A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong Phooey!

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So I have just left China and I have a lot to write about. I had an amazing experience and have once again learned so much. Because my blog posts are getting longer and longer, I am going to have to split this into three sections I think. I was in the area for one week which means I will be explaining seven days, more than any other country. Be prepared for a lot of reading, if you have kept up with my blogs though, this should be nothing new. I am going to start with Hong Kong first because it is actually different from mainland China. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China and in 2047 will actually be incorporated into China. Hong Kong is also a lot different than China so I think it would be wise to break them up.
I woke up and did my usual breakfast with friends to discuss what we wanted to do for the day. For the first day in Hong Kong I was going to be traveling with Brynn and Evan. The three of us left the ship when we were cleared. Our ship was docked at another shopping mall, but was not as intense with customs as Singapore. When we got into the mall, around 9am, all of the stores were closed so there was nothing we could do but go outside into this new strange world. The ship was docked on Kowloon Peninsula right across the way from Hong Kong Island, where most of the skyscrapers were located along with Victoria’s Peak. The first stop, as always for me, was an ATM. There was the usual long line of SAS students waiting at one so I got in line too and waited my turn to withdraw some cash. When I got into the building I noticed that there were locals who had cut in front of us to get in there. This was my first experience with the Chinese ideology that they come first before anyone else. I actually say that in a mean way, but almost everywhere I went I had people cutting in front of me. If you were not crotch to butt with someone in line then it signaled to them they could be in front of you. I shrugged it off and got my money. We were right at the ferry station to catch a ride over to Hong Kong Island so we went to get our tickets. Unfortunately, I only had $100 bills and the ferry only cost $2 so I had to go back to a gift shop and start my souvenir shopping in order to pay for the tickets. I bought a couple of really cool gifts and got the change I needed. Evan, Brynn and I finally got our tokens for the ferry and made our way to the waiting station. The ride was short and not that comfortable, but was just like any other ferry I had been on before. The three of us decided to go see the world’s largest bronze Buddha, so once we got to the island we had to catch another ferry to a different island. Luckily it was right next to the dock so we didn’t have to walk far and I got directions from a tour guide so that we would not be lost on where we were going. When we got in this ferry to the other island I noticed how much nicer it was. I felt like I was on an airplane. There were lots of soft seats, televisions, barf bags, and it was all closed so that the wind and cold would not be affecting us. The ride was about 15 minutes and we played a couple of games on the ride over. Then when we got to the island, we had to catch a bus that would take us to the Buddha area. The bus was a bit more expensive than the ferry but was still a good ride. We drove for about half an hour before we got to our destination through lots of mountains, going a bit fast on a bunch of switchbacks. We finally pulled up to the bus stop and as soon as we got off we noticed that we were in our first Chinese architectural area filled with history. We could see the large Buddha statue in the distance situated on a hill. To get there we had to go down a long pathway of statues of all the famous warriors. We then came to this large circle that was flying many different flags. To the north was a monastery, to the southwest was the Buddha, and to the northeast was a restaurant. We took a few pictures in at the base of the long staircase leading up to the Buddha and then we made our ascent. With every step we took, the statue grew larger and larger. Finally we were at the top and there were lots of people taking pictures, some praying, and the rest taking in the beautiful statue and the surrounding scenery. I snapped a few pictures, and then started traveling around the enormous statue, looking at the beautiful brown and oxidization the monument had taken over the years. I was amazed at the dedication to detail and to this figure and pondered just how many people died trying to construct it as well as the amount of time it must have taken to produce something so awe inspiring. After seeing the amazing Buddha the three of us went back to the bottom of the stairs and made our way to the monastery. On our way we saw that a lot of incense was being burned. Some of the incense was as large as a rocket and I could not believe that there was this much dedication to burn something so large. We were all a bit hungry so instead of going straight to the monastery we went to the restaurant nearby. We found out, because of the practice of Buddhism, that everything was vegetarian. I am sure my brother would have liked it very much. I actually really enjoyed the food and, for my first Chinese dish, thought it was comparable to what I am used to back in the United States. We finished up our lunch and then went into the monastery. The outside was decorated in a traditional Chinese way from the Ming and Qing dynasties with lots of columns covered in carvings of dragons. Each one was perfect and looked like it took a long time to make. Inside the monastery was another large Buddha, this one was gold (at least colored) with a couple of other statues sitting next to it. It was perched up on a pedestal in a glass case. All around it were beautiful decoration and lanterns to honor the Buddha. On the ceilings there was beautiful artwork that had not been restored in a long time. I found the place to be very relaxing even with a lot of tourists. We were all finished with seeing the monument so we made our way back to the bus station so we could catch the ferry and go back to Hong Kong Island to do some exploring before the night. We got back on the bus and then eventually on the ferry were we reached the island. There were so many businesses and skyscrapers in the area it was hard to take in. Brynn got a coffee because she was feeling a bit tired and then we went to the IFC mall that was across the street from the dock. When we got into the mall, which was absolutely enormous, we tried finding a pub so that we could just sit down and have a couple of beers before we were supposed to go back to the ship to meet Grace and Sarah to go to the top of Victoria’s Peak to see the skyline at night. Instead of finding a pub, we found a two-story Mac store, lots of high-end boutique shops, and a theater. It looked like everything in here was going to be very expensive so we left and tried to ask someone where we could find a pub to have a drink. This was a difficult because no one wanted to talk to us or couldn’t because of the language barrier. We instead found ourselves walking back to the dock where we went to the coffee shop because they sold beer there. We each got a drink and then sat down in the small park and enjoyed each other’s company for a little while. There was a group of women near us that were drinking wine and after a few drinks they were already drunk and laughing up a storm. I found this amusing and after our drinks we decided to take the ferry back to the ship so that we could meet our friends and go out for the night. When we got back to the ship, Grace and Sarah were nowhere to be found. We got back a little late and we have come to accept that plans on this voyage are never set in stone. So, the three of us changed and then went out to get something to eat for dinner. We tried finding a restaurant in the mall that we were at, but there was nothing that looked good or interesting to us. Instead we decided to head out in the city and see what we could find. We eventually found ourselves inside another mall heading straight for the food court. We actually found some really good food and it was cheap so I think we were all pretty happy. I got some shrimp and noodles and then some dumplings. I guess I was really hungry because I finished my food within five minutes and was wanting more. The food was great, especially the dumplings, something I would eat much more of as I the trip continued. After our great meal we went out to get to the top of Victoria’s Peak so we could try and see the light show on the bay and take in the night skyline. We got to the dock where the ferry was located and found a taxi that could take us to the tram station to the top of the peak. Once we got there we realized it was going to be very busy. It was like waiting in line at for a theme park ride. There were people everywhere and pushing and shoving was a must. I found out that the Chinese have no concept of personal space as the entire time we were trying to get up to the tram we were being pushed, shoved, cut in line, elbowed. Everything that would pop our tradition American bubble, the Chinese were great at. We were standing in this huge crowd waiting for the tram to pull into the station. We were somehow able to get right in front to be waiting for the tram. Then the two-car train pulled in and all of the sudden there were twenty people in front of us. We knew we were going to have to work hard in order to get a seat which meant that we