Thursday, 8 December 2016

Adventures at a abandoned water park in Huế, Vietnam

Well, suddenly it’s the end of 2016 and I’ve been back from Palau for over two years already (crazy i know!). I have thought many times of updating the blog and letting everyone know how I settled back in to big city life but I've been busy :o  I will say that everything has been going great and I'm loving being home. Also I apologise for the badly formatted page, but blogspot have done nothing in the past two years to make formatting and aligning photos any easier or less frustrating.

Right, onto the adventures:

Recently, the wife and I had a 2 week holiday in Vietnam. Before we left, while searching my googles to see what cool stuff we could do I came across an abandoned water park (Hồ Thuỷ Tiên) outside of Huế. For my stalkers or those with amazing memories you may remember this post. Given that I never got to properly see Nara Dreamland (sadly currently being demolished) I had to make the effort to go to Ho Thuy Tien while in the area.

After stops in Saigon and Hanoi, the wife and I travelled down to Hue for 2 nights. Almost primarily so I could visit the Ho Thuy Tien. So one very hot and humid Sunday afternoon in mid-November I hired a scooter to ride the 8k’s or so out to the park. Despite a lot of cycling, I’ve never ridden a motorbike or scooter before, let alone riding one in a country with crazy traffic like Vietnam. Luckily being a Sunday arvo and being in Hue (and not Saigon or Hanoi) it wasn’t too busy. After some early nerves I quickly got the hang of it and actually enjoyed the ride out (and back).

Aided by my trusty phone and a 3G pocket wifi device I managed to find my way out of town and onto one of the not so major roads towards the park. After reading a few other blogs I was aware there was a front and back entrance to the park. The reports were that locals manned the front entrance and requested a fee to enter. Originally I had intended to go via said front entrance as the drive looked more straight forward, but I somehow ended up on the roads that headed towards the back of the park so I ran with it.

The ride was shorter and on smaller roads than I had expected, so I flew past the odd turn here or there as they all came up very quick. The last part of the ride was on small dirt/gravel roads through what I can only describe as the countryside. A few locals seemed to have puzzled looks when some crazy white guy rode past waving at them. 

Soon enough I popped out onto a small flat plateau where an older man was leading a bull across, the track appeared to go no further. I had the sudden thought that maybe Google Maps & the GPS were completely wrong or I'd badly gotten off course. I waved to the man with the bull and he nodded (seemingly unsurprised by my presence). Another quick check of the map showed that I was actually quite close to the back entrance. When I looked up again I suddenly spotted the top of the grandstand for the small arena just over the back of the plateau, it could be no more than 50 metres away. 

The park was much closer, easier to locate and quicker to get to than expected. The pocket wifi did help  to run live maps/GPS however! 

I rode down the little dirt track to the rear entrance to the park and parked the bike near a small arched bridge leading to the back of the grandstand. Immediately I ran into a group of 5 or so Vietnamese teens taking photos on the bridge and generally messing around on their scooters. They were friendly enough when I said hello and soon moved on to another section in the park. I bumped into another group of kids underneath the stand and followed them into the arena where there were more people again. Clearly this wasn’t going to be the solo exploration session I had anticipated. The arena was interesting and made for a couple of good photos (IMHO) but I soon left the kids to it as I was eager to investigate the rest of the park. Outside I ran into even more kids and two other had a quick chat to two other foreigners also on their first Urbex mission.

Heading over to a small  building on the other side of the stand I came across one of those hydraulic space ship rides which seemed a very odd addition to what was supposed to be a water park. Like the ride out to the park, the park itself was starting to feel a little smaller than I had expected.

A downed tree prevented me from riding around a dirt track around the west of the lake so I went back over the bridge and took my bike down a path on the east of the lake. As I neared the famous Dragon building centrepiece of the park I came across a makeshift parking area with around 50 bikes. The park was getting more popular by the second! 

After parking and again saying hello to a family selling drinks under a tarp, I was a little dismayed at just how many people I could see crawling all over various parts of the Dragon building. I was a little disappointed for two reason, the amount of people there seemed to sap some of the ambiance that an abandoned location would normally have, and, the amount of people would also pose issues for an amateur photograph such as myself who prefers to not have random people ruining the mood of my shots.

After being patient and waiting for various people to move off the little bridge that runs to the Dragon building, a couple of young girls clearly were trying to pose and wanted their photo taken. This ended up happening a few times in the park. Maybe I looked like a professional photography with my big camera. Little do they know!

The Dragon building itself was quite interesting with a few different sets of stairs and sections to investigate. Again lots of good photo opportunities here but a little dark in some places. 

The Dragon was also by far the most popular place in the park, kids were everywhere! All were friendly (or shy) and I even had a nice chat to a young fella studying medicine at Hue University. The volume of people did make photography a little challenging but I made the most of it.

