Sunday, 23 August 2009

Saigon Vietnam, Week 8

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

Last Sunday we attended a Vietnamese wedding, many of you would have received her postcard, but for those that didn’t, I’ll give a quick summery. A Vietnamese wedding lasts for about 2 hours but they seem to pack in a lot in that time. There is a song and dance act, Champagne pouring, Cake cutting and a 5 course lunch. Then suddenly everybody jumps up, and flees like the place is on fire. It's all over. Great Experience.

This week has been busy and the weekend quiet fortunately. Nothing of great note to report. We do have a few motorbike related tales. We were at the Co-Op supermarket yesterday and parked in the Motorbike parking area and left out helmets on the bike as usual. They were nice new ones. We got back to the bike after the rain stopped to find them missing. We mentioned this to a security guard who promptly woke up all the other security guards and they mounted a full search of the premises. They took me into the guards gave me drinks of Iced Tea and all wanted to practice their English and tell me about their cousin who lives in Melbourne. Then the General arrived or it could have been the superintendent of security, It’s hard to tell with all those epaulettes and other shinny gold adornments on their uniforms. His English was very good and he apologised profusely for the laps of security that led to this terrible crime. He went out and returned with two replacement helmets in a slightly used condition. They were very good to us and said we could park in front of the office next time.

Today we encountered another bike related problem, a flat tyre. In my 4 years as a Postman in Australia I never had a flat tyre, I ran out of fuel a few times, but never a flat tyre. Anyway, I had to push the bike all the way across the road to find a tyre repair guy, they are really that hard to find. He used his rustiest scissors to dig the nail out of the tyre and then on closer examination he had to replace the tube. So he sent his mate off for the new tube and he had to take the wheel off. When it came time for the bill, I prepared myself thinking $20, $30 being foreigners. 60,000 VND about $4 and it took about 5 minutes. If you’re looking for pit crew?

All the best for now, until next time.

Ric & Louise

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Saigon, Vietnam Week 7

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

We have had another pleasant weekend, starting with a spontaneous lunch on Friday afternoon. We went to a local restaurant with a group of students. After lunch we were invited back to Mr Home’s (one of the students) Bakery and Coffee shop where his family makes a big range of French style pastries and cakes. We sampled nearly all of them... just to be polite you understand and had to leave with bags of them!

Saturday we set off on Twee’s bike again to do our shopping, have coffee and get lunch in District 1. We are getting around like locals now and can find our way around reasonably well. On the journey home I felt the telltale drop in air pressure, an increase in the wind and a sweet smell in the air. Then, 75 motorbikes pulled off the road up under awnings simultaneously as the sky fell in. It rained solid for about 5 minutes then stopped and we were able to continue our trip with the other 75 bikes. A lot of locals only stop to don their raincoats, some of which are especially designed to take two people and has a see through panel that goes over the headlight.

The traffic itself is a bit daunting at first, but I have figured it out. The rules are simple, never look back, you are only responsible for what goes on in front of you. When going through big intersections, stick to the middle of the pack or try to cross in the shadow of a car or larger vehicle. Being able to ride slowly, and go up and down gutters with extra weight on the bike is probably the only thing I learnt during my time with Australia Post as a Postie, it’s funny, but I never thought it would come in handy but it’s an essential skill here. I often think that Louise & I are too large for these little bikes, but then I look around and see that we are probably only the same weight as a typical Vietnamese family of four and they seem to manage OK.

We were invited to another Students house for a traditional Sunday Lunch today. Vun and her family live in a suburb outside Saigon, a bit like going to Parramatta from Sydney. It was another interesting interlude. Getting there as half the fun, But I don’t thing Louise enjoys it as much as I do. Vun lives with her family of 5 and has relatives stay on the weekends and big lunches on Sundays. We were treated to a 5 course feast, that nobody could finish. Vun is a Chef so the food was spectacular Vietnamese fare, we finished with Chocolate and Orange crepes and fruit of course. We are having leftover crepes for dinner as you can’t leave someone’s house here without taking something with you. So with Crepes and French pastries, It’s going to be hard to lose weight here if this keeps up.

We are going to a Vietnamese Wedding next week, so will let you know all about it. All the best until next time.

Ric & Louise

Saturday, 1 August 2009

... and speaking of Vietnamese haircuts. (Week 6 Saigon)

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

As many of you will know, I appreciate a good mullet haircut, having grown up in the 80’s. And it was by chance that riding down Nung Van Dao, our street, that we passed what could only be a hairdressers Studio. Standing outside was a guy with a perfect mullet (Bill Rea Cyrus style), another with a great muppet heavy metal cut and another two who could be dead ringers for the Pet Shop Boys from the hairline up! We have been looking for somewhere to get our hair cut and I could see that these 17 somethings had all really done their homework when it came to cutting hair, I mean they weren’t even born in the 80’s.

Getting your hair cut in a foreign country while your travelling is always a bit risky, but as no one knows you, it usually doesn’t matter, you wear a hat for the first few days when you get your photo taken. We have had our hair cut in Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and India and not one of them spoke any English. Louise is a bit smarter on this issue, she takes a picture to show them. On the other hand, I am really good at charades. It’s amazing how much information you can impart with the scissor signal applied to various parts of your head, they all understand and in general I’ve had no problems.

Styles vary from country to country as well, the most creative barbers I have found are in Turkey. From a traditional cut throat shave to hair removal using rubberbands and naked flame, they really do a great job and finish off with a talcum powder frenzy and a shoulder rub as well. In Thailand, cutting hair is mainly a woman’s job, but in Turkey and India, It’s defiantly Men who cut Men’s hair. In Vietnam we have walked passed a lot of hair dressers and there is a lot of ear work going on, I mean they are probing around in peoples ears with long acupuncture needles, I don’t need that!

However as respectable teachers with standards to keep, we have to be a bit choosy, the Pet Shop Boys it was. It must be a generational thing, In my Father’s day everybody combed their hair forward, In my day we all combed our hair back or up or out or something? Anyway I was in the chair and the young fella kept coming my hair forward straight down my forehead. Not quite the mulletesque cut I was hoping for. In any case Louise says it was a good cut, and she’s the one who has to look at me. They finished me off with the mandatory product in the hair. and asked me if I was happy about the cut with the txt function on their mobile phone. I don’t know, what is the young generation coming to?

PS: See my Youtube video, Shave and a Haircut Istanbul

All the best for now
Ric & Louise