www.maichaunatureplace.com = the present
www.flickr.com/photos/65741406@N07/sets/ = the near future
Myerson In Asia (missing in america)
www.maichaunatureplace.com = the present
www.flickr.com/photos/65741406@N07/sets/ = the near future
Most people do not know Tet, but it is the same as Chinese New Year but in Vietnam. This is actually my 3rd Tet in Hanoi, 2008, 2010 and 2011. I hate Tet because Hanoi becomes quiet and shuts down. Shops are closed, street food vendors don't go to their usual corners and if you are lucky enough to find someone selling, prices skyrocket because....it is Tet. I feel like Scrooge because this is the holiday season but for a foreigner, Tet is boring, except for the fireworks. Since Hanoi is the major metropolitan center of North Vietnam many people move to Hanoi for opportunities and then return to their home and family in Tet, one reason the city is quiet. A quick view of Tet from my perspective. Long story short I am bored with nothing to do, so I am writing this.
Many of my foreign friends, and even some Vietnamese ones travel for Tet and I keep thinking about it, even just hoping on the first bus that I see but I am controlling my travel bug with the light at the end of the tunnel.
February 28 to March 7 - Home, CT
March 8 to March 18 - St John, VI
March 19 to March 25 - Home, CT
March 26 to March 30 - San Fransisco, CA
April 1 to April 4 - Hong Kong
I want to see EVERYONE so please let me know if you will be around
I left America August 17th 2009 and I will be returning August 5th to August 19th!
Thanks to my parents who are paying for my tickets!
I do not have a solid plan of what I will be doing but I will be around NYC, Connecticut and Cedar Point yacht Club.
Let me know if you will be around and want to meet up?
Anyone want a present from Vietnam?
make sure you check out all my pictures
Today is my 3 month anniversary of arriving in Hanoi. I have made major steps in this to say the least. After "living" in a hostel for 2 weeks I moved into a place of my own. It isnt exactly my own, I live with a teaching Canuck couple and a weird German computer guy. I have the 3rd floor to myself, which is my room, a bathroom with no toilet and a balcony. Everyone else lives on the 2nd floor with a bathroom and the first floor is a full kitchen, bathroom, TV area with actual Western couches and of course there is our patio (which is home to 4 motorbikes). The hostel was a great way to start out in Hanoi because I met people, had computers all the time and an awesome staff to help me with any questions. I was not exactly asking the basic tourist questions but like where is this road I have a job interview on? I could have moved into a cheaper room but my house let me move in on the 15th but all others wanted the end of the month. I could not live in a hostel for another 2 weeks.
My job search started immediately. There is a great website, thenewhanoian.com which is in English and provides reviews, job boards, rentals and much more in english! I found most of my jobs and my room too there. In about a month I had 4 jobs and had turned some down. They are all part time jobs but together are about 25 hours a week. Some jobs are at Kindergartens, most are private and very nice, I teach a group of about 15 for 30 minutes and then do the same thing for 2 more classes. Another job is at APEC, Asian Pacific Education Center, this is probably my best job. APEC is a center for people that want to learn English, so after the school or work day is over or on the weekends are the class times. I teach 6 - 12 year old children. I forgot to mention I have a Vietnamese teacher with me who speaks English very well in these jobs. Usually about in their 20s and they all LOVE practicing their own English with me, asking questions and learning words they never learned in school. This is true for many Vietnamese people, I get stopped on the street, talked to on buses, come up to in bars and even spent an extra 2 hours in a DHL office. I have been asked some pretty funny things, do some white people have black hair?, does snow hurt when it falls on you?, have I ever been shot in America?, did I drive a motorbike from America to Hanoi? Back to Jobs, at APEC I teach out of a book. Typical Vietnam, most of the children buy the photocopied version instead of the actual book, so some exercises involving colors are always a failure to some. Another job has been at a place called LESH (Learn English Seattle to Hanoi) It is small and new but growing fast. One office run out of their house (that is not strange at all in Hanoi) and the other one is an actual office. The guy who runs it studied in Seattle and wanted to teach English lessons to the large Vietnamese community in Seattle. He came up with the idea that he could do this in the form on online courses and start a English center in Hanoi. I teach small lessons out of a book to about 10 university aged students. In addition, they have set up English clubs, so these same students come to a relaxed and fun conversation class, I work at these just talking to people, helping them learn new words and help pronunciation. These are very fun and I have become friends with many of those students. I also take free Vietnamese lessons at the LESH offices two times a week for two hours each, taught by one of the English Club students for free. We learn Vietnamese about 75% of the time and speak English for 25%, both side get something. My Vietnamese from 2 years ago stuck for at least some key phrases so I was able to jump right back into Hanoi no problem and now I can go the whole day interacting in public in Vietnamese, going about my life. When Vietnamese comes out (that I think is pretty good) I get some hilarious looks. Most phrases are not ones the normal tourist would know so they know I am a local and it feels great. The children I teach LOVE it when I use my Vietnamese to teach them new words. I remember one day at APEC we were learning animals. I knew a few but then I used my knowledge of food to think of some and their jaws dropped. Another job has not started yet but I am preparing with a Vietnamese teacher at her house. I think this is at an actual school because I am teaching ESL math and ESL science (English as a Second Language). So far I have just been writing transcripts from short education videos. Typing the word thousands 20 times in 5 minutes is awful. My last job is very different. It does not even have a name yet and is run out of an office that does not even have chairs. It is teaching children very basic English for just 50 minutes and then 2 more sessions to different levels. Age doesn't matter and there are 3 levels. I would describe this one as a place parents send their kids to trick them into learning English, which over here is definitly towards the top of any resume. It is mostly fun and games and learning a few words. All in all about 25 hours a week and I am being offered more by my current jobs so I am happy to build relationships.
