wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
Since being in Egypt, J and I have often tried to determine if Cairo is noisier than Hanoi, Vietnam or Tirana, Albania.  When we arrived in Hanoi a couple of years ago, I dubbed it Hanoi(se) and declared it the noisiest city I had ever been to.  We then spent two months in Albania, our apartment located at a busy intersection, and after rereading my  first post about that experience, I see I declared the city loud, but not as loud as Hanoi. So, we have that.  

Now, down to Cairo and Hanoi.  I'm pretty sure the horn-honking was worse in Hanoi, but there seems to be more overall noise here between the cast-off collecters' shouts, the hollering, the gas-bottle-sellers hammering on their bottles with wrenches, the horns, calls to prayers, etc.

Only another trip to Hanoi will help me be sure...


wayfaringwordhack: (sail away)
I was looking through photos today because a friend J and I dined with yesty asked me to gift him with a B&W photograph for his walls.  I haven't found something to share with him yet, but I did enjoy looking at some photos of Halong Bay from Vietnam.  I shared a few when we were actually traveling there, but not many because I was feeling morning sickness too acutely to want to spend time posting to LJ.  When I read your post, [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume, and the mention of your floating village in the comments, it made think of these pics again, so I thought I would put them up.








Even tikes know how to row in Vung Vieng...
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
...if you receive a postcard from Vietnam?

We sent out 40 of them before leaving that country over a month ago, and so far no one has told me that they received one. I'm beginning to give them up for lost. :(

We heard stories about stamped cards and letters never reaching their destinations from Thailand because people steal the stamps, and I'm beginning to think that is what happened in Vietnam. :(
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
 Didn't count on having the net in the Hanoi Airport.

Just thought I would share:

Before takeoff, on the flight between Hoi An and Hanoi, Vietnam Airlines played a instrumental rendition of "I Surrender All," an old Christian hymn.  I wondered what they were trying to tell me, but we landed in Hanoi without incident.

In the Hanoi airport, in a restaurant of all places, we were seated across from a little imp of a man who decided to blow his nose...into the air! Completely ignoring the napkins on his table.  Let the snot fly, who cares, right?  Not.

Seriously, can you get any more disgusting?  Oh, he did deign to take up a napkin at the end of it to delicately pat at his face.

Oh, forgot the guy in the shuttle out to the plane who was sneezing all over everyone, not even bothering to put his hand in front of his mouth.  Just achoo, Here, have some germs and why not a bit of spittle in your hair... 
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
The number one reason we came to Vietnam was to visit the Unesco World Heritage site Halong Bay. With its 1969 islands, the bay is vast, and we only saw a very small part of it on our 3-day cruise. The glimpse was worth it, though. We may not have had blue skies, but the myriad isles and calm water were still lovely. And the lack of rain, a real blessing.




The PalomaSuite on the Paloma
The Paloma
Our boat. Definitely one of the top four on the water.
Suite on the Paloma
Our suite. Complete with private balcony. Why yes, we do know how to splurge...
Floating villageRower in bamboo boat
Floating village
The floating fishing village of Vung Vieng
Rower in bamboo boat
Vung Vieng seems to get by on fishing, pearl culturing, and toursim. Teenage girls and women, but some young men, meet the tourist boats in their little woven bamboo embarkations and row visitors around the village.
Kayaking foolsHalong Bay from vantage point
Kayaking fools
We took up the paddles, too. Had to get a little exercise!
Halong Bay from vantage point
After exercise for the arms, we hiked up one of the islands to get a different view of Halong Bay.



I'd like to say we didn't hear a single horn while out on the water, but like ol' Abe, I cannot tell a lie...

Ah well, it is Vietnam.*

____________
*Thanks to the French; it'd be China, otherwise. ;)
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
Hanoi is, hands down, the noisiest city I've ever been to. It also has the most daredevil motorists (mostly scooter drivers) of any country I've yet visited.

We have it on good authority that Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is twice as bad. Thank goodness we aren't going there. I've had about all the honkhonkHONKing I can take.

That's all I hear now. Horns, horns, and more horns.

Someone, please make it stop!
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
This may backfire on me since we are only halfway into our Vietnam trip, but the mean things we heard about the Vietnamese?

