Jan 30, 2013
BBC. CNN. Aljazeera. Slippers at breakfast. Stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage. Watermelon juice. Taxi doorman. Reuse all linens and towels. Newspapers in fancy bags. Key cards. Plug adapters. Upscale body cleansers. Phones by toilet. Bath salts. Laundry in boxes. Swimming pool in lobby. Overheated shuttle bus. Free wifi. Folded underwear. Foreign businessmen. Tourist groups. Bellboy models. Piano playing bar. Club floor. Home sickness.
Jan 26, 2013
Everybody on the planet knows the song, Gangnam Style. The world's biggest star is Psy. The funny thing is, when I go to Korea, I work in Gangnam. Before the song came out, the area didn't mean that much to me. It was groovy and all, but still it was no big deal. Now when I see a sign that says, welcome to Gangnam, I get all excited. The other day I was in a taxi and saw the sign and I wanted to jump out and take my photo standing in front of it. When Yun and I went to my cousin's wedding in Ireland, the second the Gangnam song came on, everybody jumped up and ran to the dance floor. They all knew every dance move of Psy's song by heart. I knew right then and there that this guy was huge. He's very hard not to like. I put the actual dance steps into my drawing just in case someone doesn't know the moves by now. The weird thing is, I didn't draw this in Gangnam even though I was in Seoul. I was in a different neighborhood at the time. I hope the Gangnam Style police don't give me a ticket when they see this drawing.
Jan 23, 2013
I like to eat supper during the Super Bowl. This year, every team I rooted for in the playoffs, lost each week. I'm what you would call, a loser. Now that we are down to 2 teams, I need to pick who I will root for. That will be the San Francisco 49ers. I bet with my track record, they will not be happy about that. The 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaerper-something-or-another, is quite exciting to watch. So if you want to win money, bet on the Ravens. You heard it here first.
Jan 21, 2013
Yun asked our fancy hotel what it would cost if we had a driver take us to Halong Bay which is a 3 hour drive from Hanoi, and drive us back the next day. We also wanted to go out on a boat for a few hours and see the bay. They told us for about $500 bucks we could have our own driver, who would stay over night and drive us back. We could have our own private boat, cruise us around for 4 or 5 hours with a guide. Perfect. We didn't have to go in some bus with other tourists. Our driver was great and he took us through the countryside. He dropped us off at a marina where we met out guide. She was an adorable Vietnamese girl who spoke the most unusual English I've ever heard. Yun said she sounded like she had a speech impediment but she didn't. She was very smart and college educated. As I drew this picture, she wanted to practice her English with Yun. Every time she spoke it broke my heart for some reason. She loved her job and was so excited about what she told us about the bay. Yun and I were shocked because it turned out the little boat we were going to go out on in the bay was actually our own private yacht. A very large one. We had our own captain and chef to go along with our own guide. It was so elegant, we couldn't believe how far our money went. We had our own bedroom with a private deck looking out onto the bay. There was even a beautiful shower. It was nicer than our hotel room in Halong Bay. We just stayed up on the deck because we liked hanging out with the guide. They cooked and served us a 5 course amazing meal. We had beer and wine. If you wanted to, they had kayaks you could tool around the bay in. The whole experience was beyond our wildest dream. At the end, our little guide kept saying over and over, "please don't forget me." She was so happy and sweet and it all broke my heart again to have to leave. Also for some strange reason, they had a rubber stamp with a red ink pad laying around. That is the stamp that is on my drawing. How cool is that.
