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December 2007
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summer love in the cruel heart of winter // day nine: towards the rat year


» Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City (Otherwise Known as Saigon)
» Things to See in Ho Chi Minh City (A-Z): Cholon
» Cao Dai Temple
» Chu Chi Tunnels
» Things to Buy in Ho Chi Minh City: Modern Vietnamese Art
» Things to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City: Restaurant Guide

» Places to Party in Ho Chi Minh City: Bars and Clubs
» Places to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: Malaya Hotel
» Getting There: Ho Chi Minh City Airport
» Getting Out of Ho Chi Minh City: Mui Ne
» Buying Real Estate in Vietnam?
» Learning Basic Travel Vietnamese
» Money: Vietnam Costs
Uncloned Malaysia

» Bangkok: Google Adsense and the Fall of Mango Sauce

I was thinking today, than it was only one year has gone since you were here. It seems that since then, everything that could possibly change in my life, has changed. My life has changed completely since then. In every possible way!

A whole new earthquake rearranged the landscape of my life, and I have found love, in the most unexpected place. It is quite a reversal of fortune. For once, every thing fits together just snug (I reckon the phrase "perfect balance" is going to come up a lot this year.) And perhaps it us the changing of the year which in part explains this poleshift, this poleflip. This is a year of expansion. I was just thinking then: "Perhaps Baudrillard was wrong about implosions being negative experiences. Perhaps there are ways to use the implosion to your benefit, there are ways to ride the implosion. After the centuries of expansions which led man to the inertia of the stars, the implosion has began. What is not the Internet (which doesn't even occupy any physical space, which is electronic) the first manifestation of the Irruption of territorial expansion. We are still expanding, not out to the stars which are ultimately untouchable (due to the inertia of light), but into our own collective mind. The Internet is the space within, but not the only one. How we can find these other places? (intuition, the sense of absence, is your only hope.)

Raymond Kurzweil has made a lot of predictions regarding the future including the rise of intelligent machines and the triumph of virtual reality: Destructive scans of the brain and noninvasive brain scans have allowed scientists to understand the brain much better. The algorithms that allow the relatively small genetic code of the brain to construct a much more complex organ are being transferred into computer neural nets. (Raymond Kurzweil.)
Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely obsolete.
Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities, which hold some advantages over human partners. The depth of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be accorded more rights.
Human-robot relationships begin as simulated personalities become more convincing. (Good idea for a Hollywood movie circa 2025.)
While a growing number of humans believe that their computers and the simulated personalities they interact with are intelligent to the point of human-level consciousness, experts dismiss the possibility that any could pass the Turing Test."

Deeper into the 21st century and towards the 22nd century, Kurzweil predicts: "The world is overwhelmingly populated by A.I.'s that exist entirely as thinking computer programs capable of instantly moving from one computer to another across the Internet (or whatever equivalent exists in 2099). These computer-based beings are capable of manifesting themselves at will in the physical world by creating or taking over robotic bodies, with individual A.I.'s also being capable of controlling multiple bodies at once.
"Organic human beings are a small minority of the intelligent life forms on Earth. Even among the remaining Homo sapiens, the use of computerized implants that heavily augment normal abilities is ubiquitous and accepted as normal. The small fraction of humans who opt to remain "natural" and unmodified effectively exist on a lower plane of consciousness from everyone else, and thus find it impossible to fully interact with A.I.'s and highly modified humans. "Natural" humans are protected from extermination. In spite of their shortcomings and frailties, humans are respected by A.I.'s for giving rise to the machines.
I saw a scene on Heroes on Mediatti in Japan, a girl living behind a mirror, the glass a razorthin membrane between two worlds. Or perhaps the other side is not a vast universe like ours, but an imploded dimension. A dimension which didn't quite make it into manifestation when the universe flared out of the Big Bang. A razor thin membrame, populated by ghosts and spooks. At some places there are ruptures in the membrane, and we get a glimpse of the other side...