Not true.

Ok, so the first guy we tried to do business with--the shuttle driver at the airport--was a total ass who tried to charge us double the normal fare, but apart from him, we've only dealt with super nice people.

Want pushy street vendors who won't take no for an answer? Go to Antananarive. The residents of Madagascar's capital win that competition hands down.

Want rude toursism agents and agencies? Go to Peru and Bolivia where they believe a sucker is born every minute and they have no need of a good reputation or repeat business.

In Vietnam, people care about their image and they care about word of mouth, at least those we've had contact with do.

Nice change.
wayfaringwordhack: (chameleon - goofy)
During my cooking class, the teacher took us out into her garden to show us some typical plants and herbs. She pointed at her pepper plant, thick with bright red chiles that looked like christmas lights, and said, "In English you call these 'bird's eye' chiles. Here in Thailand we call them 'mowshi'."

"Mowshi,' we all repeated faithfully, trying the form the sounds right.

She gave us a funny little look and said, "Yeah, mowshi because it looks like shi(t) of mouse."

D'oh.
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
I’m just not that impressed with Laos. Seeing as how everyone else raves about the country, especially how friendly the people are, we can probably just chalk this up to me being jaded.

Temples? Saw plenty in Thailand, and in better shape.

Huts on piles, woven of palm fronds and bamboo? All over Madagascar.

Landscape? Dry, brown and dusty, with huge swathes of felled trees, awaiting burning, so the land can be cultivated.

The people? Nice enough. maybe I’ll think more highly of them after being in Vietnam a few days. The Vietnamese have a reputation for being rude and pushy and downright aggressive, especially where money is concerned.

Anyhow, I’m not saying don’t go to Laos, but I don’t know that I’ll ever return.
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
Which is in Laos, not anywhere in China.

On the morning of the 17th, we crossed from Thailand in Laos. It was chaos at the border as everyone jostled to get their visas or recover their passports, but everyone was goodnatured about it; we were all in the same mess, and most of us were leaving on the same boat.

After the immigration formalities, we were herded like little children--or cattle, take your pick--into a cramped minivan where music was blaring because the driver was on the other side of the street, chatting, and apparently didn't want to miss a beat. We waited for almost ten minutes, and no one else came to get in the bus, so the driver finally deigned to take us to the slow boat dock.

He pulled up to a rickety, rundown restaurant overlooking the Mekong, where a Laotian in a white suit proceeded to tell us a truckload of lies. The list goes a little something like this:

Mr Smarmy tries to take us for a ride )
__________
* What a crock! Don't tell me that in a town that sees 100+ tourists debarking everyday doesn't have adequate accommodation options, not when everyone with a lick of business sense has converted every spare room and chicken coop to that effect in hopes of getting their share of the tourist dollar/baht/kip...Oh, speaking of currencies, yet another lie Mr Smarmy told: Change your money here because no one will accept baht or dollars on the river.  Yeah. Right.

** Some souls did trust and had their bags rifled before they arrived. The one we talked to, thankfully, didn't have anything stolen, but someone did have their backpack go missing while they slept on the beach.
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
That would be the Chiang Mai --> Chiang Khong route in Thailand, as well as the trip from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan in Laos.

Both of them lasted nigh on 8 hrs, and both were hell.

The first was largely because of the driver rather than the road. The driver, who shall forthwith be known as the Idiot, had no business being in possession of a license and absolutely no business whatsoever being "responsible" for tourists.

The Idiot was a brake-pumping, tail-gating, steering-wheel-jerking, law-breaking, cell-phone-blabbing menace. I kid you not, he spent 70% of an 8-hr drive on his phone. Even when we pulled up at the place where we were supposed to eat lunch, the Idiot, with the phone stuck to his ear, got out of the driver's seat, walked around the van, slammed open the passenger door, and walked off still blathering on his phone without telling us what the heck we were doing, how long we had, etc. (We all figured it was a lunch stop, but the building looked more like a hotel plonked down in the middle of nowhere.)

Six hours later, at our hotel, repeat scenario. No one knew where we were, if we were all supposed to get out, etc. etc., but the Idiot couldn't be bothered to respond. It was basically, "Get your bags and get lost; I need to get back to Chiang Mai."

