are in USD. One time, there is a misunderstanding that when I thought that we will buy from one girl, but Novi handed the money to her friend who sold the same stuff. Then the girl whom we didn’t buy from was so pissed off. We apologized, but she didn’t accept it and she said, ”I’m sorry misses, but that’s not the way”. We were so feeling guilty for her and decided to leave from that place.
What I notice about the temple is the stairs; they always built it so steep, with high and narrow stairs, so that if we didn’t really go near the stair, than we wouldn’t think that there is a stair below. It is almost 90 degrees upright. For me, this is unacceptable, I am afraid of height, and no way I can push myself to climb up. So, only Novi went up and saw the other part of the temple. One time I push myself to climb, but only up to the middle and I regretted so much my decision, because I was terribly scared to go back down. So the only way to get down for me was to crawl (literally), I grabbed the stonewall and went down very slowly. Novi was at the bottom and took my picture acting like a monkey. The temples were huge with several rooms and closed or open corridors, normally it is squared with another higher parts in the middle that goes up to another rooms. Some temples were broken and covered with huge roots of trees. We went to a temple that the damage because of the root is the uniqueness of the temple itself. Unfortunately we didn’t really understand the history of each temple, so we just wandered around, took some pictures, gossiping about the other tourists, and telling our self-silly stories, even.After several temples and several hours passed, we were so exhausted, and start to complain of why the temples list that we haven’t seen are not ended yet. And finally when the driver took us to the last temple, we gave up and asked him to skip and went back to the hotel. We were just giggling about our self. We are convinced that we are pure tourists and not travelers. We arrived back to the hotel around noon and decided to change the ticket, so that we can reach back to Pnomh-Penh in the afternoon, took a night there and the next morning goes back to Saigon. The owner suggested us to go to one guesthouse called Sunday guesthouse. We went back to the airport with the same driver after taking a lunch and short nap in the open veranda. I took a papaya salad and Novi fried rice. My salad was disappointing, since they put small crabs inside, which make it difficult to chew, since you will crunch the shell quite often. It tasted similar as Thai papaya salad called somtam.

We just sat and felt asleep in the veranda, with a very nice subtle breeze. Then the driver picked us to drive us back to the airport.
We arrived in Pnomh-Penh already dark, so one of the option is to stay in the airport until the next morning, but we then decided that options is still too cheap, even for a cheap Charlie plan. So we went out and took a tuk-tuk to the Sunday Guesthouse, which the tuk-tuk driver said that he knows the place. The road was quite big but crowded as well; the driver told us that there is some event in downtown, that’s why it is crowded. We paid 4 USD and arrived in a small but clean house and a shop also restaurant in front. We do what it is called check-in in proper hotel. Then one girl showed us a room upstairs, it is quite big, with fan and TV, clean and new. The bathroom is so comfortable as well, completed with hot shower. For 2USD per person a night, this is much better than we thought.
After putting our bags and clean a bit, we went out, try to find what’s interesting outside. But I guessed we were too tired, plus, our money is limited and we don’t want to withdraw any money from here. So we just bought some snacks and cakes for the next day and came back to the guesthouse. A quick look, the town is similar as any moderate town in Indonesia, with a lot of people, several eating-places along the street.
We didn’t have any more appetite, so after arrived in the room, we took bath and sleep straight away.
The next morning we went to the bus agent, it is less than 50m from the guesthouse. We were waiting quite some time, together with several other people. There were buses, to Saigon or to Siem Reap and some other town in Cambodia. We paid 5USD/person for the bus to Saigon. While waiting, we watched and played with 2 very active little puppies. They were so cute, running here and there, teasing each other, biting people’s bags, rolling over and it was very hard to catch them in the camera.
Finally the bus left and we spent most of the time by sleeping inside. Again the same journey back, the difference is this bus took 5 times more people than the van, mostly the backpackers like us.
This was a short journey, maybe too short, not specifically for the temples (which I am pretty sure that I’ve had enough), but for other part of Cambodia. I’ve been surprised by this country, since it had more than what I expected. The people, their ability to communicate, how good their effort is to promote their tourism and really doing that, not just saying it out loud. For the cheap things that we’ve got here. Last but not least, for the little girl who can stand up and say what she thinks is the right thing, but still managed to do it very nicely and politely…Yes, Cambodia is a surprise for me, the whole of it.