When in a manifestating period, keep your dreams rooted at least accessible from the ground. During a manifestation period, let your imaginations run wild. That is the message I have been getting more and more this month, as the Rat Year takes hold (in Japan and the western world at least.) Last year was the year of practicality, and out of innspired practice, a beautiful lifestream has begun to appear. I made it happen, by the focus of my thoughts and the stability of my emotions, so now I can kick back and fucking party! That way a whole new dreams and inspirations will come forth from the void.

"The H6D model suggests a universe finite but unbounded in both space and time. A universe in which the mass/energy density exceeds a certain value will have an escape velocity in excess of lightpeed. Nothing could escape such a closed universe and any object which traveled far enough would eventually pass through its starting position again despite that it had traveled in an unswerving straight line from its own point of view. However such a journey would take billions of years and nothing would look familiar when it again passed its starting position. In a finite but unbounded space such as this you can travel as far as you like but there exists a definite maximum possible separation between any two objects. An analogous situation pertains to a universe with finite but unbounded time. An object can in theory persist for as long as desired but no two events will ever appear to have a separation in time greater than a certain maximum. The surface of a Hypersphere as described by Riemann represents the simplest finite but unbounded space. The space within the surface f a hypersphere appears 3 dimensional and almost Euclidean over small distances but over large distances the curvature becomes more apparent as gravity bends the whole 3 dimensional surface back in on itself. The curvature of the 3 dimensional surface requires a fourth dimension about which to bend it. In Riemann's original model an hypothetical fourth spatial dimension, somehow orthogonal to 3 dimensional space provides this. Riemann described the 3 dimensional surface as somehow embedded in a higher dimensional space of 4 dimensions, analogous to the way in which the two dimensional surface of an ordinary sphere lies embedded in ordinary 3 dimensional pace. However in H6D, a dimension of "imaginary time" provides a "direction" about which gravity can curve 3 dimensional space. A second dimension of imaginary time provides a direction about which to bend "ordinary time", in the same way that the extra dimension f a plane allows the bending of a line into a circle. The H6D universe thus has three spatial and 3 temporal dimensions. By convention in H6D ordinary time denotes the observed progress of observed events on the macroscopic scale, whilst the two dimensions of imaginary time provide a plane of probability orthogonal to it. No real differences exist between the 3 dimensions of time on the quantum scale however. (Source: Specularium.

This is a cheap country that is for sure, so why is it costing me so much to stay and travel here these days? It must because now I have a Vietnamese girlfriend, and girlfriends are generally always high maintenance (especially when you have to travel across the world to see them.) I don't really mind paying for her though, because if I had a girlfriend who was 20 times richer than me, I would expect her to shout for our daily feasts of lobster and caviar. Coming to Vietnam, and showering Nga, is my way of sharing the wealth. There are of course, no free lunches -- you have to pass it on down the line. That is the lesson.)

Mui Ne beach resort When I woke up this morning and popped out of my cottage, this was the view which awaited me. We were staying at the Anh Duong resort - "One of the most beautiful beaches in Binh Thuan province with fine sand and clear water, surrounded by coconut trees and primitive forest, located in Ham Thuan Nam, Phan vacation at Anh Duong resort with its own private beach and preserved nature, you will have relaxing and precious moments when spending your vacation at our resort" (so the standard tourist spiel reads.) I was flushed with life, but not exactly flushing with cash. That is to say, I had cash, but I couldn't exactly access it. There aren't too many ATMs on the beach in Vietnam. Let's face it, Vietnam is a ridiculously cheap country -- this is the land of the $1 pub crawl. Noodlepie says that a small bia den (dark beer) at Hoa Vien Brauhaus on Mac Dinh Chi Street (Ho Chi Minh City) goes for 16,000 Vietnamese dong (VD). A small lager is cheaper at 14,000VD. That's 113 Yen and 100 Yen at the time of writing, according to XECom. Considering that the cheapest tipple of the same kind you can get in Japan is a happoshu malt-free beer in 7-11 is 150 Yen, Hoa Vien Brauhaus sounds like a pretty good deal. Happoshu isn't even real beer (that is the reason it is cheap, the makers don't have to pay beer tax because it isn't made with malt.) If you buy beer from a convenience store in Vietnam (for example the new dark beer Dai Viet Bia Den), Noodlepie says it will cost you 8,700VD a can. "In old world money that's 31 whole new pence."

