Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Viet Nam continued

Sunday 25 May

The vehicle was military green. Tick. It was a 4x4. Tick. It was a Toyota Landcruiser from the old skool. Tick. The driver smoked War Horse Brand. Two ticks. That’s where the ticks end.

My quest for inner peace took me through the industrial outskirts of Hanoi. Whe3re I might add, the road manners are no better than the old quarter. A journey of 150kms took all of 4 hours. Anyway, what awaited me on the other end was a veru pleasant surprise. Seems I had signed myself up for a homestay.

It was great. To begin with, it was the first good meal I had had while in Vietnam. A note on food: Vietnam is the world’s second largest net exporter of rice. And yet, to date, I had not seen a grain. Noodle soup, rolled up pork mince, processed meat of some description. But no rice. WTF?

Anyway, here there was rice in abundance. As well as fried bugs. A delicacy, I’m told. Not one to shy away from such things, I tried one. It tasted, not surprisingly, like grass. That was it for me, but I was amused by my hosts’ sorting through the plate and picking out some particularly juicy ones to crunch on. I enquired, as you do, which ones were the best, and they assured my that the big ones were. Well, you can’t fault the logic.

The next thing that stood out for me was the quiet. Like game farm in the Northeren Transvall quiet. Luvly. In fact, the frogs were so loud they sounded like small dogs barking.

Monday 26

Woke up to the faint smell of cow dung and burning grass. Fabulous. It’s really at times like these that I get a little homesick for SA. Nevertheless, I decided I liked the countryside so juch that I would simply push on to Laos. Unfortunately this was not to be. My guide could not find out whether I could get a visa as the border; and at 180US extra for the privilege of going the extra 160kms, I thought better of it. Next time.

Back in the hotel in Hanoi, I tried to book a ticket back to wherever. A shambles. I still couldn’t connect to the Internet with my own computer and the PCs in the foyer were all set to 2002. The airline booking engines were not happy. And they put on the moon. I ask you.

Some negotiation and a hefty commission later, I had an airticket back to Bangkok.

Tuesday 27

And so here I am. Back in Thailand. My original return ticket to KL has been successfully changed to tomorrow afternoon. (Always buy the most expensive ticket you can – that way you can change it, and not have to put up with various arbitrary airline rules.)

I have a few good pics. I’ll post them when I’m in the mood.

Ha Noi

Friday 23 May

Good god. First impressions of Vietnam: madness. The journey from the airport to my hotel (if one can call it that – US$20 a night) was like being a passenger in a dodgem car. Motorcycles are everywhere. And I mean everywhere. There seems to be no sense of self preservation among the riders.

The hotel itself is a quaint affair. The foyer looks like a 1950s movie. A ballustraded staircase is the only way up or down to or from the rooms. The furniture in mine is a kind of dark stained cross between Chinese Art Deco and 2 dollar tea house.

The deeper I get into the dark green heart of Asia, the stranger it gets. At least there’s AXN in the TV. And oh, the TV, very small, I think my laptop screen is bigger.

As of now, there is no Internet (the horror, the horror), - a cable, but no connection - but at least I have found one electrical outlet in the bathroom that accepts my universal adapter. And thank god, the electricity seems to be at, or near, 220 V, 50~, or my Dell would be toast by now.

Let me tell you about the money. I have no idea how people actually cope. 1 US equals 16 100 Dong. When I stuck my card in the hole in the wall and saw numbers ranging from 50 000 to 2 000 000, I got a surprise, to say the least.

Saturday 24 May

Ok I’ve figured out this driving thing. It’s quite simple; there are no traffic lights. Well, actually, there may be 3 intersections in old Hanoi with lights. The rest is just a free-for-all. Think ants, all scurrying hither and thither – over around on top to the side this way that way bumping changing directions. Now imagine that the ants all have motorcycles, tri-shaws, cars and busses. And they’re big. And they can hurt you.

Speaking of which, I did see an accident involving 2 motorcycles. Unbelievable. I hadn’t even been here a day. God’s own country man. Gotta love this place.

Still no Internet. Even after pissing around with my computer (along with the hotel’s IT specialist). We’ve installed and uninstalled every driver, protocol and IP monitor the computer will allow us. And still nothing. My boys back at XM are going to have their work cut out for them when it comes to reconnecting me to the company network.

