To Market, to market

Above is the local market on Lạc Long Quân St, Nha Trang. It’s 5 minutes walk from my apartment on Van Kiep. As you look at the map below, follow Lac Long Quan down, and to the right, and Van Kiep is the second street.

The hobble, on crutches, has become a daily morning ritual, before the blessed caffeine injection.

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Old dog, old tricks

I finally got it together to pull some old tricks in the New Place.

The dodgy looking … matter in the bowl is my first successful Vietnam attempt at almond bread / cake. Ingredients are pretty simple – baking powder ( mixed myself from baking soda and cream of tartar ), a duck egg, and almond flour, or ground almonds.

It soaks up anything – I could use it to mop the bench – and is healthy and satisfying.

In today’s case, it’s on the menu with the crockpot dish above. That’s Basa fish, red peppers, pak choi, and carrots. Here’s the directions – throw the veges in with some water, bring to the boil, let cool, add fish. Maybe some salt. Simmer. Forget until hungry.

At chow-down time, I’ll usually add coconut cream, and maybe turmeric, but today, I’ll be sampling it with said almond bread.

Phwoar !!

News From the Embassy

A couple of recent emails from the NZ Embassy in Hanoi have injected some urgency into my languid bones.

Things change quickly, of course, but it’s on the cards that there’s an affordable route back looming on the near horizon. Late August, according to the emails below, which is sooner than I bargained for.

On the upside, it would mean avoiding some ongoing costs, i.e. rental + electric etc ( ~NZD 330 / month ), and Visa renewal ( ~ NZD 175 / 1 month, ~ NZD 278 / 3 months ).

On the downside, it gives me that much less time to prepare. And for

  • Securing the insurance payout I’m due for the bike accident. The company will only pay a Vietnamese bank account. So if I left before they cough up, I would need to rely on a Vietnamese friend – yes, Henry – to launder the money through his account, and send it to my NZ account.
  • visiting Dalat, as I’d always told myself I would do after the end of school term, June 30.
  • Enjoying the beach, which I can’t do now with my leg in plaster. It’ll be 8 weeks, and time to remove it, near the end of August.
  • Sampling more fully the beautiful Vietnamese food.

So I’m torn between episodes of loving it here ( most of the day, and especially early morning ), and wishing I was home ( for example overnight, especially at the infamous four in the morning – thanks Leonard Cohen ).

So without further warbling, here are the emails from New Zealand’s fantastic Embassy staff member in Hanoi. She’ll remain nameless.

Email August 8

If a flight is going to go ahead generally we will have some idea 2 weeks out. That is plenty of time to organise a ride from Nha Trang into HCMC.

In regards to transit through Sydney. You can apply for an exemption to the 14 days in quarantine. If your transit time is over 7 hours and less than 72 hours then you will be required to leave the airport and go to a quarantine hotel during that time and it is payable, though not at the same cost as 14 days. You would not be permitted to do that because you cannot enter Australia.

There sounds like there may be a couple of options on VN Airlines coming up late this month so we can see if Air NZ has resumed flights from Sydney to Auckland by then. I will keep you posted.

Email August 10

The last flights that were going from HCMC to Sydney were around $1100-1300 NZD and then there was the onward flight from Sydney to NZ which fluctuated depending on what baggage you had but I think they were around NZD 400.

This sounds promising. But given the wild fluctuations in flight prices, that price is far from Gospel. A day or two ago, I found a flight listed on Google for around $1300 NZD, and found that the airline website, through which I had to book, was charging $11,000 or so.

Vaping

From 8,000 km away, I can see the frown from certain elderly people ( ahem ).

But that aside, I’ve ploughed bravely on ahead anyway and splurged on a new vaping kit, all in the interests of entrenching habits, you understand. Thar she blows below, on the right.

Vaping kits , old - left-, and new
The Frenzy, by Geek Vape, on the right of the picture

The old cheap kit was a serious stress, what with replacing the mouthpiece every few days, and forever refilling the damned thing.

One would think I would just give up smoking, and I will …. but not yet. There’s no such thing as Government-subsidised nicotine patches here in the ‘developing world’, so the only option is to attempt to import them, and for a pretty ransom.

This new kit actually packs a kick, so that a chap knows he has been smoking. Too many hoofs on the trot ( sorry ), and there are consequences.

It has good reviews, and is mine for a mere 500,000 VND, or ~= NZD 33.

Cost

If it was just about cost I’d just take up smoking again, with cigarettes here for 10,000 VND ( ~= NZDE 0.60 ) per pack. The rest of the cost back home is tax.

But I’ve not had a cigarette for several weeks, because they just trash me. I feel like dogfood.

So for now it’s the lesser of two evils, and promising myself that I’ll give up again in the relative ease of home.

Et in Arcadia Ego

Above is the mid-afternoon scene from my balcony in Van Kiep St, Nha Trang. The natives have been sheltering from the heat, and are now beginning to stir…

The title is taken from the TV series Brideshead Revisited, an old favourite, from an early episode when all was hunkydory.