Touring to Mekong Delta

I took a day tour to mekong delta. We left the town at 8:00 am..and took an hour drive with the bus to the port. We arrived at the port around 10:am, it was a bit confusing, since one of the attraction is sightseeing in floating market, which normally is already closed by that time.

The guide brought us; we were around 10 people, to a moderate sized motorboat. Th
en after a while we were already going away from the port, along Mekong river. The river is quite big, not too strong current, with yellow water, alongside the river there are plenty of big trees and bushes, among them were the houses and sign of inhabitants. Several people were enjoying the time and accompany, sitting and playing on the river’s edge.
Sometimes, there were a smaller speedboat riding faster than our boat, with crops and hunts inside, huge and noisy pigs, bright red rambutans, green veggies, people passing the rivers, as also there are several living boats with the people sitting and just staring at us, the tourist.

We passed the nearby town with its high towered church, standing right in front of the river.
Our guide, a young lady (unfortunately not with the famous Vietnamese hat) was kept talking and explaining about the Mekong River, as usual I can never listen to the guide, so I just watched around. But among of those she explained, she also mentioned about the floating market, which started early in the morning before dawn and usually ended before 9:am.
Then the boat stopped near a hut and we took off from the boat and walked to the hut, along the way there were several small kids attacking us, offer us their postcards. My friend and me bought 2 sets of postcards, 1 USD each. We decided to choose the nicest-spoken girl, the most polite girl who, according to us, already mastered the technique of sales. Apparently we made her friend furious, because we didn’t buy her, and as the result, she chased us for quite sometime, pushing us with her tiny hands holding the postcards, keep asking us to buy her postcards. She didn’t accept our answer that we didn’t buy hers because we already got enough.