After 50 days of walking, taking buses and motorbike taxis when I had to, I saved up enough money to buy a motorbike. It is the ultimate sign of being a local with freedom and I love it. Hanoi traffic is crazy during rushhour so I try to avoid to unless going to work and it is AWFUL in the rain but everything else I have under control fine.
I am putting up some photographs from my life and Hanoi. I do not think I can describe life over here properlly. Hopefully you have been looking at my pictures from my trip but if not here they are http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/pmyerson/
Check back because I will put more up.
I want to write some sort of conclusion so I can move onto the next chapter, my life in Hanoi but I really do not know what to say. I have some math though. The countries I visted on my trip, (America, South Korea, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam) make up almost half of the world's population, wikipedia says 47.8%! Now China and India make up most of that but is still amazing I think.
America = 4.54%
South Korea = .73%
China = 19.64%
India = 17.30%
Thailand = .93%
Indonesia = 3.40%
Vietnam = 1.26%
I also added up all the miles I traved on airplanes, wow.
New York - Seoul = 6870
Seoul - Tanjing = 523
Beijing - Delhi = 2350
Delhi - Srinigar = 399
Chennai - Port Blair = 739
Chennai - Bangkok = 1370
Bangkok - Denpasar = 1860
Denpasar - Kuala Lumpur = 1250
Kuala Lumpur - Hanoi = 1270
Added up that is 16,631 miles (26,765 kms)
I then though of all the train rides I was on.
Seoul - Suwon
Suwon - Seoul
Tanjing - Bejing
Beijing - Xining
Xining - Beijing
Jammu - Jaipur
Pune - Goa
Bangkok - Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai - Bangkok
After the day long trip to Gili Trawangan with my new Finnish friend, Matti, we found a cheap hotel and passed out. Another important travel tip I have learned, the closer to the beach, the more expensive the hotel, so we pretty much just started walking inland to find a hotel and it worked. The hotel was awesome, family run and I felt like part of the family by the end of my time. I played chess against two of the sons, had breakfast with them almost every morning and even had a FEAST of a meal when they let us eat part of their catches from a day of fishing. Twin Gardens was the name and I loved it. They even did not raise the rates too much around the Christmas and New Years holidays because I had stayed there so long, about 2 weeks total. I shared a room with my new Finnish friend Matti and became good friends with my neighbors. Fozzee and Tegan, 2 Aussies and Erik and Raya, 2 Canucks. Erik and Raya are from Vancouver so I asked them if they were going back home for the Winter Olympics. They had rented out their apartment to some corporation for 2 months and that money paid for their rent for 10 regular months and paid for their trip to Indonesia while it was rented…AMAZING
Gili Trawangan (GT) is one of 3 islands that are called the Gilis. Everyone knows I love islands and beaches but I think this might have been the best. When I would tell people where I was, I would the word paradise. The island was very small, I biked around the whole thing in about 30 minutes and that includes walking my bike through the sand for about 5 minutes. Bikes were one of 4 transportation around the island, biking, walking, taking horse drawn carriages or riding a bike and holding on to a horse drawn carriage (my favorite). No cars, No motorbikes. I have been on other islands before with no cars or motorbikes but GT might have been the most populated and most developed. It was also a major change from places like Seoul, Beijing, Jaipur and Bangkok I had visited along the way. Motorbikes are EVERYWHERE in Asia and have made transportation available to many people who could not afford a car or the fact that the motorbike works better in most situations. There was one main road that followed the beach all around the island and about 5 in the middle. It was a tourist spot for partying backpackers and Indonesians because of the beaches. I have never enjoyed snorkeling a 1 minute swim off a beach so much in my life, awesome coral and sea turtles. Once I spent one day in GT I knew I wanted to stay here until I ended my trip. I could have seen more of the Indonesian islands but because it was a vacation in a vacation. I received that advice from one of the first backpackers I met on my trip, Tom the Belgium.