Today was rather fruitful as far as activity was concerned. Awoke to the Hanoi national anthem (car horn, for the uninitiated)
at about 9am. After a quick bath and 2 fried eggs on doorstep toast (the breakfast of champions), I found myself in a tri-shaw, headed out into the … fuck, who am I kidding, it’s a supermarket out there.

3 minutes later I was soaked. Did I mention that the humidity here is about 99 degrees? No, really. It really is.

I had the opportunity to visit a museum – I think it was called hac, hat, num clac, or something. Jokes aside I was very impressed. After having said my hellos to a 10 foot, smiling Mr. Ho (Ho Chi Min – Singapore has Raffles, this place has Ho; oh and I even saw a statue of Lenin), I was in turn greeted by an amazing spectacle involving a 30s French art retrospective, some groovy installation art and the usal assortment of fibreglass tanks, actual correspondence between leaders of they VC, a pair of glasses (evidently used to peruse aforementioned), rubber AK47s, etc.

At about 12:30, my friendly neighbourhood tri-shaw operator pulled into a beer house and refused to go any further until he’d been watered. What could I say? It was hot. He did 3 glasses before I had even drunk the foam off mine. The fellow clearly had a thirst. Then on the pavement, a group of fellows produced a small stash of dope, sniffed it appreciatively, and proceeded to light up in an enormous bamboo bong. Luckily they didn’t offer it around, or I may not be writing this now. The natives were restless, and so was I. So I headed back to the hotel for a nap. Well deserved, I might say, after a morning spent reclining in the luxuriously appointed surrounds of a bicycle with three wheels.

This afternoon I concerned myself with the important business of getting lost in the old quarter.

Having successfully dodged Mr. Tri-shaw, I was attacked by loaves of bread. Everywhere I turned I saw crusty, baguette style frenchy loves being pedalled, delivered and otherwise making their way around town. I thought nothing of it – at least consciously. For it wasn’t long before I had the most powerful hankering for crusty bread, lovingly smothered with pate. Ha! I was dreaming, of course. But wait. Wasn’t this Hanoi? And weren’t the French once here in their droves? It was. And they were. And I did find a small place in which I was able to procure, for a very small fee, some rather rough, but delicious, pork pate and the very same, and by now ubiquitous crusty loaves.

Later I ensconced myself at a beer establishment to take photographs. I think I may have 2 worth publishing. A fine day, all told.

Tomorrow I leave by Jeep (I’m hoping some “American War” style machine with ancient tyres and a dodgy green paint job) towards the interior. Fuck knows where. Should be amusing. Perhaps I’ll see some real Montagnards. I’m looking for a genuine scarf. For protection I’ve purchased a Vietnamese flag (red with yellow star) and same with hammer and sickle. We are, after all, in Cong Territory.

Friday, May 23, 2008


It’s raining like a bugger. Chubby, malevolent, monsoon-practised drops with floods on their evil little minds. The kind of raindrops the Matrix creators could only dream of. I mention this simply because I’m due to leave Bangkok for Hanoi in about 5 hours, and at this rate not even Buddha himself is going anywhere.

Here in the dining room of the Woraburi Resort/hotel (a type of outdoor, lanai type affair – a tropical-architecture structure constructed to allow air to circulate, and, assumedly, to cool its patrons), I’m drinking water (???), eating green curry and reading Hunter S Thompson. It is cool now – although no doubt ascribable to this god awful storm, rather than any ingenious design on the part of my hosts.

The place is full of the usual suspects: older European men with their Thai “wives,” girls who accompany these same gents for the period of their stay here in Bangkok, presumably for the purposes of guiding, translating and whatever else goes on behind closed hotel doors; waiters and waitresses rushing about with great steaming plates of rice and other Thai delights; a gang of middle eastern tourists who seem determined to get out and about despite the rain and the obviously curious looks of the locals. Their perseverance is met with success as a lone Tuk Tuk emerges out of the waterfall that is the atmosphere. Clambering in, they disappear into the afternoon mess that characterises this and every other South East Asian city.

The atmosphere here is decidedly cheerful. Dodgy 80s hits are playing on the sound system, and there is a strange kind of buzz. I can’t really put my finger on it, other than to speculate that the potential energy that has been stored up in the raindrops is releasing itself into me and the rest of my fellow diners.

