Wednesday, May 28, 2008

RIP No Depression

I don't really do too much of the magazine thing. Newspapers I devour like mad, but the amount of magazine reading I do is fairly low. Except for the random Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York or, more recently, Parenting in a doctor's office waiting room, I basically have three magazines I read. I have a subscription to Trains that I usually tear through the day it arrives once a month, the train-geek that I am. Our New Yorker comes every week and I usually have a stack of them that I still need to read laying around. It is a really hard one to keep on top of, with such long, in-depth articles and then the next issue is in your mailbox before you've even made a dent in the last one.

The last magazine I read is No Depression. I don't have a subscription to this one, it is only bimonthly and I just pick each issue up when I'm at the record store or Borders. The best music magazine out there, No Depression is usually my companion for several weeks on the subway as I read articles here and there. I will always start with the feature stories about the musicians I'm already into and then move on to the live reviews before checking out the articles about up and coming artists, then I read the other feature articles and finish with the record reviews. It really is my favorite subway/bus companion. Or at least it was.

I opened the March-April issue of No Depression and turned to the "Hello Stranger" department on page two, their name for the "from the editor" section that many magazines have at the front. I read the first sentence and my heart sank.

Dear Friends:
Barring the intersession of unknown angels, you hold in your hands the next-to-the-last edition of No Depression we will publish.

I read sadly as the three owners of the magazine explained in this letter to the readers that they could no longer sustain the magazine. The cause was a combination of many things, from the drop in advertising due to smaller budgets at the record labels (and less small labels) to the rising cost of paper to new postal regulations written to benefit big publishers and hurt smaller ones.

It also has a lot to do with the fact that there are tons less independent record stores and book stores where you would be more likely to find a magazine like No Depression which, like the disappearance of small labels, is partially the fault of the move to downloadable music. Which means my favorite music magazine folded because of you iPod assholes. So thanks.

But seriously, I'm really going to miss this magazine.

There is still a website with reviews, news and blogging by the publishers/founders, with plans to expand it to have more material. But it is doubtful there will be the same long features that the magazine contained. There are also plans to put out a semiannual "bookazine" that right now they are not really clear what it will be.

It won't be the same.

No Depression was my favorite music magazine not just because most other music magazines suck, though that has a little to do with it, but because it was started and run by a couple of true music geeks, Peter Blackstock and Grant Alden, along with Kyla Fairchild.

Grant and Peter were (and still are) a couple of freelance music writers living in Seattle in the early 90s who got together to create a magazine focusing on the fringe country scene, taking the name from a song made famous by the Carter Family in the 40s and introduced to a new generation by Uncle Tupelo on their 1990 debut album. The tag line for the magazine always included "Alt.Country (Whatever That Is) Bimonthly" even though it was never just about that anyway. They eventually changed it to "Surveying The Past, Present And Future Of American Music" a couple of years ago but even that wasn't a pigeonhole statement since they've done feature stories on Brits Nick Lowe and Billy Bragg, among many others from outside the U.S.

No Depression started as a quarterly in 1995 (going bimonthly a year later) and I had been living in Seattle, home of the magazine, for a little over a year. It came at pretty much the same time that I was really delving into the alt-country movement instead of just being a casual listener. The fact that it was centered around where I was living meant that I could easily check out a lot of the bands they were writing about. They really opened a lot of people's eyes to the fact that Seattle even had an alt-country scene. Turned out they had a better one than most cities.

No Depression was a place that I first heard about musicians that I would come to love, including Rilo Kiley, Old 97's, Nickel Creek and a bunch of others. I even discovered legendary artists I had never known before, but were major influences on many of my favorite musicians, like Ralph Stanley.

The reason I loved No Depression so much was not just because they focused on the kind of music that I love, though that certainly has a lot to do with it. Peter, Grant and the writers they hired really conveyed their love of music to the reader without the pretense and snobbery you get from so many other music journalists, who are more interested in letting you know how cool they are for knowing some obscure band than actually letting the music be the focus (I'm looking at you David Fricke ).

That is the great thing about these guys, they aren't trying to be the coolest kids in the room, (*cough* everyonewhowritesforSpin *cough*) they just love to write about music that moves them. And if they can turn other people on to it, well there really isn't another motive for what they do.

