Thursday, August 31, 2006


There are a number classified web forums dedicated to Vietnam, the most active (that I've found) being Expat Vietnam. However, recently, Craigslist has entered the fray. I hope, and expect, that they will start to accumlate traffic, because their branding is so strong. Check out CL-Vietnam here.

Most people probably know of CL and it's founder, Craig Newmark. Even after selling a piece of the company to EBay, or, rather, "equitizing" his venture, CL has continued in it's community-based, dialup friendly roots. It's clunkiness is now a quaint calling card. Check it out, and sell/buy something there.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dog day afternoon

Just before our trip to Asia this summer, I began reading up on blogs by folks, particularly Americans, who either travelled there or were ex-pats in the region. For the most part, the folks seem genuinely nice, easy going and open-minded about this 'exotic' culture that they were, for however short, steeped in. Yeah, there was an ass or three, but you find that anywhere.

One thing that I ran across in the blogs that bothered me was the whole 'I ate this thing, it was great, I hope it wasn't a dog' joke. It bothers me because it is silly, it is stupid and it should just stop. Do people in Vietnam eat dogs? Yes, it's a delicacy, probably like horse is a delicacy in France.

Americans really don't have culturally unique foods - chitlins (or chitterlings)? Pshaw! Internal pork products are tasty, especially when mashed up, seasoned and presented as Rapa Scrapple. Sweet bread - internal organs from bovines - are really an appropriation from the French. I guess the closest we come to something interesting would be Rocky Mountain oysters - which are bull testicles, usually fried.

However, no tourist to the States would claim, in mock concern, that their great Chicago dog, or Uno's pizza, or NY cheesecake, or SF cioppino, or whatever they just consumed and enjoyed, that, hopefully, there wasn't some Rocky Mountain oysters slipped in.

So all you bloggers out there, stop being silly. No one is gonna try and slip you dog meat. Pork, beef, chicken, seafood, virtually every other animal protein is cheaper. And stop, in your silliness, thumbing your nose at another culture. What's the distinction between a dog and a pig anyhow? If you're open to killing animals and eating them, does the species of the animal really matter? Haven't you read Charlotte's Web?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Typing in Vietnamese

Let's see if this little program, UniKey, works to allow me to type in Vietnamese. Or, more appropos, to đàn từ tiếng Việt. Ha, I probably wrote that all wrong. It probably should be viết tiếng Việt. Or something like that. I dunno, my Vietnamese is pretty average for a (Việt Kiều) American - I did take two semesters of it in grad school though.

I got informed of this nice little utility from the blog Down and Out in Saigon, in this post. Hopefully, by using this, and getting VA to use it, ưe can pick up Vietnamese much more quickly than by immersion alone. We'll see. Expect both misspellings and wrong tonal marks, with the latter being more embarassing because my listening comprehension is fine. Expect to gloss over some words in future posts - or, you can work your way towards being an international bon vivant by learning them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Business Blogs

Updated to the right are some business related blogs for the region. Check them out, and if you know of others, do tell via the comments.

Technorati Profile

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Welcome back

This post from the Pho from Home blog reminded me of what I thought while cruising about on a small chartered boat in Ha Long Bay. The title of this post is a sign-off often used by a Vietnamese poster on an ex-pat forum I read today - he was happily telling Viet Kieu folks 'welcome back' to Viet-Nam and their home(land).

So, back to me - sitting in the sun, nursing a Halida, quietly admiring the bay with VA while the boat puttered back to the dock, I was just struck by it all. Wow, this place is beautiful; wow, this is my homeland. This is where I'm from. Nevermind the fact that, like other overseas Vietnamese, I'm a southerner. I live in Virginia right now, so I'm southerner by U.S. standards too!

Ah, I dunno, it's hard to describe how I felt. It's sorta like how I felt when I stepped back onto my college campus, after over a decade away. Your heart lightens and you feel good, at home, and warm memories wash back in. You remember your friends and good times.

It's similar, except that there aren't those memories to involuntarily recall, and yet, regardless, you feel grounded and part of it all. It was beautiful, I never knew it before, and it was home.

The picture above is from the balcony of a room in Saigontourist Ha Long Hotel, a pretty nice place to stay if you're in the area. The bridge being awaken by the rising sun is the Bai Chay bridge, nearing completion. It's the longest bridge of its type - the type being a pre-stressed concrete span with a single, central plane of cables, if you're into such things; you can learn more here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Cockroach

Some folks have expressed admiration that VA has volunteered to return to VN after the 'roach incident on our first night there. What can I say, she's a tough lady.