Do the math dude -- even if you drink 10 such beers a day it is only going to cost you 1000 Yen. And considering that beer is often your biggest expense travelling abroad, that's good news. Drinking in Iceland In Vietnam, even the luxury resorts are dead cheap!

Nga said in one of our GMail chats (Oct 29 2007, she was in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and I was in Japan): 10.48 PM i have found goodplace for us in MUI NE
"10:50 PM me: I was thinking that now that I get a lot of money, I can afford to come to Vietnam many times in the future. That will be good because I don't like to be stuck in Japan all the time.
"10:51 PM NGA: I HAVE JUST CALLED TO WHITE SAND RESORT BUT IT IS VERY EXPENSIVE HIGH SEASON SUCH CHRISTMAS 10:52 PM me: How much does it cost?
"10:55 PM NGA: WHITE SAND 79-100US THAT TIME. ANH DUONG 35-69US
"me: Not so bad. How long do you want to stay there?
"10:59 PM NGA: ANH DUONGRESORT IS ENTERTAINMENT PLACE
"11:01 PM me: I had a look at both of these hotels on the Internet. They both look good.
"11:02 PM NGA: IT HAS CAMP,TENIS, FISH ,SWIM... MANYINTERESTINGGAME...

Some other resorts in the Phan Thiet area, all of them very reasonably priced in comparison to what they are offering, include:

Thai Hoa Resort: 56 Huynh Thuc Khang St, Ham Tien, Phan Thiet City, Binhthuan. Tel: 84-62 847320/ Fax: 84-62 847879.
Thai Hoa Beach Resort tourist area is located at Mui Ne tourist zone ĀEPhan Thiet, Binhthuan province, far from Ho Chi Minh City 210 kilometers is a peaceful sea area with golden endless spreading Sandy Mountain and coco trees are singing all the day. Thai Hoa Beach Resort tourist area shall give you completely relaxing times.
Passing by the green dragon plans, being in Thai Hoa tourist area you will forget the hot and noisy city, the stressful working days and enjoy fully the beauty and peace of new exploited tourist area.
Rooms range from US$17 to US$35.

Vinh Suong Seaside Resort: 46 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet. Tel: 84-62 847469/ Fax: 84-62 847680.
Vinh Suong Seaside Resort is located in premium complex of resorts in Mui Ne. In addition to its separate beach with white sand and clean shore, Vinh Suong Seaside Resort also includes a forest of coconut-trees and poplars rustling by the wind and an orchid garden inviting the visit of butterflies and bees. Over 74 well-equipped rooms were designed in diversified styles, which were located in harmony with the environment of green trees, blue sea, blue sky and whispering waves. This is definitely an ideal spot for you and your family.
Rooms range from US$45 to $103 a night.

You may wonder why this fruit (nicknamed the King of Fruits elsewhere in southeast Asia) has to bear such an austere name as sau rieng ("one's own sorrows"). As is often the case with Vietnamese fruit, there is a story behind the name. As is usually the case with Vietnamese stories, this one revolves around cruelly fated young lovers. In certain Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia), merely having a durian in your hotel room could be grounds for getting kicked out, due to the fruit's noxious toiletlike smell. In Vietnam though people are much more relaxed and liberal, and nobody was going to mind about Nga's little green stash. It is good for you too -- packed with rare nutrients and potent vitamin combinations. As Rick Kump wrote: "The taste from heaven, the smell from hell, it's the durian! One of the highest respected fruits throughout Southeast Asia, the durian has earned the nickname "King of the Fruits". King or not, it's one of the most interesting fruits I've ever come across. To those who are used to apples and bananas, the durian experience is anything but ordinary... All durians have a custard-like consistency and can taste sweet or even nutty. My first reaction to the taste was one of surprise more than pleasure. It tasted like sweet, garlic pudding! The durian's health qualities also have a good reputation throughout Asia. The durian is high in fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins. The durian is also said to have heating qualities, which keep its eaters warm at night. This may be due to the amounts of sulfur, said to be a beautifying mineral, which also give the durian its slightly garlic taste..."

