It seems like March is just about done… yes I’m that perceptive… it is April 1st tomorrow after all.
In my last entry, I was talking about my long weekend in Sri Lanka, and it seems I’ve been doing too much of that recently, as I’ve now got a few friends who want to go to Sri Lanka themselves & see what I was blowing about. The boss has even gone, after my recommendation, and says he loved it. I may be partly to blame for the heavy tourism wave that is bound to hit now that the war is over. Sorry.
Since I’ve been back though, I’ve been working hard & doing stuff. I also managed to celebrate St Patrick’s day (twice again) in India. If you remember last year, I went to two parties thrown by the RoI gov’t… this year, I was told I should hit the US of A consulate party… and it was rank. Not only did I have to pay in, there was no fiddley dee music, no free canapes and it seemed to be like someone’s house party. D’oh!! The highlight however, was sitting underneath the worlds most expensive home. The owner of Reliance Mobile Telecommunications is building a US$2 Billion house in Mumbai. It’s quite the building… probably somewhere near 40 stories, with 10 stories of parking room… I think he’s over compensating personally.
Anyways, I headed to Delhi, and again, missed the Irish Consulate party, but the staff of the Consulate did throw a house party at one of the residences. I headed along with Barry Clarke, from InvestNI, and met up with some of the guys I met at last year’s party. Now this one wasn’t too bad… people were chatty, moving around the terrace (which they’d made an effort over) and talking random stuff. I also discovered that the Iranians have a sense of humour, having renamed the street in Tehran, where the British Embassy is to "Bobby Sands Street"!!
In work, we’re going through a pretty major restructure, after buying another UK bank, and as part of that our Terms and Conditions are changing. One of those T&C’s is the ‘Life Event’. Now traditionally, this was a weeks leave for people to get married, then when that wasn’t PC any more, it was widened to include having a kid, moving house, etc., but then that wasn’t broad enough, so it was changed to a one off week off for whatever reason you wanted. Now, as the proposal is to get rid of that ‘Life Event’ T&C, my ‘Life Event’ was "the avoiding of losing my Life Event, Life Event". Seemed like good logic to me.
So, the plan was to head to Bangladesh & watch the second test match of the England Tour, and then head to Vietnam to meet up with an old friend, Alison. So… I managed to miss out on a Bangladeshi visa and missed Alison because I was having a lazy day in bed watching the "Godfather"… D’oh.
I had read on the FCO website that the Bangladeshi visa process was an "online process"… so I thought ‘sweet, I’ll do that laters after the Vietnam visa’… what the FCO meant by online, was that you did, indeed input all your data online, but that when you clicked on submit, that data was then transfered into a .pdf file which you then printed off, and sent to the Consulate in New Delhi. And as my passport was at the Vietnamese Consulate, I was out of time… d’oh!!
But not to fear, I quickly arranged a weekend break in Goa & headed down with for two nights with Dina to Palolem. We stayed in a wee resort with beach huts overlooking the sea & it was, frankly, beautiful. Now, Palolem is a poor man’s Unawatuna, but it isn’t without it’s charm, and allegedly it’s the best resort in Goa. So, three days of sitting in the shade, or paddling in the sea, and I was ready for Vietnam.
Flying with Malaysian Airlines, I stopped over in Kuala Lumpar, before landing in Ho Chi Minh (that’s Saigon for the old school of you) in the South of the unified Vietnam. I’d heard a few stories about the immigration issues there, but I had my visa so I was sure I’d be fine… until I got to the front of the queue & the immigration officer closes the aisle and asks me to step to the side desk!! Uh oh. Anyways, he asks for my passport & wanders off… five minutes later I hear this American accent asking "Is there a Barry Edwin here??" – eh?! I turn around to see the wee imigration officer (who couldn’t recognise me from my passport photo*) asking me if I had bookings in Vietnam, and if I had money… after much talking with his boss… he let me in to the country!!
And so I headed to my hotel. As I’d not had much sleep the previous few days, I decided to have a doze… which lasted approx 6 hours as it turned out. At this point I decided I was going to try & sleep my way through, but unfortunately I discovered that my hotel was built next to perhaps the loudest night club in Ho Chi Minh. Realising that I wasn’t going to get any sleep, I studied for my second assignment on my degree… until 0300am. I checked out the next morning.
So, new hotel bagged, I went walking around the city. Ho Chi Minh is quite nice in the central area. Wide streets, leafy boulevards, a definate colonial feel to the architecture, and lots of interesting nooks & crannys to take a look around. I headed for the Reunification Palace, and wandered around it for an hour, and then on to the War Remnants Museum. I stopped in a coffee shop, and I had lunch, and then rested up, with some study before dinner in a french restaurant… where the little Vietnamese Waitress (who must have been 15) said "Oui" after each item I ordered!! Ca Va.
The next day I headed off to the Cu Chi tunnels, via a speed boat journey of two hours. On the way up, we stopped at a Crocodile farm… yes, I know, I’m not sure why you’d want to farm them either, but I’m guessing meat?? Anyways, the tunnels were interesting, and scary. The entry holes were about 7 inces wide and 12 inches across. One of the guys on our tour got stuck trying to get into one… he looked stressed as people frantically tried to pull him out!!
The highlight was however, getting to the gun range. For a mere£25 I got ten rounds from an AK47 and ten rounds from an M60. The AK was incredibly loud, but with hardly a kick, I was pinging rounds all around my target. A nice 5 minutes of entertainment you might say… and of course the smell of gun powder and the adrenaline was superb. The M60 was just pure, unadulterated fun… a full automatic machine gun… I decided I was just going to let it go!! My ten rounds lasted approx 1.2 seconds. But it felt gooooooood.
The next day I headed on another boat trip, this time around the Mekong Delta. We went to a Honey Farm, a Coconut Candy Factory, and took a rowing boat trip around some of the streams which break the place up. All in all, an interesting part of the country. I met an american chap, who had just resigned & decided he was going to spend a year travelling. We had a very interesting conversation about his country & at as he was from one of the North Eastern states, I asked if it was one of those places that went a beautiful orange or red in the "fall" [sic]?? He said, no, it’s a blue state… *silence*
So, having discovered he was a political man, he said that he used to be a democrat, but now he was more left of that… so I (cheekily) asked if that meant he was a communist… *silence*
Winning friends & influencing people across the world…
Anyways, I got back in to Ho Chi Minh and headed for dinner… and having had a long couple of days in the sun, decided I was going to spend Saturday, my last day, doing nothing. So I slept in till about noon, and switched the TV on, to just catch the start of the Godfather… which conveniently ran right into the Godfather II. So five hours later, I get up. To discover that Alison had arrived in Ho Chi Minh last night, but was leaving on Satruday evening… I’d missed her. D’oh!!
So, in my week, the only two things I’d intended to do, I’d missed… b’ah. I did get to shoot guns though, so it’s not all bad.
And so back to India on the Sunday, with lots of study time during my 5 hour stop over in KL. During take off on the Mumbai flight, we rose into the sky in parallel with an incredible lightning storm… the flashes were incredible, and you could actually hear the rumbles of thunder, inside the craft. Awesome.
Monday came & went, as I submitted my second assignment for my degree – "Discuss the role of power in the distribution of benefits & losses in a consumer society."… indeed… and now, I’m back in Delhi. And the cycle continues…