2.06.2016

Little wins. Little ones.

First of all, I made it safely to the chilled out beach town of Mui Ne. Slight breeze.  View of the ocean. Ok.....Ill be a total jerk and take a pic of where I am writing this at this very moment, really rub it in...


It's pretty nice.  Just wish you were here with me!  It's quiet...chill, very zen in a boogie kind of way.  
I booked the hostel dorm here that's a slightly older crowd...more of the couples and less of the 20 somethings, but for sleeping purposes, sharing a room with grown ups is pretty nice.....except for that one snorer.....grrrr. 



So.  Now that I'm settled, I of course have to start planning the next leg of the trip....which can be infuriating on an emotional level, because it means bowing to the gods of the booking agencies. 

I'm going to let you in on the grimy icky not fun part of backpacking....playing the game of how ripped off do I want to get and by whom. Be it a hotel, a bus, a taxi, a meal, the only power I have is in the form of paper bills with a picture of Ho Chi Minh on them and it can be infuriating to be treated like an ATM machine rather than a person. 

Letting someone rip you off a few bucks doesn't seem like a big deal. Right? This is a poor country. People need the money. I can afford it. What's the fuss all about?  
Firstly, no one likes to be the chump. The loser. The odd man out. Especially after when you find out you've been fooled by someone you thought you could trust. It just doesn't feel good.  Also, it's dehumanizing. It's saying, I'm different than you. I'm not one of you. I am simply a standing, talking object to get money out of. 

I'll use this morning as an excellent example of my fuss:
All the buses that run are the same quality, same type, same time to the next city I'm going to. The local price for a ticket should be 150,000dong/$7ish.  Sounds easy right?  

Here's what happens really.....

When I check in last night, the lady at the hotel tells me the bus for Saturday costs 320,000d/$14. It's Tet holiday after all and so prices everywhere for everything have gone up. That seems reasonable. I have after all booked 7 days in a beach resort just to avoid the mess and haggle of traveling during a holiday when there's no buses running. I think about buying it right then....but decide to wait, maybe I'll want to leave earlier?  Maybe head directly to Cambodia?....it's a big investment really to decide on a leaving date. What if I hate it here?  Better to wait and feel it out I decide...best not to pressure. 

I walk down the beach this morning and check in at one of the local bus companies...the woman ignores me for 5 minutes, then slowly wanders over and glares at me. I ask, she quickly whips out 350,000dong/$16 at me. Whoa!  Every day?  Every day same price. No smile. No discussion. No nothing. Yuck I think. That's more, why?  Weird. I'll wait and buy at my hotel. 

Now.....back at the hotel, 12 hours later, the buses are all full she says. The price has gone up....400,000d ($18).  I sigh. Oh shit. I missed my opportunity. Man people sure we're fast buying up tickets last night!...thinks my Minnesota nice brain. I say yes out loud to buy, then I make a grimace and change my mind....something smells fishy.   I apologize for my confusion and walk away. 

I talk to another tourist girl I met on the road. Her ticket has also gone up in price.

Then I meet a dude from the States. He says it's a thing the locals do....inflate the prices to get more out of tourists, if you argue or start to walk away, they'll lower the price to the local price. 

So...(now we are nearing the end) I walk down the Main Street half a mile. Walk up to the first travel stand on the street with a younger dude chilling out with his 2 year old daughter. I walk up and ask....300,000d/$13  He was nice. He smiled. He talked about other things to do here. He talked about his plans for Tet New Year and what the locals do for the holidays. He was a person with me and he smiled and treated me warmly. We shook hands and we wished each other a good day like human beings. I could have argued him down.  Maybe I probably should have, but the experience of sitting with him and being treated decently and sharing a very short moment with him and his family that didn't involve eye glares or irritation.....I really don't mind paying more to him at all. I feel kind of good about it!  

So to summarize the experience for one bus ride and probably even the same bus!
2/6 5pm $14 (my hotel)
2/7 8am $16 (angry lady)
2/7 9am $18 (my hotel)
2/7 10am $13. SOLD!  To the nice quiet guy at only double the price with the adorable little girl!

So I have a new motto. I don't mind being ripped off at all, if I'm being ripped off by people I like and who are honest and reasonable with me. Helpful is a plus!  

