Dienstag, 29. Mai 2012

Tạm biệt, Hà Nội!


Mopeds and people sitting by the road
© Eike-Christian Heine

Night and the monsoon swept all traffic from Hanoi's roads. And I will leave this town early the next morning. I will miss you, Hanoi. The people, the traffic, the rain and the heat. But I can always come back and see you again. I know you won't grow old. You'll constantly change. 

Tạm biệt, Hà Nội!


Kitsch! But the rose was in front of my hotel!
© Eike-Christian Heine 
View from my balcony
© Eike-Christian Heine

Cảm ơn Hà Nội!

Cảm ơn Hà Nội!
© Eike-Christian Heine, Özlem Toros
Drinking Bia hơi on small plastic chairs next to the busy road. I am with Krzysia and Özlem. The Polish and the Turkish girl share a flat in London and have traveled together for some months now.The young man next to me starts to talk to us. He has studied a semester in Australia an speaks English. He also sings Vietnamese popsongs. Tùng introduces us to his friends. We drink some beers. More of his friends come. They share some joints. We are happy to be lost in translation and laugh a lot. 

Then they say "Lets go to the club." The sound is great. Three young girls are dj-ing. Lots of Vietnamese and Korean remixes. We stand around two tables. Two bottles of Polish vodka and a pack of cigarettes are on the table. A guy with a red vests constantly fills the glasses, offers cigarettes. "Are you stoned jet?" There is a shisha as well. Another guy from the club pushes you gently but insistently back to your table should you dance too far away from it. Photographers are crazy about our hosts and like the two tall and blond Europeans. Fingers in the air, singing along a Vietnamese hook lines. 

What a great night! Cảm ơn Hà Nội!

Cảm ơn Hà Nội!
© Eike-Christian Heine, Özlem Toros
Cảm ơn Hà Nội!
© Eike-Christian Heine, Özlem Toros
Cảm ơn Hà Nội!
© Eike-Christian Heine, Özlem Toros
Cảm ơn Hà Nội!
© Eike-Christian Heine, Özlem Toros
Cảm ơn Hà Nội!
© Eike-Christian Heine, Özlem Toros

Montag, 28. Mai 2012

Where only cars wash

Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
The humming of the road. The basses form loud music. The shouting of an instructor. The handclaps of women. I peek through a broken window: Aerobic-lesson inside a half rotten house in Hanoi. 

The guys outside smoke next to the slides of an old swimming-pool and say "xinh!" Their hands form the virtual outlines of huge breasts. We laugh. Then they continue to take the seats out of an expensive German car and polish every millimeter of the interior. Accompanied by the rattling of a generator, their colleagues clean and polish other limousines from the outside. 

Decay, colonial style nostalgia, trying to stay in shape, shiny new cars inside an old and rotten complex. The ambiguity in the capital of the People's Republic Vietnam. 

After I've sucked in the atmosphere of that former bath and took a couple of photos I left that place, where once people swam and nowadays only cars wash.

The colours of the old pool haunt me even now. I still wonder what it must have been like to swim in all that blue and yellow. But in Hanoi's streets there is no time for such reflections. The traffic demands all attention you can muster. And there are other attractions on every corner. Back on the road I immediately stumble into a cockfight. A traffic island, a dozen quiet and concentrated spectators. Dreamily I watch the two roosters pick at one another. I won't take the camera out, I am already filled up with new impressions. Crazy Hanoi.

Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine
Where only cars wash
© Eike-Christian Heine

Freitag, 25. Mai 2012

Sitting Hanoi

Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Along Hanoi's busy and scooter-packed roads the pace is a different one. Only centimeters next to all the rushing and noise, the people of Vietnam's capital are enjoying themselves in an astonishing relaxed way. No noisy moped and no notorious horn can disturb the city's calmness. Just sit down, have an iced coffee, a cold draft beer, say your prayers and prepare yourself for crossing the street again.

Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine

Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Sitting Hanoi
© Eike-Christian Heine

Montag, 21. Mai 2012

Xin chào Bin Som!

Xin chào Bin Som!
© Eike-Christian Heine

After I spend a complete day in a room with AC, a soft bed, a reading lamp and a fast internet connection, I was ready to face Vietnam. In Bin Som, you really need to be ready, at least if you are tall and blond. Don't get me wrong, the people here are stunningly friendly. But before I never ever had an idea of how Brad Pit might feel when he goes for lunch or a beer. Now I believe I get the general picture:

Everyone waves and says "hello". The girls start to giggle and blow kisses. People take out their mobiles and take pictures or ask if I don't want to take pictures of them. It's fun. But its exhausting. What is tiring too is the fact that it is impossible to communicate in English. There is absolutely no shared language with people on the street. But once I faced these facts, I spend a phantasmic day in Bin Som.

After having a coffee and some noodles early in the morning, i sat down at a street vendor to have a coke. People tried to communicate with me, but we failed. At one point a young man came along. Asked me to come to an internet cafe across the street. I payed my drink and joint him. His name was Long. On all the computers boys were playing ego-shooters. He opened google.translate but a second later we had a blackout that seemed to have taken over the complete town. So Long walked me to his house. He was 28 years old, introduced me to his parents, his sister, his brother in law and their little boy. We had a beer. It was 10 in the morning.

