C40's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Stahlmann
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by Stahlmann »

tbh, interesting (yea, I know other words, but I decline to use them :lol:) adventures. keep rocking :)

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Tue Jul 07, 2020 1:28 am
Vietnam looks absolutely wonderful, C40.

I'm really curious to see/read your thoughts and pictures when you start exploring more of the countryside. Still hoping that the wife and I can make it to SE Asia this winter, but it's not looking very good.
This weekend I'm expecting to go to Mỹ Sơn, which is an area with old Hindu temples built by the Cham people, from years 300-1300 AD.

And next week I will go to Hanoi and stay for about 5 days (the girlfriend is going up for another reason, so I will go to we will meet after she's done with that). I'm looking forward to seeing the house Ho Chi Minh lived in. It is nice, but small and simple, with a big garden.

RealPerson
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by RealPerson »

C40 wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 9:06 pm
This weekend I'm expecting to go to Mỹ Sơn, which is an area with old Hindu temples built by the Cham people, from years 300-1300 AD.

And next week I will go to Hanoi and stay for about 5 days (the girlfriend is going up for another reason, so I will go to we will meet after she's done with that). I'm looking forward to seeing the house Ho Chi Minh lived in. It is nice, but small and simple, with a big garden.
Don't forget the HCM mausoleum. It is really fascinating. And of course Halong Bay. I am amazed by the photos. I was in Vietnam before it had opened up to the west. The difference is hard to fathom.

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

RealPerson wrote:
Thu Jul 09, 2020 9:55 am

Don't forget the HCM mausoleum. It is really fascinating. And of course Halong Bay. I am amazed by the photos. I was in Vietnam before it had opened up to the west. The difference is hard to fathom.
Yes, I'm planning to go to the Mausoleum, and some other places. But for sure the Masoleum and the house. I'm curious about what the deal is with the body. I've heard some different stories/theories about it.

When were you there? The 'opening up' transition is interesting. Lots changing with the government (and the ways it works, with connections, patronage, corruption, influence, etc. - overall an interesting balance or competition between the ideal of helping people, becoming rich yourself, and always ensuring the party remains in power).. And changes with people and culture.. and so on.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

The hanoi hilton is also interesting but the mausoleum is better if you have time for one. I found both the places and the way they are portrayed to be thought provoking. It would be another perspective to go with a citizen.

Do you ever talk about the vietnam war, communism with people you run into? I remember talking to someone that thought the vietnam war was caused because the US wanted vietnam's natural resources. I just let it pass but I regret not asking if that was taught in schools and whether they thought it also had to do with communism vs. capitalism. I was afraid to offend.

RealPerson
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by RealPerson »

When I was in Vietnam in the early 90s, it was a dirt poor country. I could see the desperation in people's eyes and had never experienced anything like that. But the Vietnamese people are industrious. There never was any doubt in my mind that they would end up doing very well. The US had a lot to do with the horrible situation in Vietnam by dropping so many bombs on it. The thing that struck me the most was the fact that people showed no animosity towards us in spite of the war. They were looking forwards, not backwards. Very admirable.

As for the political system, it is easy to put things in the context of the Vietnam war, or the American War as they obviously call it. The true worry they have is China, as they have been adversaries for centuries. Deng Xao Ping's reforms in China gave them two critical pieces: the impetus to develop their economy, because they could not defend themselves against China if they stayed poor and China became a superpower. Secondly, Deng gave them a blueprint of how the communist party could stay in power and still develop a market economy. I imagine that the older generation vividly remembers the years of hunger and poverty, and is interested in feeding the goose that lays the golden eggs. Much as we think that all people yearn for freedom, I see SE Asian cultures as being more interested in prosperity than freedom. If the economic miracle were to halt and reverse, things could change rapidly.

China felt much more oppressive to me than Vietnam. Much as I am fairly ignorant of the political situation of both countries, it is apparent why that is. China is much more diverse, ethnically and religiously. Vietnam also has different ethnic groups,but the differences are much smaller than in China. The latter needs to resort to much higher levels of oppression and surveillance to keep the country together.