Here's a look at the size of the thing. That's a US quarter next to it, and it was alive at the time of the picture. They're kinda big, eh? Must be the carbs.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thoughts from VA

Here's what VA wrote, in the comment section of Hanoi Mark's blog, encapsulating her thoughts as of today:
Wow, I can't believe I just read your whole blog in the span of a work day morning. I should be ashamed of myself, especially since I work for the government. I was actually looking for some blogs to give me insight into what I will be expecting in Jan '07. My husband was offered a job in Hanoi, and I was pretty much willing but not ecstatic from the beginning to have both of us move there for at least two years. I did visit a month ago and didn't exactly fall in love w/Hanoi but wasn't offended by the idea either (except for the cockroach which crawled on my face the first night). This past week I've been thinking of all the things I'll miss about living in the States (D.C. to be exact) and all that I'll have to do before moving and in turn started to dread leaving. So this morning I looked for blogs about the expat experience to hopefully find some comfort and came upon yours. Thank you for providing a source of comfort and confidence for me. I'm determined to not be like those Austrailian Youth Ambassadors and move to Hanoi with an open-mind. Wish me luck!
Hopefully, things will turn out better than she expects. I'm cool with her low expectations, actually, as it'll be easier to meet them. She's more easy going than I am, so I'm sure it'll be fine after about a month or so. I just gotta find more sushi places in Hanoi, other than this one.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mentally packing our things

So with this decision to move overseas in about 4 months - man, that'll come up quick - we started to fret about how in the world we'll pack up the house and our things for the move.

A quick search of USPS, UPS and FedEx shows that shipping personal belongs won't make sense. A normal 5x5x5 box is $300 or so. International movers shipping one's stuff on a slow boat to China charge $11.00 per cubic foot. Yeah, that's not gonna work either.

So we'll just have to resign ourselves to 2 pieces of luggage and one carry-on, each. For me, that'll mean my clubs and one valise of clothing. VA will take one full of clothes and the other full of Stateside foods that she thinks she'll miss, along with some nice knives or something (whatever I can sneak into her luggage). My Magnepan speakers gotta stay, I guess. She'll also possibly want to bring the viola along.

We'll bring the electronics on the carry-on, load CDs onto the laptop or a ext. HD and consider buying another laptop, because from my limited research, electronics are significantly more expensive over there. Those new MacBook laptops look nice, but I'm not sure I'm ready to convert to the hippie side of the digital divide.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Golf in Hanoi

I'm a avid, but average, golfer. My favorite local course in the D.C. area is Rockville's Red Gate Golf Course, a municipal facility. Good rates, decent conditions for the price and challenging enough for my game.

So far, I've only found two golf courses near Hanoi, King's Island and Chi Linh Star. The facilities look pretty nice from pictures, but one can never judge just based on website photos. Here's what Chi Linh advertises on their site:

The membership rates at the two facilities are $28k and $15k USD respectively; they are open to the public and the weekday rate is $70 and $55 respectively. Chi Linh is, according to their site, an hour away from Hanoi, along the way to Ha Long, while King's Island advertises that it is 36KM from the city center. With the speed of traffic in Hanoi (or the lack thereof), 36KM could take 1.5 hours.

These greens fees are more than what I'm comfortable with around here at home, but I imagine the courses should be on par with nice Stateside resort courses (that are $100+ easily). I guess I won't play as often then, but I am definitely taking my golf clubs with me.

The only question is whether I should take along my current stand/carry bag - I'm young enough to hoof it around the course now, even in the D.C. summer (for 9, at least) - or opt to bring along a cart bag. Caddies at both course are $15 and $10 per round. I don't think anyone there carries their own bag.

P.S. Found another course, this one a bit cheaper ($30 weekday), but 65KM from the city in Tam Dao. It's called, naturally, the Tam Dao Golf & Resort.

We've accepted the offer

I just sent an email earlier today to tenatively accept the job offer in Viet-Nam. Let's see how long before someone reads this and asks me about it.

P.S. we'll tell our respective folks in due time, so don't go blabbering to them. Thanks.

It's not that hot in Hanoi

My biggest complaint about our Asia trip was the heat - little did I know that the US would be hit with a massive heat wave after we came back. It got to about 38 C today here in D.C., and we always have humidity in the summer. Today, Hanoi hit 26 C and tomorrow it'll be about 30 C. Maybe it's not so hot there after all.

VA says that we shouldn't worry about the heat in Hanoi - after all, we'll mostly be going from one air conditioned box to another. Plus, it's not as if I have to wear a suit there.

Speaking of AC'ed boxes, here is what the company car may look like. With tariffs and the like, this little bugger is about $35K USD. With the WTO acession coming later this fall, perhaps the prices will tumble downward.

I've noticed that just within the past two weeks, a number of the auto companies have removed their pricing info on their Vietnamese websites. Here are two quirky cool vehicles with pre-WTO prices of $8.5k and $15k respectively, the Diahatsu Hi-Jet and the Suzuki Wagon-R:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

100 KM and running..

I got an email the other day about doing a 100km century ride - man, that sounds like loads of seat time for a weekend bike rider. I ride a bike about once per quarter, so there's no way I could do something like that, and I couldn't imagine other folks, like my brother, doing something like that either. But I guess they will.

That's crazy, but not as crazy as these two Aussie blokes riding 1700 km down Vietnam, from Hanoi to Saigon. In a cyclo. Nuts. But they did it, in about two months or so.

The were doing it for the fun and adventure of it all, and to raise funds for KOTO (Know One, Teach One), a local organization that serves the street kids of Hanoi. Here's a background article about the founder, an Aussie with Vietnamese roots, Jimmy Pham.