Jan 16, 2013
Yun and I went to Halong Bay when we were in Nam. It's one of the new 7 wonders of the world, whatever that means. Along the way, we stopped at a roadside place for a bite to eat. Inside they sold something very unusual – Snake Wine. As you can see, it's some kind of booze with an entire dead snake inside. The snake happens to be holding a large scorpion in it's mouth and there are some ginseng roots floating about. The bottle cost 20 bucks. I just had to buy it to draw. It's illegal to take out of the country so I did this drawing in the hotel room, the night we stayed at Halong Bay. The snake looks like a little cobra but it is actually a rat snake. I read somewhere that they flatten the head of the snake to make it look cooler. I have no clue how they get the huge scorpion in there or in the snake's mouth, for that matter. They told me that only men can buy it. It gives you more virility. That seems pretty obvious. I found a website that will send it to you illegally. Check it out here. It costs $320.00 though. I'm sure if you are lacking virility, it's worth every penny. I didn't want to throw the bottle out after I was done drawing it. Yun suggested I give it to our driver along with his tip. It was wrapped up nicely in newspaper and I put it into a shopping bag with handles. I gave it to him when he dropped us back at our hotel. I never got to see the look on his face when he opened it. I'm sure he wasn't expecting anyone to give him a bottle of snake wine, especially not a tourist. He must have thought I was insane. He didn't know I was an artist who just wanted to draw it. Well, it's not everyday your given a bottle of virility juice from some stranger. Yun and I met a cook who told us a story while we were having coffee. He said that he was out with his male friends one night, it was one of their birthdays. They were in a club and wanted to do something special. For a large price, the owner brought out a live snake to them. He cut it open alive and took out the heart. The birthday boy got to eat it which is a big honor. He then took out the liver and squeezed the bile into each of their drinks. Then the tail was cut off and the blood drained into their drinks. A big night for young Vietnamese. I prefer a few shots of Jameson Irish whiskey with friends, myself. To each his own.
Jan 13, 2013
Weddings must be a big deal in Vietnam. In front of our hotel, we would see brides and grooms dressed up, getting their picture taken all day long. We were staying at the Hotel Metropole. That's where Graham Greene wrote, "The Quiet American." It was an over the top, opulent place. we loved it, by the way. It made a great backdrop for the wedding photographers to shoot their muses. There was also a lot of Christmas decorations around the outside of the hotel. I guess they were killing 2 birds, by not only getting wedding photos but also getting Christmas photos too. There was a little park next door where all the brides and bridesmaids were getting their hair and make-up done outside. The people are poor, so everything had a sort of make shift quality that was very sweet. The groom's tuxedos never quite fit. They would be wearing sneakers or some strange clogs. It was obvious it was all they had. It all broke my heart. Everyone was so beautiful, happy and proud. Korea was such a poor country not too long ago too. Now it is a super hip metropolis. The fashions in Seoul are way ahead of the curve. In Vietnam, there is no fashion yet. Capitalism is just taking hold. People dress for functionality, plus they have no extra money yet. After hanging out in Seoul, I can see what is coming down the road. I guess there is no stopping the fashion train from eventually getting there.
If you read what I wrote in my drawing, I'm sure you'll want an explanation, so here it is. Yun loves food, so she seeks out places where the best chefs in the world have eaten. There is a tiny hole in the wall that Eric Ripert went to to eat fish. In fact, they only serve one dish. It is very small and rundown in a quaint way. The vines and trees from outside are growing into the place. Hanoi is located in the middle of the wilderness. Seeing a bug in there is like seeing a bug in the amazon. Anyway a small mouse ran near Yun and you know the rest.
Jan 9, 2013
Jan 7, 2013
The first thing you notice when you get off the plane in Hanoi is that every communist soldier is on an iphone. The officer who was handling my visa never even looked up at me. He was too busy playing a video game on his computer, while he talked non-stop on his iphone at the same time. It was late on Christmas eve and our taxi driver beeped his horn about 400 times on our trip to the hotel, which took about an hour. He beeped at every truck, car and scooter he passed on the highway. I might add that it is not unusual to see someone on a little motor scooter driving down the HIGHWAY in the wrong direction and no one seems to care. He beeped at every bicycle rider, gas station attendant and roadside diner he spotted. I think it drove Yun nuts but I loved it. In the pursuing days, you realize that everyone does it all the time. The people are poor but every person does have a motor scooter. Their prized possession, I'm sure. Even if you're poor, you do have a horn. It's not like people use it in anger. It is more of a hello or a way to give people a notice that you are behind them or passing them by. With every person doing it nonstop all day and night long, it is quite a cacophony. I should also mention that everyone is talking on their cell phone as they are driving. So many people are doing it, that I thought it might be mandatory. It's very intense but I loved every minute.
Jan 4, 2013
Last year I spent over 4 and a half months on the road. That is a record for me. I guess it would be for most people. I spent thousands of hours on planes and in hotel rooms. It looks like 2013 will be more of the same. Right now, I'm recovering from jet lag. That is something I do a lot now. All of that travel means a lot more adventures too. So hopefully there will be more interesting drawings and videos to come.