From a tourist perspective, we ran out of time and did not visit the mountain tribes in northern Vietnam. If you have the opportunity, I would definitely recommend visiting there. We had planned to visit Vietnam in 2021 but that will probably not happen due to COVID 19. I am so glad that you are there and enjoying yourself. Vietnam is a terrific place to visit.

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

Gilberto de Piento wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 8:20 am
Do you ever talk about the vietnam war, communism with people you run into? I remember talking to someone that thought the vietnam war was caused because the US wanted vietnam's natural resources. I just let it pass but I regret not asking if that was taught in schools and whether they thought it also had to do with communism vs. capitalism. I was afraid to offend.
Basically, no.

I've spoke very little with Vietnamese about the war. Most young people (<45 years old) who did not live during the war are uninterested. Like RealPerson mentioned, Vietnamese focus on the current moment and the future, not much on the past.

Also, most Vietnamese seem uninterested in politics, government, wars, etc. They're focused on their own life, job, family, friends, etc. The extent of this is surprising. Many people don't ever learn details about the government that seem normal and common to Americans. For example, most people don't bother to get a driver's license, and they wouldn't have any clue where to get one. Even people who did have one 5-10 years ago couldn't say where they got it.

My girlfriend, for example, is very smart and knows about many things, but has little interest in the government and doesn't know a lot of details about it. There are also some language barriers to discussing these things. Even the Vietnamese who learn english very well can have a difficult time discussing government things, because they don't bother to learn the words for those. For example, I was asking my girlfriend about neighborhood 'wardens'. This is a certain role/job in Vietnam- basically a helper/mentor/mediator of a small (~40 house) neighborhood, and also part of the government surveillance system. She does know about them and I think has had some interaction with them, but it took me trying to explain the role about 4 times before she recognized what I was talking about. And then all she cares to say about it is "oh, I don't care about them, I think it's kind of annoying". There is also the case of the country changing and evolving. An old person is more likely to have had more involvement with wardens and would have more to say about them.

There are certainly some people here who take interest in politics. Most of those seem to focus on Vietnamese government shortcoming and corruption, and especially on the actions of China. Current issues. Not the past. Even though the war happened here and had a devastating impact (and, really, lasted from at least 1945 to 1975, plus many years of issues after), people's interest is probably pretty close to that of young Americans - if you ask a 30 year old American about the Vietnam war, most of them would wonder why you want to talk about it and try to discuss something else. Same in Vietnam. The younger people here do remember the poverty after the war, and for most currently alive, that was actually a part of their lives. So it seems most people here that were alive in the 80s and 90s have a shared experience of being 'poor'.

It's quite different than, for example, Thailand. In Thailand, people have way more political opinions. They know details about the royal family and the government. In Thailand, it is highly illegal to criticize the royal family, so it is done at home or in hushed tones in public. But if you bring it up, people don't say "I don't care".. they nearly all have some opinion. In Vietnam, lives are simpler in that they're not concerned about a wide variety of things. Many of them would be perplexed when you describe all the different elements and complexities of U.S. politics and cultural evolution.

ertyu
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by ertyu »

The time before last I was in VN, I met a woman (grown, adult) whose very old grandmother was basically, "yeah, I will not have Americans in the house." I am not American, but I could respect that. That's when I realized that the memory of the war and the atrocities committed is still there and still deep, it's just that there are few people who would discuss them publicly. Ditto with politics: many have opinions but few will actually share them with you, even if they are close to you. A similar "stick to the surface" and "deflect into the innocuous" approach as the Chinese: "I don't know much about that, yea, it's annoying" is a response that strikes me as very Chinese, too. Very Japanese, also: observe all the young people being asked about why they won't date and marry and who would simply respond with "mendokusai" -- literally, troublesome/annoying. I think that culturally, people of that region are uncomfortable with naming and discussing deep emotions except with those one or two people they've been very close to for life. What is praised is the ability to sense these emotions, empathize with them, and demonstrate that empathy through nonverbal, indirect means - e.g. old-time Japanese wives who would send messages of dissatisfaction and displeasure through ikebana arrangements, and have those messages be understood.

