Back Home Finally

We’re back home finally after almost 3 weeks. We landed at Jakarta today, early in the morning and reached home by ~ 2 am ish. It was nice to be home finally. I have lived in my Jakarta house for only 2 weeks I guess – but for some weird reason, I had already begun missing this house since last 4 – 5 days. Whether it was due to how safe I felt living in this area or due to the fact that I had all three rooms to roam about (instead of the single hotel room that I was confined to these last 3 weeks) I am not sure… but sure it felt like home when I stepped in.

The trip was entirely business trip – so we did not travel much. Rather, except a one day trip to Tam Coc, we havent travelled at all. So I dont bring with me, the memories of sites and scenes of natural beauty that a typical traveller would. (Whatever memories of Tam coc I had – are now with person who stole our camera) But within these 3 weeks, as someone who hadnt really ventured outside her comfort zone till last month, I had too many things to note  – the daily lives of people around me, especially in Hanoi, where I spent almost 2 weeks – dividing my time between trips to nearby lake, watching TLC and Star World in the Hotel and thinking and worrying about what we were gonna eat for the day…
Okay, it was not just those things, I also had lots to observe whenever I was roaming around these streets. After my camera got stolen, I took some pics on my blackberry phone for the remaining days that we were in Hanoi. While I am of course gonna crib about the picture quality everytime I upload such a photo, I am glad I actually do have some pics. Hanoi is a lovely place. Lovely weather and a lifestyle so different than what I led before my marriage….

In Manila, I havent taken a single picture. We were staying in CBD area and though there were some interesting things that I observed, the place was as cosmopolitan as say Mumbai. Besides the business center area was always full all the time, it being CBD, most of the guests were there for work and I hardly got any chance to update the blog from Manila. Still, Manila too is interesting in some respects and I hope to find time to update something about it.

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Xin chào Vietnam!

(The above heading means ‘goodbye Vietnam’. If there’s any other meaning to the phrase, then its unintentional and you may send your comments / criticism to ‘Yahoo answers’ please) 🙂

Well, I COULD HAVE actually taken the pains and looked up the phrase for goodbye  – I HAVE bought a small book of Vietnamese phrases afterall… but looking how painful the language seems, I have duly handed over the book to Swapnil who will actually need it from time to time since his visits to Vietnam would be quite frequent…. anyways. On an unrelated note, the purchase of this book was a good bargain, where the seller reduced price from 950,000 Vietnamese Dong to I think ~ 200,000 VD. In conclusion, (of this unrelated note) Indian tourists will enjoy shopping in Hanoi, where bargaining rules.

There are just too many things that I wanted to write about my time in Hanoi. I have spent about 2 weeks here. But I have to wait for Swapnil to come to the hotel so that I can surf. But then he always has some carry over work and I dont want to intrude. I had the option to update this blog daily from the business center of the hotel. But the laptops are in reception area and the staff begins to hover around the table if you sit longer than 15 minutes. Writing has been one of my favorite things to do and I stop thinking at all if someone keeps hovering nearby. Another reason why I have been avoiding updates is the photos. You see, our camera has been nicked off (or we have lost it). We dont remember at all 😦 :(. There were so many pictures that I had taken… 😦 besides, that also means there wouldnt be pictures from Jakarta too for some time, till we replace (if the ‘New Sponsors/Management’ decide/s to) the camera….

There wont be any pictures from Manila too… which is our next destination. Tonight we fly to Philippines, again on business trip.

We will be for around 4 – 5 days in Manila and again I will be spending my days in a hotel watching Star World. Gosh!! I have watched so much of television in last few weeks that the total hours I spent in watching TV ever since I came abroad would probably exceed the total amount of tv I have watched in my entire life before getting married….  now I am an ardent fan of American Idol  – season 11, all the programs of TLC channel, How I met your mother and cartoon network. I am blabbering. Like usual. I am sure that if techsupport and my former sponsors/management are reading this blog, they will probably feel like I am sitting with them and chatting… or for that matter – my mahilamandal. I miss the gals too.

So, goodbye Hanoi, goodbye Vietnam….

