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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Welcome to the jungle

Fortunatel,y I remembered to never make a Vietnamese lose face. The reason for my suppressed anger was that the receptionist at the Ranger HQ and I had agreed that I would do an excursion through the jungle. Now, a couple of hours later, she told me that there were no guides available except for doing the same jungle trek that I had done this morning. I tried again: “maybe other guide want to go?”. Suddenly she smiled and said: “You can go without guide. We bring you by car into jungle and you walk to hut”. I confidently replied that “I had already walked alone this morning, so that it wouldn’t be any problem”. When I looked up to the map I noticed what was written next to a hand drawn picture of my destination “crocodile swamp”. I comforted myself that this probably was a trick to attract tourists with an exotic animal name. When I was about to leave, the friendly lady at the ranger station spoke again (she would have made Steve Jobs proud): “One more thing, be careful with the monkeys. When they’re about to attack, you should look them straight in the eyes”. Little did she know that few animals scare me more than monkeys. The reason can be summarized by ‘once bitten, twice shy’. Shortly afterwards, I found myself alone at the start of the trail. I quickly ‘armed’ myself with a big wooden stick and started practicing a semi angry look while looking an imagined monkey straight in the eye.

As I progressed through the jungle and approached the hut, I noticed a steady increase in poo on the track, it resembled human poo, just slightly different… So, I was mentally preparing myself for battling legions of monkeys. Moreover, a wise man once said: “just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you”. And paranoid I was. It is slowly approaching the end of the dry season and (big) leaves were falling down the trees, often taking a couple of extra leaves along. Together they resulted in a noise that could be anything from a monkey to a tiger to four leaves. Other noises low on the ground triggered a memory from many a Vietnam movie: the two-step-snake. Or was it three step? Or could I make five? Needless to say that what should have been a relaxing walk through the jungle turned into a continuous spine shivering goose skin live horror movie. When I finally arrived in one piece (without seeing a single monkey) an stunning open jungle with a lake in the middle suddenly made it all worth it. 

The station’s rangers told me that it was possible to take the boat out onto the lake. I therefore decided to take a nap to be fit for the ‘greatest show on earth’. When I turned up to take the boatat 18.00 they told me that we would have dinner instead and that there were to many crocodiles in the lake anyway. I drew my conclusion quickly: my mini trip was cancelled because these guys didn’t want to move their dinner time! Despite my pleading they wouldn’t give in and I watched the sunset from the roof of the ranger station instead.

When the night started to fall a ranger brought a massive flashlight. He turned it on and quickly called for me. He pointed at the reflections in the water: a crocodile. Minutes later I had a try myself: as the torch over the swamp it lit up with at least a dozen pair of hungry eyes. I sighed of relief for not having taken the small canoe on my own. The ranger and I agreed that I would take out the canoe in the early morning, when “the crocodiles would be fast asleep”. Let’s hope that none of the has a sudden bout of insomnia like me now. A crocodile with insomnia is unlikely though, as a he/she probably wouldn’t be scared of finding a (poisonous?) frog in his toilet just before he goes to bed.

At a crossroad, always…

A couple of years ago 2 friends and I bought a camper. Our camper was a camper with attitude. It wasn’t one of those surfer / 60’s campers, it was built in a slightly larger, box shaped Volkswagen transport vehicles. It would have been dead ugly from the outside if it wouldn’t have had a sun screen on the outside that made it resemble a large hat.

We bought this camper with a specific goal in mind: a 3 weeks trip together with my friend. We had the most amazing holidays when we were teenagers, but once grown up we would spend large portions of our evenings together talking about those great holidays instead of having new experiences together. This had to change when we bought the camper.

And so it did. From the first moment in the camper we had a fantastic trip. The camper had been owned for almost 2 decades by the same family and we had bought it fully furnished. So every time we were looking for something we just stopped searching and thought “if it here, what would be the most logical place for this piece?”. Inevitably the part was in the camper and at the most logical place.

We drove the camper south to France, Spain (Extremadura!) and parts of Portugal. We made a sport of finding the best spot in the forest (we pretended it was a 4×4) for our BBQ’s. After several days we developed a very efficient decision making routine: at every crossroad, take the smallest of all roads at your disposal.

I remembered this routine this morning: the setting was different. Instead of together in southern Europe, I found myself alone and semi-lost in the jungle of south Vietnam. Instead of people driving like monkeys, I heard real ones in the trees high above me. It probably was my imagination, but i would swear that there were much bigger animals right beside me. In any case, I’m proud to report that the good old ‘camper technique’ for finding the best spots works here as well.


Steve is my hero

I’ve only known Steve for a couple of days. And I don’t know much about his personal life. Steve is 63, lives in Hawaii, and stays the winters in Vietnam because temperatures in Hawaii drop to 17 degrees celsius at night. Steve likes the sun.

Steve goes to bed at 20.00 every day and wakes up at 02.00. He then starts the day with an hour of yoga and then rides his bicycle for a couple of hours. Steve is fit.

Steve started (wind)surfing back in the 60s and has been kitesurfing for 13 years now. Steve is knows what he is doing.

Steve is my kitesurf instructor. And today I managed for the first time to do a waterstart and ride the board without falling. Thanks to Steve.

Like every good teacher Steve says that it is me who’s doing the kitesurfing and he’s just there to assist me. We both know that his role is bigger than that. When I kick my board off before the waves break at the beach I literally run to fetch it afterwards. I am hurt when I fail to execute Steve’s tips like he told me. Even in my most disastrous runs Steve finds something I did well.

I hugged Steve after my first successful run. Steve is good.


Musical interlude: Autechre / Tri Repetae++

It was in Amsterdam at the beginning of my studies, where the foundation was laid for the discovery of this record. The obvious perks of the apartment i was living in were a gigantic living room, beautiful shower and a waterbed. In addition: it was for free, as I was babysitting the apartment for somebody who had left for several months. One of its hidden treasures was a beautiful record collection.

This record collection contained strange LP’s that hardly sounded like music at all. Initially, the ‘music’ seemed to be random bleeps and noise, but a second or third listen revealed beautiful patterns that instantly resonated with the left side of my brain. Whereas the music probably appears ‘cold’ or ‘alien’ at first, subsequent listens will eventually appeal to the left side of the brain and reveal its deep beauty. Or nothing at all. My personal definition of music is ‘sound produced by a feeling’. If you like music to sing along with, dance to, or as background entertainment, this record is probably not for you. Don’t dismiss it without listening though, you might miss one of the most beautiful records ever made.

Recommendation: if you think that Coldplay is ‘alternative music’

Spotify: unfortunately the album is not available


YouTube: Song: Clipper (video made by a fan and not suited for children)

Song: Dael (fan video as well)

Chinese new year in Vietnam