were going to have to do a lot of pushing and shoving. I have a video recording of the chaos, but as soon as those doors opened it was a rush to get in. I pushed old women out of the way, cut in front of men, and finally got in and sat down. I knew it was going to be okay because this is what the culture is used to, especially with such a large population in such a small area. The tram went up to the top and was a surprisingly short ride. We got to the top and found that we were yet again inside another mall, but this one had more restaurants than others, there was even a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. inside. We had to go up six floors to get to the top and outside. Once we did there was a large blast of cold wind surrounding us. It was actually quite nice because we were finally escaping the heat and humidity going into a cooler and drier climate. We found Grace and Sarah at the top and looked out at the skyline. It was beautiful, lights were flickering, changing color and it covered the entire Hong Kong area. It was also very crowded up at the top, something that was expected so we didn’t stay long. Because we had to take the tram back down we decided to meet Grace and Sarah at a night market that was on the streets somewhat close to where our ship was docked. Evan, Brynn and I yet again waited in a long line and had to push and shove again to get onto the tram. Once we were back down at the bottom we went back to the ferry dock. I got a couple of beers from the 7-Eleven and saw my roommate with his friends sitting down pregaming before they went out for the night. I went back to the park with Brynn and Evan and drank a beer. I saved the other for the market and because there is no law about having an open container I was very excited, it reminded me a bit of Vegas. We got a taxi to the night market and the chaos of bargaining and shopping began. They had a lot of really interesting things there and I did some great bargaining, with the help of Evan of course. I got a really nice tea pot and cups, a hat, some paintings and a magnet for around $50 US. I was very proud of myself because in all of the other countries I was not that great at getting a good deal. I think that because of the experience with the other countries that I was able to get better deals than before, plus I think having a little liquid courage didn’t hurt  Anyway, it was getting pretty late so we had to spend our last Hong Kong dollars because Brynn and I were going to China the next day and they use a different currency. I was able to get my last gifts and then we met up with Grace and Sarah at the market. Brynn stayed with them and continued to shop while Evan and I returned to the ship because we were pretty tired. I was still a bit tipsy when we got back to the ship and was really hungry so I went back out onto the port to the McDonald’s because it was close. I got a Big Mac, and a chicken sandwich and had to wait a little while for my food to be made. There were a lot of crew members in the McDonalds when I was there and a couple of them were pretty drunk and trying to talk to me. They hassled me about this or that and I joked with them for a little while as I was waiting for my food. I was getting a bit uncomfortable talking with them, especially since one of them was my cabin steward. It is sort of like seeing your boss outside of work in a club or bar. Once I got my food I went outside to the railing in front of the ship and ate my food. I took in the beautiful surroundings and just stared at the ship. I thought about how much I was going to miss my new home and really am not going to want to leave it. It is going to be a very hard day to pack and say goodbye for the last time to a room that has become my own. It was the same for leaving my apartment back in Colorado and I expect no less for room 4159. I returned to the ship after my fast-food meal and went to my room to get some sleep. James still had not returned and wouldn’t until early in the morning, I assume he was having a good night. I needed to get some sleep because early in the morning I was going to be leaving for China! The next couple of posts will be about my amazing experience and journey through the ancient land. I am only able to post this right now because I am almost in Japan and will have to get some sleep in order to enjoy my last foreign country on this epic voyage. Until next time…
Mike

Posted by MVVincent 01:18 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

Gone from Saigon Part 2


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The next morning I woke up feeling quite refreshed and the depression was gone. I have found it interesting that every second day when I am in port it seems that I get depressed. The next day however, I feel much better. I think it is just a feeling of homesickness and not being able to share my amazing experiences with everyone back home. This is a part of the journey though and something I will need to face as a part of my career later in life. It has also opened my mind a lot and I have learned to appreciate so much with life. So anyway, as I was saying the next morning I went up for breakfast and met the girls in the dining hall. They were all getting prepared to go get some internet before we started the day so I agreed to meet them at Café Sailors and then we could go out on an adventure. I walked to the café and saw that there was nobody inside. I still had a couple of hours before I needed to meet Brynn for the rail pass so I decided to get a taxi to the piercing shop to see if I could get it in the morning. We drove there and yet again it was closed. I drove around for another 20 minutes with the taxi trying to find a shop but they were all closed. I was getting a bit frustrated so I went back to the ship to grab my things and then went out again to the café to see if I could get internet. The reason the girls were not there is because the wi-fi was not working, however, just outside the café there was free internet. I connected with my iPhone and logged into Skype. Success! My mom was online so I called her and talked to her for half an hour. I had her call my dad so I could also talk to him. I was there sitting on the sidewalk of the street for about 45 minutes just having a great time talking to my parents. I kept my eyes open for who was walking around me and keeping my bag close by. I thought that because I was so close to the ship that I would be safe, especially because there were guards around the street. Well, I was wrong. As I was talking to my mom, with my headphones in, a motorbike came up on the sidewalk and almost hit my feet. I scooted back and at the same time because I was almost hit, my hand went out. BIG MISTAKE. As soon as my hand went out the guy on the back of the motorbike grabbed my iPhone and they drove off, screeching the tires to get away in a hurry. I was standing up immediately as I felt my iPhone slip from my hands and into the others of the dirty, grungy man and it was such a rush that my mind went blank. I yelled out some harsh words and went straight to the guard nearby to tell him what happened. He of course could not understand me because of the language barrier and in frustration and anger I yelled at him and went straight for the ship. I had my camera with me at the time and didn’t even think to take a picture of the license plate so that I could track down the filthy thief. I walked through the port gate where Motortaxis were waiting to see where I was going. I yelled at them too and continued on my way as fast as I could to get to security on the ship. Once I got on and explained what happened I got the, “We told you not to do that,” line that is always mentioned. Of course they needed to make me feel guilty in this moment and the blood started boiling inside of me. I was furious. I filled out the ridiculous report that was required and frantically went to the Purser’s Desk to buy a calling card. I dialed my mom and explained what had just happened and that I needed her to call Verizon right away to cancel the card and wipe the phone clean. I could not think clearly, my mind was racing, heart was pumping, and above all my blood was still boiling. I paced back and forth calling my mom a couple of times to figure out what I needed to do. I had to have her do a lot for me in this crazy moment and I thank her so much for the help. My phone was hooked up to iCloud so I was able to wipe the memory and pray that none of my information was being used. I then sat there in the lobby waiting for Brynn. I could not calm down, I continued to pace and could not take it anymore. I went outside of the ship where I ran into Brynn and explained the incident. There was nothing any of us could do, my phone was gone and will never see it again. It is actually making me a bit upset right now writing about it because I am still so mad, mad at the stupid motorbike thieves but even more so mad at myself. I should have never let my guard down. I was so caught up in talking with family that I was not paying attention to the motorbikes that saw me sitting there, alone, on the sidewalk. What a perfect target. If I ever was that horrible of a person, I would do the same. Anyway, Brynn went onto the ship to get some of her things and I sat there outside on a bench running the incident over and over in my head. I have only been robbed twice in my life. The first time was when my car was broken into, luckily they did not take anything valuable. This time though, I lost a huge connection to the outside world. My computer is dying so I would always use my phone to check emails. I