Vietnamese kindness part VIII

Harking back to a favourite subject, I was again today the victim of Vietnamese kindness.

I was about to go on a supermarket run ( walnuts , NZD $7 / 100 gram ), when I heard my name being shouted in Vietnamese accent from over the road.

Lo, it’s Trang, a friend of the aforesaid Richard, waddling over briskly from the cafe over-road, brandishing two bottles;

This chap is a ( Vietnamese ) English teacher, but despite that handicap, I gathered ’twas for the ankle, and that it contained white wine and ethanol.

He repeated the instruction “not to drink” a suspect number of times, possibly three in all.

I sniffed it – alcohol alright – but it contains another herb or spice, which has so far flummoxed my limited bloodhound faculties, and his limited English.

He’s a well-meaning sort, so assuming primum no nocere, and all that, I’ve tried it. No disaster, but an unexpected miracle cure hasn’t happened either.


And because I’m too lazy to produce a separate post ….

I’ve finished the last Sherlock Holmes, and today bought the volume above ( NZD $3.30 ), with the aim of dragging it out through the upcoming travels to Dalat, and back home.

Jumping through hoops

Far from do what thou wilt, do what you must is more like a traveller’s credo.

That’s been a big part of what I’ve learned on this 15-month jaunt.

Which is a long-winded way of explaining that a couple of boxes have been ticked;

  • I laid hands on My Precious, my passport, this morning, freshly stamped and keeping me out of trouble here for another month, until October 1.
  • The HR Dept of the school I worked for returned – with their seal of approval – the document I need to claw back my expenses from the bike accident. Now I only have two more hoops to jump before getting that pot of gold –
    1. Go to the school and pick up the original, paper version
    2. Post it with a wad of other documents worthy of a lawyer – to Hanoi

It’s all very wearying. But easy enough to convince myself to do it when I ponder the sad truth that it’s worth 60 hours of online teaching.

Alea jacta est

A rambling man

Hi Dave,

this finds me at a bit of a loose end , feeling 98% rather than 100. So, as per my usual self-interest, I’m writing to cheer myself up a little. This will be a stream-of-consciousness spiel, so you might want to skip some bits.

The caffeine, or more likely, what I’m adding to it ( various mixes of butter & coconut cream ) , isn’t agreeing with me lately. I begged off this morning’s coffee with Henry. I found myself very nauseous after a catch-up two or 3 days ago. When I made it home, I discovered that I was more dehydrated than a ship-wrecked sailor . I tried to fix that this morning by forcing myself to skull water, but the gut still isn’t happy. I’m unsure what’s going on. The first suspect is the butter – rather than the coffee – which is good quality stuff, supplied by Henry, who’s an a-grade foodie. Anyway,

I’m generally a little on edge as there are things which need doing over the next 16 days, in rough order of descending importance;

  • get my passport back, with the updated expiry date, Oct 1. It’s on it’s way ( tracking via post ) , but still a little nerve-wracking. As a foreigner here, you’re screwed if you lose it.
  • finish the insurance claim for the bike accident June 17. Bureaucracy here is decades behind us. Everything has to signed 15 times, stamped by the school, original documents, etc etc. Because medical treatment only finished two weeks or so ago, I couldn’t organise documents before then.I’m now waiting on a required stamp from the school ( the insuree ) before I can send it off. They’re taking their sweet time. The money ( in the high three figures, so not to be sniffed at ) will go to Henry, who I’m trusting to forward it to me. He’s a good friend, and happens to be a wealthy man, so that doesn’t worry me. What does worry me is not getting the documents in the hands of the insurance co. ( have to post to HaNoi ) before I leave. It’s possible that Henry could do it, but I’d rather not burden him with it.
  • visit DaLat for a day or four. Can’t do this without passport, required for hotel bookings. It’s one of three places I wanted to visit while in VN ( others are Nha Trang, and Da Nang ) . It’s inland, mountainous, elevated, and cool. Ideally I’d want to be back from there at least a week before I leave, to get all my ducks in row.
  • work on re-habbing the ankle. That is going well. I’m walking – slowly – every morning, and swimming of an afternoon. It’s still swollen, but the range of motion is improving every day.
  • Sample some more local food. As ever, I over-stocked on my supermarket outings – best option economically – so I’m still working my way through that.
  • Visit some more of the local tourist-y sites around Nha Trang. There’s a waterfall a bit to the North I haven’t yet been to, for example.

So that’s more or less the agenda for the next while. All the time, of course, still getting some funds dribbling in with the online teaching.

OK, I must continue my slightly manic streak here, and get some sh*t done.

( Hope to ) ‘talk’ soon,



Pig Skin Cake

Above are two of the latest ‘adventures in food’ as part of making a pig of myself in my last days here in the Tropics.

Yes, ‘pig skin cake’ ( a.k.a Bánh da lợn ) is indeed the name of the dessert on the right. The specimen above, I’m guessing, is made from tapioca starch.

On trying it, I was a little disappointed – it’s an almost tasteless bundle of carbs, but went down easily enough with the usual spoonful of cacao and wads of coconut cream.

On the left is another episode in chocolate-making. Pretty basic – cacao, butter, a duck egg, and coconut cream. Directions – 1) whip up ingredients. 2) stash in freezer.

Works a treat, a filling stop-gap snack with a tiny amount of sugar.


After the usual resistance, I bit the bullet yesterday and sent my passport through the post.

It’s a risky business, more so now that I’m due to leave Vietnam on September 20. Without my passport, I can’t go anywhere.

