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Friday, October 10th, 2014
6:02 am
Recap for the rest of the Vietnam Trip
The next three days were spent on the back of a motorbike.  We were on our way to Da Lat.  We went on a tour with the "Easy Riders" tour group.  The three riders were Lam, who Hai rode with, Duc, who Duc rode with, and my guy's name was Vuong.  At first, I didn't really like the guys because they were bs'ing me when I first met them.  I originally thought it was like a "Oh, he's a stupid American, he'll believe anything we say."  No, it was more like, that's how they were in general.  They joked around all the time, and none of their bs'ing was intentionally malicious.  That's just how they were, big goofballs.

Our trip required us to go mountainside and into the country.  There, I learned Vietnam still burns trash.  Boy was there a lot of trash burning.  Also, it breaks my heart how many poor people there were in  the countryside.  A lot of the kids there were so friendly.  All of them kept waving at us while we were driving by.  We made pit stops at a coffee plantation.  We stopped at a black pepper plantation.  We stopped to look at how silk worms get harvested.  We stopped at a silk factory.

Here is where I have to interject about how...common beauty is in Vietnam.  Apparently, over 70% of the population is under 40 in that country.  We went into this silk processing factory, and there were these two gorgeous young ladies.  I could easily see them as models in any runway in Paris.  What were they doing?  They were throwing the silk cocoons into boiling hot water to separate the strands.  I suppose it was better that they worked there than the farms that were nearby.  Am I being sexist here?  I think a bit yeah.  I mean, the only reason they were there is because of where they were born.  If they were in the US, they'd probably be modeling somewhere.  Back to the rest of the trip.

We stopped at a strawberry farm.  We also stopped at a place where they make civet coffee and non-standard rice wines.  They're the ones who make the cobra wines and chicken wines, and whatever random animals that can be put into a wine bottle to steep.  If you don't know, civets are basically an overgrown rodent.  They eat the coffee beans and poop them out.  The workers collect the dung, wash the beans clean, then they roast them.  It makes very strong and slightly sour coffee to me.

We finished the first day in Dac Lac.  That was where we went and rode elephants last time, I think . There, we met a very friendly Australian couple named Ian and Joy.  I added them on Facebook.  They're cool people.  If ever I decide to go to Perth, I'm paying them a visit.  In the morning, I thought we were supposed to go ride elephants, but we didn't.  We headed out and ended up at some place called Elephant Waterfall.  That place was beautiful.  Hai and I jumped around and took some crazy pictures there.  We ended up around the bottom of the waterfall.  There, we met three fellow travelers.  One was a young girl that was from Colorado.  There was a dude from Canada.  I think he was French Canadian.  Then there was another young lady from somewhere else.  I don't remember where she's from right now.  Maybe I'll remember later.  She was a foreigner though.  She had been traveling only for two weeks.  They all just happened to meet up randomly at a hostel and they decided to travel together.  That's cool.  The Canadian and the American had been traveling for a month at that point.  Man, that's super long.  I don't know if I could take traveling that long.

We ended up in Da Lat that night.  We didn't get to explore much as we got there pretty late, and we were pretty tired.  The day was spent kind of hanging out around the market area.  I like to think of Da Lat as the Oakland of Vietnam.  The whole area looks like the Lake Merritt area.  Super nice and beautiful.  There's a big ass lake too, just like in Oakland.  The locals call Da Lat the city of romance because of the ambience and all the green houses that they have there.  It's a huge hub of flower producing, so the city looks very nice.  Also, that place wasn't hot as hell.  In fact, it rained a few times.  I could see myself living there.

We got back to the hotel in Nha Trang later that day almost towards the late afternoon.  All in all, that was a pretty fun excursion.  The next day we went to this neighboring town to go eat crab.  It would be like the Lodi to our Stockton.  It's just the town next door.  They served us whole crab cooked with tamarind.  I thought it was good, but I wouldn't eat it normally.  I'm not that big on crab, too hard to eat.  We had crab, then we had fish, rice porridge, and another dish or two.

The day after that, we ended up going onto this fishing barge where they raise all kinds of sea life.  We ended up eating maxima clams, a sturgeon, a cow fish, oysters, mussels.  You name it.  Our host ended up buying lobsters from the guy also.  We ate that like two days later for lunch.  It was good.  Again, it wouldn't be something that I'd normally eat since it's so much work.