also lost all of my photos, videos, contacts, apps, and the best way to Skype. But there is nothing to do now but learn from the experience. Don’t be dumb when you are on the streets, always be aware of your surroundings, and be aware that everywhere in the world there is someone that is low enough to steal. It doesn’t matter who you are, if someone has the character to steal, they will. We started to head for the port gate where all of the motorbikes were and Brynn turned to me and said, “I know you are upset with motorbikes right now, but we really need to get going and this will be the cheapest and quickest way to go.” I was so blank at this time that I did not care what we did. We found a motorbike to take and the both of us hopped on and went to the Rex Hotel where we were supposed to meet Eleni to discuss plans for the day. When we got there, late, Eleni decided that she would get some lunch and meet us on the ship because we still needed to get our rail passes. We agreed and then got a taxi this time to take us to our destination. Once we got there, which was a gated tourism office, we waited in the lobby until lunch time was over so that we could get the one thing we needed for the day. That was something else I learned while in Vietnam, everyone at noon gets off work and goes to have lunch which means that almost all of the stores close for about one hour. We waited there in the lobby and I kept stressing about losing my phone, but eventually I was able to start thinking clearly and get it out of my mind. We went into the rail pass office and chose the package that we wanted so that we could have a great time in Japan. When it was time to pay I put my hand in my pockets looking for my credit card. My hand did not feel the usual bumps and I started to panic. I emptied every pocket, emptied my backpack out entirely, and found no card. I was about to scream. I was really panicking now. I ran through my mind everywhere I had been and at each place I remember having my card. I tried not to freak out, maybe I had left my card on the ship and someone turned it in for me. Luckily I was able to get my ticket paid for and get a rail pass. Brynn and I made it back to the ship and I went straight to the Purser’s Desk to see if a card had been turned in, but there was nothing there. I went to my room, turned it upside down and still found no card. I was now panicked and led to one conclusion, my card was now lost, possibly stolen. So, I had to make another call to my mom explaining that I now had two things she needed to cancel. The bank was not going to be open until it was the night for me so I had no option but to monitor the spending online and hope that the card was not stolen. My day was sucking right now and I was very upset with the world. I met Dave, Brynn and Eleni in the dining hall and was feeling down in the dumps. They still wanted to go out and I was starving but had no money. The ship was no longer serving meals so I had no option but to go out and find some lunch. Eleni, Brynn and I walked to a street close to the ship and found a place that was serving pho. We ate a good meal and then left to find an area where Eleni had seen a lot of people flying kites. We tried finding a taxi to this place but I was getting really overwhelmed and was about to break down again so I just went back to the ship. Once I got back on I went to sleep for about five hours. I woke up to a knock on my door. Dave was standing there and gave me a big hug to make me feel better. We both went to get dinner on the ship and I did some emailing on my computer as well as checking my bank accounts to see if anything was being charged. Nothing yet. I then went downstairs to change and asked Dave if I could borrow a little money to go buy something. Dave was not allowed off the ship and he also wanted me to buy him a special gift so he happily gave me a little cash and I went out for the night. The first destination for me was a piercing shop. I got in a taxi and found one right away. I walked inside and found a piece of jewelry that I liked a lot and told them where I wanted the piercing pointing to my eyebrow. They said okay and a couple of minutes later a woman walked in and started sterilizing everything. She pulled out a needle from an unopened package, sterilized the jewelry, sterilized the area on my eyebrow and then all of the sudden got another needle that was sterile. In this needle she filled a serum that would numb my eyebrow. I couldn’t feel anything but still thought I would feel a little pinch from the needle going through two parts of my face. I got ready and the piercing needle went in. I didn’t feel a thing. I was actually concerned she hadn’t started yet but the next thing I knew, a mirror was in my face and I was staring at a whole new Mike. There was a little blood coming down but she cleaned it up, I paid, tipped, and then took a taxi back to the ship. Once I got back to the port I started to feel the pain of the new piercing. There was a small market for bargaining outside the ship and that is where I bought Dave a clock he had been wanting. I walked onto the ship showing off my new face and then showed Dave his present and thanked him so much for paying for me to get that done. He was so happy and smiley that it really made my day much better. I cleaned up my face, washed my face, took a shower and then I went to bed after a very long day. I was just hoping that I was somehow going to find my card in the morning and be able to go out for the day.
When I woke up the next morning I got ready and met Grace and Sarah for breakfast to see what the plans were for the day. We had two options, go to a beach that we had heard about or go to the Mekong Delta. Our plan was to go to Bui Vien street where all of the backpackers go because there were a lot of tourism offices in the area. From there we would browse prices and choose a destination. Before we left for the day I checked with the Purser’s Desk to see if my card was there, but of course it was not. We all then left for the day and got a taxi to take us to the place because the legitimate taxis were actually the cheapest way to get around. Once we got to the backpackers street we went into a few tour offices to see what they could offer for us. We decided to go with one that would do a private tour for us for $40 to the Mekong Delta. This was the best priced and included the most activities. We then paid, well I couldn’t so Brynn had to cover me, and waited for our van to arrive with the tour guide. Once he was there we all set off to the Mekong Delta. We were all fairly tired and passed out on the ride there which was almost two hours. Once we got there our rushed tour began. We got onto a small motorboat that was going to take us to a few islands in the delta. We passed by a fishery and saw a lot of boats that were carrying sand from Vietnam to Singapore for construction. We then got to an island where we went to a small outdoor restaurant. We were served pineapple, jackfruit, and a couple others that were grown locally. The fruit was very good and to stay refreshed we each had a cup of jasmine tea. As we were eating our fruit we got a little entertainment from locals singers. I recorded a video of the singing but it is definitely not my favorite because the voices of the women were too high pitched for me. The last song they sang for us was “If you’re happy and you know it,” which I thought was hilarious. Try and imagine a group of high pitched women singing in English when they only know Vietnamese. I didn’t laugh of course during their performance, in fact I enjoyed it a lot because it helped me forget my last two days and focus on where I was in the world. After fruit and singing we left to get in a canoe and go through the canals of the island. This was an amazing experience. These canals were the roadways for the locals and it looked so simple and relaxing, minus the heat, that I found a sense of enlightenment from the trip. I took a lot of photos of the journey too so maybe you can see exactly what I am talking about. Once we got through the canals we came to this other area on the island that turned out to be a tourist trap. We got off the canoes and went into this small café where we got to hold a python. It was actually sad to hold it because it was kept in a small cage and was clearly not taken care of. It was also blind and looked like it might have been sick. I felt bad that I got a picture with it, but it will be there for me to remember the experience. After that we went over to the other side where bees were kept for honey. This was actually quite terrifying. Out of nowhere a shelf was lifted out of a box and bees were everywhere covering it and flying around us. I was just thankful that I was not allergic to bees because if I had been stung it would have been over for me. It was actually interesting to me that the guide didn’t even ask us if anyone was allergic, which if we were, would have posed as a serious health and financial problem. Anyway the next thing I knew Grace has a finger in the honey comb and was then eating fresh honey. Then it was Brynn’s turn and then Sarah’s. Once it came to me I was about to pee my pants because I was so scared. The man took my hand and forced it into the honeycomb where I felt the sticky substance flow out and around my finger. I could feel all the vibrations of the bees and how fuzzy they were and after that I felt at peace with the terrifying beasts. I tried the honey, which was warm and not very viscous, but very sweet and tasty. We then sat down and had a little promotion of the products from one of