In this world of shitty corporate music magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin and their many clones it was nice to know that No Depression could even exist. That a small, niche music mag run by a few people out of their spare bedrooms and writing about artists that don't even show up on the radar of those other rags could find an audience was such a good thing for the music lovers like me.

When I picked up the May-June issue I hoped I would find out that one of those "unknown angels" actually had come to the rescue. But it was not to be.

I've been reading the last issue as slowly as I can, trying to make it last.

I'll keep following these guys to be sure, going to the website and buying this new book series. But it won't be the same. I can't read the website on the subway and the book won't come out every two months. I'm sad about what this could mean for the future of the music journalism.

So long No Depression.

Thank you Peter, Grant and Kyla for the last thirteen years of great writing about great music.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Apt Punishment

So the guy who created both The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.

Unbelievably, he was jailed for fraud and money laundering, and not, as I had assumed, for Crimes Against Humanity.

(My favorite part of the Times story is that this genius tried to hide from the cops in Bali by registering at a hotel under the name A. Incognito Johnson. Yeah, no one will be suspicious of that name.)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vietnam Afterword - Communism? What Communism?

Overall the trip to Southeast Asia is one I would suggest for anyone from the West. To see these cultures that are so vastly different in so many ways from ours is a valuable, and dare I say life-changing, experience.

To see the people in this part of the world make their way in some incredibly hard circumstances and keep so much of their kindness and grace is something I can't imagine from your average American. I've seen New Yorkers act like it is the end of the world when their subway train is rerouted for the weekend. They really need to go see the people in Cambodia who are missing limbs that were blown off by landmines (many of them from the U.S.) deal with their lot in life with a smile and without the anger that they would be completely justified in having towards Americans.

I hope we get to back someday, especially after our still gestating son or daughter is old enough to appreciate this kind of experience. Hopefully these places won't be completely overrun by McDonald's and Starbucks by then.

With Vietnam specifically, I was struck by one thing. This was my first time in a country that called itself "communist." I wasn't really sure what I expected but I certainly didn't expect to see what basically amounts to an unfettered free market everywhere we went. It seems like almost everyone has their own business in this country, from the fishermen to the rice noodle factory to the sidewalk bars and restaurants to the souvenir sellers and cyclo drivers. Everybody is free to make a buck however they can.

Yes there are high taxes, at least if the tour guide on our boat, Khoa, is to be believed. But according to him they don't really get anything for it, beyond a military. There is no unemployment insurance, no social security, no free health care and no free higher education.

So the working class pays an extremely high tax rate that goes straight to the country's war machine, none of it goes to a social safety net, capitalism runs amok with no regulation and the powerful elite reap all the benefits of this system.

Communism my ass. Looks a lot more like a Karl Rove and George Bush wet dream.

But through it all the people seem to persevere. And despite the crazy traffic, the crowds and the fact that all Vietnamese men in restaurants suck their teeth incessantly after a meal, we really loved being there.

For those of you that actually made it through all of these posts in my congratulations? Thanks for indulging me and I hope you didn't get too bored. More than that, I hope I even encouraged someone to want to go to Southeast Asia. It was worth every minute and every cent of my wife's money.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Long Way Home

So this will probably be my shortest post of the SE Asia series (everyone together now, "YAY!"), because there was not much to remember in the drudgery of the long trip home.

We left our hotel at about 5:30pm local time in Hanoi. We had an 8:30pm flight from Hanoi to Bangkok that was about two hours or so and then a 3-ish hour layover in Bangkok before our 16-17 hour flight to JFK.

For some reason the flight from Bangkok to New York leaves at 1:05 in the morning and you get in at around 7:00am, and then you have to try to stay up the entire day to get back on your time schedule.

So it was getting to the airport, checking in, popping an Ativan, having a beer and flying to Bangkok to catch the non-stop to JFK.

The most annoying thing in the world about the new Bangkok airport is just so unbelievable that they even designed it this way. There are no services inside the security area. No gift shops, no bars, no restaurants. Not even any vending machines. A water fountain is the extent of amenities at Suvarnabhumi airport once you go through security. So we sat there for two hours with nothing to do and no alcohol to calm the nerves of this nervous flier.

A flight that long is really hard on the trip there, when your excitement has you going and is keeping your mood up, but is is excruciating for the trip back, when you are tired and road-weary.