We went into a small
shop/restaurant, which sells traditional snacks; among them are coconut candy, cassava, banana, and ginger, jackfruit chips. They let us tastes each one and here I tasted the snake wine, which I wrote in another blog. We took our picture using the traditional cone shaped Vietnamese hat, the lady who stand by in that shop I think was a bit pissed off since we touch and wear the hat without buying them. After that we continued walking along the riverside, where there are accessories, paintings and clothes seller. Here our guide explains us about the small shrine that is normally found in front of any houses to represent a god that the house owners worship. We went to another house to see a lady baking a traditional snack. That snack looks like a very thin and crispy crepe, made of flour and coconut milk. Then we went to another stove, where a man swinging a big screen, to husk rice, then the rice will pop out turned similar as popcorn, then this thing is suitable to be called poprice. After that the rice was covered by melted sugar, so that it can be stacked together. Here we sat down, drink tea and eat some snacks. We had a short talk with each other in our group. There were Novi, my friend and myself. There was a Sweden couple, who didn’t talk too much, two girls from Switzerland, they are friendly and obviously not French. One Vietnamese-australian girl (we had a hard time to guess where she comes from). One Japanese guy, which I guess right of his nationality. One middle aged thai women, whose English is very good for a thai at her age, but she talks a lot and always comparing things with Thailand, so almost once every minute, we heard her talking, “oh, we have this in Thailand”,”This is just the same as home”.
We took the boat ride again, went through more inside to the river, with similar greenery and people houses on the sides. Once we passed a short bridge, and the boat driver has to have all of us went to the front of the boat, so that the boat become shorter than the bridge and we can pass. After we got one side passed, then all of us mo
ved back together, to shorten the backside of the boat. Quite a funny experience.
We arrived to a house, which turned to be a restaurant, surrounded by garden and pond. They have plenty of longan and banana trees along the way. Didn’t take a long time we waited for the food. First is clear vegetables soup came, the stir fry vegetables, small spring rolls with chili sauce, then the main course, a big deep fried fresh water fish, what local called as elephant fish, accompanied by Vietnamese rice paper, glass noodle, and fresh herbs. We made our own food. First, we took one piece of rice paper, then a piece of fish, noodle and herbs as we like. Then we folded the paper, dip it to the sauce and bite it. This is a nice, fresh and healthy food, except for the fish, since it is deep-fried. We bite, and dip and made the new roll, and dip and bite, so and on.
After lunch, the guide offer us if we want to take a nap in several hammocks hanging around us, or take a bike to see around. Me, Novi and the Japanese guy, took the bike and we rode along the small road. We passed some bridges, sometimes it was very steep, so that it was a bit hard to cycle the bike. It was a very long time ago since the last time I rode a bike, so this was an enjoyable moment tough a bit scary if the road was so steep downhill. We passed houses and houses, some shops and market, some churches and temples, among the big and long longan garden. After a while we decided to go back to the house and found that the other people were still sleeping. We took a hammock for each of us, but haven’t got any chance to lie down; the guide has already called us to do another trip. We went out and walk following her. We went pass through the park and garden, and houses. Then we stop in front of a sanca snake cage. It was so huge. The owner offered us to carry the snake, only me who was crazy enough to accept the challenge. The snake was so heavy; I think he weighs more than 20kg. He put it over my shoulder; it felt smooth and cold at the same time, quite eerie. The snake was so lazy and ingnorant, maybe he’s already being fed enough.
We continue the walking, passing another parks and gardens to the port where we went back to the boat.
In this boat trip, the driver, opened the young coconut for each one of us. It was very nice to drink the fresh coconut water in the middle of hot day like that. It was funny to see how’s the Japanese guy was surprise when I showed him that the top of the coconut, we can eat its flesh.
Then we arrived in a
bigger port, which link to a traditional market. We went strolling inside the traditional market and saw some animals which we even never think that they exist were sold here, to be eaten, snakes, frog, tortoise, clamp, mussel, fish, poultry, some reptile which I don’t know the name, and many more. Even the type of vegetables here is very extensive. Some vegetables, which I recognize because I used to use that when I play, pretending to cook the vegetables as if they were the real one. So it is the real vegetables that can be eaten actually. Some seller sell the dried seafood, which has unique smell. We stop at a small café, waiting for the bus. Here I took a Vietnamese coffee which is very well know, for this coffee I will talk about it in another chapter. Then we went to the bus, which will take us back to Saigon city.

Lovely trip, worth sightseeing.


A Melting Pot Cao Dai?

Before God existed, there was the Tao, that nameless, formless, unchanging, eternal source referenced in the Tao Te Ching. At some point, manifestation occurred, out of which the Supreme Being was born. The universe could not yet be formed, for God controlled Yang. Therefore, He shed a part of himself and created the Goddess, master of Yin. In the presence of Yin and Yang, the universe materialized. The Goddess is, literally, the mother of the myriad of things in the Universe. Thus, Caodaiists not only worship God, the father, but also the Goddess, literally referred to as the Mother Buddha. Note that the Goddess, or Mother Buddha, is male, as are all Buddhas. The Goddess is master over Yin but is not a part of Yin, which is female.
There are 36
levels of heaven and 72 planets harboring intelligent life, with number one being the closest to heaven and 72 nearest to Hell. Earth is number 68. It is said that even the lowest citizen on planet 67 would not trade place with a king on 68 and so forth.
God is symbolized by the
Divine Eye, specifically the left eye because Yang is the left side and God is the master of Yang.
In the order of most to least difficult, the Three Teachings within Caodaiism are:
The Teachings of Buddhas
The Teachings of
The Teachings of
The Three Teachings represent levels of spiritual attainment, with Buddha as the highest. Caodaiism's various stages of spiritual development from human on up are: Than (no translation yet), Thánh (Saint), Tiên (Sage), and Phat (Buddha). Than, Saints and Sages may have, accordingly, extremely long lives in the realms of heaven, but only Buddhas are free from the cycle of birth and death.