The last three days of the trip I spent pseudo-dating this girl that Hai's cousins tried to set me up with.  She's a super sweet and nice girl.  She speaks English too.  I'll finish this post up later.  I should head to work.  Part two detailing the last three days will be forthcoming.

6:01 A.M.
Thursday, September 25th, 2014
11:35 am
Day 4 and 5
Funny how when you don't write something down right away, memories start to get fuzzy. What did we do day 4? I know we did some shopping in this "night market." It was like an open air mall/flea market with shops. Earlier in the afternoon, we went bowling in this big shopping complex. The lanes had no oil on them. It makes sense since the weather's so humid and hot here, the oil wouldn't even stay on the lanes. The people who throw straight balls do so well here. My hard hook is useless. :P That night, we ate dog. I must say, I can't say I particularly liked it. The boiled dog and dog soup were the best things, in my opinion.

What did we do yesterday? We went shopping for souvenir/knockoff type stuff in the morning to afternoon. We went to another shopping center. I bought an Engrish laden hat at another night market. I keep drinking Vietnamese moonshine also. Need to cut down on that. We went to an archery range later on in the day. Man, the bows are all kinds of old. I couldn't shoot well. Freaking nocks were jacked up, so you had to pinch the arrow also. What else did we do? I think that was about it. 6:34 P.M. local
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
10:27 am
Day 3 in Vietnam - The Hole In Things
When push comes to shove and you're put in a do or die situation, everyone would like to think that they're made of stern stuff. You'll rise to the challenge. All that separates you from a hero is opportunity. Sadly, I failed miserably when put to the test yesterday. We spent the entire day boating. From 7 a.m. on, we were driving to the marina area so we could go scuba diving.

We were allowed two dives each. I tried. I really did. I jumped in the water, and I almost floated away because I didn't know what I was doing. To dive, you cannot breathe through your nose whatsoever. Not once. All manner of breathing is through the mouth. I didn't even get to put on the breathing apparatus. I'd already started hyper-ventilating. My goggles fogged, and the other divers knew I was done. They asked if I wanted to try, and somewhere in my heart of hearts I really wanted to, but the absolute terror wouldn't let me.

Have you ever felt powerless? Utterly, truly powerless? That's what I felt. I never understood how people could feel claustrophobic. I do now. This was all of that and infinitely more, for me. I wasn't sane in that 30 seconds, maybe a minute.

When I was back on deck, I wanted to cry. I felt shame, stupid, self-loathing, mortified, everything all at once. The head diver tried consoling me. We talked for a good while. His name was Phi. He said diving is either easy or difficult. There's no in between. It's like faith. You have to believe/trust fully when diving down. He was saying his men are experts. You don't have to trust yourself, you trust them. It's all about keeping your mind focused on breathing, that's it. Clear your mind.

He tried to get me to go dive. He offered to be the guy to take me down. What a nice guy. He had me practicing breathing with the tank on on the boat. It still didn't help. At a random point, I'd forget and breathe through my nose, and that just sets a vicious cycle off.

He said in two months, he was going to have access to an area where you can just walk underwater, and that would've been perfect for me. Just hold your breath if you want kind of deal. He felt bad for me and just showed me pictures of what it looks like underwater. He said we could try again at the second dive site. I knew I was done. I couldn't do it.

We finished up diving sometime mid day. I think it was like 4 or 5 by the time we got back. We finished off the night drinking a humongous carafe of unfiltered beer from a place called Louisiane. It's an ex-pat bar in the middle of Nha Trang. We listened to a live band perform. I ended up talking with them a little bit after they stopped playing for the night.

There was Koska, the drummer/percussionist. He looked older, maybe in his 50's? He's lived in Vietnam for the last 4 years. The lead singer/guitar player was named Eugene. He said he was on vacation from school, but he said he's been in Vietnam for the past 11 months. That's some vacation. Dude was fluent in Mandarin too. Sadly, all I could say was wo bu shuo. He was impressed I spoke Cantonese and another dialect, as well as English. I was impressed he spoke Russian, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and English. He let me know they were playing at the Zima Club tomorrow, which is tonight.

