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Day 549: Nyepi, Bali’s Day Of Silence

Pray for me. We are now entering into the Nyepi, the Balinese “Day of Silence”.

For the next 38-hours the country will gradually go quiet. The official time is 6 am Thursday to 6 am on Friday but they are already busy shutting down now at 3 pm, ready for travelling home to their families.

DPS is the only airport in the world which shuts down for a full 24 hours every year.

All alone in the world for 38 hours.

The WiFi will be turned off. You are not allowed to cook on flames. You are not allowed to work. You are not allowed to move off your property – the roads are closed and you will be in trouble if you are caught out and about. You are not allowed any entertainment. You are not allowed to turn on the lights. Did I say the WiFi will be turned OFF?

For the curious, here is the Wikipedia entry which explains it in better detail than I can:

The letter from our guest house

A local we spoke to last night is actually looking forward to this. It’s “a chance to relax and do nothing”, and “it will be good,” he said.

But the WiFi will still be turned off.

We have our clutch of snacks, fruit and water. I got some extra pillows from reception for a fort, and we grabbed a copy of Canngu Weekly on the way home. This will be rationed out page by page over the coming hours.

Tomorrow I am introducing Giang to the great British cultural icon that is “the crisp sandwich”.

The vital ingredients for a good crisp sandwich

🌌 One thing I am looking forward to is the prospect of seeing the Milky Way. With the entire country switched off, Bali will become the worlds biggest dark site (I have not researched if this is true). A dark site is a place where your view of the starts isn’t blocked by light pollution from Earth. Catching a glimpse of the Milky Way / galactic core has been on my bucket list for many years. The sky season is not great for this though, we are right on the edge of when it is visible to the night sky, so it may or may not pan out.

The sun sets on a WiFi-less world

Fingers crossed for clear skies, and for the WiFi for us to be returned to us post-haste. 😬

Daily Life

Day 501: 500 days as a digital nomad

It’s now been 500 days since I first got on a plane and became a digital nomad.

In that time I’ve learned a lot about myself, about different cultures and about what truly motivates me in life.

I’m back home for Xmas and my birthday at the moment but I could not be more excited for what lies ahead in 2019.

The tough part is leaving your family and friends behind each time, but in a way, they are always in my backpack.

I see the world through the lens of which friend would enjoy this park, which one I would go drinking with at this bar, and how much my parents would enjoy a city I’m in.

Over the last 500 days, I’ve added new people from around the globe to this backpack and day by day the world feels more and more connected.

Becoming a digital nomad has given me a new sense of direction and a new lease of life; just at the point when I thought it was going to start winding down.

And for the next 500 days? I’m planning to embrace what the world has in store for me, and continue to find out what I’m really capable of.

Daily Life

Day 405: Do you want a hug?

We were walking home and it was almost 1 am. There’s no denying we were both tipsy and lost. What Google maps had claimed was a 23-minute walk was now pushing 45 minutes.

In fact, our tipsiness was probably waning after burning it off on the long walk we had taken (there may have been a long loop of a lake that wasn’t intended).

As we reached one of the busier main roads a moped pulled up next to us and said something to Giang in Vietnamese. She said something back to him and then translated for me, “He just asked, did I want to hug him?”

Here we go, I thought. It was Saturday night, pub chucking out time. Giang was looking amazing and we were attracting the chancers. But nope, I was wrong. She started laughing and then explained the full story.

Moped taxis are a popular service here in Vietnam. The local name for them is apparently “Xe ôm” or a “hug taxi” because as he takes you to your destination you hug the driver to stay on tight. When the drivers are looking for new fares they go around asking people if they want to hug.

After realising I was being tricked by Giang we reluctantly turned him down, although it was tempting after walking for so long. The bikes don’t fit two passengers comfortably or safely and I’m sure my mother wouldn’t approve of such dangerous riding, so it was a no.

About 15 minutes later, after one more incorrect detour, we finally collapsed through the door and onto the bed for a well-earned sleep.

There is a happy ending though because as you can see from the cover photo, the next day Giang got her hug when she went off to visit family while I stayed behind here at Clickspace.

Travel Tip

Day 404: Photograph your clothes before you give them to the laundrette

One of the great benefits of living in many parts of the world is that laundry services are the standard way people get their clothes washed. This means the businesses are plentiful and cheap. For me, back home, it’s a luxury to get something like this done.

You either need a mummy on-hand or you take it to a laundrette and end up paying more to get it cleaned than you paid for the item in the first place! So of course, I eagerly take advantage of these services when I can.

However, it’s easy for your laundry to get mixed up when you send it off to get cleaned. I’ve lost a few pairs of boxers and other people I’ve travelled with have lost bras and tops.