Tieng Viet

Belated ‘Happy Gudi Padwa’, Happy Ugadhi, Happy Lohri etc etc etc. We have been doing well. Weather has been all changing. Couple of days back, it got really hot. As in, hot by Hanoi standards. Temperature exceeded 25 degrees etc. After couple of hot and sunny (again by Hanoi standards sunny) days, we suddenly had a quick thunderstorm and torrents yesterday and the weather is back to cool now. 🙂

I have been meaning to write something about Vietnamese language. I should have first written something about Bahasa Indonesia first logically, but probably that I will keep mentioning from time to time…

Coming to Vietnamese language – here are my few observations:-

  1. While the script is Latin, this language is not at all phonetic, so whatever you read and what you say aloud (reading that word) may be totally different. Eg: ‘Tran’ in Vietnamese is pronounced as ‘Chun’ (‘u’ like ‘umbrella’) . Trust me, unless you have a map or properly written down address with you, explaining to cabbie is a HUGE task. For that matter, explaining to the waiters, shopkeepers etc etc etc too.
  2. If you ask me, I would describe it thus – this language is similar to the sounds made when empty vessels are thrown/ banged upon etc etc. For eg – Dung / dong/ Than/ Thic etc are words with serious meanings here… (In the near future probably Swapnil will know if he reads his new ‘Fad faad Vietnamese’ guide…
  3. Probably 1 in every two Vietnamese has been named Nguyen (which btw is pronounced as Juven) and the remaining people are named Hoa` (pronounced as Hay – with ‘a’ like umbrella)… there are so many Ngyens and Hoa`s that you begin to question the creativity of the Vietnamese here… 🙂
  4. Almost everybody has working knowledge of English in Hanoi. And by that, I mean they mostly know the following words – ‘Madame’ (the French connection. They were once a French colony), ‘How Much’, ‘Dolah’ (Dollar), ‘Cheap cheap’ and ‘for you’.
  5. Oh… and I forgot to mention OKAY. OK is used here interchangeably for ‘yes’ and ‘ I agree’ and some other purposes which I am yet to figure out. 🙂

Most of my conversations with various shopkeepers go as follows:

Me – Price?

Shopkeeper – Okay.

Me – What is the PRICE? Price? P-RR-I-C-E??

Shopkeeper – Okay.

Me – How much?

Shopkeeper to me – Madame – 100,000 Dong.

Me – Shake of head indicating no

Shopkeeper – Madame, how much, how much

Me – Still shaking head saying no

Shopkeeper – Madame, 70,000 Dong. Cheap Cheap. For you.

Me – 50,000 Dong.

Shopkeeper – Okay. Cheap cheap. For you. You. good lady. My first customer. you lucky for me.

Me – (handing over the money and taking the thing) how to go to Hoan Kiem lake? Hoan Kiem?? HOAN KIEM??

Shopkeeper – Okay. Okay

Me – H-O-A-N  K-I-E-M

(for some reason my reflex action when they dont understand what I mean is to repeat it slowly and at a substantially higher pitch. I know raising voice is stupid. They are not deaf. But this is reflex action.I cant help it.

Shopkeeper – Okay.

Me – fishing out hotel’s card behind which there is rough map of the area .

Shopkeeper – Okay.

Me – begins to leave

Shopkeeper – finally raises hand and indicates that I have to take right.)

Anyways, bye for now

I MISS TECH SUPPORT

For starters, I miss my android phone. It was such a cool phone. Good design and all. I over used it  – so it went kaput. Otherwise it was awesome-  free apps and all… , touchscreen thing too worked for me…

Secondly, Blackberry just sucks.

First of all, the BBM (for which I began using this phone to be in touch with you know who) was not a foolproof way to chat because it would be down for days sometimes.

Secondly, you needed a blackberry plan for it which was an additional cost.  Not like that was very important, but when you compare it with my poor old kaput android phone, wherein I could have used whatsapp only using vodafonelive – without an additional data plan  – the android was definitely value deal.

Thirdly, free apps in android mean – FREE in true sense – not like Blackberry appsworld where the free apps that they offered for people upto December 2011 (due to their colosal failure in October to retreive/ reboot/restart/reconnect (dont know what I should call it) – the BBM after it went down for more than 3 days continuously… The apps that they provided for free were hardly 3 or 4, most of which were really useless – including some weird game. No free utilities. And whatever free apps that you find in their appsworld just suck.