Last but not least, it's not in the experience of many people from that part of Asia that their government is something they can change, impact, or do anything meaningful about. Trying, for an ordinary person, would mean courting trouble more than effecting change. People keep themselves safe and avoid the frustration of trying to rage against an immovable force. I would go on further and say that in that area of the world, raging against unfairness in society (gender-based, class-based, race-based) is considered stupid because it doesn't bring any results. Instead, what is praised is learning to live with and successfully manipulate the system. Thus you see all of South Korea, for instance, not blinking an eye at the idea that appearance is essential to job market outcomes and going to get cosmetic surgery at a young age in droves.

reepicheep
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by reepicheep »

I tell people about "this person on a forum I read who is in Vietnam and living it up."

A little envious.

Considering renewing my passport, which I foolishly let expire this previous December.

Haven't done much Asian travel, but a friend of mine is headed that way (like, picking up and moving their whole life in response to current American insanity). Maybe next year.

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

—————————

JULY 2020

—————————


Summary:
  • Spending still pretty low
  • Trip to Hanoi for 6 days
  • Covid outbreak
  • Lifestyle design updates




—————————
MONEY
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The non-standard spending this month was going on a 6-day trip to Hanoi, and buying a computer monitor. The Hanoi trip only cost about $140 more than normal spending (for flights, hotel, bus, taxis). I bought a pretty cheap computer monitor used to make photo editing easier than using my 13” laptop scree. And it’s nice for videogames. I’ve been playing games this year when stuck at home. My computer is a 2013 Macbook Pro, so I can’t run much at all as far as games. I played Torchlight 2 a lot, some Tropico 5, and now I’ve started playing the original Starcraft game (with the updated graphics).

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Dividend cuts at a few of the companies I own have wiped out nearly all my dividend growth from the last ~5 years. I expect more will happen.
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—————————
HANOI TRIP
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I went on a 6-day trip to Hanoi. My girlfriend has two children, and took them up to stay with her mother for their summer break. After she had stayed with family a few days and dropped the kids off, she came back to Hanoi. I went to Hanoi a few days early to spend time there myself, and then met her when she got back and we spent a few days together.

I like the Vietnamese propaganda poser style. There are large billboards around cities with this style of art.
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Hanoi is interesting. In the city center, there is a lake that the town is basically centered around. There are very different districts or ‘quarters’ near the lake. One is an old Vietnamese style area (it’s packed full of buildings)… One is a French style area, with large buildings that are separate from eachother, big wide sidewalks, and lots of small parks… The last different area is the government area which has government buildings and monuments/museums/etc. I think this is more of a French style building
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Out for coffee
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A park, in-between the Ho Chi Minh museum and masoleum.
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This is a house that Ho Chi Minh had build and lived in for the last 11 years of his life (which was from 1958 to 1969.
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Coffee. Vietnam produces a huge volume of coffee, mostly for export. It is very low quality and gets made into the kind of crappy coffee you can buy from shelves at any grocery store. This coffee was from Dalat, a mountain city in the southern half of Vietnam. I want to go stay there some time during a summer, as it’s high and much cooler.
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This is some style of meal that is local to Hanoi and northern Vietnam. It was REALLY good. My favorite Vietnamese food so far. I think you can’t really get it down where I live in central Vietnam
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More coffee. Sometimes at shops when I want to try/test out the coffee, I’ll get espresso and some steamed milk but have them give it to me separately rather than make into a latte. Then I can pour some of the espresso into the milk to make a strong and really small latte, and drink the rest of the espresso itself. This way I can taste how it is plain and with milk. Standard latte sizes have so much milk that IMO you can’t taste the coffee enough.
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In Vietnam it’s pretty common for things to be sold by people walking/riding around like this. Some of it is junk being peddled to tourists, but, selling food like this is normal and common and I think happens all over Vietnam. My initial reaction to people coming up to me is to say no, without even considering whether I want what they are selling. My general thought is that if I wanted it, I would have already been thinking about it. But there were a few times where I sent the person away, and then thought about it and wished I’d bought some. Generally this kind of job is near or at the at the very low end of the socio-economic scale, and there is some looking-down on people who sell stuff this way.
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Prices of a plain espresso, single shot, in coffee shops are about:
- Made with Vietnamese robusta coffee (poor quality, like Starbucks level) - $1
- Made with Vietnamese Arabica (much better but sometimes still not so good)- $1.40
- Made with imported speciality coffee - $1.90
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This is the Hanoi Opera House. Built by the French. It is still in use. Some important historical stuff happened here, including initial gatherings of crowds and speeches that kicked off the revolution against the French. Ho Chi Minh was here giving that speech. I think that was in 1945.