When you only have a few pieces to your name – and you probably brought quality items from home – it can be heartbreaking to lose them.

But what can you do to minimise this? I’m glad you asked!

Before you bag up your laundry, spread it out on the bed and take a few photos. It’s quick and easy but it gives you peace of mind when you are wondering if you got everything back.

Also, having a photo to show them gives you a better chance to get it back if it has been misplaced. It can be hard to describe it if anything goes missing and a photo sidesteps any language barriers.

Worse, sometimes it doesn’t occur to you until later on. You might have already left the area, or the other person might. One time we lost a bra but gained one as well. The laundry was returned in the morning but we didn’t notice the mistake until the evening.

We went down to the front desk and found out that the other person that had done their laundry at the same time had already checked out and left the city with our bra swapped into theirs.

A photo check could have saved the day and got these items back to their correct owners!

Pro tip: When using the laundrettes, in Asia at least, they often use cold water. The clothes are cleaned but not cleaned.

If you are one of those people that does a sniff-test it and thinks “I’ve got a few more days” then bear in mind you should be washing them before they get too rank. You will end up with a stinky suitcase as well if you try to play this game.

Review

Day 357: Kokogreen Kafe Review, Da Nang, Vietnam

Nomad friendly? Yes!

After looking at my spreadsheet (yes I track this kind of thing) I realised that I had logged 99 unique #officeoftheday setups since I had started this journey. I should pick somewhere special for tomorrow, I mused.

A slow to start the morning and pressing deadlines had left me stressed, hungry and pushing up close to midday. It was time to spring into action. I searched for healthy eating on TripAdvisor and found a shortlist of cafes. I can’t say exactly what made me pick this one but it was chosen and we got into the Grab.

Wow. I’m so happy I selected it. They have really healthy options, pretty much across the board but they also have a separate low carb meals section. Each of these low carb options has an enticing photo, and also something very rare for Southeast Asia: a calorie count next to them!

They have a video running on a loop which shows a happy gym user running on a treadmill, with perfect hair and not a drop of sweat. Later she is in the cafe, smiling and laughing as her boyfriend lovingly spoons some greens into her mouth. Classic marketing maybe but while we were there a buff, gym-using looking guy did actually pull up on his moped, sit down for a healthy meal and then went on his way again. A vote of confidence for the quality of the food here.

Visually, the place has got some nice stylings. There are bookshelves in the background adding a nice intellectual ambience. Upon closer inspection, Giang tells me they are mostly old law books. They have also got a sprinkling of old film cameras laying about giving it a slight hipster vibe. Some greenery and interesting lighting finishes off the look of the place – one of the windows, for example, has tea cups and saucers hanging upside down as the light shades.

Temperature

As we spent the afternoon there it did get a bit hot. They had fans in the roof and a row of four air conditioning units but only two were running. There was also some ground level, floor standing fans but the one next to the table we picked wasn’t working.

You might think that because I’m out here travelling the world that I’m a super confident person. That I can do anything and not even flinch.

That is not the case.

As a fine, upstanding British person I just sat there getting hotter by the passing hours. I tried the fan again in case it magically worked but that’s as far as I got. Sure I could have just gone and asked the waitresses if they could do anything but I was busy running scenarios in my head instead.

Had I spent enough money to still be here? Was I being cheeky asking them to give me more free electricity when I was already entrenched in the corner, powering my laptop and phone? Would the request be understood or cause confusion?

Finally I ventured to Giang, “It’s a bit warm in here isn’t it?” Translation: there was sweat dripping down my face.

She looked up from her laptop, “Yes” she said, more in comfort than in agreement. We decided to order another round of drinks and she would use the opportunity to ask about the fan situation.

A minute or two later a fan started spinning up behind me.

“Oh. I guess the fan wasn’t broken after all”, I said, cringing internally at my inability to simply plug something in.

“No”, she replied, “its a different one”.

I looked around and saw the waitress was, in fact, swapping over the units and taking away the broken one.

My embarrassment was already melting away as the cool air massaged my back with each twist of its oscillation.

Sample menu items

I guess the shop isn’t aimed at tourists because the prices are sooo low. My main cost 49k VND which is £1.64. For this:

Low Carb Menu – Brown Rice, BBQ Chicken, Salad – 326kCal, Protein 40g – 49k VND

I really can’t get over the price of this place. I’m used to a cheap meal, but that usually comes with turning a blind eye to the amount of oil used, some grime here and there, or breathing in the air pollution from eating next to a main road.

This place is spotlessly clean, has everything focused on health, and is courting a local clientele so the prices are perfect.