He and his dad then turned on a generator and we could have our google-translated conversation. But still, this page is a tricky and confusing thing. When it was time for lunch I swallowed down the fact that i eat vegetarian. Normally I would not have eaten a single dish on the table – scrambled eggs with meat, a soup with beef and crabs –, but what was I supposed to do? So i  broke the crab's armor open, grabbed it by its legs, dipped it in a hot sauce, crushed the poor things remaining harder parts with my teeth, chewed and gulped it down. 

Later Long lead me to a barber and a book shop. I now have a 1,50 € vietnamese haircut and am freshly shaved. He introduced me to several of his friends. Communication was an effort. No one spoke English. I can't speak Vietnamese. Even if I found a word in my newly acquired dictionary, my tongue won't bend to the 6 different tones the vietnamese language knows, nor could my ears necessarily notice the differences between them. We tried hard to understand and laughed a lot.

I had to leave quite suddenly when I checked the time. I had to return my borrowed bike by six and had to hurry. Just when I walked back to my air-conditioned room, it started to pour. I trotted in the dusk and the rain. I was weary and happy. Languages can be such awfully tiresome monsters, as well as amazingly stunning beauties.

Long
© Eike-Christian Heine
Long's father having a smoke
© Eike-Christian Heine
Long's family
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mom and dad and all the crabs I had
© Eike-Christian Heine
The funny beverage lady that chewes Betel nuts
© Eike-Christian Heine
Good night, rainy night, Bin Som!
© Eike-Christian Heine

Samstag, 19. Mai 2012

To Vietnam

Waiting in Vientiane, Laos.
© Eike-Christian Heine

Vang Vieng, Laos is situated in a lovely valley with green hills and dramatic cast cliffs. Besides its stunning beauty it is most known as a party destination where young Westerners get drunk and float downstream in a tube. I met Markus here, a friend from back home, who came straight from India. We spend three days partying and chatting. But then it was time to get going again.

The bus from Vang Vieng to Hanoi takes about 34 hours. First you get a lift to Vientiane, where you hit the sleeper. A type of bus where you can lay down comfortably. It left Vientiane 7 p.m. and stopped at 1 a.m. somewhere in the middle of nowhere. A group of young Vietnamese invited me to share their water cooled tobacco pipe. Everyone laughed when I had to cough. We waited at that place till 5 in the morning and we arrived at the border at 6 a.m. Waited another hour till it opened. Around 8 a.m. all passports were stamped and we had to walk almost 30 minutes to the Vietnamese site of the border. Till we sat in our bus again it was 10 in the morning.

There was something surreal about taking a ride that consists mostly of waiting. I left the bus in Bin Som at 4 o'clock in the afternoon to meet a friend there. I was very happy i could skip the three hours the bus still would have needed to Hanoi.


Waiting four hours somewhere in Laos.
© Eike-Christian Heine
A tire was fixed
© Eike-Christian Heine

Waiting at the Lao' side of the border
© Eike-Christian Heine

Walking to Vietnam
© Eike-Christian Heine

In the bus
© Eike-Christian Heine
Finally: Bin Som, Vietnam
© Eike-Christian Heine

Laos, Mekong and a great divide

Si Phan Don and Mekong, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
With a length of almost four and a half thousand kilometers, the Mekong is earth's 12th-longest river. If you are in Cambodia and travel north along its shore on the national road seven, you'll inevitably hit Laos. The border between both country's follows a major natural divide: the Khone Falls. Don't imagine it as a single waterfall. It is an almost 10 kilometer wide succession of rapids that are devided by "Si Phan Don" – "The 4,000 islands". This collection of tiny, smaller and bigger inhabited islands is part of Laos.

But to get to that natural border, you'll first have to cross a man made border. And this is how it had worked for me, Instead of the official 32 dollars for the visa to Laos our bus driver wanted 40 dollar to prepare all the formalities. After some bargaining we arrived at 34 dollar for fixing the visa. Because a dollar or two for tea money on the Cambodian side and for "overtime" on the Lao side is inevitable, we believed that to be a fair deal and agreed. We couldn't have made it cheaper ourselves.

On both sides big and shiny new border stations were under construction, but for now the old shelters and huts still served its purpose. While we waited, smoked and drank beer I was puzzled that not a single lorry waited on either side of the border. Laos and especially Cambodia are poor countries, yes. But compare it with the endless procession of trucks between Germany and Poland and you'll get an idea of the differences of the economies. 

Don Det is one of the inhabited islands in the Mekong, and nowadays it is a backpackers club, with guest houses, bars and restaurants serving the needs of the low budget traveller. You can cycle to some great white and completely empty beaches, swim in the Mekong, watch some of the last river dolphins and the enormous waterfalls. You can also see the remains of a railroad, with which French colonialism wanted to make the upper Mekong easier accessible and Laos economically profitable. 

Further north Laos offers great landscapes, relaxed cities and stunningly friendly people. Great baguettes and good coffee are the most obvious remains of the French rule here. I put the camera away for most of the time and simply enjoyed traveling.

Si Phan Don and Mekong, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Si Phan Don and Mekong, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Khone Falls, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Taking the ferry over the Mekong
© Eike-Christian Heine
Vientiane, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Vientiane, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mekong' s shore, Vientiane,  Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mekong' s shore, Vientiane,  Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mekong' s shore, Vientiane,  Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine