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The beach of Saigon
Welcome to FeedBurner subscribers, Swiss tourism and being Roger Federer's hair doppelgänger, Chernobyl tourists, Norfolk Island, and more travel reads from around the web.
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Hello from Ho Chi Minh City. Once again we are teetering on the brink of going into some form of lockdown, pending how quick they can put out the latest outbreaks. A lane has just been locked down here, which is how the virus has been contained so far. I stay here knowing that I could wake up with my street being barricaded. I think it’s a better system that a few streets take a hit for the team, rather than taking the whole country down. It helps that there is no religious nonsense here either.
This week I’ve been thinking about my time in Switzerland after seeing this great video from Switzerland Tourism, featuring Roger Federer and Robert De Niro.
I spent six months in Lucerne in 2003, and it’s where I started my digital nomad life. I didn’t know I was being a digital nomad, I was just working from my laptop in another country. One thing about living in 2003 was that I didn’t take many photos, and I wasn’t chronicling my adventures either. I had my first digital camera then, which I rarely used, and I had set on the lowest pixel quality to save space. What was I thinking!
Here I am in Saas-Grund in the canton of Valais, clearly wandering around in a daze, stupefied by the view.
It was around this time when Roger Ferderer began his ascendancy, winning his first grand slam at Wimbledon. Federer was playing my fellow Aussie Mark Philippoussis (The Poo!)
Being based in Switzerland I was already a Federer fanboy, so I was happy for either to win.
[Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2003 (via tennis.com).]
It’s hard to tell from my Swiss photo, but I had long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, just like Roger Federer. I would have random Swiss dudes point at me and say “Roger Federer!” My hair was wavier then, but I wasn’t going to spoil the moment. While we shared similar hairdos, the doppelgänging ended at the tennis court.
I would like to go back to Switzerland and take proper photos this time, and also visit some of the alpine railways that I didn’t see. It’s on my list of things to do when this damn pandemic is over.
Where I’m At: May 2021 – Saigon edition
Where I’ve been
A brief roundup of where I’ve been over the last month. Spoiler alert: not many places.
I started the month in Phu Quoc where I was compiling a report on the massive amount of construction that is going on there. The above photo is a new city that has a Venice-style grand canal. There are hundreds of shophouses and thousands of hotel rooms, and I’m not sure how they expect to fill them. I’m still getting my head around it. I’m doing a construction report at Future Southeast Asia, and I will have a travel-themed trip report here at Nomadic Notes.
I had planned to travel more in April and make the most of the last month of the southern dry season. In the end, I didn’t travel for the rest of the month. Something didn’t feel right.
When I returned to Saigon in March 2020 and declared that I’m going to ride it out here, I knew that 2020 was going to be a write-off. Deep down I knew that 2021 wasn’t looking good either.
We are now well into the second year of the pandemic, and things are not getting better. At least not on a global level. Sure, it’s great to see my American friends getting vaccinated in their droves and talking about vacations in Europe this year. As India is showing though, this thing is not over. If places like India spiral out of control and the virus has a chance to experiment with mutated strains, then we are back to where we started. We all have to recover together.
In my regional neighbourhood, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos have dropped the ball after doing so well for a year. Thailand were previously quick to lock down migrant workers at factories, but not much for party goers in Thonglor. Cambodia also let it get out of control before locking down hard. Poor old Laos was doing everything right until recently as well.
Meanwhile, in Vietnam, we got our first local case in over a month at the end of the month. The authorities here though are swift. After the first day of a case being reported in a village, the entire village was locked down for a month.
Saigon is not taking chances either. After one case was reported here, they have ordered to shut down bars, discos, and karaoke places until further notice. They are now issuing fines for not wearing a mask.
With no end in sight in this part of the world, I’m mindful of if/when the travel side of my business will recover. Fortunately, I’m in one of the cheapest places to live in Southeast Asia, so I can get by. With that in mind, I’ve slowed down a bit to knock a big dent in some projects.
The good news for me at least is that I can keep myself entertained in this big city. There are always new cafes opening up here, which I make a point of seeking out every week.
There are also plenty of international food options that keep my palate travelling, even if my body is not. One of my writer friends here wrote this article about the dining scene in Saigon during the Covid era.
I’ve almost caught up with my blog posts of my travels around Vietnam, which means I might start blogging more about Saigon.
Latest posts at Nomadic Notes
Vung Tau is a coastal city in the Southeast region of Vietnam. It’s the most accessible nicest beach to Saigon, thus it is regarded as “the beach of Saigon”.
COVID-19 and travel (or lack thereof)
“No vaccine access for all? No tourism recovery. It’s playing out already, with more lives being lost senselessly. The travel industry should act fast and figure out how it can be part of the solution.”
“US now supports bid to allow poorer nations to make cheap copies of vaccines, but Australia is holding out.”
Assorted travel reads
“As the number of tourists and other visitors to the Chernobyl zone in Pripyat, Ukraine rise, many can be traced back to a surprising source: the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.”
“Covid is just the latest challenge for a hippie hideaway that became a world-renowned beach retreat.”
“Medjugorje, just southwest of Mostar in modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a quiet Yugoslav town when, in 1981, the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to six local children.”
“Norfolk Island is part of Australia but most of the locals don't see themselves as Australian.”
“Retractable floor will allow visitors to see the ‘majesty of the monument’ from its centre, says culture minister.”
“GPS has mapped the fastest way to drive, cycle or bus between almost anywhere, yet there was no map showing how to walk between Britain's cities and towns – until now.”
“Over the last 50 years, Amtrak has seen many designs come and go.”
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The Nomadic Notes Travel Newsletter is a weekly newsletter of the best travel reads and interesting travel news, and random ramblings by the editor.
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- James Clark