This time it just seemed a lot longer, no matter how much Pong I played or Singha beers I drank.

After getting to JFK, where it was raining pretty bad, and catching a really long cab ride home (Lisa put her foot down and said no to the subway with all the bags we had) we walked into our apartment about 9:30am local time.

It was 28 hours after we had left the hotel in Hanoi. That was after having a whole day in Hanoi before we even left.

Needless to say I felt like warmed-over shit by the time we got home.

Next time we stop somewhere midway and spend the night.

One interesting thing about the flight, just like the trip there we flew east again. So we went over a completely different set of countries this time. Instead of Europe and the Middle East we went over China, Russia, Alaska and Canada before getting home. So we circled the globe on this trip.

That was kind of cool.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Day 17 - Goodbye Vietnam

OK, the home stretch. I'm going to finally finish this long-winded travelogue a little less than six months after returning from the trip. I realized what I got myself into shortly after starting, but since I had already begun I had to finish it. I'll be honest, the rest of these will be from memory only because after Halong Bay I didn't write anymore in the journal. I was pretty wiped.

So this epic story will finally end this week. In the end I'm glad I wrote it. I've had some nice notes from people who found the blog while searching for info about traveling to SE Asia and they mentioned they found a couple of things I wrote useful. I should have my final SE Asia post up by Wednesday, when I leave town for a family gathering in Iowa. Another trip which may become blog fodder if anything interesting happens. So probably not.


November 25th - We woke up a little late today. This was our last day in Asia but our flight wasn't until later this night. We knew that the next day-and-a-half was going to be arduous and exhausting so we wanted to make sure to take it easy before we left.

We had bought a bunch more souvenirs the night before, about 10 conical hats to give to various people, including my four nieces, and a few of the red star flag t-shirts. But I also wanted to get some coffee to take home and Lisa wanted to buy some candy.

The nice ladies at the desk told us where we could find the coffee and candy districts and we went to get that taken care of so we could come back to pack up and check out. We found the coffee and I loaded up. I ended up buying, going back a second time after deciding I needed more, four full kilos of coffee. That is almost nine pounds for you Americans. I bought enough for me to keep two kilos and to give a half-kilo to my buddy Joe, who loves his coffee, and a quarter or half-kilo to various family members of both Lisa and me.

The beans we bought were the most popular variety in Vietnam, called chon, or weasel. It is called this because it is made from beans fed to a type of weasel and then collected from the animal's excrement. I think the roasting is done after the shitting process, but I'm not sure.

Oh yea, hey Joe, I meant to tell you that but it slipped my mind when I gave you the beans.

Then we bought something like two kilos of candy.

We took our loot back to the hotel and packed up our bags, as it was getting to be check-out time.

We went to the desk to check out and leave our bags to be stored. The first thing the manager said to us when we walked up was, "You are leaving us today" and took the time to tell us how much they enjoyed having us and lots of other nice compliments. I swear everyone at this hotel has a PhD in hospitality.

They took our bags and we went out to do a little more sightseeing before our car picked us up at 5:30 for the trip to the airport.

Over the last few days we had asked a couple people what the announcements coming form the loudspeakers twice a day were and we got somewhat vague answers. Both our tour guide in Halong Bay and the manager at the Hanoi Elegance 2 kind of brushed it off as "new regulations" being announced for each district. We didn't want to pry too much so we didn't really ask anymore after that. But we did take a picture of one of the speaker poles.

I mentioned in an earlier post that there were fruit sellers who would try to put their basket poles on tourists to take a picture and we had turned them away ever time up to this point. Well, today Lisa decided she wanted to go ahead and do it. She and her mom have a collection of cheesy tourists photos of that type (wearing sombreros on a mule in Mexico, putting a hand in the mouth of a fake alligator in Florida, etc) so she wanted one with the fruit baskets to give to her mom.

It wasn't long before we were offered. The woman tried to put it on me at first, but we told her we wanted one with Lisa and I asked her how much. The answer was, "no pay picture, just buy some fruit."

So we got the picture and she bagged up some bananas and a couple of other things for us. I figured it would be more expensive than when Lisa bought fruit on the street a few nights before, since this was a tourist trap kind of situation. But I allowed myself to get hosed. She said what I thought was 50,000d and I pulled out my money and gave her a 50,000 bill. But she took that and kept telling me it was more and I was going to give her another twenty or so but she saw the 100,000d bill in my hand and she grabbed it and then went on her way before I knew what happened.

