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Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant

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Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant

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The Mekong Delta

Can Tho, Vietnam

After five incredible days in Ho Chi Minh City, I've carried on to another city: Can Tho. Can Tho is located in southern Vietnam in the region known as the Mekong Delta.
I took what amounted to a four hour bus ride from HCMC to Can Tho yesterday, found a cheap guest house (less than USD $7) and went to bed. I didn't even bother caring about the ants crawling on the bed because I was so worn out from my week of mostly all-nighters.
Okay. Rewind....
Ho Chi Minh City was a blast. Through the travel based website, Couchsurfing, I was able to find instant friends, which made "solo" traveling quite easy.
The second day of my stay I took a cyclo tour of the city. For those of you who don't know what a cyclo is, it's a tall bike with a rickety chariot-esque seat in front of it. My driver toured me around for nearly five hours. I saw many pagodas and many beautiful Buddha's. At one pagoda, a monk showed me the proper way to bow/pray to Buddha.
My tour ended at the War Reminents Museum where I saw some of the horrific pictures of the results from Agent Orange. I must say, it's incredibly awkward going in there as an American and it was even more uncomfortable leaving and going back to my 60-year-old cyclo driver who no doubt experienced the war first-hand. Fortunately, I haven't experienced anyone with grudges against American's and usually find them to be excited to meet an American backpacker.
That evening I found out about a birthday party of a French traveler. A group of 10 of us met up for dinner and then ended up at the infamous "Apocalypse Now" Bar (as seen in the movie...you guessed it, Apocalypse Now).
That evening lasted until 7:00 a.m. or so as one of the French guys and I stayed in the park to watch/join in on the morning aerobics session that started up before dawn. We strolled through the rest of the park to watch the tango dancers and the Tae Kwon Do practice.
As it was then about 6 a.m. it was time for us to find a quaint cafe to drink some of Vietnam's famous coffee. We sat there for about an hour speaking in broken English with some local taxi drivers and moto drivers...then it was bed time.
As is to be expected, the next day was spent in a haze. We all woke up around noon and found ourselves a "Frech cafe," which is actually a Korean pastry chain called "Tous Les Jours."
(Sidenote: Just now a full-on Communist truck drove by playing what I think is the Vietnamese national anthem and toting a poster of Ho Chi Minh.)
On day four me and my group of 4 Francophones went on a day-trip to the town of Cu Chi. This small village is was a famous stronghold of the Vietnamese War (which, by the way, they refer to as the American War).
We started our tour with a propaganda-filled video about mostly the "American devils" and then we got a tour of the tunnels where the locals would hide in, cook in and shoot from. We walked only maybe 30 meters through the tunnels and that was more than enough. They said that there were breathing holes only every 5 meters and although the man joked that they were air conditioning holes, my Lord was it ever hot in there. Also, they apparently had to widen the tunnels for fat American tourists--could've used a bit more space as it was.
That night we met with the French travelers' Canadian friend and spent the night sleeping under the full moon on his rooftop. This night too was a long one, and we didn't go to bed until after 6:00 a.m., after breakfast and after the roosters shut up a bit.
That takes me up to now.
This morning I woke up at 5:30 and found a moto to the famous floating markets. I walked down a small road until I found a riverside, thatched-roof cafe. A man saw me approach and without saying anything signaled for me to follow him. He took me to a family's one-room house on the river and woke up the mother and daughter who inhabited it.
The mother led me onto her small, wooden boat and motored me around the market place. Possbly 15 minutes into my tour, a man selling beverages tied his boat to ours and made me a cup of hot, sweet coffee. I bought my boat driver some juice and we carried on. The tour lasted about an hour, but I plan to take a longer one in a couple of days as the Canadian backpackers I just met told me about their 8-hour tour and it seems I'd be stupid to miss it.
As for now, I'm still sitting in the internet cafe. Small lizards cover the walls and Buddha representations surround me. I'm going to kill time journaling and exploing the city until my host gets into town. Tonight, I'll stay with a Vietnamese girl, Angela, and her family. Tomorrow, Angela will take me on a bike tour of the countryside.

permalink written by  Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant on May 9, 2009 from Can Tho, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant
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Heading Out

Pusan, South Korea

It's May Day, 2009 and I'm less than 24 hours from boarding a plane to Ho Chi Minh City.