The Luang Prabang-Phonsavan driver was a little more serious--I mean by that that he didn't talk on his phone. He did however seem to take particular delight in passing cars in blind curves on a very steep, windy road. He also had the brake-pumping, steering-wheel-jerking problem.

Not a good time to be carsick, let me tell you... Poor Julien. I was not a fun traveling companion.

He had pity on me, and instead of taking an 11hr bus from Phonsavan to Vientiane, we flew. And tomorrow, instead of an overnight bus to Hanoi, back to the airport we go.

Amen for technology. And um, sorry for the planet. :(
wayfaringwordhack: (gecko)
At a local food market, pretty pink eggs, but....


 

...um, it being mid-February, I think it is safe to bet that those aren't Easter eggs. What is that black stuff? Nothing I want to put in my mouth, that much I can tell you.

Also in Chiang Mai: 

After my cooking class, I accompanied Julien to a little roadside eatery for his supper ( I got to eat all my dishes and was stuffed to the gills). Out of the gloom of the poorly lit street lumbered an elephant, a man in farmer's togs on his back.  When the great, dark beastie meandered past, we saw that his rider had thoughtfully attached a flashing red "warning" light to his tail, complete with a CD in guise of a reflector.
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
 After another 8-hr bus ride (the first being between Ayutthaya and Sukhothai), we arrived in Chiang Mai. We had been pretty spoiled with the quality of the hotels we had stayed at up to that point, so imagine our severe disappointment when we were taken to a dump called Garden View Hotel, just south of the Old City. It was second in the Depressing Category of all the hotels we've stayed in around the world.  It would take a bit more for it to beat the nightmare that was the extreme Oasis Hostel in Sajama, Bolivia

No sooner had we shucked our bags then we headed back outside to find something a little more to our tastes for the morrow since it was only the first night in Chiang Mai that was covered by our "package" deal.  Not far down the road, we found an excellent address, The Castle. I highly recommend it. It was clean and charming; the service was friendly, prompt, and helpful (it's family-run); and the breakfast was far better than down the road. This link goes to a YouTube video they made for it. Their homepage took me a little while to open.

Our room booked for the next night and loath to return to the Garden dump, we rented a scooter to explore the city (reservation kindly made by The Castle staff). Map in pocket and a vague idea  of where we were (no thanks to the owner/manager? of the Garden), we promptly got lost. A kind stranger set us back on course but expressed his doubts (very politely) that the Garden Guy knew what he was talking about when he sent us off to "Chinatown." Apparently, where he said it was, it wasn't. :P

Instead, we headed to the Sunday Walking Street and enjoyed a night of strolling through the market and eating tasty steamed dumplings and papaya salad, Thai style. 





We bought two lamps, too! Let's hope they make it back to France.



The next day, we visited the post office--had to send the lamps back--and had an absolutely terrible meal on the top floor of some computer shopping center.  It was so bad, I couldn't eat it for fear of being sick.  We went down the road and paid too much money to have something that I wasn't afraid to eat.

With a weird tummy, maybe it wasn't the time to think about taking a cooking class, but I had no choice. With plans to leave Chiang Mai the next day, it was a case of now or never.

So, while Julien went off to take graffiti pictures, I went to learn how to make Thai spring rolls, pad thai, and chicken with cashew nut stir-fry at the Asia Scenic cookery school.

First, our teacher took us to a small local market where she explained a bit about the different types of noodles and the process of making coconut milk and cream.



We then had a wander around so we could take photos. Of course I had to show you "soup in a sack." The first time I saw this was in a bus in Bolivia. I saw people eating their food through a straw, neatly stuck into a plastic produce sack.



Then it was back to the kitchen and to work!

 

See how professional I look folding my spring roll:



The hands of a Master Chef! :P

And on that note, bon appétit... Time to eat! Another post on the trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang after lunch...or supper. :P
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
Lesson learned from Ayutthaya, we spent the morning lounging around our hotel in Sukhothai, not braving the outdoors until mid-afteroon. After a late so-so lunch, we rented a scooter and zoomed the 14 km to the Sukhothai Historical Park. The sun was heading toward the horizon when we arrived, leaving the air cooler and the light softer.