So – all in all, I miss my android phone. Android rocks!!

Well, why the sudden outburst on phones?? well – just the matter of connectivity. Having come to Jakarta, I have so far not taken a blackberry plan on my Jakarta number. I expected to travel soon to Vietnam and I thought of saving some money for my husband. I have wifi at home and I tried to latch on my blackberry to that wifi. There is a pin that the blackberry gave to me to input in the router. That thing is not working since ages. So though I have wifi at home, I cannot be on net / gtalk/whatsapp because I havent been able to input this pin into the router. Back during good old android days, I wouild be connected to net the moment I stepped at home, due to the awesomeness that was my android phone. God, it was just HTC Tattoo – the cheapest of them all – bottom range phone. Still it was packed with features, which this damned blackberry would never match with….

Of course, back home (aah, now I must say, back at my mom’s) everything rocked because of the tech support. I guess I never really truly appreciated what a pillar the ‘tech support’ has been through my technology-related ‘endeavors’. I owe a lot to the tech support as I received help all through my undergrad, postgrad and even working years. And in 80 per cent of the cases, it was on time too…

Right from mailing ppts and project reports during my student days to mailing my tax planning, retrieving an accidentally deleted files, my work related notes / documents (forwarding my cv to prospective employers) etc etc – and most recently even providing me stock quotes just few minutes before I met that particular client –  the techsupport has been unwaveringly championing my efforts to meet various sorts of deadlines, solve problems such as file being too large / password protected/ virus infected etc right upto connecting my phone to the home (er… at Mom’s) wifi net work…. to cut the long story short, yes. I admit it. Tech support has been one of the most important parts of my life and I feel a void – technologically and otherwise  – as I now realise that he was also one of my closest friends…and has generally been a very good and considerate brother too…

So tech support, I am admitting it finally. Yes, you are awesome (you may gloat now). Please know –  I really miss you.

Food foibles

I must actually be thankful and not in complaining mode. The hotel that we are put up in has so far done a really decent job of offering us veg options. In fact, they understood all of our orders and served us – say – Pasta in red sauce (containing only tomato – no beef please. Yes. Here they eat beef like probably we eat onion or potato. Its that frequently used). Besides, every morning between 6 and 10 there’s elaborate buffet breakfast. If there are no veg options in the cooked food section, we can always eat bread and butter, cheese, salads, fruit and yoghurt. In this sense I like Vietnam better. Agreed, there are Indian stores spread over Jakarta. But when it comes to eating out, Vietnamese seem to have understood our position well. Probably because Vietnam is full of Buddhist people  – some of who are actually all veg. Though very small section it must be. Because Vietnam is also a country where “dog meat” is also eaten (as it is eaten in Korea, China, Hong Kong etc etc etc). On the other hand, in Jakarta, it is always safe to eat ghar ka khana. They seem to be adding nonveg in unlikeliest places. Just last week, we bought this brown bread and were very happy because –

a) We expected that brown bread will not be sweet. In Jakarta, the name for bread is ‘ROTI’, mind you, but it is maida bread and though amazingly soft, it is – SWEET. That just puts me off. Then there are breads filled with things like chocolate sauce, maionnaise and other such items which an unsuspecting non-bahasa speaking person like me wouldnt have imagined at all in a bread. Anyways.

b) Also – we had been looking for brown bread for some time now, it being healthier than white bread etc.

The moment we got home, I opened the pack impatiently, put some butter on it and just took a bite.

OMG. The bread had egg in it! What kind of people put egg in the bread? Of course there are such people. In Indonesia. Its just that I didnt know!! Anyways. That just did it. I realised that I cannot be living in east and continue to remain 100% veg. In such small things such as bread, my unsuspecting self would be subject to small doses of nonveg from time to time. That doesnt mean that I would be okay with eating nonveg at all. Its just that if any such incident happens, whereby I happen to insert something nonveg in my mouth, I should be philosophical  about it and think that even the ghaas phoos that I eat has aatma in it  etc etc etc…. anyways, I am rambling….