We just paid about nine bucks for a few bananas and a couple rambutans.

You could tell that we were at the end of a long trip because Lisa and I started arguing over who's fault it was that we just got ripped off (it was obviously mine but I didn't want to admit it) and ragging at each other.

In the grand scheme of things it wasn't really that much money, and the picture turned out pretty good with just about the precise cheese factor you want out of these things.

It did take about a month before I wasn't pissed over being taken by the fruit lady.

We cooled down at the Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake, and ate some of our expensive bananas.

We also hadn't taken a cyclo ride in Vietnam so we decided since it was our last day we should. We went to where there were a few of them hanging out and started to ask one or two of them how much to go to the Women's Museum. First they wanted to take us in two different cyclos but we wanted to ride in just one. Guy first said $5 each and I said 50,000d (about $3) for both. He wanted to negotiate from there but this poor guy had the misfortune of dealing with me right after I had been taken like a common tourist, so I was sticking to my guns.

He was super nice and we ended up giving him double what we agreed to anyway, which was pretty close to his opening price.

After a quick look around the Women's Museum, which turned out to be under major renovations and most of the exhibits were closed, we walked towards the history museum. We ended up not going in and just sitting in the cafe in the courtyard.

We made our way back to the Old Quarter to have dinner. We finally went to eat at the vegetarian restaurant across from our hotel, a place for Western tourist which is why we had not gone there yet. Lisa got Pho and I got Pineapple fried rice. While we were waiting for our food a huge motorcade drove up and stopped right outside. A bunch of dignitaries and press people got out and went into a building right next to our hotel, something called Memorial House that we had completely missed checking out. The motorcade was from the U.N.

Everyone was outside looking at the motorcade, the staff from our hotel noticed us across the street and started waving.

The motorcade took off after about 20 minutes and we got our food. A van pulled up and we saw Pete and Shelagh, the Aussies we met in Halong, get off. We got to talk to them for a few more minutes before they had to go find a hotel room for the night.

We finished our last meal in Vietnam and then headed across the street to grab our bags and jump in our car to the airport.

Next - The long journey home and then some thoughts on Vietnam


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day 16 (Part 2) - Back In Hanoi For Water Puppets & Bia Hoi

Before we left for our tour of Halong Bay, on the morning we were waiting for our ride to show up, we asked one of the ladies at the desk of the Hanoi Elegance 2 if she could get us tickets to a performance at the Water Puppet Theatre for the day we returned. She said she would look into it and asked what performance times we wanted (she said we needed to have more than one choice in case it was sold out, there are several shows a night) then we were on our way to Halong Bay.

I had pretty much forgotten about that by the time we got back. When we walked in the front door to the hotel we were welcomed back warmly by the staff, asked how we like Halong and the same desk person we asked about the tickets told us she got them for the 6:30 show.

I'm telling you, if you ever get a chance to go to Hanoi I can't stress enough that you should stay at Hanoi Elegance 2. I really don't think I've ever had a better hotel experience.

So off to the Municipal Water Puppet Theatre we went.

It is really hard to explain the water puppet show except to state the obvious that it is puppets in water. Instead of above or below running the puppets, the puppeteers control them from behind a screen with the puppets on the end of long poles. It really is quite fascinating to see.

The show had no translation so it was only in Vietnamese. But with a program that described what each scene was about, mostly Vietnamese folklore and mythology, it was pretty riveting without knowing what anyone was saying. I didn't even come close to loving it as much as my wife did. We bought a DVD and a soundtrack CD.

We didn't get any pictures during the performance because, well, we hate people that do that. But we got a shot of the stage before the show started.

They also sell replicas of the water puppets at shops around the theatre so you can see what they look like.

No, the cat was not part of the show. Just a shop kitty posing perfectly for a picture.

After the show we had dinner once again at the Indian restaurant Tandoor which, if you are a vegetarian looking for a safe choice in Hanoi or just having a hankering for Indian food while traveling in Vietnam, for my money was a great place for some good grub.

After dinner I had one more thing I wanted to check out in Hanoi, this being our last night in town. I had read about a local brew called known as bia hoi that I wanted to try. Bia hoi supposedly translates as fresh beer and is a Pilsener brewed without preservatives and meant to be drank the same day it is made. I had to try some.