We moseyed around the old city, enjoying the crumbling ruins and peaceful ponds.





What would be a Thai monument without a buddha?

.

And a lotus





After snapping reflection photos to our hearts’ content and full dark upon us, we climbed back on our scooter and prepared to leave the park. Music and strings of white lights drew us off the main road to a spectacle with dancers and musicians playing traditional instruments. We had a seat on the grass and enjoyed the free show.





The time for us to return the scooter was drawing nigh so we left before the show’s end and headed back, past many a tiny, private shrine decorated with light garlands, to Sukhothaiand the night market, where we ate some pretty scary things.



Ok, the ones in the photo there were too scary for us. I wouldn’t have touched those wiener things with a ten-foot pole, much less a six-inch wooden skewer. We did try hard-boiled quail eggs wrapped and fried in wonton noodles, though. Meh. Very bland.

Culinary disappointments aside, we did indeed have a most wonderful day.
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
The journey from Bangkok to Ayutthaya started early in the morning. Our driver picked us up at our hotel at 7:20 and left us at the train station with tickets for the 9 o'clock to Ayutthaya.  Julien had just long enough to order a coffee and it was time to go wait on the platform. The call to board was not for us, however, and we stood on platform surrounding by sleeping youths sprawled on benches and the concrete, sweating in the morning heat and oblivious to those around them.

The train finally pulled up, looking for all the world like it had rolled through Hell to get to us.  It was completely covered in soot, and you could barely discern the seat tops through the windows.  Julien assured me that it was free seating, so when the doors clacked open and I could see the interiors enough to know I didn't want to be in the first car, I headed to the second one.  

Ah! Air conditioning! Padded, reclining seats!

Sadly, not our class.

The conductor invited us to go to the first car or pay 5 euros extra to stay where we were.  Not thinking clearly--it was early and hot and....--we moved to third class.

And sweated. And got backaches from the stiff, board-like seats.

Thankfully the ride was only an hour and a half long.

Ayutthaya was just as hot as Bangkok, but we were taken directly to our hotel, the Baan Eve, where we were greeted with chilled water and a lovely hostess who took time to explain the surrounding city sites and offer us advice on what to see.

Silly little tourists that we are, we decided to head out at lunch time. We ate a good little sidewalk eatery on the corner and then started walking toward the "island," a bit of land surrounded by canals where the majority of the temple and palace ruins are. We walked with the intention of finding a place to rent a bicycle, but we never came across one. We should have rented from the hotel.

Instead we ended up walking to the island.  Not that far, but in the heat! Oh my.  We stopped to see the famous buddha head cradled in tree roots:



And then decided we had to get out of the heat for a little while. We sought refuge in a restaurant, and I sipped on a watermelon shake while Julien had a coffee and ice cream.

Fortified, we headed back out in the swelter and meandered through the park to the statue which I shall call "Let sleeping buddhas lie" because I can't remember the real name:



And another to show you just how big the reclining fellow is:



Having had enough of walking, and having been informed by a tuk-tuk driver that Phu Khao Thong (the Khmer monument where we wanted to be for sunset)...



....was too far by foot, we hired that sagacious tuk-tuk driver and off we went, happy to give our barking dogs a rest.

Yet more buddhas were to be seen...


Including this mysterious, chubby fellow:



Was someone doing a giant smoke offering, or was it just a conveniently place to burn some dead leaves?

Not really sure because everyone had pretty much closed shop and left the poor tourists thirsty and alone.



Next stop: Sukhothai
wayfaringwordhack: (maki - tasty)
Julien and I were strolling along the road and heard music, similar to what you would hear in the States to announce the arrival of an ice-cream truck.  Just up ahead of us on the sidewalk, a woman flagged the truck down.  

Up pulled, not an ice-cream truck, but a vegetable vendor!  Not kiddies, but adults swarmed the truck to buy their fresh veggies and herbs.