Few comments on Vietnam –

  • Weather’s just awesome. Probably temperature today is close to 18 – 19 degrees. Its just Masta…. 🙂
  • This place is a small town. Not cosmopolitan like Jakarta. Its lovely in the small townish way. I like it very much.
  • Its got awesome outdoor food culture. Any corner of pavement, you find small stalls and stools and people of all ages eating there. That doesnt mean that there arent any restaurants… there are ample of restaurants. And all these places, the road side shops as well as restaurants are full with people.
  • Cars have wheels on left side. That means you have to walk on the right side. It is thoda confusing so far. Our keep left policy will not work here.
  • We are already millionnaires in Hanoi (for that matter we were in Jakarta too). So I think 1 USD is equal to some 9500 Indonesian Rupaiah and is equal to some 20500 Vietnamese Dong. That is roughly equal to INR 48 (dont know latest exchange rate). Dong is even more devalued than Indonesian Rupaiah. But its weird paying taxi wallah some 2 lac dong for half an  hour ride etc. You just go crazy doing the math.  So I tend to pay dong – convert to USD – convert to INR. But I am tired of it. I am officially giving up.

I will post few pictures from here in some days…..

Lastly, today we complete a month into ‘holy matrimony’… 🙂 seems like yesterday. So far, so good.

In Hanoi

<div align=”justify”>We reached Hanoi yesterday. To say that the weather is cooler than Jakarta, is an understatement. Man! we were shivering the moment we landed here. We had checked the temperatures of Hanoi for couple of days before leaving Jakarta and it kept on showing that weather was around 16 – 17 degree celcius. Even AC regulator starts at 18 degrees. Since the latest hill station we had been to was Mahabaleshwar (which they should not call hill station anymore), we were way too far away from estimating accurately how cold this place would be. Trust me, the place is really COLD. At nights the weather must be getting even colder…

Anyways, we moved on to check in into this hotel located in the central market place of Hanoi. It took us a while to adjust to the climate and we were outraged to notice AC in our room. With climate like that who needs AC!! Though soon we discovered that the AC does not act simply as AC, its a heater too. There is ‘Heater’ mode and you can actually warm up the room – warm air and all :). Ever since, the life has been easier in Vietnam, with room temperature constantly at 25 degrees. In the evening we went to meet couple of Swapnil’s friends and discovered that this is springtime in Hanoi ( Ha Noi is how they actually say) and the weather is in fact colder during December -Feb period where it can drop below 10 degrees.

Since I mentioned the outing with Swapnil’s friends, I must mention that they took us yesterday to this authentic Vietnamese restaurant and later on to a cafe. Food in Vietnam as in most of the Asian countries means  – MEAT and in varieties unimaginable in India. Needless to say, this is always a problem for the both of us, since both of us are vegetarians. We have to order food that is ‘No egg, no fish, no chicken, no beef, no mutton, no meat’ . Even after saying this 10 times, there is no guarantee that they will serve with such food. So always Swapnil is the ‘taster’ and I eat only after he ‘passes’ food as meat free.

Few comments on Vietnamese Food that we ate  – BLAND. We ate rice noodles with tofu and some random herbs, veg dumplings, some weird looking veg rice with corn and a salad. Rice noodles had to be eaten with tofu and after dipping into some odd looking sauce. The sauce wasnt exactly soya sauce. For all I know, it could have been some nonveg sauce too – but I would prefer not thinking that (Ram ram raam raam. Dharam bhrasht ho gaya etc etc). The whole Asian culture is based on nonveg. They dont understand the concept of ‘Veg’ food. Many a times, though you explain to them literally 10 times, they can make mistakes – because a)Either they dont understand how can someone order without nonveg b) they conclude that the order karnewala doesnt understand what he / she wants c) some dish may have minute nonveg element which they have forgotten to remove. Eg – Soups have liquid stock which usually has nonveg element in it and it is difficult to explain to them to make fresh stock with vegetables. So I ensure a) Not to order if they cant understand my order b) Make Swapnil taste it first.

Anyways, time to go for lunch now  – Mehenat ka kaam hai woh . Lot of time will go now, to explain to them what we want.</div>

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