First Period:
1. The Teachings of Buddhas -
Dipankara Buddha
2. The Teachings of Sages -
3. The Teachings of Saints -
Second Period:
1. The Teachings of Buddhas -
Shakyamuni Buddha
2. The Teachings of Sages -
Lao Zi
3. The Teachings of Saints -
Confucius and Jesus
Third Period:
God is at the helm.
Jesus is regarded as a Buddha and true son of God, shed directly from God.

Although various sects of Caodaiism claim to have received messages from numerous spiritual entities, the Tây Ninh Holy See acknowledges significantly fewer. Inside the Holy See is a painting depicting the Three Saints signing a covenant between God and mankind. From left to right, they are:
Sun Yat-sen, Victor Hugo (also a Rosicrucian Initiate) and Nguyen Binh Khiêm.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Cao Dai,
It was one of the tour session, where we went to a Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh, 90 km from Saigon, where the followers are conducting the prayer.
The temple is similar as other Buddhist temples in Vietnam, with oriental design and pattern in the walls. The bulding is colorful and decorated with scarving.
We opened our shoes and enter the temple. It is a huge temple with rectangular shape and size of 40 m x 20 m x 10 m (including 3 main towers).
They are seems ok with a lot of tourists come and interfere in their prayer.

As can be seen in the pictures.. all people come with white suits, just several people wear blue, read and yellow collor robes.
They do repetitive movement; they sit and bow the head to one direction and chant a prayer.
Whereas several other person sit in the balcony and play a loud song with an instrument.

At the first glance, this ceremony and temple and overall impression looks like other buddhist ritual.
But when we see it closely.. there is a Jesus picture carved in the wall together with Hindu Gods and some Buddhist Gods and also Mohammad, Napolean and Shakespeare.

And there is a picture similar as above picture, telling us about the 3-saints of Cao Dai: Victor Hugo, Sun Yat Sen and Nguyen Binh Kiem.

I never thought more of a Victor Hugo except that he was the author of Hunchback of Notre Dame and never been to Vietnam in his life. And also Sun Yat Sen as a Chinese Politician.

And also the mixed-belief-ritual and dogma of Cao Dai consist of a lot of formerly exist beliefs, such as they have chatolic-alike organization with Pope, bishop, cardinal, etc.

They conducted 3 times ceremony in a day, each last for 1 hours.. morning, midday and evening.

They believe in 1 God (which I conclude that God is a Man or Yang).

God is symbolized with an Eye (left eye) which the picture is hanging in every Cao Dai temples.

The religion is continuosly closely monitored by Vietnam government and given a specific restricted area consist of temple, houses and school.

Maybe it is good in away that Cao Dai mixed and take all good things from every religions.

But for now, I think I have to learn and read about it more to truly understanding their way for believing something new and different.

From wikipedia:

Religion is a system of social coherence based on a common group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object, person, unseen being, or system of thought considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine or highest truth, and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions, and rituals associated with such belief or system of thought. It is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system"[1], but is more socially defined than that of personal convictions.

According to above definition then nothing wrong with mixing up all the beliefs as long as it is accepted by the people. So it is it? Cao Dai has showed us at least something


If I am always "somebody's" GF.. but sorry, even this GF has a name!!