Grovelling and begging ( i.e. going to the local Immigration Office, emailing the NZ Embassy ), bore no fruit, which left me two choices

  • Break the Law

    .. and hope that general leniency and bribery save the day

  • Stump Up

    .. the money and the passport, and be safe as far as my Visa goes, but take the unavoidable risk of posting the passport to HCMC.

I chose the latter, with visions of being detained at airports, and so missing flights, in mind.

A Flimsy Excuse

to post a favourite oldy.

Now, there’s the usual nervous wait til my passport is safely back in hand, ETA September 7th / 8th.

Let us pray.

Market warning

Morning Haul – clockwise from bottom left; Yuca ( Cassava ), rice cakes, lettuce

The morning jaunt to the market came with a warning.

The old chap from the cafe over the road – which I hobble past every day – was gesturing at my foot, pointing to the Cassava root ( mmmm ), and wagging his index finger.

On asking Henry over coffee, it turns out the delicious root ( AKA “Yuca” ) is very bad for inflammation, especially when one is lame. Who knew?

Apparently, the ground Yuca is acceptable, but the sap from the root – which looks like a white carrot – is released upon chopping, and does all varieties of mischief.

Henry being his generous self has offered to bring some for my sampling tomorrow. I shall report back therewith.


The night-time reading habit that I restarted seems to be working, so it’s more of the same.

After polishing off Ugly Americans , I’m now onto The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Ugly Americans, a ‘true’ story of American stock-market traders operating in Japan and Singapore in the 90s, is about a three-star read, good enough to lull one into relaxation for the night ahead.

‘Tis a strange thing, but bedtime reading, as opposed to button-pressing on the phone, fosters a forgotten , foreign sense of … contentment.

Mezrich’s book – picked up at the seocnd-hand store for ~= NZD 3.30 – uses some of the techniques showcased way back by Tom Wolfe, and others, in The New Journalism ( 1973 I think ). That is the use of fictional devices in reporting, and, especially in the case of one Hunter Thompson, the author inserting himself into the story.

But in Ugly Americans it’s unclear for dunces such as myself when we have fiction and otherwise. The descriptions of opulence get a little tedious, but the characters are interesting enough.

Spoiler Alert

The ending does come as a pleasant surprise, and satisfies in a strange way.

For my next outing, I went back to the new bookstore, which is well-stocked, and offers cheap new English-language titles.

There are a gamut of self-help books, even some that are relatively fashionable, but otherwise the menu is lots of Classic Victorian literature. Which for me is a PITA for it’s hand-wringing Christianity and moralism. And they’re forever banging on about class.

I chose Conan Doyle because he’s less about all that, and more on the science and problem-solving end. Plus, Carl loved him, and to my shame I don’t think I’ve read any of it, so time to plug that gap.

And, hopefully, continue improving habits as I go.

Happy Days

The blessed day came today, and I’m now a plaster-free zone.

A week or so earlier than schedule, too! An x-ray at the hospital prompted a smile from the doctor – the ankle was 70% healed, he says.

Henry’s Vietnamese, and my best attempt at a winsome look must’ve turned the tables, and he gave the green light.

This means I’ll be able to have a normal shower, without all the palaver of keeping the leg dry, and I’ll be able to go swimming.

Things are looking up for my final month here in the Socialist Republic.

Looking good

In a rare case of accidentally following official advice, I got encouraging ‘news’ today from the NZ Govt. website, safetravel.

An email pointed NZers toward the flights I’d already booked and paid for.

Which is all very promising, and is starting to look like – barring foobars on my part – I will indeed manage to get back to the Land of the Long White Cloud next month.

Following is the guts of it, Trev;

Kia Ora New Zealanders

For those of you who are wishing to return to New Zealand, Singapore Airlines have announced that they are now operating from both HCMC and Ha Noi with flights via Singapore to Auckland. New Zealand has restrictions on the number of passengers that can travel into Auckland, therefore seat availability on each flight is limited.

For departure from HCMC, the best connection would be on the following flights:

HCMC to Singapore:

SQ177 on every Sunday, departing HCMC at 12.30pm local time, and arriving Singapore on the same day at 3.30pm local time.

Singapore to Auckland:

SQ285 on every Sunday, departing Singapore at 6.40pm local time, and arriving Auckland on the next day at 8.15am local time (9.15am from 27 September 2020 due to daylight saving time).

In other return news, today I booked tickets from Nha Trang to Saigon for September 19, the day before I leave Vietnam. In a turnout for the books, I successfully managed to use credit from the cancelled April flight to pay for 90% of this new plane trip.

Whoop whoop! Seems I might finally be getting a tenuous handle on this travelling business…

Glorious food

First things first…

I’ve booked a flight SGN -> SIN -> AKL on September 20th.

It arrives in Auckland Sept. 21 at 0815. The suspense of it all was taking a toll, so I’ve bitten the bullet and stumped up $1100+ USD, on what I hope is good advice that the flight will more than likely get off the ground.

So that leaves 32 days, or so, to finish exploring Vietnam. And, of course, the food adventures continue. Above is the result of this morning’s haul.

I have other plans, as well, for the last days in this here tropical paradise;

  • Get this damned leg plaster removed, I’m hoping by the end of August latest. I suspect and hope that I might have recovered a little faster than doctor’s expectations. The ankle is starting to feel stronger, and is giving me less gyp day-by-day.
  • Once that’s off, get back in the briny. The sea, and riding a bike, are two things I love about Nha Trang.
  • Maybe take a 3 – 5 day trip to DaLat, the inland high altitude city which I always planned to at least visit. But that depends on this-and-that, including organising Visa.

It’s a huge relief having bought the ticket. Anything could happen in the meantime, of course, but I’m betting that the flight will get off the ground.