Once I had my fill of photos in and around the Dragon I headed to the west of the to find the water slides. A young family were hanging out on the bridge on far side of the Dragon, a mum played with a young child while a couple of guys fished in the lake. 

A few minutes walking and I soon found the slides, it was becoming very obvious why the park failed. The slides weren’t very impressive, even for young kids it wasn’t much. Again the slides and pool area had a number of local kids messing around. 

Another burst of amateur photography and I noticed that it was starting to get dark a bit earlier than I expected. While I love taking photos at sunset due to the soft light I didn't want to be riding back to Hue at night. I made a reasonably hasty visit to an small old brick building in the woods, took a few more last shots of the Dragon building, and returned to my trust steed.

On a whim I decided to leave by the front entrance and take the more straight forward way back into Hue rather than the windy local roads I took on the way in. I rode past the guys manning the front gate, who barely even looked up as I zipped past.

Seemingly within minutes I was back in Hue and negotiating through some busy traffic back and a couple of crazy intersections before arriving back at our hotel.

It was time for a well-deserved shower and a beer!

Despite the amount of people at the park I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and was happy to find it all easier than I expected it to be. I’d highly recommend a visit if you are in Hue, however, a weekday might be the go if you want a less crowded experience.

Photobombed by a bull!

An odd inclusion in a water park
The girls who desperately wanted their photo taken

Two guys fishing in the lake

More posers!

A few of the kids heading home for the day

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top 10 albums of 2014

Right! Time for my top ten albums of the year. In no particular order:

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Are we not men? We are diva!
More fun covers by the punk supergroup.

Antemasque - Antemasque
Omar and Cedric hugged and made up and put out something new and different. I dig the new style.

Shellac - Dude Incredible
Wait?! Shellac released a new album this year? Yep!

OFF! - Wasted Years
Another great energetic raw album, perfect for your next gym workout or prison riot.
(skip to 3:!5 in the video for the music)

Karma to Burn - Arch Stanton
Wait! Karma to Burn are back? And it's awesome? Yep!

Fu Manchu - Gigantoid
Best Fu Manchu album in years. This album is tops!

Weezer - Everything will be alright in the end
Best Weezer album in years. Some great songs on here. Fun for the whole family!

Orange Goblin - Back from the Abyss
Best OG album in years! I rate it right next to my favourite of theirs 'Coup de Grace'.

Wovenhand - Refractory Obdurate
Whilst knowing about Wovenhand for years I don't recall giving them a listen. It's the main guy from '16 Horsepower' if you remember them. This album is brilliant; dark, brooding, and heavier than anything else he's done.

And for those with keen observations skills, yes you correct there are only 9 albums above. Instead of a normal release for #10 I want to pay special mention two Swedish bands and one Aussie, while they didn't release anything this year they've had significant play time on my stereo.

  • First up, The Hives: While I'd always known about these guys I never really gave them a chance. We saw them in Japan and were blown away by their music and live show. Instant fans, just add water (beer)! The most recent album Lex Hives is garage rock at it's finest.
  • Second 'I Are Droid': a little known Swedish band that I randomly came across this year. They have a great unique sound that you need to hear for yourself rather than me explain it. Both albums are solid and a new one is due soon.
  • Finally Aussie punk band 'Bodyjar': I used to listen to these guys a lot back in the day and even saw them live last year. But somehow a new album release in mid 2013 slipped past me (i blame Palau). 'Role Model' is a great album and I'd go as far as saying it's their most complete effort to date.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

So long and thanks for all the fish

Yet again it’s been a while since my last post. Not really sure how to sum up the last few months here in Palau but the gist of it is that I’ve made the decision to leave and return home. There have been a number of factors that have contributed to this decision but essentially it comes down to having nothing to do. The diving dried up (pun intended) in May with the start of the low tourist season and I’ve only ‘worked’ two days since. 

After a few months of no diving I decided I needed to do something here and tried valiantly to either get a proper job or volunteer my time here. Rather typical for Palau lots of people/organisations were super keen to have me volunteer my time but no one could be bothered getting back to me to tee something up. This is something that a number of other expats have experienced as well.
So essentially the last 5 months for me have been much like the movie Groundhog Day (but with significantly less Bill Murray). The volunteer stipend we receive doesn’t stretch very far at all so I end up spending my days sitting at home wasting my time just waiting for the next social catch up. I couldn’t even do an online course due to the poor quality of the internet here. 

Jake Seaplane - many thanks to Emma for the photo
It all came to a head twice over recent months where I cracked it with living here. Once back in September where I started thinking about going home and once again a few weeks ago in early October. I know a lot of you would be thinking how great it would be to sit around with nothing to do on a beautiful island but the reality is quite different, especially after near 5 months with nothing to do. 

Amanda and I had quite a few discussions about what we should do and we ended up realising that the best option was for me to return home, look for work and restart my old life. Fittingly, the lease on our unit back home just expired so I could walk straight back in the door to my home.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing my family & friends, eating some good food, drinking some good beer, seeing some live bands, watching some Montreal Canadiens games, abusing some high speed internet and getting back into playing hockey & drums again (wish I didn’t sell my drums now).

