Friday, November 28, 2008

Tan Loc/Back in HCMC

I should tell you that the Very Long Drive I had talked about was long because we drove down to Can Tho (4.5 hours) then continued on to Tan Loc which is a little island - we took one ferry to get to Can Tho and one more to get to Tan Loc - which was 2.5 hours away from Can Tho. And then we pretty much turn around and drove right back.. to Can Tho, thank goodness, not HCMC.

The next day, I headed back to HCMC by myself. This was a pretty rushed trip for me since I had to get back to work the next day :( I took a local bus back to HCMC, which dropped me at a terminal about 10 miles outside the city, then I had RUN RUN RUN! to get on an even-more-local bus - the sort of rickety bus that literally did not even stop for passengers to get on. It would just kind of slow down and good luck getting on!

I really only managed by the kindness of strangers who spoke a smattering of English and could understand my mangling of Vietnamese place names.

Back in HCMC, I had time to spare so I visited the Reunification Palace, which was awesome. A real trip. Think: Get Smart meets Austin Powers... except, I guess, if you think about the historical context, not very funny. The whole place is frozen in the swinging 70s, with upstairs meeting rooms filled with Chinoiserie, a game room (a game room!), and crazy basement military intelligence rooms. And the phones. The place was filled with retro phones. Loved it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hangin' out in the Mekong Delta

OK, I really shouldn't just post unflattering pictures of Vietnam, so here is a picture of my lovely drip coffee and me relaxing on a hammock. Vietnamese <3 hammocks too! Not just the Cambodians!

Can Tho

The next day, we took a drive down to the Mekong Delta, and it was a Very Long Drive. (And, my camera battery had died, so for my entire trip in Vietnam I could only take photos with my iphone. Sob, sob.)

Once out of HCMC, we were really starting to get into the countryside. We stopped by a roadside cafe and had a great cup of Vietnamese coffee and then - this is the exciting part - we had to use the bathroom. I was led into a tin shack, and quickly sussed out that I had to pee on the concrete floor, which was conveniently slanted on one end towards a little hole that opened out into the nearby stream. There was a tub of water you could scoop to "flush". I wanted to cry.

When I was done, I found out that the cafe proprietors had kindly let us "out-of-towners" use the SHOWER to pee in, cos it was properly covered. THIS was the real toilet. I didn't want to cry anymore.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I went to Vietnam and I forgot to blog afterward! It's been too long since I've travelled...

Let me start with an ode to the traffic to Vietnam:

Motorcycles swarm.
Cars lurch, powered by their horns.
Traffic lights are
Confounding - and only a suggestion anyway.
Zebra crossings are decorative. So pretty.
Just go.

Below is the view from our hotel room.

I loved it - straight into some weird airwell right out of Brazil. Mind you, the hotel itself was a not-very-inexpensive hotel that was perfectly nice and clean on the inside. But the view! Ha. I figured I hadn't come to HCMC to sit in my room and look out the window, so I could live with it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Adventures on the red carpet

I am back from Berlin, so these posts are belated, yet again. Sorry. I had a great time in Berlin but it was hectic and exhausting, hence the lack of posts. But no fear! I shall be caught up.

And so... I was not ON the red carpet, but beside it. On the last day of the Talent Campus, there was a closing party for all of us. The party was held at the same building as the Berlinale Palast, the big movie theatre where they had the major competition screenings.

When a bunch of us arrived, we were mysteriously and suddenly prevented from going downstairs to the party venue. We were informed that Dieter Kosslick, the man who runs the Berlinale, has "requested" that we stand by the red carpet to welcome the famous guests. What? We said. No, we want to go downstairs. Where there is food and drink. But it was kind of those requests where basically we had no choice. Apparently, it looked bad that there weren't enough fans waiting by the red carpet, so we had to be there as space fillers!!

So we were hustled behind some barricades and basically penned up beside the red carpet so that we could wait in the freezing cold for some stars to arrive - the stars were a French actress I don't know called Elsa and Kristin Scott Thomas. When they arrived, many real (and fake) fans yelled "Kristin!" and "Elsa!". But in European accents, so it sounded more like "Kristeeen!". We tried striking poses so that we could end up as dramatic background in some of these paparazzi photos.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

East Berlin

Here I am in Berlin - for the most part, East Berlin to be exact. Wintry bare trees, brick and concrete, grey skies, everything bleak and muted. Ah, I love it. I'd also forgotten one other thing I love about Europe - sparkling water. You can get it ANYWHERE.

The Berlinale and the Berlin Talent Campus got off to a running start for me. Lots of great panels and talks, and also screenings I am trying to squeeze in in between. Everything is bustling and crowded, yet very chill. It's a good vibe to have in such a big festival. It's also nice that it's so big because you're always running into friends or meeting lots of interesting new people.

So far, I've sampled some German cuisine (including the must-have Currywurst). This pretty much means eating lots of sausages. Not that I'm complaining. But it's become a daily challenge to find vegetables to eat. Any vegetable. Anything that isn't a sausage.

Many people say that Berlin has uninteresting cuisine but this much I'll say: it has the Best Bread in the world. And today, we went to KaDeWe and had us the BEST HOT CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD. The. Best. (Thanks for the tip, Grace!)

Besides the food, my two favourite moments so far have been listening to separate talks by Stephen Daldry and Mike Leigh. Lots of great insight from both. I love the no-nonsense, get on with it, British sensibility they both have as well. No room for indulging ultra-Method actors... ha! Mike Leigh said, in closing: "I'm going to give you some advice, even though no one asked for it, so clearly you don't want any, but here it is: Never Compromise".