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State-owned bank building. This is getting more to the Vietnamese communist building style.

French catholic church
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Where there is room, there are badminton court lines on the sidewalks. In the evenings, people come and put up nets and play
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They also play a game that is similar to badminton, but they only kick the ~birdie. Some of these guys are crazy ninja level good.
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The girl being photographed is wearing an ao dai, and is likely getting pictures taken because she’s just graduated. The ao dai is the current traditional formal outfit for Vietnamese women. It consists of pants, and a large shirt/dress thing with long slits on the side. Current style is to have them fit really well and show off the woman’s body. These are the uniforms for many girls in high school, and are also worn for formal occasions or more formal jobs or where they want to dress up. The pose that the girl is doing is also some kind of very Vietnamese or asian pose. I think perhaps the idea of the pose is that she’s supposed to be blocking the sun from her face. IDK..
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These pictures showing a lake are all around the central lake of the city. Lake Kiem or something. There is an old story about the lake, how some king or leader was there, and a turtle came out and spoke to him, and he got an old sword from the lake. Then he used the sword in a battle and won. When he came back, the turtle came out of the lake and told him to give back the sword, so he threw it back into the lake. Turtles have some kind of special place for Vietnmese, especially like 1000 years ago. My girlfriend told me a more recent story about how some people were trying to build a wall, and it kept falling down from poor construction. Somehow they figured out what was missing - the liver of a turtle. So when they built it next time, they put in a liver of a turtle, and then the wall was strong.
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This is the normal way to transport a family with child. If it’s only the woman herself, she’ll attach a small baby to the front of her torso with something. Then they have little ‘high chairs’ for toddlers. It’s a bit un-nerving when traffic gets hectic (around 7-8pm in the city centers) and especially when there are some 20-something guys speeding around like crazy. I just imaging them crashing into a mom and the baby flying through the air.
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French quarter
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Morning exercise. Lots of old people do exercise where they just kind of move and wiggle around. Plus they also do something like Thai Chi.
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At the Ho Chi Minh museum
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Ho Chi Minh Masoleum. Supposedly his body is embalmed in there for viewing. Ho wanted to be cremated. I’ve heard there is some controversy, with a theory being that his body was cremated at some point and the ashes places in a few locations, and that the embalmed body in the mausoleum is now some other guy. I don’t know who can go in there or when.
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French area
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This is at the Temple of Literature. It is the site of the first university in Vietnam, started around the year 1000 AD.
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These big tablets have(had) lists of graduates of the university. More turtles!
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View from one of our hotel rooms
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We ended up making this trip at the very tail end of Vietnam’s 100 day streak with no (known) Covid cases out in public. There was some kind of event happening on the weekend with a lot of people.
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—————————
COVID OUTBREAK
—————————

There was a new case of Covid discovered in my city (Da Nang) around July 22. The guy was in a hospital. They don’t know how it got here or spread or reinfected someone, but it happened and was spread a lot at hospitals. There are now about 230 current confirmed cases in Da Nang, and some more that have spread to other major cities. Da Nang is a tourist city, and they were promoting domestic travel. There were many Vietnamese vacationers here. So, between that and perhaps the hospital not being careful enough and not testing for Covid soon enough, it has spread a lot. The government is taking good actions to control the spread, including doing a lot of testing here in Da Nang. I think they’re currently testing thousands of people per day and are building capacity to 10,000 per day. They go to neighborhoods of patients and test everyone who lives there.

All businesses are closed except places like grocery stores and pharmacies. My girlfriend has been staying with me, which has been nice and going well so far. She likes to cook, so I’m eating well.

I think we’ll be at home for quite a while. Perhaps a couple months.


——————————————————
LIFE DESIGN UPDATES
——————————————————

actually, I will share this in a later post.

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Alice_AU
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by Alice_AU »

So many beautiful photographs! Thanks for sharing - would love to visit these places too one day!

2Birds1Stone
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Thank you for taking us to Hanoi, your photography never disappoints.