In Sancerre, one of the village bakers drove through the narrow winding streets in a little pickup, bed full of baskets brimming with baguettes, loaves, and rolls.   Are there any unusual mobile vendors where you live? 
wayfaringwordhack: (monk)
 ...a waitress placing the daily offerings on the restaurants two shrines.

First she put a bowl of fresh pineapple chunks in front of the little golden statue.  She then gave it a glass of water, from a bottle, not the tap. After came two bouquets of fresh flowers in porcelain vases and garlands of flowers to hang from the shrine.  She finished with a fistful of burning incense before kneeling to pray and doing the same for the smaller shrine to the right.

 
(one of the shrines, taken later that night)
 

How about you? Did you see anything out of your ordinary?
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
First a disclaimer: I'm not sharing this to make fun of someone's level in English,* but because I think it could be helpful to the writers on my flist--that would be most of you. :P

So some thoughts on language...

Our hostess at the hotel was driving us to the bus station, and we were complimenting her on the hotel and how charming we found it, especially the bathroom.  She replied:

"Oh, thank you very much, but we need mechanic for repairs. It very hard find mechanic here."

When trying to make foreigners sound foreign in our fantasy books, we (er, I) often conjugate their verbs incorrectly, drop articles and prepositions (something I know was hard for me to master in French and is VERY hard, with phrasal verbs, for the French when they learn English), and so forth.  In the quote above, you'll note a verb is missing altogether, as is a preposition and article.

From the example above--even if you didn't know that I was in Thailand at the moment--you probably could have guessed that the speaker's native language is not English and that it could be, at the risk of sounding like an idjit by broadly lumping some pretty non-similar languages together, Asian. 

Why could that be a reasonable guess?  Because most of us have heard a real Asian accent before, and if not a real one, then a parodied one. Accents are easy to parody because the sounds and grammatical errors tend to be consistent. That's important for me, as a fantasy writer, to remember: for an accent to ring true, the same mistakes must be made *consistently.* And to know which mistakes would logically be made by my characters, I really need to know a little bit about how the foreigner's language works as well as the language that is "translated" into English on the page.

If, for example, prepositions don't exist in Derfan'qah but are in overabundance in Huri, it's a logical conclusion that their usage will cause all sorts of trouble when a Derfan'qahi princess tries to express herself to a Hurite prince. 

Ugh. Grammar.  Too much work. That's what some people think. (Not moi; I quite like it). But it doesn't have to be just about the grammar as our hostess so clearly showed me.  I do, on occasion, give my characters an apt "wrong" word like our hostess used, but not, I think, often enough. Not-quite-right words can add a lot of spice, and they are likely to be easier on your readers than pages and pages of grammatically incorrect dialogue.

Vocabulary can be a wonderful way to give someone an accent on the page, that and word order. You don't have to put apostrophes in place of your Gs and other dropped letters and resort to all sorts of wonky, phonetical spellings to get foreignness (or lack of education) across. Note that I did not resort to "imitating" our hostess's accent with "tank you vewy mush...it vewy har fi mechanic..." even though that's what it sounded like to my ears.

Our conversation with her continued, and we realized that she had misunderstood our compliments and was taking them as criticisms or suggestions.  We struggled to make her understand, and she replied:

"Thank you very much for your recommendations. We always try do better."

Yep, misunderstandings can also be good.  Not only do they provide conflict; they smack of veracity.  If you've never had a single misunderstanding while chatting with a non-native speaker of your language, then you are different and fortunate, indeed. 

Those are a few random thoughts I had on language.  Have any you want to share?
___________
* As a speaker of a second language, I know what it's like to make mistakes, and I wouldn't presume to mock anyone who speaks in a language not their own, neither for their accent or their syntax.
wayfaringwordhack: (maki - tasty)
 I ate a fried grub tonight.  Precision: I ate half a fried grub tonight.  Julien had the other half.

I could have had a cricket. I should have eaten the cricket.

Apparently, it was only crunchy and not so...filled with goodness.

So, grubs.  Not terrible, and pas terrible, in the French sense.  Maybe better fresh and hot. Not likely to eat a plateful of them any time soon.
wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
 A pigeon hitching a ride on the rear window of car, its claws curled around the rubber sealing. Why fly when you can ride?

The best part was how tickled our driver was to see the same sight.

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