There are several places in the Old Quarter where they serve it. We went and found one intersection that had bia hoi bars on three of the corners. And by bar I mean a collection of little plastic tables and chairs on a sidewalk with a couple of kegs.

So we grabbed seats and I got a glass of bia hoi. As we sat there watching the street scene and the woman and her sons work the bar (they seemed to serve mixed drinks as well) we couldn't help but notice how this little operation wouldn't be legal at home in just about any way. Pretty much everything about it would be some sort of code violation; the woman dunked the glasses in a bucket next to her stool to clean them, her teenage sons were the servers and we were sitting on a public sidewalk.

I had a couple of them at a cost of 2000d, or about 13 cents a glass! The beer was pretty good and I could probably even drink Coors Light at 13 cents a glass. Well, that's not true. I doubt I could choke down Coors Light even if it was free.

There's a good chance I would have spent the whole night there in my younger, unmarried days.

Next - Last day in Vietnam and the long trek home


Friday, May 09, 2008

Day 16 (Part 1) - Morning On Halong Bay

Got up early on November 24th for breakfast on the Halong Phoenix, the Chinese junk that was our base for the tour of Halong Bay. Once again our dining companions were Pete & Shelagh from Australia and Niko from Germany. After having our omelettes we packed up our things in the cabin we stayed in for the night, settled up the bar tab and threw some money in the tip box for the staff. We then went back up to the top deck for our relaxing cruise back toward Halong City. This morning was clearer than it was the day before so the views were even more stunning.

(as usual, click on any of the pictures for the larger image)

Our boat made a pass through a floating fishing village on the way. Like when we saw them in Cambodia, I just couldn't wrap my brain around what that life must be like.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to our newest friends. Pete & Shelagh and Niko were all on the three day-two night tour that included Cat Ba Island. So they disembarked onto a transport boat to go south to Cat Ba as we continued west to Halong City. We did the usual trading of emails with them, which we have yet to use but I plan to rectify that soon.

We waved at them as they pulled away then relaxed and took in the scenery as we meandered through Halong Bay. I was still very much in awe of the beauty of the place and was disappointed we didn't go with a longer tour. Oh well, next time we'll do Cat Ba Island.

We got back to Halong City for lunch at the big hotel there and sat with an older middle-aged couple from Malaysia that I had started talking to the day before on the Phoenix. They were there with a large number of family members, mostly their children and one grandmother, for just a weekend trip. A very sweet couple, but for the life of us we couldn't figure out the ethnic mix of their brood. The oldest daughter/step-daughter looked like she was part Hispanic and spoke with what sounded like an American accent. We didn't get to talk to them long enough to start asking those kinds of questions.

After lunch our ride back to Hanoi showed up. This time we were in a smaller van of the 13-seat variety. The Malaysian family and others rushed to the seats and Lisa and I were stuck with seats in different locations. Since she has the car sickness problem she volunteered to sit in the front next to the driver. I think she would have preferred to be sick over seeing the view from the front seat. It was the usual Vietnamese style of driving - zig-zagging through traffic, passing in the oncoming lane even at blind curves, last second lane switching as an oncoming car is bearing down - and I think her nerved were pretty shot afterwards. Add to that that the driver was actually drifting off as he drove like that. She kept talking to him as much as she could.

We were then delivered back to the splendid comfort of the Hanoi Elegance 2 Hotel where the congenial staff welcomed us back.

And they had tickets to a show waiting for us.

Next - Water puppets and bia hoi


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Day 15 (Part 2) - Caves & Kayaks In Halong Bay

We climbed aboard the Halong Phoenix Cruiser with all of the other passengers, set our bags on the deck and went into the dining room. We ended up sharing a table with the Aussie couple we had been talking to during the walk to the pier and the ride to the Phoenix. Their names were Pete and Shelagh, very nice people from the Melbourne area.

Our host made a bunch of announcements from the front of the dining room with a microphone. He started off by mentioning that it was a very special day today because "50 years ago today..." and Shelagh realized that he was announcing that it was her birthday, which he noticed after taking our passports. So after embarrassing her and getting people to sing happy birthday they started serving lunch. They asked if anyone didn't eat meat and Lisa and I were the only ones to raise our hands. After being asked about four times if we ate fish and answering no all four times they finally got that were were vegetarians.

