Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Our last stop in Vietnam was a three day stay in Ho Chi Minh city. One of the first things I checked was if it was OK to call this city Saigon. The name Saigon is everywhere, and unlike the North - there is less emphasis in HCM himself here. Saigon is an ultra modern city with a traffic problem to match. On our way there we stopped at the Cu Chi tunnels. This was a 2.5 hour detour from the airport to our hotel, and I have to day it was not worth it. While the story of the tunnels is brilliant, there is very little to see, and I was too old and decrepit to actually go through the 20m tunnel that was available. A bit disappointing.

The highlight was a day trip to Ben Tre island on the Mekong Delta. I felt like I was in a Vietnam War movie going up the Mekong river. We also saw lots of crafts and had a cool sampan trip through some jungle. This was 2.5 hours from Saigon, but definitely worth it.

We also did a Vespa tour around Saigon by night. This was cool, as were the 1950s Vespas we were riding. Food was OK, but we are getting used to Vietnam food, so very title surprises us. Vespa tour - recommended!

Some photos of the three days:

Two locals at the Independence Palace.

Sampan boat in the Ben Tre island.

Roma and our host are very good at collecting leaves, not me! 

Cruising on the Mekong river.

Getting ready for Vespa food tour.

A Huey and a Eugene.

With HCM at the Cu Chi tunnels.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Vietnam - Hoi An

Our 4th stop of our South-East Asia tour was the city of Hoi An. We were located very close to the Old Town and all its markets and shops. This is a fantastic place to stay, with the highlight being the evenings and all the lanterns and lights. Walking the markets can be a bit annoying with the constant “You buy something” from the market people, but it is good natured and no offence is taken for polite refusals.

Hoi An is known for its quickly produced fitted suits and clothes. Roma and I got fitted for jackets - not quite as cheap as I expected, but good fun nonetheless. Food and drink is very cheap, and we loved sitting at the side of the street watching the world go by. The street food is fantastic, though Health and Safety inspectors would have a field-day here.

We had a lovely half-day cycling around Cam Kim Island through paddy fields and peanut fields. We also saw some locals making basket boats and mats. Later in the evening we took a boat trip on the local river in the midst of lanterns decorating each boat, and other lanterns floating down the river. It was magical!

Some photos from Hoi An:

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Vietnam - Hue

Our shortest stop in our Vietnam trip is to the small city of Hue - about an hour’s flight from Hanoi. We made a half day trip up the Perfume River on a noisy boat feeling like being in the middle of a Vietnam War movie. First stop was the Thien Mu Pagoda where, our guide explained the significance of the number seven in Buddhism. Most impressive here is that you get to see the Austin car used by Buddhist monk Thích Quang Duc when he burned himself to death in 1963 in Saigon. He was protesting at a crackdown on Buddhism. This was the  starting point of his trip to Saigon. Three more monks and three nuns did the same - making it seven deaths.

Further up the river is the huge Ming Manh mausoleum. Well worth seeing, though I expect it would be more spectacular later in the year when flowers would be blooming. We were driven back to our hotel after this and we spent the rest of the afternoon in downtown Hue. Not quite as busy as Hanoi, but we sat at the side of the street drinking beer while soaking in atmosphere.

Some photos from the day:


At the Ming Manh Mausoleum.

The Perfume River.

 Thích Quang Duc’s car.

Enjoying coconut juice in the perfume River.

Enjoying a beer at the DMZ Gastropoda.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Vietnam - Halong Bay

Leaving Hanoi, we decided to take a one night cruise in Halong Bay. we had not been on a cruise ship before, but this one catered for just 14 people - so was nice and compact. The “Ginger” was one of several ships in a crowed bay. The crew on this ship were fantastic, and could not do too much for you. The food is top class and presented brilliantly.

Halong Bay is a world Heritage site, and it’s easy to see why. Hundreds of islands stick out from the sea like stalagmites. You can’t get enough of just sitting on deck and watching this wonder of nature. It is however, spoiled by the flotilla of plastic and other rubbish that floats on the sea.

We also took an excursion from the Ginger to Cat Ba Island where we were treated to a trip through a small jungle (my first time) down to a remote holiday location.

Definitely worth doing!

Definitely worth doing!

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Vietnam - Hanoi

This week I am starting a trip from Hanoi in the north of Vietnam and working my way south over the next three weeks. This is one of those big trips that myself and Roma wanted to do in the immediate years after retirement. 

We spent the first three nights in Hanoi, and my lasting impression of this city is that it is a vibrant, chaotic, and wonderful place to visit. We stayed tight in the centre and were in walking distance of almost everything. We took a tour of the Ho Chi Minh complex including his mausoleum and the house where he lived. Despite being dead for over 50 years, he is still revered here. 

The traffic is the most chaotic thing about the place, it’s scooters and cars competing for every inch of the road space. There was only one thing to do about this - join them! So we took part in a Scooter Food Tour moving from place to place - my driver, Thomas, was an expert rider. this is just about the best fun I’ve had on two wheels since riding Route 66.

There are plenty of temples and old buildings to see - some interesting, some not. The symbol of Hanoi is the Khue Van Cac - we got to see the pagoda it is based on.

We do!

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Still searching for the easy way out #plagiarism #cheating

I get regular performance updates from Google about this blog. Even though I have not posted much since I retired, there is still some traffic to this site (26.5K impressions last January). Alas, our old friend plagiarism remains the top attraction for visitors to my blog.

Exactly 10 years ago, I wrote a post: Using Google Translate to Beat Plagiarism Detection Software. In this post I translated an English piece of text from Wikipedia into Spanish, French, Polish, Chinese, and back to English in order to show that trying to cheat using Google Translate would not work. Sadly, I had previously detected this in student assignments. Ten years later, this is still the most popular post in my blog! The top performing query was "how to avoid plagiarism using google translate" - clearly there are still folks searching the Internet to find an easy way out.

ChatGPT is making a lot of news lately. While it is no longer of concern to me, it still saddens me that people could use this to cheat. I'm sure that there are several legitimate uses, but there is obviously the strong temptation to use it for College essays and assignments. I decided to give it a try to see what all the fuss is about, but the site was overloaded!