I was also told a few cities back by a reception girl after being super ripped off at a place next door to her....always ask around to 3 different places before buying something. Anything. It's worth the wait. Plus, you meet people....maybe even nice ones. 

So I sit and enjoy a respite before heading to lunch and doing the process all over again. It's not bad at all, just takes some getting used to!






2.05.2016

Da Lat Botanical Garden


The funny thing about paid gardens in Asia......it's not so much about the different types of flowers, it's about how the flowers decorate the giant ceramic statues of Snow White and the seven dwarves.....or a woman loading a canoe with watermelons....or a creepy version of Mickey Mouse.  I didn't take pictures of those things, but I had to take these.  Please take special care in noticing the giant banana leaf square of sticky rice shown above next to the watermelon. These must be special foods for this region. 
The pony let me pet his ears. 
This photo is the perfect example of how Da Lat wants to appear to be kind of a little Switzerland.....but if Switzerland was in Disney Land. 

I think I ended up having more fun at the jumbo Costco like grocery store at the local mall after than I did at the garden....but if you know me, this won't surprise you at all. I bought jackfruit chips!!! It's also hard to enjoy an outdoor park in mid day sun without shade from trees. It was pretty, but made me miss and appreciate my beloved Brooklym Botanical Garden.  I promise BBG to visit more when I'm back!


2.04.2016

Shrimp flower

Weird flower of the day!  In honor of walking to the botanical garden later this morning. Da  Lat has a flower festival every year because they love flowers so much!  So I'm excited to go flower hunting.

Da Lat

Well, I went from Russian Miami to Vietnamese Switzerland. DA LAT is my kind of town with easy city walking, local fresh fruit and veggies and lucky for me I've finally made a couple of friends here, had a lot of fun adventures and conversations and I'm starting to feel at ease.

Here's some pics of my last few days of adventures taking a monolith to a zen Buddhist monestary, walking the streets with new friends, eating delicious food and staying in a really fun little hostal full of other solo travelers just like me. Things are going really well.



2.02.2016

Birds of paradise

Nha Trang

After a 12 hour night bus and an interesting one night stay in Nha Trang (Russian Miami), but a very very nice sleep in Tobala Hostel where I slept in a cubby box and room that opened with a wrist bracelet, then a 5 hour mini bus drive thru the mountains into a Vietnamese Version of Switzerland where the temp is 70-80 degrees, the air is cool and fresh and little kids grab your hand and say hello in English en masse. 

Here's some pics from my time in Nha Trang:

My awesome hostel Tobala
A store near my hostel....now I know where the Russians go for winter,

Crossing the train tracks 

My dinner!  Banh Mi. She's cooking eggs down below, then she added meatballs, aioli, herbs, chili sauce and pate. $1



This strawberry bubble tea was insanely delicious!  There were blueberry flavored bubbles that exploded in your mouth like real blueberries, plus half of it was little chewy gummies!  A refreshing drink and a snack!  50 cents. I also made a friend who I shared a room with at the hostel from Malaysia. We had a wonderful time talking and walking around. 



1.30.2016

If a tree falls.....

So I'm just going to get this pity party out of the way now....part of the challenge of my confidence building exercise 2016 here is being here and doing things on my own. I'm already getting sentimental and weird in moments where I should just be like.....ahhhh....yes indeed life is good!

Every time I see something cool, I wish I had someone there who I could share it with....and sitting here sipping cold water by the beach I realized two things..

1. I'm not a beach person, and for those of you with limited beach experience, here's the thing...to have a good beach experience, you need...
- a tiki hut/shade
- a cooler of cold things to drink
- snacks
- a good book
- the ability to chill out easily
- to have skin that's not delicious to sand flies
- not mind jelly fish

Yes indeed it's beautiful and sunny and warm, but if we could just combine that with a little cloudy cold front here and there, perfection. Of course my next town is Nha Trang followed by Mui Ne. Two beach towns. Here we go!

The second thing...
I guess this blog can be my company when I'm alone...really let's face it, if r man were here, he'd be bored as hell and wouldn't be at the beach in the first place, instead, hunting down caves or crabs or a cool sinking boat off shore.

I do need to work on first words....the cold open....the hard sell...the "hello, my name is....I'm a desperate lonely almost middle aged women on a crazy escapade...mind if I join you?  Ok....I'll work on it!  Needs some tweeking I think.