the waitresses who gave us a taste of bee pollen, tea and honey. I give Brynn the credit for naming the drink, “Mmm, Bee Sex.” It was actually very good and was funny to think that was sort of what we were drinking. We also got to try royal jelly, which could be used as a lotion or to eat. I used it as a lotion and saw no difference in my skin, but apparently the Vietnamese swear by it. Brynn bought some honey and then we were on our way to the next destination in the delta. We hopped on a motorized boat and went to another island. On the ride over we all got a freshly cracked coconut and a straw to drink the water inside. I don’t like coconut water very much and would rather have tried some dried coconut. This was a perfect segway to the next island because the first place we went to was a coconut candy factory. I was expecting this large industrial factory, pumping out candy in the thousands. Instead we went to this small open-air building that was making candy in very small quantities, probably not for international consumption. After visiting the candy factory we got onto a horse-drawn carriage to take us to a restaurant in the jungle. This was actually also very depressing because this tiny horse, I would have called it a pony, was carrying around six people on this small wagon. It did not look sick or unhealthy but it was struggling to take us around the small town on the island. Once we got to the restaurant we saw that we were going to have our own private cabana to eat in peace for a little while right on the river. We were brought a menu which was the craziest thing I have ever seen. They were only serving a few things and it looked like we were going to get the whole animal, no matter what we ordered. There was elephant-ear fish, squirrel, alligator, rooster, rabbit, etc. It was a very interesting place to eat at. We all decided to order the elephant-ear fish because we were recommended by the guide that this was the famous dish in the region. A few minutes later a huge fried fish came out on a couple of stakes and was set in front of us. It was the entire fish and the waiter began to tear it apart for us and make us spring rolls. We each tried one and I think only Grace and Brynn really enjoyed it. It was a bit fishy tasting to me and I felt strange eating something that was glaring at me with its sharp teeth sticking out. While Grace and Brynn ate Sarah and I began to play with the fish, taking funny pictures and dissecting it to see what we would find. After completely destroying the dish we all sat back and took in the scenery and humidity of Vietnam. We sat for a while talking about random things and then our tour guide came to us saying it was time to leave. We got ready and got on a boat to take us back to the main area where we were dropped off from the van. Once we got on our way back to Ho Chi Minh City I fell asleep once again. We finally got back to the city and took a taxi back to the ship. We all got some rest and something to eat and then set back out so that we could get my suit and their dresses. We arrived to the tailor shop a little late but once we got there I was handed a bag and I went into the dressing room to try on the newly fabricated suit. I walked out and noticed it was not exactly the same material I had selected but it was still my size. The shoulders came out a very little and the pants at the waist were a little big, other than that I was a sexy looking beast. As I was getting suggestions for adjustment the woman came up to me and told me that this was actually not my suit. I was wearing another students suit, another Mike that happened to be very similar in size. They then explained to me that my suit had not been made yet which really made me mad because this was the only day that I could pick it up because I had a full day trip the next day. They then rushed it and were going to try and have it ready for me by the end of the night. The girls’ dresses were also not finished so we all left there very frustrated because we set a deadline for a reason and had already paid for the service. From there we went to the market where we got some delicious food. I got shrimp and spring rolls and a couple of beers. I was quite satisfied. From there we all went to do some shopping and bargaining. I bought a couple of ties and some movies for a very cheap price. Once 9pm rolled around Sarah and I went back to the tailor to pick up our suit. My jacket was ready and fit very well but my pants were still not finished. The girls’ dresses were also not finished and we somehow worked out an arrangement to pick them up the next day. I was looking very handsome in my suit jacket, but I was upset that Dave’s suit was completely finished and mine was not when I ordered mine hours before him. Oh well, we can’t all have what we want. After going to the tailor shop for a second time we went back to shopping. Brynn had to buy 9 backpacks for her friends back home so I went with her to keep her company and help her bargain, which turned out to be a difficult task. Once we got all of the backpacks, Eleni, Brynn and I went back to the ship for some much needed sleep because we had trips early in the morning and needed to be ready for those. When I got to my room I tried on my suit and showed Dave who also tried on his. We took a picture together and then I went straight to bed because I was so exhausted from the day.
For my last day in Vietnam I had a field trip for one of my classes to go to a university and meet with students that were learning English. Once we got there we were walked up to a classroom where students were waiting eagerly to meet us. We all paired up and I met a student named Hiêú. He was 20 years old and was studying international relations and music. He had been learning English since he was six and most of it was self-taught. I thought this was amazing and helped him with any questions he had for me. One of the first questions he asked was if I like Heavy Metal and Rock music because of my piercings. I replied that I like all music but my favorite is considered Indie. He had never heard of that so I tried to explain to him my favorite artists, none of which he had heard of. We exchanged more questions and answers and then after a presentation from a university official we went out to lunch. We went to a buffet style restaurant where Hiêú helped my pick out most of my food because I did not know what I would be eating. I tried some spring rolls, raw bacon, sesame crackers, noodles, snails and for desert fish eggs! It was actually all very good and a different meal than what I had been eating the previous few days. Once lunch was over I wrote down my blog address, to which I hope he reads, and also my email and Facebook account to that we could stay in touch. I also gave him a list of my favorite artists so that he could go check them out and let me know what he thought of them. His favorite artists were Madonna and Adele so this will be an interesting change of music for him. I wasn’t feeling well after lunch because I was starting to get a migraine so I said goodbye to Hiêú who helped me get a taxi and then went back to the ship and slept for the majority of the day. That night the ship was having a BBQ so I met up with Dave and went to get some good ribs and burgers before I went to bed for the last time. My roommate got back from his trip with his parents and we shared some stories and I gave him a present of every season of Dexter because he has been a huge fan of it and hasn’t seen the entire series. It was a cheap gift and I love giving things to people so I was happy that he could get that. I watched some National Geographic because I bought 80 movies in a box set and then I went to bed.
Vietnam was a very interesting country and I may possibly return at some point in the future, probably to track down my phone  I think the country has come a long way since the war and is still progressing both economically and politically as it enters into the world market. I do feel pity for the country because of how many wars it has been through and its long history of inequality and turmoil. I hope the best for the country, but not the best for the two that stole from me, I actually am a bit mean when I say this, but I hope the worst possible thing comes to them, which in my opinion would be a lifetime of migraines. As I set sail for China, a country I have been more than excited for, I contemplated how much I have learned from this trip and how much I have changed and will change when I get back home. I hope everything is going well back in the States. I have been very exhausted from these Asian countries and will be trying to keep up with the blogs. Luckily I have 11 days at sea after Japan so I will have more complete and detailed descriptions of my journey in China and Japan. I love you all and wish you the best!
Mike

Posted by MVVincent 23:02 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Gone from Saigon Part 1

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So here we go again, another blog entry to describe the adventures of traveling the world. This time it is coming from the communist country of Vietnam. I have a lot of emotions about this country, both good and bad. The country has been through a lot of turmoil and I have a lot of thinking to do until I can form my real opinion on this country. I can say however, that I unfortunately found my least favorite port on this voyage, which also means my least favorite country in the world so far. I do not expect to have these feelings in my upcoming ports, but only time will tell how I will feel in the future.