I'm actually surprised by the price of coffee, mistakenly thought it would have been cheaper.

We found really good espresso (singles) in Portugal for ~.60-1.20 Euro, Poland is more expensive for some reason, and not as good.

singvestor
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by singvestor »

I remember being in Hanoi 18 years ago... It was very poor, a bit wild... whole city only had one traffic light. Change was already in the air, but it is unbelievable how fast the place has developed.

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:02 am
Thank you for taking us to Hanoi, your photography never disappoints.

I'm actually surprised by the price of coffee, mistakenly thought it would have been cheaper.

We found really good espresso (singles) in Portugal for ~.60-1.20 Euro, Poland is more expensive for some reason, and not as good.
If you buy "Vietnamese style coffee" here, it's cheaper. It is all made with really cheap robusta beans, made in a certain way - sort of like a pourover I think, but perhaps with really finely ground coffee or a lot of it. It results in really strong/concentrated, bitter, coffee that tastes horrible - like charcoal and cigarette smoke. You can buy that for about $0.50 in most places.

RealPerson
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by RealPerson »

About the HCM mausoleum. There were huge lines with visitors and schoolkids when I was there. The embalmed body has to be sent to Moscow for maintenance every so often. At those times the mausoleum is closed.

It is quite interesting. The body looks like it is carved out of soap. Extremely pale. There is a lot of security and you cannot really stop to observe better. We were told HCM did not want to be embalmed like Lenin, but supposedly the communists ignored his wishes and embalmed him anyway. Maybe it is not HCM but the body definitely looks like him.

IIRC the really nice lake in central Hanoi is the place where John McCain's plane went down during the war. The public bathroom on the little island in the lake sold toilet paper by the single ply sheet before going in. I have a photo of the setup that was very funny, but it wouldn't be so funny if you had GI upset. That public restroom may not be there anymore. Your photos are bringing back a lot of great memories. Please keep them coming!

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RFS
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by RFS »

Hey C40, thanks so much for your journal! I bet it takes a lot of time to write clearly, upload the pictures, make the charts, etc. I really appreciate it!

I've been thinking of visiting SEA, and your journal has bolstered the notion that it would be awesome indeed. I've got one question, though: what do you do about water out there? Are there any drinkable municipal sources? Are you drinking bottled water all day? If you've already covered this, my apologies (I ctrl f'd the last 3 pages and couldn't find any info.)

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

RealPerson wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 11:15 pm
About the HCM mausoleum....... There were huge lines with visitors and schoolkids when I was there. The embalmed body has to be sent to Moscow for maintenance every so often. At those times the mausoleum is closed.

IIRC the really nice lake in central Hanoi is the place where John McCain's plane went down during the war. ...
McCain landed in Trúc Bạch Lake. The lake I was talking about is Ho Hoan Kiem. Truc Bach is about 2 kilometers northwest of Hoan Kiem.

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C40
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by C40 »

RFS wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 12:43 pm
Hey C40, thanks so much for your journal! I bet it takes a lot of time to write clearly, upload the pictures, make the charts, etc. I really appreciate it!

I've been thinking of visiting SEA, and your journal has bolstered the notion that it would be awesome indeed. I've got one question, though: what do you do about water out there? Are there any drinkable municipal sources? Are you drinking bottled water all day? If you've already covered this, my apologies (I ctrl f'd the last 3 pages and couldn't find any info.)
Bottled water, all day every day. In coffee shops and such, they have RO systems hooked up to the municipal water. For a long time I was drinking from 6 liter bottles. I felt bad about throwing so many bottles away. I drop them off at a scrap sorting place near my house, but even if they are recycled, it's still not god.

Recently I started getting 20 liter bottles delivered. There are water delivery companies that bring 20 liter bottles to your house for very cheap. Hopefully that water is filtered with a good RO system. It tastes like it is. It is really cheap, about $1 per bottle after you've paid a similar deposit.

McTrex
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by McTrex »

Beautiful pics C40, thanks!

CS
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Re: C40's Journal

Post by CS »

Can you get a RO system for your place? I've got one for about $130 that hooks up to the sink and is portable. Used to travel with it.

Might be worth it if hanging around for more than a few months.

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