I have not really mentioned throughout this entire blog the varying numbers of random travelers and backpackers I have seen along the way, had small conversations with, met at a bar, met in a bus or wherever. People all travel for different reasons but I always am fascinated by somethings that draw people together from all corners of the globe. For example, cards, people play cards everywhere. I have learned new games from friends, sometimes learning by watching and played with people I have NOTHING in common with in life but cards. Same for pool. I have played doubles pool 2 Americans against 2 Tibeten monks, played cards with 2 Indian locals and a Russian businessman ( I think mafia). Played cards for 4 hours straight on a ferry with 3 Finnish kids who leave their home every year because they NEED to see the sun more.
Anyways, since I was staying in GT a long time I signed up for my first dive package, dive 4 times get the 5th free. Of course every dive shop on the island offered the same deal and charged the same prices but I was happy with the one I went on. I went on 3 awesome dives and 2 decent ones, all in a 10 mile radius I bet. GT had so many great spots, I did not even see all the dive spots and then there are special ones that are down around 100ft, I am not certified to do that because there is even a different chemical in the air you breathe. I have dove with many people now, people who run out of air way to quick, people who kick up dirt, people who spend half the dive looking at one thing but these 2 French guys I dove with were outrageous. They took about 20 pictures of them doing handstands, pretending to kiss underwater, flying like Superman and didn’t care about seeing anything but they had a great time and so did I as I laughed at them the entire time.
I rented a small BMX bike for about 10 days, it was a great way to travel around the island but it only took 15 minutes max to walk anywhere. However, those times when I was sitting in my room sweating and I could be in the ocean in less than 30 seconds or go to the store and slam a water then a beer, it was well worth it.
I have already mentioned how awesome the family run guesthouse I stayed were and my great Canadian and Aussie neighbors but I also must mention Vish and all the other crazy Australians I met, The crazy Finnish Vikings who bought a live goat and roasted it over a fire on Dec 24th (Finnish XMAS), Rudy, whoever you are your bar is great, the harbor master and everyone else on that crazy little island.
I spent XMAS on GT, a strange one I will always remember indeed but left on Dec 30th, before the crazy New Years Party. My plan the entire trip was to make it to Vietnam (and make my money last) for the start of 2010 and I stayed on track. The reverse full day trip back to Kuta, boat, van, long ferry ride (where I was stuck with a Swedish family that would not shutup and I could not understand half of them) and van ride back to Kuta for one night. Airport the next day, Kuala Lumpur for a layover (there was a Dunkin Donuts I had to stop at) and next stop, back home in Hanoi.
I stayed in Kuta a few more days after Matt left, spent one day surfing but it was not as fun without a friend and another day figuring out where in Indonesia I was going next. Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands which make for many dive spots and surf spots. I chose a group of islands called the Gilis with the largest island being Gili Trawangan. Awesome dive spots, not too expensive to get to from Kuta but a much different atmosphere than Kuta drew me into Gili Trawangan. I was also going to be there around the Christmas and wanted a place with other travelers. Of course I found the cheapest, slowest way possible, a van ride from Kuta to a port on Bali, a ferry from Bali to Lombock, another van from Lombock’s main port to a smaller one of the northern part of the island and then one last small boat ride from the northern port to Gili Trawangan, supposedly 13 hours but only about $18.
One day I was laying in my hotel room, still recovering from 3 straight days of surfing and the Indonesia sun when my hotel neighbor came over. I was listening to Kuta Radio, whose slogan was “gonna make you surf” so it played Western Pop songs. One of the things I miss the most about home is listening to the radio, hearing songs I enjoy and actually being able to understand everything, even the commercials. SO when I found Kuta Radio 97.7, the dial did not change for the next week. Anyways, my neighbor walks in an introduces himself and we start talking. His name is Matti, he is Finnish, backpacker just like me, beat from surfing, just like me, started surfing in Kuta and loves it but hates Kuta, just like me and he was taking the early morning slow boat to Gili Trawangan, you guessed it, just like me. Matti was a pretty crazy kid and I spent a lot of time with him over the next few weeks.