The first day in Vietnam was very hot and humid. I walked outside with Dave on the deck and instantly felt suffocated from the air around me. Dave was told to go out onto the deck and look below because there was a surprise for him. He squinted his eyes and kept going back and forth between the people standing behind the red and white fence. He then yelled out “TOM!” and then out of the right a man with a white shirt and white fedora started waving his hand. It was his older brother who Dave had just missed in Singapore. Tom was on vacation with his family in Thailand and decided to take a day off to come and visit his brother because he too traveled on Semester at Sea back in 1994. Dave was ecstatic and instantly rushed to his room to get his camera and get ready to go off the ship. I had originally planned on traveling with Brynn and Dave for the first day in Vietnam, but now that Dave’s brother was there, the plans had changed…or so I thought. Once we were cleared off the ship, Brynn, Eleni and I walked through the gates and found Dave and Tom waiting for us. Dave was so happy, he had a huge smile on his face and was pleased to introduce us to his brother. Tom was a little shorter than Dave but 14 years older, and a very, very nice man. For the day they both wanted to travel with us, which made me happy. We decided that we would just go around Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and see the museum and so some shopping. Our first destination was the War Remnants Museum where on the outside were many aircraft and tanks used by American soldiers during the war. It was a weird feeling to see all of these American pieces posed outside with descriptions by the Vietnamese. As soon as we went into the museum a strange feeling of hatred was in the air. On the first floor were posters everywhere describing the world supporting Vietnam in its resistance against American forces. It was interesting to see another side of the story and as I made my way up to the second floor I could see that this museum was built to memorialize the past and to bring peace for all nations in the future, America included. The second floor was very powerful. I saw many artifacts and pictures from the war that have never been published. Almost every picture was disturbing in its own right. I snapped a couple of pictures of the pictures that left a strong impression on me. I cannot post these pictures as I think they are too graphic for any eyes on this blog. I walked around reading the descriptions of the war from the Vietnamese’s point of view and got a better understanding of the conflict. It devastated both sides and I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who fought during this horrific event. I continued to walk through the many rooms of the museum looking at graphic images and parts of the war. I began to feel really queasy and uneasy so I needed to sit down. We were all at the museum going at our own pace so I had to wait for a while for everyone to be finished. I think it affected all of us in a unique way, leaving us with something we can never forget. I went outside and looked at some more parts of the museum and to get some fresh air. They had a small gift shop on the side so I went there to buy my flag since I have been collecting them along the way for each country that I visit. As everyone finished up the museum closed for a lunch hour, something I found to be very prominent in Vietnam. Because all of the locals were getting lunch we all decided to join. We found ourselves at this little café in a whole in the wall, literally. It was a great place to eat though, we had some decent beer and a good portion of noodles to hold us over for a little while. After lunch we walked to the Ben Tanh market were Dave and I found a tailor shop. I walked inside and found myself buying a two-piece suit for $120 dollars, much cheaper than if I had a tailored suit in the United States. I chose my style and got it done in black cashmere. It would be a few days until my suit was finished but I was so excited that I had just ordered my first! After getting the arrangements for the suit figured out we all went to do some market shopping in a very large and crowded building filled with booths to sell us clothing, fabric, food, and souvenirs. It would take a couple of days to go through the entire market and there were so many routes that one could get lost if they did not keep their eye open. I ended up buying some nice souvenirs from the market and got some coffee for my parents. I also bought some shorts and t-shirts because they were so cheap. After doing some shopping in the market I found Dave and Tom sitting at one of the food stations drinking some beer. I joined them and got my label, another thing that I have been collecting in each of the ports. By the time we had left the market I had my limit of beer for the day so we all went out to eat at Pho 24. Pho by the way is pronounced (Fa/Fu), so a joke that is common in American Vietnamese places is having a restaurant called Pho King which translates to a very bad word. I think it is hilarious because everyone says it wrong and they have no idea. Anyway I got another delicious noodle meal and was having a great time with Brynn, Eleni, Dave and Tom. After dinner we all wanted to get a foot pedicure where little fish eat away the dead skin. Unfortunately we walked around for a long time trying to find this place and not a single person knew what we were talking about. We were all starting to get frustrated so we went to get ice cream at a Baskin Robbins. It was actually better than the United States and I think we all had a great time going there. After some delicious dessert we kept walking to find a foot massage place. Eventually we gave up on finding the fish and settled for a regular foot massage. We were at this nice massage parlor where all five of us were right next to each other getting our feet tampered with. It did not feel that great until we left the parlor and I felt like I was walking on clouds. Tom was very kind and bought the massages for all of us. After getting pampered, Tom went back to his hotel to change and we went back to the ship to get ready for the night. Tom had heard of a bar called Apocalypse Now that was based on the movie with Martin Short. I thought it would pretty cool to go there and so did everyone else. Once 10pm rolled around we made our way to the bar, which turned out to be harder than we thought. The taxi cab that we thought was taking us there ripped us off and dropped us off at some other club. We had to go into a hotel and ask the concierge where we could find the club. Luckily they were nice enough to give us a map and point us in the right direction. We eventually made it to the club where many security guards and cops were waiting and making sure everything was safe inside and out. Once we got inside we found a lot of locals playing billiards and drinking. I ordered a couple of beers and started to chat with Brynn and Eleni. Dave seemed to be caught up with others and was talking with his brother so the three of us let him be. Before we knew it, three shots of tequila turned up on our table. We looked around and saw Tom smiling and telling us to drink them. He was still interested in being with us because we left a lasting impression earlier on in the day so he bought us some drinks. I got to teach Brynn and Eleni how to take a tequila shot which was really fun but I needed to slow down so that I could enjoy our entire night. After a while more and more SAS students turned up at the bar and the club began to get going. The dance floor was crammed, everyone was drinking, and fun was going all around. Before I knew it 1am was rolling around so I wanted to go back to the ship. I convinced Brynn and Eleni to leave with me and Dave and Tom went on to another bar so that they could have some brother time. The three of us made it back to the ship safely and went to bed awaiting for adventures the next day.
Well the next day I met Brynn, Grace, Sarah and Eleni in our usual spot on the ship. Before I did that I tried calling Dave in his room to wake him up except there was no answer. I thought he may have gone to get breakfast so I went up there to check. He wasn’t there. I called his room again and knocked but there was still no answer. I assumed that he probably just stayed with his brother at the hotel so we were about to go on with our day. Then out of nowhere we saw Tom walking on the ship. We stopped and asked him how he got on and then we found out where Dave was. It turns out that he had a pretty bad night after the bar, something I am not entitled to give information about, but we were all very worried for him and I thought I was going to lose one of the best friends I have made. The five of us tried not to worry so much about him and kept on with our day. Everyone wanted to go and get dresses made and I had to return to the tailor from the previous day to get fitted for my suit, so that is where we went to first. I was a little late for my fitting because I we got a little bit lost on our way there because we were walking, which turned out to be fairly close to the ship, it is just a bit difficult to navigate when all of the signs are in Vietnamese. I got part of my jacket to try and be sure it fit and after some uncomfortable touching I was ready for my suit to be made and picked up in two days time. The girls all looked at some fabric and got some pricing for what it would cost to get a dress made for the each of them and, because they were still browsing, we went to a place that had wi-fi and served Pho for lunch, which was delicious. I love noodles, and Asia has been treating me fairly well with providing wonderful carbs. After a tasty lunch we went across the street to the market again and had a good time searching for things we probably didn’t need. The girls got some backpacks and I just got a couple of souvenirs from the market. We were all getting a little bit tired of the hassling from the traders so we decided to leave and find another dress shop for the girls. I wanted to treat myself to another piercing and I had looked up online a place that we could go to. We walked for a little bit to try and find the