Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mister, what are you looking for?

Living in THE DREAM, where flux is ever present is wonderful, and also full of surprise. I should have known better than to show up at the Bangkok, Thailand, airport without a proper visa for entry into Vietnam. I was turned away. Fortunately, I went to the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, paid extra, and received an approved visa the same day—so I only stayed an extra night in Thailand. I forgot that Vietnam is one of the countries where a visa cannot be obtained at the airport upon arrival.

When I arrived in Saigon, I needed money, so went to an ATM, but forgot the exchange rate. I thought 20,000 would be a good amount, but the machine said I had to choose 50,000. I got the 50,000 and quickly discovered it was worth $2.85. Meanwhile, my bank charges $5.00 for foreign ATM transactions. I went back and got 1,000,000 dong; about $57.00.

Fortunately, I am okay with chaos in my life . . . otherwise by now I would be frazzled, especially after losing my iPhone in the motorcycle choked streets during a rickshaw ride. 

I am getting good photographs and find people generally open and warm, although as a foreigner, I am often seen as a wealthy person and invited to spend money; Vietnam is a country with one foot in poverty and the other climbing toward affluence. Sometimes in the crowded markets, women grab me forcibly and literally pull me into their stalls, saying, “Mister, what are you looking for?”

After Saigon, I arrived in Hoi An a few days ago, and it is lovely. If not for the heat and sweating so much, I would be out all day long exploring. Amazingly, this town has over 400 tailor shops. It is known internationally as a place to get clothes custom made for prices less than ordinary clothes cost elsewhere.

I am surprised how many people remember me from my visit here last year. I have already been motorcycling with a new friend who showed me around while I looked at houses and shops for rent. It is funny, but when I tell people I am an artist, they act surprised because I do not have long hair. Another thing is how often I am told, “You are a handsome man.” I like it, although maybe it is perhaps an often used compliment.

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