Woke up at 6, took 2 hour van from Kuta to another port on the island of bali, then had to wait 2 hours at the pier, which they had set up a restaurant JUST to rip off tourists. The ferry was 7 hours to another island in Indonesia, Lombock. Then another hour long van ride on the island of Lombock and another hour wait at the second pier, which of course had another restaurant for tourists and one last 45 minute creeky boat ride to the island of Gili Trawangan and finally arrived on this tiny island at dusk but I knew I had endured the long trip for this great reward, Gili Trawangan was a paradise!
One of mine, and Sam and Matt, goals for the trip was to learn to surf somewhere along the way and Indonesia was the place the entire time. However, finding a steady break for beginners was not that easy. One existed in Kuta, a MAJOR tourist town very close to the Bali airport. I cannot be too bad at the entire country of Australia because of its location, only a few hours from Indonesia to Australia. Australians go to Kuta just for a weekend, or for spring break or just to party more. Walking around Kuta people called me mate, which sort of got on my nerves but if thats my biggest problem, thats not too bad. Kuta is full of tourists, night clubs, crazy western clothing stalls for tourists, bars, western restaurants, cheap indonesian restaurants, internet cafes and travel agencies, not many temples, historical sights or ancient ruins. No offense to Matt but he thinks he can do anything, sometimes while driving in Tibet he would say, "I would love to climb that mountain". I would look outside and think to myself, there is NO WAY you could ever climb that but would keep my mouth shut. He thought surfing was going to be a piece of cake and we did not need lessons. I half agreed but (not to be arrogant) I thought I was going to get it quicker than him because of my beach bum lifestyle. For you sailors out there, you know that I've been surfing waves since I was about 10 in my Opti (love live Echo, my first boat) just pump the main, if you do not understand that, do not worry. Then I went to surfing university by sailing my Laser in big breeze. Anyways I thought I was going to have an advantage over landlubber Matt. So we rented board the first day and decided to hold off on lessons. The waves were breaking right at the Kuta beach, maybe 5 to 7 feet. I have watched my fair share of surfing videos so I had a good idea how to do it and considering it was day 1, I did alright. Man I was beat after a day of paddling, getting barreled and in the sun all day. Renting a board cost about $3 a day and the waves were free so we stayed in the water all day. The good thing about Kuta is that 75% of the surfers are no good so there is no need to be embarrassed.
The next day we took a morning lesson and WOW it helped so much, by the end of our 3 hour session we had become some of the best beginner foreign surfers on the beach. Our coach really helped me with my foot positions and how to paddle differently down different waves. That afternoon was surfing surfing and more surfing and same for the next day. By the end of 3 days and only one morning lesson I felt awesome about my improvement, I feel that I could go to most places in the world, rent a board, shake off alittle rust and go out there. This does not mean you will see me dropping in a 50ft wave on a surf video, yet, but maybe one day. Matt did great too, my classification of him as a landlubber is still sort of true but he did great on a surfboard. After 3 days of surfing together and travelling together on and off for about 4 months, Matt moved on. He was speeding up his trip so he could surprise his family on Christmas. He was off to Hanoi for a week, I was jealous he was going back before me but in reality, I had unlimited time there, he had a week, so I guess he should be jealous.
I knew I did not want to stay in Kuta longer. I was beat from surfing and tired of being in an Aussie tourist partyland. I started doing some research on where in Indonesia to go next.
After a slow but enjoyable ride on the vegetable boat, the hard task of finding a taxi to our next destination, Tulamben. It was about a hour taxi ride away and the only reasons Matt and I were going was to go scuba diving. We arrived in the nothing town of Tulamben and found a hotel/dive shop that offered us a awesome rate for 2 dives and one night in a hotel room. The main dive attraction around Tulamben is a wreck, the USS Liberty. The USS Liberty was used in WWII but torpedoed by Japanese submarine in 1942. The ship was still floating and able to be towed to safety but the damage was so bad that the boat was beached on purpose. The ship stayed on the beach for 21 years until a violent volcano erupted and pushed the ship back into the ocean. So now the boat is only just offshore! To make the dive an even cooler experience, Matt and I chose to go at night. So equipped with a powerful underwater flashlight we just walked into the ocean and within about 3 minutes of swimming, there it was. I enjoy scuba diving and have done it many times but this dive was very special. During the night, more coral buds come out so the viewing is better also a wreck provides easy opportunities for coral to grow because of the protection and surfaces that are easy to attach too, so the coral was amazing. However, being in a wreck in the dark made the experience much different than other dives. I literally felt as if I was exploring the Titanic. In addition, I had to control my breathing the entire time in the dark wreck, I did fine and was very surprised with myself. The next day Matt and I dove another reef, which was very good and then later that day took off to Kuta, the closest city to the airport. Matt only had a few more days in Indonesia with me.