parlor, but once we got there we found a man sleeping on the bench awaiting customers. I actually had to make quite the effort to wake him up but once I did I asked if he could do the piercing I was wanting, which he responded “No.” I think we were all tired of walking around so we went back to a few more shops that made dresses but had no luck on finding a good price. Finally the girls decided to go back to the tailor I was having my suit made at and have their dresses described and ready to be made. We left the tailor shop to catch the shuttle back to the ship because all of our feet were hurting. We walked to the Rex Hotel where the shuttle was supposed to pick us up and waited for about half an hour before it came. Because we were waiting for so long I went to the park that was across the street and snapped a couple of pictures of Ho Chi Minh and the surrounding nature. The bus finally came and we set off on a return to home. Once there we tried to get some more details on Dave’s condition but could not get any good information other than he was safe. We were all relieved to hear this so we went to our rooms, showered and changed and then got ready to go out for some dinner and possibly find another piercing place so that I could get what I wanted. We walked for a really long time and it was starting to get dark and the other place I had looked up online was becoming a lot more difficult than anticipated. We all saw a pizza shop on our way to walk so we went there to get some dinner. We each ordered a different pizza because it came in 4 slices so that we could all share. Once the pizza came out, we each exchanged a slice and then dug in. It was some of the best pizza I had in a long time, or at least it seemed that way because I have been having ethnic food and ship food for a little over two months. I think we all were enjoying the pizza quite well. Then as we were eating, Brynn noticed that the waitress kept staring at us. They had thought it was because we were white but I looked around and noticed that everyone was eating the pizza with a fork and knife…we were eating it the American way with our hands. It clicked, the waitress was staring at us because we were eating a traditional food a lot differently and it had been something they had never seen. We kept eating with our hands and just shrugged our shoulders, we are the leaders of pizza and this is how we have come to enjoy it. After a little while we noticed that the table next to us started to eat pizza with their hands too. They noticed we were American and were inspired to adapt our culture in with their food, which I thought was really interesting. After eating an amazing meal we hired a taxi to take us to the place for my piercing when we drove by and saw that it was closed. I was a bit upset but I think that we were all so tired it was okay to return back to the ship. We had a long day of shopping and exploring that it was time to get some rest. When we got back to the ship we each got our laptops and went to an internet café called Café Sailors right outside the port gate because it had free wi-fi. Sarah, Grace and Brynn each had some work to do on the internet and I was just trying to get in touch with someone back home. Nobody was online though so I left early and went back to the ship to get some sleep. Brynn and I had planned that the next day we would go out to get our Japan rail passes because we needed them to travel everywhere we are wanting to go in Japan. The entire day I was having my usual overwhelming sense of depression. It was really hard for me to see a lot of kids meet their parents and family, crying and smiling, just so happy to be with someone from back home. I was left out, I felt so alone in this world, and it made it even more difficult that I was actually traveling the globe. The depression lasted with me for the entire day, but was heightened when I got to my room and saw that James had left some bags on his bed of things that his parents had brought for him. I was feeling like I was in a dark hole trying to find my way out. I immediately called my mom from the ship just so that I could hear her voice, something that I thought would help so much. I told her that I missed her and my family so much and really wished they were here with me, or that I was at home with them. I really did not want to be where I was, by myself. I could only talk so long with my mom so as soon as I hung up the phone I began to cry. I put my head on my pillow and began to let it all out, soaking the sheets underneath. Where was my mom? My dad? My brothers? My family? My friends? My cat? “Why am I so alone in this world?” I thought. I cried more and more until no more tears could come out. I washed my face of the snot and dried tears and just stared in the mirror. At that moment I wanted to break the mirror, take a sliver of glass, and let myself bleed out. I wanted nothing more than death at that moment. I cried more and broke down in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor cradling my knees. For a good hour I just sat there on the cold tile and let the depression drain out of me. Once it was all over I got up, started thinking about the things that were great in my wonderful life and went back to my bed. I put in my headphones and began to mediate on what is great and so fascinating about life. I then drifted into a deep sleep.

Posted by MVVincent 22:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Sing in Singapore

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So this blog entry is considerably shorter than the other ones I am writing about and that is because I was only in Singapore for one day so I don’t have a lot to talk about, unfortunately. Anyway just as a note, I will not be posting blogs as soon as I can because I only have 3 ports left and they are all really close together. So, because of this, expect blogs for Vietnam, China and Japan probably after I visit Japan so mid-April. Sorry about this, but in order to keep up with sleep and schoolwork this is my only option. Also expect pictures when I am in Hong Kong because I should have adequate internet and be able to post lots of pictures from all of my previous ports. Now, on to Singapore!
I woke up in the morning feeling great and ready to take on my short day in Singapore. We all had to collect our passports and then when we were off the ship had to go through a very long customs and immigrations process. I decided to go traveling in the morning with Brynn, Eleni, and Ana-Sophia. Once we got through customs we saw that we were in a very large shopping mall. I stopped at the ATM and we made our way to the monorail to take us to Sentosa island, there we were going to check out the aquarium. We made our way through part of the mall and came outside and the first thing I saw, and for the first time on this trip, was a Starbucks! We had to stop for Brynn because she was starting to feel sick from not eating breakfast so I decided to get a Venti White Chocolate Mocha Frappacinno. This was the first time in three months that I had such a drink and was actually just as satisfied as if I had ordered in Colorado. The Starbucks was adjacent to the Harbor Front Shopping Mall and inside the Vivo Shopping mall. This mall was even larger, actually the largest mall I have been in, and was full of a lot of boutique shops ranging from Gucci to National Geographic. I of course had to check out the NatGeo store because I had never seen one and was so happy that I almost bought a t-shirt from there, but as I found out about the rest of the mall, was too expensive. We browsed a little in this huge shopping mecca, but then found ourselves at the ticket station for the monorail. I bought the ticket and headed for the station stop where I was greeted with a very high-tech device where you just pressed your ticket to a button and the terminal would open for you. I think we were all so amazed by this because we were so used to laser scanners or a ticket puncher when we were taking public transportation. We boarded the monorail and made our way to Sentosa Island. This island had a few casinos, lots of resorts, Universal Studios and the aquarium situated on it. We passed by Universal Studios and could only see a few roller coasters and I was not that impressed. We came to the final stop where we had to board the free bus to the aquarium. I really felt like I was in Orlando and for good reason, this place had a claim to fame as the “play center of Asia” and it certainly was living up to its claim. Everyone we encountered was very helpful and could speak English, mostly because of colonialism. A lot of the signs that I noticed were in four languages, English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese Mandarin. I could see that there was a lot of immigration to Singapore for work, but that there was also a heavy reliance on tourism as part of the economy. We finally got to the aquarium where I think we were all quite unimpressed. We had all been to many aquariums, and this one turned out to be mediocre compared to the New Orleans aquarium or even the one I visited in Cape Town. The aquarium did have a couple of really interesting exhibits though and I thought that raised my first impression a little. I got to see the embryos of bamboo sharks at each stage of life and was fascinated at seeing life and little movement in the egg sacs that were contained in this small tank. I also got to see the largest fish in the world, something I should have seen in the Amazon. However, if I had seen this in the Amazon I am pretty sure that I would have been lunch. This fish, which I have a magnet of, is absolutely gigantic, the size of most sharks. I also got to see a nautilus which I thought was amazing. I had never seen this creature before but once I saw the small shelled being it seemed almost surreal. The coolest part of the aquarium was a rotating walkway that brought you through the shark tunnels. I took a couple videos documenting the experience, but once we were through the tunnel we were at the end of the aquarium. I would definitely not go back and pay the $26 Singapore dollars to see the aquarium and when I left was a bit confused on how this place could be world renowned.