One thing among the others that I've noticed here in Saigon..
That every female (especially with asian-slash-vietnamese looks) should always be "somebody's girl friends".
That assumption has already explain why I've got a lot of scornful-look everytime I enter the pub with a westerner who they already knows.
Be it my colleague from the same workplace or his son who is 10 years younger than me.
The first seconds I am in, the girls in the pub always scrutinize me and won't share a smile.. then after a couple seconds later.. they will ask my companion..
"Is she your girlfriend?".
The girls will not look at me and talk to me in the eye before they really know where do I stand between them and my male companion.. whether or not they are really interested to the man. It looks like they consider every other vietnamese-female as the rivals.
Off course this assumption will be only from my one-side-point of view..
But if I notice.. everywhere in Vietnam is similar like what happen in Indonesia and other Asian countries.. where the whites (especially man) who live and work there is a hot shot -- as my cynical saying " It is the fastest way to happiness and security".
By dating a westerner..if lucky they will get married at the end either by natural going or by some soft-trick, such as knocking themself out.. and have a baby or two..
They will eventually live rich and no worry about the future.. and this is including all families.
This statement might be too harsh and general.. I mean it not only happen in Vietnam.. and it is not for all ladies here..
What I've heard from a friend, that if a lady accepted to get married.. they must have already considered the possibility of being beaten up by the husband.
It is like a package - you get a husband and also all the bad sides of it.
And also they will not be released from earning a living.. most sellers in the market and streets are women.
That is maybe the idea of having a westerner husband sounds like the best escaping way.
I am not saying that the idea is bad.. it is somehow is the right thing to do - logically, I mean.. not is not all about the money only.. love and happiness will come afterwards in most cases.
But due to the ratio between the women and their hot-shots.. then they are forced to be determined and find the right and fastest way.
Well, then again.. c'est la vie.. lots of different things happen

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A Night in KL (...inside the airport only)

Just because I am too cheap to spend the night in transit hotel KL.

But my gosh.. 120 MYR just for 6 hrs check-in??? sorry dude.. I am already well-prepared for that.

So I arrive in KL on Monday, 30-Oct-06 23:30 Malaysia Time. My next flight to Ho Chi Minh City will be the next day 09:00 in the morning.. basically I have around 9 hours to spend here.
I decide to stay in the airport only, I could've gone to my friend's place.. but it would be not so convenient since I will be arriving there after midnite..a nd have to rush back to airport very early in the morning..
So I decide.. oh what the hell.. I am sure I will not be the only one staying late in the airport (which not very long after I arrived, to find that I am not wrong with my assumtion).

So I brought with me a complete series of Desperate Housewives season 2, a several other movies, 2 books (which it turned that I didn't have a chance to read them), my jukebook with around 8,000 songs.

KL airport is new, huge, clean, nice looking ( better than Charles De Gaulle.. at least). It tries to be a counterpart for Changi Airport, which I would say maybe it will.. in a matter of time.

The number of people - passengers/airport staffs is not as much and busy as Changi.. which is good for me tsince it is very easy to find a place to sit.

Variety of shops and cafes are not so many, and most of them will be closed after midnite. But the good thing is that the bookstore still open 24 hours and the Burger King also does the wise thing to run a 24-hours open..:p

I arrived at C Terminal and have to take a shuttle train around 7 minutes to reach the main terminals. This is where all shops and facilities located. The train is great, I love it so much.. fast and modern.. very good service.

Then I wandered around looking at every shops to find things which might be interesting. Doesn't take too long before I feel tired with all my bags and stuffs inside.

So I start to investigate one important thing: the power terminal, where I can hook my computer and start watching the movie. Finally I found one, located in a bit deserted place, with rows of seats nearby.
Perfecto.. I open up the computer and start with Desperate Houseviwes disc 1. It was a good way to kill the time and not to let myself of being asleep. After 1 hour passing, my back start to hurt me and I have to move my legs, which I, then do the changing position more often afterwards. After the 3rd disc and the clock showed 06: 30 in the morning, I decided to stop.. moreover I notice couple of guys also watched the movie from my back.
I walked a bit again.. and then took the shuttle train to go back to terminal G.. which from there I went to the boarding room.
Well, obviously this is not the perfect night I've ever passed.. but I am glad that this is not the worst:).
PS: When I browsed about KLIA (KL International Airport), guess what.. alot of blogs from people about spending the night in KLIA.. and none of them are complaints.
Even in one testimony, a guy said that there are several things that make KLIA good:
1. No arm rest in the chairs
2. Cool temperature
3. Huge venue and not so many people.