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Thursday, 29 November 2007

The earth moved

Last night at around 10.15 I was typing up some reports when the chair I was sitting on seemed to sway and felt as though the legs were about to give way, there were two waves of this accompanied by a dizzying sensation then nothing. No noise, the geckos stopped geckoing and the builders next door stopped metal grinding.

There were no other shocks and five minutes later everything started up again. I checked the internet this morning, it was a 4.8-magnitude earthquake which struck southern Vietnam.

The epicentre was off the coast of Vung Tau, east of HCMC. No injuries or damage have been reported.

Back to pictures of things that make me look twice in the next posting. Christmas is gearing up, I've seen six children wearing Santa outfits already and it's not even December.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Saigon Traffic

The first thing most people notice here is the traffic. It is overwhelming and appears to be completely disorganised. Of course it isn't, it just has different rules and behavioural expectations than anywhere else. We read about crossing the road and watched traffic on YouTube before we came and what we read is pretty much true.

Common advice is to step out slowly into the traffic which will flow around you. It does, to an extent.

  • Step out, obviously not INTO the traffic, wait for a gap or thinning.
  • Be sure to look in the opposite direction to the main flow for someone going the other way. This isn't the wrong way, just the other way.
  • Walk slowly and traffic will move in front of you, when you reach a critical point in the middle of the (mainly) oncoming traffic it will start to pass behind you.
  • Reach the middle of the road and start the process over again.

These rules work well with motorbikes.

Cars don't flow, they might honk, they might stop. Buses honk anyway, don't flow and certainly don't stop and motorbikes, bicycles, cyclos and the three wheeled truck things made from motorbikes carrying four meters of metal piping flow around buses and cars directly into your path.

No injuries here yet and there's a certain cache in crossing confidently. Last weekend I rescued two septugenarians from East Kilbride who had been stuck in the middle of the road for five minutes holding a map and looking petrified.

I've been trying to get a picture that illustrates the traffic, I'd just about decided that only a moving image would do it justice but I tried a couple of tight in shots that give more of an impression of the madness.

Not excessive loads

This is a fairly normal street scene, the traffic isn't too busy and there's the normal range of things being carried by bikes. The man sitting higher than the rest of the traffic is riding one of the three wheeled bike/vans. No live animals being carried and everyone except the cyclist with the green lemons is travelling in the same direction.


This is more like it, all shapes, all sizes, all directions and more of the perspective you get when in the traffic, either on foot or wheels. You can see Government Information posters including, on the far right, one for helmet wearing. What you see isn't a midget on a bike but the bottom part of the poster. The demonic small person is a child perched between his father's knees. There's a big push on to get the populace helmeted and rejecting the traditional head protection of a basketball cap and/or ponytail. Even in the short time we've been here we've noticed a lot more head protection. So demonic small person posters seem to be working.

As I was about to stop taking pictures out of the traffic emerged a cyclo driver loaded down with bananas. He looked so poised and calm I thought he was a visual antidote to the mental stuff.

Banana Man

One last traffic posting for the moment. A few weeks back I put up some pictures of loads on motorbikes, I mentioned at the time that I thought the fridge bearers were delivery drivers. I was right, I spotted them outside the loading bay of Nguyen Kim a massive electrical shop where we bought an electric fan recently.

Nguyen Kim

The load of the day, a fridge and gas oven.



Yes we still snigger every time we go in but the ice cream is delicious. We've yet to try the All You Can Eat Fanny Buffet but will report back when we do.

Fanny Interior

On our way for a bowl of Fanny I saw the first Christmas tree of the season. I've heard Saigon goes all out with the decorations. This is somewhere off Nguyen Hue, it looks promising.

First of the season

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Thngs I've seen that I like


Ducks? Geese?

Yellow Wall, Hoi An

A yellow wall.

Today we plan to shop. There's a chance that the phone brought from the UK will be unlocked, it's been with the unlocker for a month now. We're planning on getting some decorative items for the apartments. Lamps, cushions, another elctric fan and some bedsheets that aren't lime green are on the list. Whether we get any or not remains to be seen as we're both fairly pathetic shoppers. however we feel fairly settled here at the moment so it seems a good time as any to try make where we live look more like a home than a motel.

It looks hot out there today, no clouds and no breeze. I'll take the camera and practice shooting in sunlight but it looks like a great day to try out some more ice cream parlours.

Flooding in Hoi An

Photograph courtesy of notquiteginger on flickr

I was pulled up short to see the extent of the flooding in Hoi An this week. I'd been lightheartedly going on about the sweaty interiors of disposable raincoats while the rains continued to fall and the river rose.

From Than Nien newspaper:

Households underwater in Hoi An ancient town of Quang Nam Province
The death toll continued to rise in the aftermath of floods that wreaked havoc in the central provinces, bringing the total to 21 dead or missing after more bodies were found Thursday.
Two bodies were found in Quang Nam Province, bringing the total number of people dead or missing in the province to ten.
Quang Nam was also the hardest-hit in the central region.
In Da Nang, the bodies of two young students were discovered yesterday in Hoa Vang District, bringing the death toll in the city to three.
In Thua Thien-Hue Province, six people have been reported dead so far.
Local authorities said the water in the Thu Bon and Vu Gia rivers have receded some.
The floods submerged tens of thousands of households and destroyed thousands of hectares of crops.
Traffic to the area resumed yesterday after having been cut off by the flood waters.
Most of schools are now reopened.
In Hoi An, local authorities dispatched personnel to rein-force the structure of historic sites susceptible to collapse.
The Thua Thien-Hue administration has rushed 380 tons of rice and 26 tons of instant noodles to needy districts while provincial health regulators are providing flood-hit areas with medicine as a preventative measure to possible epidemics.
Thousands of households in flood-hit areas were subjected to evacuation.
Meteorological experts forecast that the weather will continue to worsening in the central region in the next several days and more floods are expected.
Earlier floods that had devastated the central region in mid-October left 64 dead and 14 missing in their wake.

There's another problem, escaped crocodiles from the State Owned Yang Bay crocodile farm. Big buggers by all accounts.