Once we left the aquarium, Ana-Sophia and I went back to the shopping mall to meet up with Dave. He had been on a historical trip going around the city and was meeting us back at the mall so that we could go get some drinks and dinner and see anything that was not a part of the tour he was on. We left the mall, this time on the MRT, the subway for Singapore. Here was a very clean subway station and form of transportation and I really felt safe using it, plus it was nice and cheap and was a fast way to get from place to place. The first stop for us was at Clark Quay (pronounced key). There we found a large tourism area filled with lots of restaurants and bars. We ended up at the Pump Room to the recommendation of Dave’s brother. There we all ordered the beer sampler because they had their own brewery and it was also happy hour. I got to try some fantastic beer, although I still don’t like an IPA so I had to give that to Dave. Once we all tried our beer I got to try the national drink, the Singapore Sling which is a fruit cocktail with gin and rum. I didn’t like the drink too much and probably would choose beer over that any day. If they had a Long Island Ice Tea though I probably would have been in heaven. We ran into my professor that I traveled with in India and his wife and daughters and it was sort of funny for them to see all of this beer in front of us, especially after having a talk about drinking with him in India. He just laughed because they had just left a wine bar and I think were probably a little tipsy and really enjoying themselves. After finishing up at the Pump Room, the three of us left in a taxi to the Newton Hawker Center. This was an area with many restaurants and looked a lot like a food court. You could pick up a little food from each of the places and then sit in the center and enjoy Singapore. When we first walked in I was greeted by a man with red-pink hair who asked if I liked seafood. I am of course in love with shrimp and crab so I nodded my head and he showed us to our seats where Dave and Ana-Sophia were able to order a typical chicken dish. I ordered a nice cold Tiger beer and then got the chili crab, a national dish, and then some tiger prawns. As soon as I took my first bite I was living the dream. I can honestly say that I have not had crab that good in my life, and will be getting the recipe so that I can make the dish when I get home. The tiger prawns were also to die for and were smothered in garlic and chili sauce. I think there a quite a few pictures showing the excitement and pleasure on my face when I am eating these dishes.
Unfortunately we had to be back on the ship relatively early so the three of us hired a taxi to take us back to the ship. We finished up our shopping for small gifts at the mall and then went back through the line of customs to get back on the ship. As I stood on the deck of the ship saying goodbye to Singapore my reflection of the country began. I was in a very modern city, more modern than any I have been to before. The city and country itself has many regulations such as no chewing gum, no spitting, and no jaywalking, but I felt very comfortable and was not worried that the police were going to be after me for everything I did, although I obeyed the law so that was probably why. I also noticed that Singapore is a very clean city and a very, very rich city. There is a fee to own your own car so most of the vehicles I saw were BMW’s, Audi’s, Mercedes-Benz’s, and Jaguars. I also rode around in the nicest taxis, they were the new Hyundai Sonata and were decked out in every modern technology that comes with cars. I was very pleased to have visited Singapore but it was much different from any port, really any city that I have ever visited. I saw a lot of business potential there, but not a business for me. I could not see a lot of potential for eco or service tourism because there was not a lot of ecology and there was not a lot of poverty. I think the Singapore government is doing a fair job at maintaining labor regulations and keeping its citizens safe and wealthy. I do not find myself working here in the future, but I could see a visit with family or friends at some point in the future, but not until I make a lot of money because of how expensive the country is.
I am now in transit to Vietnam and will arrive there they day after next. I have been watching a lot of war movies and think it will be interesting to see how American travelers are perceived after only 40 years of chaos. I plan to have a suit made because of how cheap the country is supposed to be and I also plan on visiting a lot of the war memorials and sites that are situated in the country. Look forward to my blog post on Vietnam and know that for now I am very happy and honestly having the experience of my lifetime. I love and think about you all so much and am waiting to see your smiling faces when I get back on May 2nd!
Mike

Posted by MVVincent 08:33 Archived in Singapore Comments (2)

India Part Two


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I sat down at the table and opened my menu. At that moment everything was blurry. The words would then grow larger, smaller, larger, smaller, I was feeling very dizzy. I stood up from the table and made my way outside to get some fresh air. By the time I got outside I could feel my stomach churning and knew a storm was about to break loose. I ran to some cars where I thought no one could see me, bent over, and started to heave. Nothing came up. I tried to force it, but the more I did the worse I felt. I stood up straight, took some deep breaths, and looked around. There was a couple walking to the restaurant and the tuk tuk drivers farther down having a conversation. I started to feel better and thought that it may have just been gas. I walked back into the restaurant and as soon as I set foot into the entrance the feeling came back, but this time in full blast. I clenched my stomach and ran to the waitress asking for the toilet. She pointed to the back, through the kitchen, and I ran. I felt it coming up, covered my mouth, but before I could keep it back my mouth was full and dripping vomit on the floor in front of the bathroom. I threw the door open and aimed as much as I could for the toilet. It was everywhere. I did not even have time to shut the door behind me but thankfully someone was kind enough to do me the pleasure of giving me some privacy. I heaved more and saw my lunch and beer coming up. I was shaking from the knees and started to water at the eyes. It was so painful, something I had not experienced before, ever. When I was done I looked around for some tissues or toilet paper, there was none. I saw that there was a sink, bucket, and a pitcher. It was like at the hotel again. I had no choice but to clean up with the Indian water from the sink. I splashed cold water on my head and tried to clean the snot and vomit that was hanging from my chin. I took the inside of my shirt to wipe my face dry and clean up anything I had missed. Then I looked at the toilet. There was vomit everywhere, on the floor, on the rim, in the toilet, on the wall. I really did not do a great job aiming. But I filled the pitcher with water and rinsed the floor, toilet, and wall so that everything would flow to the floor drain. I then flushed a couple times and took a deep breath before making my way back to the table. I opened the door and noticed a girl waiting to use the toilet, I was embarrassed that she had to go in there after this episode, but I think she could see on my face that I was sick. I got back to the table and explained to the Swiss couple that I was extremely sorry but that I had to cut our meeting short. I told Jessica to wait and eat her food but that I would be waiting outside for her when she was ready. I felt the same feeling coming back so this time I made it quickly to the bathroom, the difference this time was that I made it to the toilet and did not make a big mess. I cleaned my face again, used the sanitizer I had in my pocket, and then made my way outside. I found a small set of bricks to sit on and sunk my head in my lap. My tuk tuk driver noticed me and kept bugging me about drugs to sell and to go see this store that was next to the restaurant. I told him “No! I am very sick, leave me alone.” This was the first time I was mean to my guests and after saying it in such an unpleasant manner I apologized. But as soon as I did he would bug me about the store. I was starting to get really fed up so walked in the store, looked in each direction and then immediately turned around and made my way to an alley so I could vomit again. I stood there heaving praying that I would be back at the ship soon. When I was done and walked out of the alley Jessica was there waiting for me so I hopped into the tuk tuk and told him to drive. Before I could even sit back I had to puke again. I leaned over the side of the vehicle puking up froth and foam as Jessica rubbed my back very softly. Then Rias pushed her hand aside and began to forcefully rub my back as though he was helping. I was still able to laugh when I was sick and when I was done vomiting, I sat back in the tuk tuk and closed my eyes. I began to think about my fluids being a part of the Indian soil and that this would be quite the memory. We got back to the ship and before I could make it to the gate on the ship I went behind a truck to puke again, again a lot of froth. I stood up and went as fast as I could through the check-in and to my room. I got to my room and got sick yet again. I started to notice blood in my vomit, this has happened before so I thought nothing of it. I sat down in my bed and started to cry because of how much pain I was in. Within twenty minutes I again got sick, this time there was more blood so I started to worry. I was shaking uncontrollably, cold, sweating, pale, and vomiting out both ends now. I quickly went to the front desk on the ship and told them that it was an emergency to see the doctor. They called him up quickly and gave the phone to me to describe what I was feeling, he then told me to meet him in the clinic within 15 minutes. I ran down the stairs and waited outside the clinic door with my head in my lap, still shaking. My abdomen area hurt immensely, a pain that I had never experienced before, on top of that I had diarrhea. The doctor met me and showed me to the room where I sat there with a doggy bag in my lap. He began to ask questions to get a better understanding of the situation but before he could get to the third question I began to puke. He could see that this was a serious situation and told the nurse that I needed a shot. She came inside the room, got the needle with whatever medicine it was, and punctured my arm. I was in so much pain already that I did not even feel the shot. I then had to leave to the bathroom a couple times because of diarrhea but I did not puke anymore. I came back and sat back on the hospital bed as he began to write me prescriptions and got an idea of what I had. He gave me three medicines and a Gatorade so that I would start absorbing fluids. He then signed me off and helped my back to my room. If I was not well by the next morning I was going to return. That night I did not get much sleep, although I tried as hard as I could to get some. I vomited twice more before finally getting to sleep. I look back on it now and realize that I may have been poisoned. When I went into one of the stores I left one of my drinks unattended and it is very possible that Rias slipped something into my drink for his own intentions. I later found out that the next day Rias tried sex-trafficking Jessica and her friends and they had to get away from him and back to the ship on their own. I am now very cautious with all of my drinks and am really ashamed that I let my guard down, I should not have taken this tuk tuk driver in the first place and I was lucky enough to live and tell you all this experience.