I take this opportunity to remind myself of the purpose of this journey; to take photographs of foreign and otherwise exotic cultural artefacts and post them on my blog. Hmm. So far, not so good. Bangkok is not as photogenic as one might think. It’s well nigh impossible to get around, and the stuff I’ve seen on the Asian Food Channel seems not to actually exist.

And so, on to Hanoi, where I’m sure, I will find much in the ancient French Colonial architecture to record and be interested in.

I have made reservations at a guest house in the old quarter – an area whose name evokes, for me, visions of quaint coffee shops and even quainter locals. We shall see.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gritpype replies

Hello Duke

The matter you speak of sounds a little bit too good to be true. After all, as we say here, there is no such thing as a free lunch. However, you have piqued my interest. Before I start to send my particulars to someone unknown, and to parts unknown, I like to understand a bit more about this transaction. And of course, I don't actually know you personally, so I am understandably cautious.


Further adventures in Scambaiting: the rise of Gritpype Thinne

My previous posts detailed some rather feeble attempts by the scam scum to separate me from my money. More recently I received another one of these. Here below:

Dear Friend
With all due respect, I am Duke Ani, aged 21 years,a Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I got your contact in my search for an honest person abroad who can assist me in investing my inheritance wisely and my instinct motivated me to write you.I inherited the sum of US$48million from my late father Mr Ani Friday as the only child of my parents. My parents were victims of the deadly plane crash that claimed the lives of 117 people on 23 October, 2005 in Ogun State of Nigeria. You can check and verify about the plane crash in the following links below.

This is the bit a really love. Check out the link. very enterprising.

I am looking for a trustworthy partner abroad who can assist me to move my inherited funds abroad for banking and investment because of the continious Economic and Political instability nature of African states. I am willing to give you 25% of the money for your role and assistance to me. I want the money to be invested in Real Estate business and other profit oriented ventures.
Do not hesitate to contact me for further details (aniduke21@gmail.com). hope you will handle this matter with altmost confidentiality and transparency it deserves.
Duke Ani

And so I replied, dutifully, in my guise as a sucker just asking to be fleeced. For the purposes of this exercise I am using the email address Gritpype.thinne@gmail (you'll recognise this as a Goon Show character).

And this was the response I got - rather long winded:

Attention: Gritpype,

Thanks for your timely response to my mail. The transaction that I proposed to you is hundred percent legitimate and will not take us more than seven working days to be accomplished because I have already worked out the modalities for the smooth transfer of the fund into the bank account that you will nominate for this purpose.

Note that the nature of this transaction demands that we maintain utmost confidentiality to ensure a successful transaction, Haven said this let me brief you with the official processes to be involved in the transaction. My main focus is to present you to the Bank as my business partner abroad and you will further apply that this entitlement be transferred to you through the said legal processes.

We shall start by sending a formal application to this effect. I will copy you with the text of the said claim and transfer application to this effect as soon as I receive your response. Thereafter, the Bank will request of you the relevant back up documents to your claim and application according to the demand of our probate law on transfer of inheritance.

I am on the stand by to provide you with their requirements from the stock of documents that is presently with me. Otherwise, we will have to facilitate our acquisition of any one demanded outside my possession with the help of a reputable attorney here. Once we have provided the Bank with their demands they would be under legal obligation to transfer the funds to your submitted bank account.

Please note that all legal awards we shall have to seek from the federal high court to compliment your application of claim. You are not to worry about this as I will easily secure the services of a lawyer that will use the benefit of his professional competence and influence to do this for us only that it will only cost us some official expenses.

As we proceed, the processes and demands of this transaction will become clearer to you. I want you to send me your Information such as, (1) Your full name as written in your International Passport or drivers license (2): Date of Birth (3): Your Telephone /Fax Numbers (4):Occupation (5) Residential address.

As soon as you send me the above Information I shall obtain the Text of Application form from the bank and send to you also the required information of the Deceased father and of the bank. I also want to assure you that your information are top secret and would not cause any harm as every step we are taking is under the guidance of the law.

Be assured that the procedures to be adopted in effecting the transfer will be official and legal which will protect us from any breach of the law now and in great future do call me on this telephone number below for further correspondence (+ 234-703-049-9600) Above all, I personally count on the will and blessing of the almighty God to facilitate our plan and understanding to produce not just success but also peaceful sharing/investment of the funds at the end of the day and a healthy family business relationship thereafter.

I also pray for establishment of cordial relationship between us, God being our helper I await your urgent call/response.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr. Duke Ani.