I had no set plans. I didn't know what hotel I should stay at. I walked out shaking wildly because I was just wearing a t shirt. I instantly developed a headache that lasted throughout the entire trip. The altitude might have something to do with it, but I also believe that the cold contributed to my misery. I wasn't thinking clearly. I hopped into a random cab and told him just to drive towards the city, which wasn't too far away. I rapidly searched on my phone for hotels and picked one with decent reviews on TripAdvisor. Wow, the 3G speeds up there were blazing fast.
I dropped my gear off and walked down the street a bit and found an awesome com ga or chicken rice place, sat down and ordered some food. Wow, the dish was spectacular. The chicken was so crispy and lean. I've never had anything like that before. The meat was tender and flavorful. The hot rice in the cold weather was perfect. Everything was perfect. Then the bill came out, and I was shocked to see the price. 50,000 Dong. Yikes. That's Saigon prices. I confirmed with locals sitting next to me that this was not the tourist price. Seems like food in Pleiku can be pretty expensive or near Saigon prices. I walked out and a few of the waitresses stared at me with great curiosity. I guess it's because nobody ever walks into their restaurant and asks what exactly is chicken rice.
It was already about 10 PM. I was exhausted to the bones. Remember, I hadn't slept that night at all. Damn girl issues. It was pouring rain again. I found some shelter under a tarp on a street corner. It so happened that the lady there also sold balut eggs. Sold. I sat down, ordered a bunch of eggs, roasted fish, mangos, and everything else that she had. I stayed there until midnight or so just talking to her. She was curious about who I was and what I was doing there. Other locals stopped by and we all spoke. They were eager to listen to me. They were intrigued by my bullshit and how I would talk with my hands. I assured them that there's probably some Italian in me somewhere down there.
I got back to the hotel. It was too cold to take a shower, so I hopped into bed and shivered. Good weather, I thought to myself. I heard a knock on the door soon after. A girl was outside asking to come in so she could give me a massage. It wasn't a wet dream. If it was, I would have opened the door. She knocked and knocked. I got up and asked, Who is it? "Ai ve?" She said, "em nhe, open up, open up." I told her that I didn't know her and that I didn't call for anyone. She let out some bad words and got on her phone. I guess the guy next to me gave her the wrong room. I proceeded to put my head up against the wall to see if I could hear anything. Damn bricks and your sex noise blocking abilities.
My original plan was to go make my way towards Qui Nhon in the morning. I couldn't wake up. Luckily, the damn cleaning ladies opened my door at 8:30 and woke me up. This isn't the first time that this has happened before in Vietnam. In Da Nang the same thing happened. Either way, the cramped bus ride would likely take upwards of four hours or more depending on how full or empty the bus was. At 9, I gave up and walked around and found an awesome egg noodle place near my hotel.
There's this mist that you'll hear me talk about in the upcoming videos, that loom over Central Highland cities in the mornings. I love it. It's one of my favorite things in the entire world. It's that misty cold dampness. Places like Oregon and Da Lat would be ideal for me then. Nothing too frigid, but sweater worthy weather to begin with.
I wasn't sure what to do. I hadn't prepared any itineraries. I wasn't sure what was in Pleiku to begin with. I just knew that singer Phi Nhuong was born there and there were a lot of ethnic minorities around. One thing to remember while traveling here is that you shouldn't joke around about being from the mountains or caves. People will really believe it. I walked around a bit and met a fried banana lady. We spoke for a little bit. I bought a lot of bananas and roots that I ended up not eating. I just wanted to help her out because it was early and I was her first customer. She really thought I was from the mountains. A mountain kid with a camcorder. Yup..
One thing I noticed a lot was that there were plenty of trendy young people with dyed hair and skinny jeans all over Pleiku. The colder climate breeds originality. I see this more often in Ha Noi than I do in Saigon. People are just hipper up there and they try harder to stand out. It's nothing bad, but I just noticed my fair share of young people acting their age. So obviously, there's money in Gia Lai. I saw many new cars. More Honda SHs than in Bien Hoa, for example of wealth.