We pass by the Zima Club all the time when we drive around here. I wonder if it's named after the failed alcoholic beverage from the US. By the end of the night, I was done. I had 10.25 pints of beer. We killed that 5 liters. So, here's my recap since I couldn't do it yesterday. 5:26 P.M. local time.
Sunday, September 21st, 2014
7:19 pm
Day 2 in Vietnam
I woke up fairly early today. It was 5 a.m. local time here. The weather's so...mesmerizing around that time. The sun's not quite up, and everything looks so calm and peaceful. There were people already up and about.

We went out about 8 or 8:30 and we walked up towards a park type area but we stopped at the cafe. There, we saw 3 Vietnamese girls and an older white guy. We couldn't figure out what they were studying. We were thinking it was English or something. I could see that the young girls had notebooks out and were writing in them. There were two kinds of birds there. They were chirping the entire time. It was a very nice view from there. The coffee was very strong too. I think I've learned that Vietnamese coffee in the US has like three times more condensed milk put in. It also took like a half hour to make our coffee with the slow drip. Super strong and sludgy. I really wanted to walk up and interrupt that guy and the three girls and ask what they were studying, but I didn't.

We ended up going back to the hotel and sticking around until breakfast. We had fish noodle soup. I very much liked it. The broth was delicate and had nuances. What else did we do today? Offhand, I can't even really think of anything. It was a very relaxed day spent half the time in our hotel room because it was so hot outside. I've never had a problem with hundred degree temperatures. I'm from Stockton, it's to be expected. It's the humidity here that really gets to me. The humidity's always 60 to 80%. Man, that's just brutal to me. It sprinkled a bit earlier too, and that rain was hot. Sadly, it was kind of refreshing because the actual day was so hot that even hot rain cooled the air down.

We went back to our rooms and hung around there. We had lunch later on at the hotel. There were several noodle dishes set up. Same with dinner. It was spring rolls with fish that time.

Lastly, we went clubbing at Yasaka. I didn't really know the etiquette there. It was fun enough though. Then we got back to the hotel, and here I am now. Gotta start posting pictures. 2:18 A.M. current local time.
Saturday, September 20th, 2014
4:56 pm
Day 1.5 in Vietnam
Where to begin? The day started off on 9/18. My friends and I were going to get dropped off at the SFO airport for our trip to Vietnam. I worked that day, zoomed back to my house, and this girl I'm quasi-seeing was going to drop me and the two other guys I was going with, off.

She accidentally locked her key in the trunk. Hey, it happens. I'm not even mad. Hell, I've done worse things. It turns into this whole big thing because her family comes down with a spare, and I'm about to get into a fist fight. Hai and Duc are going to rumble because they were super mad on my behalf and my quasi-girlfriend's behalf.

We end up leaving with Duc's brother to SFO, and we make it with like an hour and a half to spare. 14 hour flight later, we're in Taiwan for a quick layover. I originally thought it was going to be a 2 hour layover, but it was only a half hour, which was more than enough time to get my picture taken at the Travel Around the World with Sanrio shop.

After that, we finished our flight to Vietnam and have 6 hours to kill until the next flight. So we end up leaving the airport and took a taxi ride for 35 bucks American. Hai realizes like 1/4 of the way into our drive that we got totally jipped in terms of money. The guy takes us to a nice open air mall area, but we had our luggage with us still. So we took a taxi back to the airport so that we could check in our luggage ahead of time so we didn't have to lug it around. We do that, and we still have 4 plus hours to go.

I decide we should walk to the Superbowl center that's right by the airport. We get there, and we stop to eat at KFC. The Superbowl is a shopping mall with connected restaurants, a KFC, a Trung Nguyen coffee place, a movie theater upstairs, and a bowling alley. We further ate at this sushi place, and the power went off twice in there. Apparently, that was a not uncommon occurrence because the workers just went on like nothing was wrong.

We get back to the airport, and we have 3 hours to kill, so we begin drinking cans and cans of beer. Eventually, we invite over this Australian young lady to chat with us. We have a nice long conversation, and we lose track of the time. We hear our names on the intercom and an announcement that our flight was currently boarding. We rush to the boarding area, and the people there are like, "You need to go to domestic, you're in international man."