My first encounter was Sau rieng was only a harbinger of the fruity delights to come.

At Saigon Airport once I picked up a little book called The Cuisine of Viet Nam, bought out by the Viet Nam Cultural Traveler. In one of the articles inside, Huu Ngoc writes: "In the West, grain and fruit overflowing from the Horn of Plenty traditionally symbolizes the abundance of a good harvest; in the USA at Thanksgiving, the horn filled with fruit is a symbol of the prosperity for which one is thankful. In Southeast Asia, there is a popular folk tale about a gourd with many seeds, the seeds representing the rebirth of humankind after the Deluge. And Vietnamese pay homage to their ancestors by placing a tray of five fruits on an altar: pomegranates, pears, peaches, plums and finger citrons, though people often choose other foods according to the season, or the region in which they live. The particular varieties of fruit are less important than the beautiful appearance of the fruit tray, with its harmonious colors and balanced presentation. Nowadays, a bundle of green bananas is also a must. Like the Horn of Plenty, the tray of five traditional fruits symbolizes the wish for abundance. It is also the emblem of the five elements of Asian cosmology: water, earth, wood, metal and fire.

"From the time they are small, Vietnamese children come to associate three fruits with particular stories: the thi (Vietnamese persimmon), the watermelon and the starfruit.

"The thi fruit is succulent, smooth and attractive. When ripe, it turns gentle yellow and gives off a subtle, sweet smell; it is often one of the five fruits placed on pagoda altars. Children are likely to hear of thi in the Tấm Cám, Vietnam's Cinderella. The tale is based on the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. In the story, Tấm is killed by her stepmother and stepsister, but is reborn into a thi tree bearing only a single, beautiful fruit. An old woman, seeing the gorgeous fruit, takes it home, not to eat, but to cherish as a prized possession. Tấm is reborn from the fruit and becomes the woman's adopted daughter, after which she is reunited with her husband the King.

"Watermelon also serves as a votive offering on altars, and plays a very important role in an appealing fairytale for children. Three thousand years ago, the story goes, during the times of the Hung kings, a young man named An Tiem was adopted by King Hung. Spoken ill of by the king's toadies, An Tiem and his wife, the princess, and their children were exiled to a wild island where they led a very harsh life. One day a flock of birds flew over the island, dropping some black seeds on the island. An Tiem planted those mysterious black seeds, and soon they bore fruit. He cultivated the seeds for his crop and traded them for rice and necessary equipment with trading ships that came to the island. An Tiem's life quickly improved and eventually, through his hard work and intelligence, he became rich. On hearing of An Tiem's success, King Hung had him welcomed back to the royal palace.

"The succulent star fruit (carambola) with five sections, can be served raw in salad, or cooked in soup. It is also served as a dessert. There are two types of star fruit: the sweet and the sour, both kinds grown in out-of-the-way garden corners or by the ponds. There is a folk tale about the star fruit tree. Two brothers, when coming into their inheritance, received unequal portions. As was the custom, the elder brother took the majority, but contrary to custom, the elder brother failed to provide for his sibling, leaving his younger brother only a shabby cottage and a star fruit tree.

"One day a phoenix came to eat the fruit of the young man's tree, but made a promise, as follows: "For every fruit I eat, I will return you a bar of gold. You must sew a bag three spans wide to hold the gold you will receive." The young man followed the instructions of the mysterious phoenix and that very night was taken to an island in the middle of the sea to collect his gold.

"When he saw how wealthy his younger brother had become, and hearing the story of the magical bird from his guileless brother, the elder brother persuaded the young man to trade the star fruit tree for all the elder brother's treasures. The next day the elder brother made the same bargain with the phoenix. Just as he expected, the bird came to eat the star fruit and made the same promise to the elder brother, who sewed the biggest bag he could to hold his gold. But when he got to his island, he was so greedy he filled up his bag with so much gold that after flying a short way, the phoenix could carry him no longer and had to drop him into the sea, where he sank still clutching his treasure..."

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