I was hoping to run into a xe om driver, but they aren't as common as in Saigon. It was raining and the were all hiding. So I went back to the hotel to charge my camcorder batteries. Three of my batteries haven't been keeping their charge, so I was pretty stressed out. I only have two functioning batteries left, so I was forced to be extra careful. I'll admit now that the SoJournaling Vietnam video for Pleiku will be a like lacking, compared to say, Myanmar, but that's just how things are. I didn't get a lot of footage because it was raining too much. So I walked around for about two more hours using my phone as navigation. The streets of Pleiku looked rather desolate. But I enjoyed it. The rodes were wider. The sidewalks were actually sidewalks. The tallest building was an apartment building built by Hoang Anh Gia Lai. The rain made it feel even more like a ghost town. I appreciated that. Eventually, I found myself back to the hotel to change clothes.
Having decided to skip lunch because I was already eating and feeling like a pig within the last few weeks, I wanted to make a second attempt at trying to find a xe om. This time it only took about five minutes and an older man in his late 50s asked me if I wanted to go anywhere. I turned and look at him and asked him if he was free. I had no idea where to go. I just told him to take me where he wanted. He took me to his mother's gravestone in the old Pleiku Cemetery. Uhhhhh. So there I was was, standing in the middle of a cemetery with rain trickling down and watching the man weed his mom's tomb. Then out of nowhere a guy dressed in camo and a Honda Win100 showed up and the two of them spoke about something. The camo dude turned to me and asked me if I wanted to see a dead baby in his trunk. (More on this later)
The next destination was this absolutely gorgeous temple. I've been to many temples in my life, and this one has to be one of the most pristine. Simply because there wasn't anyone else around. The rolling mist returned, and I found myself at complete aaaawe standing out there amongst the gardens. It was so serene. I can't stop thinking about how I stopped trying to capture moments like that on film. I just took in the time to just enjoy it. Man. That was beautiful.
Then I went to a bunch of places you'll see later on. Oh, and that night I couldn't sleep, so I roamed the streets of Pleiku into the wee morning hours on foot. That was pretty cool. Thug life.
To cut things short, I went to a bunch of other sites that Pleiku had to offer. There really wasn't much. The next day, I went to Kon Tum and endured getting absolutely soaked from head to toe on the back of a motorbike. Highway 14 was going under renovations and the stones and mud on the road proved it. The ride was uncomfortable as hell. But I have to admit, there were moments when I felt so much at peace. Maybe it was when the sun baked my face or when the rains drenched my butthole. Who knows. The honest truth was, I was out and about and I was happy. Sure, sitting at home and relaxing would have been much needed. But I was having an adventure. Feeling extra risky, I insisted in going into remote ethnic minority villages.
I had this fantasy dream of being greeted by the Jirari or the Banari people or other ethnic minorities out there. But the reality is, when you go to a real deal village, most people, especially children are fearful of strangers. Perhaps, I'm not white enough for them to see me as a novelty. They associated a camcorder with the law. They didn't want anything to do with me. People for the most part ran away. Some shouted somethings at me when I was filming their house or livestock. I guess, if you want the real deal, then you gotta opt for the fake touristy shit. The real deal isn't always as it seems. Some ethnic people weren't able to speak Vietnamese at all. The children resembled Mexican children a lot. But one thing's clear, a greater majority of them are all poor. The kinh people (Vietnamese people) bought out their land decades ago and they relocated to the deeper villages and away from the main roads. This is where they still exist today. The richer ethnics have gotten rid of their traditional stilt houses and now have homes exactly the same as the Vietnamese people. Much of their traditional garb is gone too. It's just simply not practical anymore. So this was the real deal. No tourists around. I only saw a group of white people briefly when I went to Bien Ho, which is a gigantic lake that supplies much of the water for Gia Lai province.
So Kon Tum was pretty disappointing. Not much there, except a bunch of ethnics. They weren't exactly friendly to the camera. In the end, the greatest thing was the trip there. The constant downpour from bright sunlight, the slippery roads, the aggressive drivers, and the feeling of just being out there.
I realized that this is the best time for me to travel. A few years down the road, it'll just be weird to be as I am now. When you're 30, it's not cute to be curious. Lol. Good times. One of the best trips, I've ever taken. Be sure to check back daily for new video updates. Oh yeah, 500,000 Total pageviews. Thanks a lot.