So we run out, and we have to continually ask where the domestic flights are. It's in an entirely separate building, and it was kind of far. I'm halfway sprinting, and Hai's close behind. I don't know where Duc went, and we make it into the boarding area. Hai and I make it past the body scan and carry on x-ray. Duc ends up having some trouble because of his monopod for his Go Pro sticking out.

We get there, talk to the lady, and they have to walky talky the plane and tell them to hold up for last minute stragglers. We could've been trapped in Ho Chi Minh city on our first day. How....fun. Signing off at 11:54 P.M. local.
Wednesday, December 25th, 2013
2:27 am
You know, I still check in on my livejournal every so often to see if anyone still writes anything.  I noticed that the last time I posted anything was last year.  Well shit, that was also the last time I took an extended vacation.

Let's see....what's happened in the year since then?  I've become a home owner.  I got a job promotion.  I've gotten older.  I started up a saltwater tank.  And....I really have nothing else I can think of.  Is that sad, or what?  Merry Christmas everyone.  
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
2:24 am
Well, it's been two days since I've been back from my trip to Vietnam.  I kind of wish I hadn't gone in the first place.  One more day to think about things.  
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
12:46 am
I'm going to Vietnam in two days, and all I can think about is work.  What's wrong with me?  
Monday, April 9th, 2012
2:09 am
I think it's time I went and disappeared again for awhile.  2:08 A.M.
Thursday, November 24th, 2011
10:54 pm
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I feel like a jerk.  Fark me.  10:54 P.M.
Saturday, September 17th, 2011
2:52 am
Oh yeah, I should probably show what I ended up getting.  2:52 A.M.

2:45 am
So, I just got back from San Francisco right now.  It's been one long long day.  Today was the first time I'd ever gone to an art auction.  I brought my friend Tommie, his girlfriend Monita, and my sister along.  I'm not sure everyone really enjoyed themselves except me.  I feel a bit bad about that.  

So, within fifteen minutes of me being in this place, one of the gallery manager people comes up to me and asks if I've been helped and if she could help me find something.  Basically, she saw I was wearing a Spider Man t-shirt and jeans with my puke green hat and decided I must have crashed their shindig.  Then she asked who my patron was.  I let her know I was invited by the Martin Lawrence's gallery manager from the Geary St. branch, thank you very much.  I don't know why she was giving me such a hard time when the majority of the people that were there were just drinking and eating.  I'd actually bought four pieces up to that point already.  She wouldn't have known, but that just goes to show you that you don't know who has money right now.  I went there purposely looking "like garbage" to see if I'd get hassled.  

The most expensive thing sold tonight, that I saw, was a Mark Chagall painting that went for $22,000.  I finished the night having gotten six pieces.  My sister also won the raffle drawing for a free piece of art.  Good stuff.  I might continue this story later on.  I'm just really tired, and I don't know if I can finish.  2:45 A.M.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
9:39 pm
 I somehow injured my knee.  It feels weak.  9:39 P.M.
Sunday, July 3rd, 2011
7:17 pm
Agonized all day long about loaning money.  Yeah.  7:17 P.M.
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
1:03 am
Today, Sacramento may have lost their professional basketball team for good.  I was at the game, and I was screaming the entire time.  It's just so sad.  1:03 A.M.
Saturday, February 5th, 2011
10:20 pm
Going to disappear for a week.  10:20 P.M.
Monday, January 24th, 2011
12:36 am
I noticed I haven't posted anything in quite awhile.  I'm still alive.  That's all.  12:36 A.M.
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
12:35 am
Ok, spontaneously threw up just now.  Maybe I'm not better yet.  12:35 A.M.
Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
12:36 am
It wasn't a good day today.  The low point came when I was driving home and I was listening to this story on NPR about these dissidents from south Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam war.  I cried.  Yeah, not a good day at all.  12:36 A.M.
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
11:22 pm
I've been feeling so worn out the past month or two.  I don't want to really do anything, but I feel like I have to.  Does that make sense?  Is it better to be bad company or just not around?  I know I've been bad company the last several outings with the guys, and that makes me feel guilty.  I feel guilty all the time.  I try really really hard to keep my word, and I've been doing it.  It's just getting really hard to do that making all these plans.  More griping to come.  My thoughts are scattered.  11:22 P.M.
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