My ( very rough ) translation is “in Eden, me too”. Others disagree.

The long haul?

It’s looking like sun may have set on opportunities to return to New Zealand, so I’m hedging my bets by starting a long game.

By which I mean entrenching habits which will serve me well if my stay here continues to extend.

One of those is night-time reading, a soporific habit I’ve  let lapse since Thailand. Hence the book on the left,~3.30 NZD at a local store.

I first read it back in 1976 or such-like. Then,in my 20s, I revisited Jack London ( 1876 – 1916 ), when John Barleycorn rang a few bells.

But I digress again. It’s one of a few positive habits I;’m reintroducing. Another is the morning walk ( now hobble ), 10 minutes to the local fresh market and back. I’ve bought some cheap knick-knacks to hang clothes on to make online teaching easier, and ‘fixed’ ( propped it up with a chair ) the broken desk in the apartment.

All this and a couple of other unmnetionables after jamming up Embassy inboxes and pestering airlines offices to take me home. Please.

But for now, and at least the next month, it’s off the cards, due to airline schedules and cancellations, flight restrictions, etc, etc, The logistics would make yer head spin.

And, just as I write this, I check my email, to read this below, from the long-suffering and saintly NZ official in the Embassy in Hanoi.

I have been advised that there may be a flight on Korean Air departing later this month around 31 August, its not confirmed as yet so I will keep you posted on that. It’s likely to be around USD 2,000.
Also there may be a possibility that VN Airlines will put another flight on late this month which will go through Sydney if this is the case it may be at this time Air NZ has resumed flights from Australia, I will keep you posted of any confirmed flights.

Back on the steed

In a move which is either or both stupid or brave, I’m back on a bike.

Back on the bike
A Honda … mumble, ~NZD 40 / month

I got the gyp with being confined to barracks, apart from Grab, and the ankle is feeling comfortable enough to stress it a little. After three days of minor outings, it’s holding up ok.

The biggest worry is the effed-up entrance-way here into the apartment, a narrow ramp with a nice wee drop on either side. Just so it’s interesting for the spectators, it slopes at maybe 30 degrees, so a little speed is needed for the ascent.

Then there’s the narrow door-way, only slightly wider than the ramp, which means that any miscalculation will involve a steel wall.

The buttock-clenching ritual need only happen once a day, but that’s enough, thanks. A small mercy is that a mishap might be less disastrous since the ankle is still plastered and protected.

The first day, I tried to skirt around it, by walking up the thin band of steps beside the ramp, with throttle / brakes on. That worked well enough when I had two ankles, but not this time. A neighbour took pity on me when I got stuck 90% of the way up, and hove to.

Since that clearly didn’t work, I’m girding the loins and riding the gauntlet daily.

Nobut – Singapore

After lots of arsing about, a simple email finally confirmed that the Sept 27 return trip I hoped to make is a dead duck.
Singapore Airlines has confirmed that passengers coming from Vietnam are not allowed to transit through Singapore.
No matter that Vietnam is among the countries least affected by covid-19.

As you see from your detailed scrutiny of the above link, Vietnam has 7 cases of the virus per millions of population. The comparable figure for South Korea – where passengers are given transit through Singapore – is 282, and New Zealand, 314.

Over coffee this morning, Henry and I agreed that it can only be down to a political decision.

And now that’s all decided and wrapped and tied in a neat bow, it’s on to other return routes for me, e.g., via Hong Kong. Or Thailand. Or anywhere.

Yebbut Nobut

For a few hours I thought my troubles with a returning flight to New Zealand were over, with the below route from Ho Chi Minh City ( HCM ) to Singapore to Auckland.

So when the funds became available I paid USD 10.91, via Singapore Airlines‘ site to ‘secure the fare’. I have until August 6 to make full payment ( USD 865.xx ) for my seat.

But a flurry of emails to NZ officials overnight and today soon stopped my sap from rising.

It seems that while the flight is book-able, and they will take my money, thanks very much, it remains murky whether or not I could have transit-ed through Singapore. That is, gone through the airport without entering Singapore itself.

The NZ High Commissioner ( NZHC ) in Singapore is telling me no, Vietnam is not listed as an approved source ( outbound ) country for transit via Singapore.

The airline itself, Singapore Airlines, is telling me, yes, I will be able to transit provided the route is open. Singapore Immigration‘s website says as a NZ passport holder, I can transit.

When it comes to ease of befuddlement, I’m right up there. So small surprise then, that I’m now bamboozled.

The NZHC is telling me that Singapore’s National Carrier will be laying on the flights from HCM for the benefit of Singapore nationals, and not foreign devils such as myself.

And having been once bitten by the cancelled return flights in March, I’m now twice shy of stumping up more dwindling cash.

So for now, it seems I have no choice other than to take the word of the NZHC, and the cautions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here ( both via emails ) , and hold fire.

Today also happened to be due rent today for the apartment, so I laid down 5.1 m VND for monthly apartment, bike rental ( more later ), power, and water costs.

This hunkering is slowly but surely wearing thinner.