The next morning I woke up to a phone call from Brynn who had returned from her trip. We agreed to get a couple more hours of sleep before going out so I went back to bed. My head was very heavy and I felt very dehydrated. I drank lots of water and Gatorade when I woke up again, although it was only in sips because I ripped open blood vessels (explains the blood in my vomit) and it hurt to drink. I took a shower, changed and met Dave and Brynn in our usual area to go out for the day. I was not feeling great and told them about my eventful evening. They felt very bad for me and understood if I was going to have to leave early from our travels to return to the ship. We walked out to the water ferry and went to Jew Town to do a little shopping. I walked around as much as I could but only bought a couple of shirts at a store. I was started to feel dizzy again so I went and bought a bottle of water and went by myself back to the ship. When I got back on I was starting to feel better but I could feel a migraine coming on so I went to bed. I woke up that night for dinner and tried to replenish my body from the night before, but could not eat much. I then returned back to my room and went to sleep. Around 8pm my roommate walked in the room. I woke up and was very confused because I thought he was supposed to be back the next day. I thought I was dreaming, so much so that I had to ask James, “Is this a dream?” He assured me that it wasn’t, he was just back early because he had a planned trip the next day with faculty. I smiled and chuckled and then sat up and asked him about his trip. I told him about my endeavors and that I was sick which explained why I was in bed. I then showed him some of the gifts I bought, he showed me his, and I went back to bed. While the day was uneventful, it was a great day of rest to rejuvenate my body.
The next morning I woke up with the same heavy feeling in my head, but once I got up and walked around the feeling went away. I got ready for the day and met up with the two Brynn’s, Grace, Sarah and Lizzie. We went out onto the dock and hired two tuk tuk drivers to take us around, neither of which tried to sell us drugs. Sabu was my driver and I explained to him that I wanted to find a flag so he helped all of us find a store that sold flags so that we could finish our shopping. They took us into Fort Kochi and the first area we went to was a laundry washing facility. This was a place where almost everyone in the community came to do their laundry. It looked like a car wash to me, there were about 30 stalls with hoses and the people would have their large bags of laundry with them to wash. They would hit it against the boards and ring out the water to wash their clothes. Then there was an area for the clothes to hang on wires outside to dry, and then an area for them to fold and iron the laundry. I talked to Sabu and he explained that everyone would come to the facility about once a week with all of their laundry. I snapped a lot of pictures and then went back to the tuk tuk so Sabu could take us to the Chinese fishing nets. When we got there we could see about twenty fishing nets perked up and going out into the dock. Some of the workers invited us up onto the nets and asked for some help. Brynn, Sarah and Grace got to do the first round. They would pull on these nylon ropes that would levy down a bunch of stones, in the water the nets would come up with leaves and fish in them. They caught a tiger fish and a small catfish, I snapped a couple pictures and then got ready for my turn. I was in the middle with Brynn and Lizzie to my left and right respectively. When we got the signal we all started to pull. It was not as difficult as I thought, I pulled and pulled and eventually the stones hit the dock and the net was up. I let go and we went to see what we caught. Nothing. There was not much luck for us, but I talked to Brynn, a marine biology major, who explained that there is a lot of overfishing in the area and what they were doing was not beneficial to the marine life. I was not that upset I did not catch a fish, it was still a great experience. We talked for a little more and took a few more pictures and then made our way to the fish market that was farther out on the docks. We passed by crabs, prawns, and lots of fish, Brynn even got really mad because they were so happy to catch sharks but they were premature babies and could not even reproduce. In this area it was clear that the fishing village was suffering because of the overfishing. All of the fish was lying out in the sun and there was a pungent aroma in the air. We stopped at one shop where we were told we could buy our own fish and prawns and then take it to a restaurant to cook. Everyone was so excited to try this but I was not as sure mainly because of my stomach from the earlier night, I was still wary of the food and what I should eat. After leaving the market the drivers took us to a couple of shops where the girls could buy a necklace they were searching for. I found at one of the shops a hat that is traditional in weddings and it fit so well that I bought it, I will have to show you some pictures when I get home. After these few shops the drivers took us around to the shops I had been to with Rias so that they could get a commission. I was so upset about the prices still that I did not buy anything and really refrained from making much conversation to the merchants so that I would not be pressured into buying things. The drivers took us to a beautiful cathedral that was in the center of Fort Kochi. The inside had paintings all done by one Italian artist and had not been restored since 1902. It was great to see artwork travel through the ages and interesting to see the impact of Christianity in a Hindu nation. After the cathedral we went to a couple of temples that we were not allowed in because we were not Hindu but we could see that there was a lot of care for these temples and dedication in the worship that took place there. We were all starting to get hungry so the drivers took us back to the market where the girls bought some prawns and fish to cook up for lunch. We then went to a nearby restaurant where they got their meals prepared and I could get a Sprite and garlic parotta. The meal was great as my last meal in India, although my stomach was still not feeling well so I could not eat all of the parotta. Thankfully the girls loved it as much as I and finished it for me. After all of this shopping we asked the drivers to take us to Jew Town where we would catch the ferry back to the ship. I spent the rest of my rupees in the shops and bought the rest of my gifts to bring back home. When we got back on the ship I took a deep breath and was somewhat happy to be heading to another port.
Looking back on this short stay in India I realize that I learned a lot, and will continue to learn as I look back on all of the places I have been to when I get back home and really let my body digest this epic voyage. I learned a lot about being alone, making friends, feeling comfortable, who to trust, and have overall come out of this country as another changing person. Each port I visit something changes me and I start to think differently. In these past few days I have been so happy and healthy with a really healthy mind, trying to boost spirits wherever I see them. I look forward to my next port, Singapore, and shortly after that Vietnam. I am also a bit upset that this trip is halfway over, before I know it I will be home. I will be happy to be with all of my friends and family, but still sad that I have to say “Goodbye for now” to the amazing friends and people I have met on this ship and while in port. I have really been inspired to travel as a career and will always keep an open mind as a guest to these countries, always ready to learn. I love you all and hope everything is great in your lives! Namaste.
Mike

Posted by MVVincent 10:55 Archived in India Comments (3)

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