This is why I'm here: travel. After seven months of grueling work, I'm off.

I decided to break my contract five months early to travel the world and eventually make it back to friends and family back in the states. By the time I get home to Chicago, it will have been 11 months abroad.

This was my first experience with living abroad. For whatever reason, it was something I opted against in university, choosing instead to take several, smaller trips; Amsterdam this year, Italy the next, followed by Ecuador and several cross-country road trips in between. The longest I'd ever traveled for was one month and one week. Eight months is different.

I arrived in Busan, South Korea in late September, 2008. I worked in shitty hagwon (private English institute) teaching English to adults everyday. This is a typical story. It's rare to find a trustworthy hagwon. That being said, they can likely say the same about English teachers.

As a Liberal and possibly tad bit eccentric young lady (at least by their standards), it's been interesting to live in one of the most conservative Asian countries. (More on this later.)

For now, I'm just doing my last bit of errands before taking off for Ho Chi Minh. Once I arrive, I've got some locals to meet up with for a possible trip to a museum and a definite dinner...thanks be to Couchsurfing.com.

Well, that's all for now. I'll write more after I arrive and figure out some of my life.

permalink written by  Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant on May 1, 2009 from Pusan, South Korea
from the travel blog: Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant
tagged Busan

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Where You Go? Mo-toe-bike?!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

My trip has officially begun, and as soon as I stepped out of the airport I could feel the city's energy. The energy is raw and it pumps faster through my body with every honk of a motorbike, which averages about 8 honks a second.

The very first thing that I noticed was that houses seemed to be pushing their way onto the airport's runway, bursting the seams of the city and in desperate need of space.

When I stepped out of the airport I was instantly accosted by taxi drivers trying to escape with my ignorant use of the Dong. Luckily, I had read about them and how to avoid them. I took the public bus.

Though Couchsurfers I found myself a host and organized a meeting place. Regardless of his simple directions, I got lost and instead of finding my way to his girlfriends travel agency, I found my way into a bar. Having prior knowledge of the city's unofficial motto, "same same," I decided to settle myself in and have my first Vietnamese beer with a group of backpackers.

After the beer, and conveniently, after the monsoon rains subsided, I found my host, Zohar. He took me to his girlfriends store where I kept my backpack under her mother's watchful eye, and off we went for lunch and later dinner.

My host, Zohar, is an incredibly generous man. He's originally from Israel and considering he's only 23-years-old, he's had a life I couldn't possibly begin to comprehend. When he took me to his apartment by motorbike to drop off my luggage and clean up, he told me a bit of his life story.

Raised by his grandmother in Israel, Zohar is the son of his father's fourth wife. When his mother married his father his grandmother disowned the family, save for Zohar, who she decided it was her duty to care for. She is also the one responsible for his name: Zohar is a Hebrew name that means "All the light in the world."

He told me that most of his childhood was spent in extreme poverty. Days without meals and electricity were common for him. So, when he turned 13 he dropped out of school and became a pool hustler. He did all that he could to support his grandmother and himself, himself always second.

After completing the required three years of military service, and consequently fighting in and surviving three wars, Zohar was disciplined and ready to work with life and not against it. He found a good job here in Ho Chi Minh and now helps to support his girlfriend, Jroung, and her 3-year-old baby, who he affectionately calls Bin Laden.

Jroung--the phonetic spelling--is a beautiful 22-year-old Vietnamese widow. I'm not entirely sure how or when her husband died, but to my understanding it happened a couple of years ago in a motorbike accident. Jroung helps her mother-in-law run a travel agency/book store--something that's already proven incredibly useful.

permalink written by  Nomadic Movements Of An Itinerant on April 23, 2009 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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