Saturday morning in Binh Hoa, I've been in Vietnam for nearly a week now and I it's been a good gentle immersion in to Asian culture in the tropics. Tonight Tien and I will go by overnight bus to Vung Tàu Beach, which is about 20km outside Ho Chi Minh city, and spend the next day there. Monday I plan to fly to Hanoi and do a 4 day tour at Ha Long Beach. I'm not sure when I'll have internet access beyond today, but I expect to have it wherever I'm staying in Hanoi since it's going to be more of a resort style thing, a popular tourist destination.
My iPhone has been failing to function as a GPS receiver, which sucks because it's the only one I brought that has a screen. I was surprised to see that there are only 2 geocaches in Saigon, one of which was a virtual, and three in Hanoi. Looking at the standard of living here, it makes sense, but I still expected there to be a district where there were more, or in parks outside of town, or something.
Last night Tien, her sister and I went to the bank to figure out some money thing for my trip. For some reason they wouldn't let me pay with credit, so I ended up going to the ATM outside and pulling out 1m, took some cash from my wallet and put down 2.8m on the trip.
This is roughly equivalent to $160 USD.
When I first went to the bank and exchanged a several 20's for a stack of 50,000's all I could think of was Snow Crash's hyper-inflation. An average meal can cost 20,000. A taxi ride can cost 300,000. I wonder why they don't just drop those extra 3 zeros. I talked to Majed online and he joked about how I left my job a millionaire.
After we got the details of the money and registration for my trip worked out we left, and then were almost immediately called because of an error in my name, and then called again because we didn't put down enough money up front. When we got back to the bank it was closed. The problem is that I have to leave on Monday, and the bank won't be open until Monday, so I'm not sure how this is going to work out. But hey, that's part of the fun, right?
Later last night we went back to a nearby city and had some food and drinks and tried to find a US to Asian power adapter, which nobody has. As usual a lot of people were out enjoying the cool night. I've found that people like night here and I assume a big reason is because it's cooler and more conducive to style and enjoyment. Vietnam is the only place I've been where it's common to see a beautiful, slender girl in figure fitting clothes that you can vaguely see through wearing high heels and riding a motorcycle.
On the way to town I noticed how common it is to see platonic same-sex affection. From what I know about the conservative guy/girl relationships this makes sense. I saw girls walking hand in hand, and three guys with their arms on each others shoulders. This type of thing is common, but seeing those two in succession made me realize how prevolent it is. I thought about how it was starkly different from places like Paris where you see lovers when you're out at night, but here you see friends.
I saw a man on a motorbike using his right foot to push a man on a manual-pedal tricycle down the highway.
I could do a whole photo book on the spiral staircases in Vietnam. They're everywhere, and they're really pretty. Most nice houses have a spiral staircase going up to the roof. Most two floor houses have a spiral staircase going up from the back of the great room that takes up most of the bottom floor.
There seem to be two kinds of houses here. Single floor houses made from cement and wood, extended with tin walls and awnings. Then there are several floor houses which are painted, have balconies, big windows, etc.. It's the only big difference other than quality of motorbike that I've seen so far to distinguish poor people from rich people. It's really awesome that there is not a huge disparity between the rich and the poor here, not so much as in America at any rate. I like that the majority of the people are in the middle, not at the upper and lower ends. It's actually a lot like Yentown from Swallowtail Butterfly. I noticed this a few days ago and it was a slight revelation as to why I feel so at home here in VN. That is my favorite movie, after all.
Today Tien and I sat down at the market and ate breakfast and drank coffee again. This has been a pretty daily occurence, and I really enjoy it. I'll miss it. We talked about musical classification, and the larger issue which is general classification of information and its attributes. We talked about traveling, my trip, family, America, intelligence, jobs, what makes a good life. I think Tien is brilliant and she just doesn't know it. I told her so too. She asks questions beyond the obvious ones and understands things very quickly. I think she may be a genius.
Before I left America many people told me I'd have terrible digestive problems when I got here, but actually I think I've had less than I did in San Francisco. In fact I haven't had any problems until today, and they were incredibly minor. This is interesting to me because it's not like I've been sticking to the "don't drink iced drinks and don't eat vegetables" advice that my doctor gave me.