The food was fantastic and plenty of it. There must have been nine courses. While Pete and Shelagh were eating calamari and cracking crab legs we were digging in to freshly roasted peanuts and french-fried potatoes. We got a feast every time we ate and the only thing not included in the tour price was the drinks. But those were only a buck each, both beer and sodas. That's the great thing about international travel in a lot of places, my beer doesn't cost any more than my wife's Diet Cokes.

After lunch they gave us the keys to our cabins and everyone went and threw their bags in the rooms. After settling in I grabbed another beer and we headed to the top deck. The Halong Phoenix got underway and we headed into the thick of Halong Bay. The ride was a jaw-dropping experience the whole way. The only way I've been able to describe it to people after I got back to the States was to say that it was like awe-inspiring nature of the Grand Canyon, multiplied by about a hundred.

Pictures don't even come close to doing justice to the size of the area and the incredible number of limestone islands rising out of the water, but we'll give it a shot.

(these look great if you click on them for the bigger image)

After cruising for a while we came to a small harbor where a bunch of other Chinese junks like ours and other types of tour boats were gathered. We climbed back aboard the transport boat and docked at one of the larger islands. We climbed what seemed to be about a thousand steps to get to the entrance of Hang Sung Sot, one of the largest known caves in Halong Bay. We were guided through three massive chambers of the cave, which was really difficult to capture in a wide photo due to the low light. So all we really have from the cave is one of me in probably my dorkiest picture (non-drunk category) ever.

And another of Lisa with one of the trash cans in the cave, which were so cute that she wanted to take one home.

When we came out the exit to the cave we were really high up on the island and we got a great panoramic view of the whole harbor below us with all the tour boats.

Then we made our way down another thousand or so stairs and ended up on the dock. We loaded on our transport boat and made a quick run over to another dock where those of us that wanted to go kayaking got off. The others went back to the Phoenix. Our guide stayed with us to lead our kayaking trip.

Just like everywhere else in Vietnam, there were people in Halong Bay trying to eke out a living off of selling stuff to tourists, like this snack boat.

If you look in the background of the picture above you'll see our table mates Pete and Shelagh, which turned out to be our only picture of them because just like all the other times we met cool people we never thought to get a picture with them.

We climbed on kayaks and followed our guide, getting a nice closer look at the limestone formations as well as making feeble attempts to get a picture of one of the low-flying hawks overhead.

We then came to a tunnel opening in one of the islands.

On the other side was this fantastic, quiet and peaceful cove. The only way in was through that tunnel so we were finally away from all of the large tour boats and their wakes.

The sun was setting on the way back and I was able to get a couple of shots.

When we got back to the Phoenix there were more passengers than there had been before. There was a group of tourists that were on a multi-day kayaking trip who had been staying on board already by the time we arrived and they were now done with their day of paddling around.

We hung out on the top deck again for a while before dinner and Lisa started talking to this German guy who was traveling by himself. His name was Niko and he was from Munich. Whenever we travel Lisa seems to get a chance to use her German. When dinnertime rolled around we invited Niko to our table.

We had another feast for dinner and our guide announced that there would be Karaoke in the dining room later. We made our way to the deck again.

We spent the rest of the night up on the deck talking to Niko, Pete, Shelagh and eventually the tour guide who was leading the kayaking group. Khoa was a really interesting cat, he had a fantastic grasp of English and he was really smart. When we talked about the U.S. he would just start throwing out a bunch of facts he knew about whichever place you were talking about. When I mentioned I lived in Seattle he knew what state that was in and the capital. Any time a U.S. city got mentioned he could name the state. During conversations about Australia he started naming the different kinds of plants and animals there were there, and I'm not talking about the simple ones like kangaroos and koalas.

We also got to pick his brain about Vietnam and life there. I won't go into too much of what we talked about right now, as I plan to do my thoughts about Vietnam when I finally wrap-up this travelogue epic.

We could hear some singing coming from off in the distance from one or more of the seemingly hundreds of tour boats anchored in the general vicinity of ours. Luckily, no one on our boat was interested so our karaoke machine never got used.

After a great night of conversation and drinks we hit the sack.

Next - Morning in Halong and then back to Hanoi