Sunday 30 August 2020



I'm writing this from a poky little bed-n-bog on the 4th floor of a small hotel in the pulsating heart of HoChiMinh City. It's taken some getting used to, the noise, the building shaking when a truck rumbles past, the horns, the perpetual white noise of traffic, music blaring from bars.

Did I mention noise? The last place you'd expect to find an AWOL Geordie.

Stop moaning. What've you been up to?


Ended up staying on PhuQuoc Island for 3 weeks. Pronounced Foo Hwok (as opposed to Poo Ket for Phuket).

Different ships, different cap tallies

The 3 week quarantine was a Vietnamese government requirement. I had to endure 21 hot baths with bath salts (whatever they do). And 5 star food delivered to my $130/night room three times a day. Rough.

I'd chuckle to myself that I'm the same lad who slept in a one-man-tent for weeks in Iceland, spent a year in a Bangkok slum with no glass in the window and spent years living onboard cramped submarines. Yet here I was enjoying 5 star luxury. Nice contrast.


I liked watching the weather come and go. Beautiful sunsets followed by raging storms.

Was the earth was breathing?

I'd contemplate the omnipresent duality of nature and our bizarre presence within it.

Perhaps our sole reason for existing is for the universe to observe itself
? Or perhaps there is no reason? I've been diving into philosophy again lately. Particularly, Schopenhauer (my favourite), Nietzsche and Plato. Smart bastards. The lot of em.

Side note: If you're wondering why the west is floundering, you could do worse than read Plato's Republic. One of the founding fathers of Western philosophy. Timeless. Another quote that comes to mind when I think of the West is Ayn Rand's: "You can ignore reality, but you can't ignore the consequences of ignoring reality." She wrote Atlas Shrugged which is another brilliant read.


Finally managed to figure out a Rubik's cube following a youtube algorithm.

Always wanted to do that.

Full hazmat for the three covid tests. Rubber gloves, goggles, the lot.

Someone in our group actually had the dreaded flu. She was quickly whisked away. I wonder if she survived given the 99.9% survival rate?

I found the whole experience amusing. I'll likely never experience these levels of comfort and indulgence again.


Once we were shown to be clean it was off to the Big Smoke.

This is the view from my room. Canny.

Wasted no time procuring a pedal-powered rust-bucket. Only 800,000 VND. It barely dented the 23,000,000 VND I'd exchanged for $1,000 USD. Quite something to hand over 10 x $100 notes and receive 115 x 200,000 VND notes in return. What a wedge. I know it's psychological but it does somehow feel like more. At least initially. The bike works out to be $35 or £26.


Not exactly in the CBR500's league but it's 200 times cheaper. Costs zero to run and provides a little exercise each day as I cycle 1.5km to work.

The only cyclists I've managed to overtake have been grannies in conical hats.


My new place of work is at the foot of Landmark81 - Southeast Asia's tallest building and the world's 15th. I'd never heard of it. It's a bit much to reconcile after a year of chickens, rice fields and dirt roads in rural Cambodia.

One of my new colleagues has a condo on the 49th floor of a nearby tower. I was more impressed with the buttons in the lift than anything else. Our ears popped on the way up!

Found some gardeners in one of the few areas of green in HCMC. I love those conical hats. My students will be calculating the volume of one using integration soon enough.

I cycled down HCMC's KhaoSan Road. Strangely bereft of twatpackers. Coz Covid. I was here in April 2007 but barely remember anything. Stayed a couple of nights and left for the jungles and hill tribes of the Southern Uplands.


Passed this Thai food stall near Bui Vien Street. Was taken aback to see Thai script so had to investigate. Gutted the owner wasn't there. The person running it couldn't speak Thai (or English) so I never got to the bottom of it.

I'm guessing they might've been surprised to meet a Farang in Vietnam who could read Thai. A bit like the Laotian bloke I was sat next to in Korea. He'd been speaking Thai (Isaan-Thai for those in the know) on the dog-n-bone and got a shock when I started gobbing off.

I've mostly been chilling in these little riverside cafes I was lucky enough to stumble upon. Not exactly peaceful (nowhere is) but the best I've found so far. There's a riverside park near work where I can see myself getting back into jogging in the evenings. It's kinda surreal with LM81's massive presence looming over us - lit up like a cuboidal Xmas tree.

Had a couple of massages from a lovely young lady named Kim. A true professional. Despite the language barrier.

Speaking of language, I'm doing OK but every word or sound means something else in Mandarin, Khmer or Thai which is very confusing. Obviously.

Was good to see my first monthly pay deposited into my new bank account. It's been a while. It's the highest teaching salary I've ever had! I'll be buying some dividend paying stock with the lion's share of it.

So aye. It's back to wage-slavery for a year or two. My fellow worker-drones are a decent bunch. A few of them are very happy to have escaped the UK. Man, I enjoyed me year off.

However, I'll mostly be kicking rocks on the weekends. I remember feeling lost in Bangers in 2012, especially at weekends, and it's similar here. I used to drink a lot back then to ameliorate a nagging sense of unease. It'll be interesting to see how it goes this time as a teetotal monk. These massive cities engender feelings of loneliness. Millions of pod-dwelling souls. Crabs in a bucket. Superficial. Not really my cup of tea. But I'll persevere.

Tạm biệt


  1. You'll be ok Steve, just stay off the beer. Hopefully the students make up for the sacrifice. Good luck to you. Maybe the2 week low, better next

  2. How much's the salary matey? 5K USD?

  3. Hi Steve, hope all is well. It's Kevin here. Whats your email address? I'll keep in touch in case I'm back in S.E. Asia. Prob wont be for a while though. Take care

    1. Hey Kevin. Glad to hear from you. There's not many people who'll know Battambang. Would be cool to see you again if you ever make it back over. I haven't really got any idea what I'm doing - just floating around. Like dust. In the wind.

    2. Hi Steve, sure I'll send you a message on here when I do. Had to come back to sort out a few things and cause of the rona; now I'm kind of stuck. Must be great over there without all the backpackers etc. Take it easy mate! Kevin

  4. Matey, looking forward to next update. Hope it's all good. Cheers.

  5. Take care crazy man.. The gods are good .....

  6. No update for 3 months. Come on!

    1. Haha - you've just given me something to do at the weekend. Cheers!!

  7. Move dot Viet aye! - i loved it there me, was an alternative thailand in many ways. City + beach location access. I like a beer so the craft stuff went down a treat. All the best lad!