Teshio wreck - Many thanks to Karen/Dave
Since making the decision a few weeks ago I’ve been enjoying living here a little more – knowing that my time here is almost over. As frustrating as this place can be I know I will miss it but I can’t stay here any longer either. No place is perfect and while a lot of people may hate the big city lifestyle, I need to head back there for a while. Palau is a great place to visit and if you have any interest in diving or it’s definitely worth it. Living here is a little tougher as the place starts to wear you down after a while. Regular trips ‘off-island’ are advisable if you can afford it. I don’t regret coming here, it’s been a fantastic experience and has definitely been one of the best decisions I/we’ve made. After some time back at home I’d definitely consider living abroad again but maybe in a fully paid position this time. 

After meeting so many great people and having so many awesome adventures here I will be sad to leave (especially as I have to leave my wife behind for a bit) but it’s time to go!

So long Palau and thanks for all the fish dives.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

An update on MHP#2 (karate kicking guy)

Today while sitting in the coffee shop again, MHP#2 (aka the karate kicking dude) put on a display right in front of my window. He tried in vain multiple times to fall into traffic. I have no idea how he didn't get cleaned up by a car in one particular instance, it must have been damn close. 

I've now worked out that he is not attempting to karate kick but to practice Baseball pitching! He stands sideways, brings his hands together then very suddenly kicks out his left leg and throws his right arm back. This leads to an instant and explosive loss of balance, I'm quite impressed that he never actually goes down and somehow regains his balance. 

taking a break from practice

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A couple of interesting characters

While sitting at the local coffee shop this morning I was reminded of a couple of the local 'interesting characters' aka Mental Health Patients. I thought it might make a humorous read so here you go:

One day after dropping Amanda at work I was headed for the coffee shop. While heading down the driveway from her work to the main road there was a guy walking right in middle of the small lane. He obviously had not heard my car come up behind him, so instead of beeping him I thought I’d be patient and wait for him to finish walking down. At some point he suddenly noticed me (a respectable distance) behind him, he jumped and ran to the edge of the lane. I waved and smiled at him as I passed him. As I turned onto the main road he yelled something and waved at me. I slowed as I thought he might have something important to say. This was a mistake! Turns out he was just looking for a lift into town. I was put on the spot so I said yes...

We introduced each other but I found it very hard to understand him. He asked me about why we were here and wanted to guess where we were from. After wrongly guessing numerous American states I told him he was guessing the wrong country entirely, after a few more wildly inaccurate guesses (he wouldn’t let me to tell him the answer) I started giving him some hints like Southern Hemisphere, Starts with the letter ‘A’ (he then immediately guessed a country not starting with ‘A’). After he guessed a few more American states I decided to tell him it was Australia. I’m not sure he’d ever heard of it as he still seemed convinced it should have been an American state. I tried to tell him where it was and mention Kangaroos and Koalas but this made him more confused. I changed the topic. 

He told me he worked for the local office supply store and was headed back to the office in town after a meeting at the hospital. I thought this was a little odd seeing he was bumming a lift off me, he wasn’t well dressed and he smelled a little. He went onto babble some shit I couldn’t understand and we had a fairly uncomfortable ride as we couldn’t converse particularly well. As we neared his workplace I had to slow the car down to allow someone to finish crossing the road (away from a zebra crossing). MHP#1 flips out at this and leans way across me to scream out my window at them. He yells some crap about how they shouldn’t be jay walking and how it was a crime in Palau. I don’t think the jay walker would have heard his rant but I sure did. After shrugging him off so I could hold the steering wheel without him leaning on me we finally neared his workplace moments later. I gladly let him out and continued on to the coffee shop. 

Wouldn’t you know it, not more than half an hour later I caught him (beer in hand) jay walking twice across the main road causing all sorts of traffic issues. 

Since this incident I’ve seen him a pile of times jay walking and wandering around town with a beer and smoke in hand. Obviously it’s been a while since he worked at the office supply store if he ever did at all.

There is this older guy maybe about 60 years old, tall-ish, thin who has clearly had a hard life. Often he is wandering around town, walking right on the edge of the road. This in itself is rather unremarkable but what what makes this guy unique are the massive karate kicks he'll attempt to pull off, these are completely random and without any warning. And I'm talking massive somewhat uncoordinated spin-o-rama heel kicks! 

I don’t think he’s necessarily aiming at cars but in his (probably) inebriated state and his preference for standing right on the edge of the road it becomes a rather significant issue for passing cars. Especially when he starts to lose his balance and almost falls into traffic after an attempted kick. 

At one point I hadn’t seen him for some time, I wondered if he had either successfully landed a kick or if he unsuccessfully kept his post-kick balance. But I’m glad to say he’s ok and back to his karate kicking best (with vengeance!)