Some other meals we have eaten in the last few days:

Cheapest menu item: Low Carb Tofu Meal 39k VND

Average main menu item: 89k VND

Smoothies: 49k VND for a range of very tasty smoothies

Coffee: 25k VND for Vietnamese coffee

Ahh, the coffee. This is really the undoing of this place. It’s such a shame they don’t offer a nice filtered Americano. I’m not a huge fan of the Vietnamese coffee. I’m double not a fan of what they served here. It was super strong which I guess is good but it flooded my mouth like an army invading my taste buds.

I decided to take it down in two gulps and quickly reached for the water.

A few minutes later Giang picked her cup up and went in for a sip, not having seen my reaction. A noise rooted somewhere in shock came from her. Yeah, its a bit strong isn’t it I said. She ended up topping it up three times with the free service water. She likes her coffee cold so diluting it down this way was a good solution for her.

The second day, however, we went back and agreed that it was just for lunch and a few hours of productivity. We still plugged in but when the energy levels started flagging we got back into the Grab and went on our way.

Nomad friendly?

As you may have gathered, this is a nomad friendly place. The tables are all square, good for the wrists. Later in the day, I saw one other westerner come in. A girl that quickly unpacked her computer and sat there flipping between her delicious looking meal and typing on her computer. The next day some locals were gathered around a laptop. Today I’m sat behind somebody who looks busy on their laptop.

Power socket wise this is a bit of a weakness. The sockets are all on the tables down the right-hand side of the building, as you face it from the street. This gives you the option of a few tables, a longer 8 person group table and four solo-ish counter-top style seats pointing out the window into the lane down the side.

The rest of the tables are laptop friendly but the clock starts ticking on your battery life when you sit down.

When we first arrived somebody was eating at the table we wanted. We started ordering the food and snagged the table after the other person finished. The second day that table was gone again but we got another power-enabled table easily. The third day I have snagged the corner seat which is my personal favourite.

Recommended?

Yes! It’s not perfect but definitely go for the healthy food and stay for a few hours – until you need a power socket or a coffee.

#officeoftheday

Day 325: High rise #officeoftheday at San Marino Sky Bar

If the difference between a sky bar and a rooftop bar is how high you are then this definitely feels like a sky bar as I’m getting productive 17 floors up today. I’m sat here on the 17th floor peering out over Da Nang, Vietnam at the San Marino Sky Bar.

It’s just for residents but it features an infinity pool, a bar and a wall of floor to ceiling windows with laptop sized desks peering out over the landscape.

#officeoftheday

Day 318: Staying safe from the rain in Lamenda Cafe #officeoftheday

Today we moved out of our respective hotels/hostels and met up in the closest laptop friendly cafe, Lamenda Cafe.

It got off to a rough start because the cafe exists in the bottom of several AE Hotel buildings and somebody had moved the map marker from another branch which resulted in a wasted taxi fare for my friend. We got set up quickly though in the plush surroundings and opened her laptop to plan the next location. In the end, we booked flights for that evening to take us up to Nha Trang, got an amazing apartment and had lunch and dinner there before heading off to the airport.

It was a good day, even including the knockdown, drag-out that the Vietnamese family had behind us over a defaulted family loan. Prices are on the high side but the WiFi was good and the tables had great seating.

Also, I got to share my table with three funky jazz dudes.

#officeoftheday

Day 317: Solo #officeoftheday in the hotel room at Ace Hotel Ben Thanth

After leaving it to the last minute to extend my stay at my last hotel, I ended up having to pick another one. Ace Hotel was just around the corner, priced right, had a desk in the images and… well that was the entire criteria I was looking for.

I spent the day sat on the bed working with this wallpaper in the background which genuinely span my eyes out. I think I might have spent a few hours just locked in a transcendental gaze with it. I went on a journey with that wallpaper.

WiFi was strong though and the bed was comfy. Didn’t even end up using the desk that drew me in there in the first place.

#officeoftheday

Day 316: Checking out L’Usine Heritage, the original at Dong Khoi for an #officeoftheday

This was another one of those businesses so effectively tucked away that I’m amazed we weren’t the only ones sat in there. I’d actually come to this location a few days before to meet my friend after failing to realise there was more than one L’Usine. After walking up and down the street a few times and finding no L’Usine it came to light that I was at the wrong branch anyway. Still, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t find the wrong branch. It was alleyways again.

This time my friend was already waiting for me and had predicted her foreign friend would have trouble so she had snapped the alleyway for me that I had to go down. It was named something completely different and it wasn’t until you had walked a long way into it that you saw the first sign pointing the way.

We had been lured back because she was given a free coffee voucher at the last L’Usine, but it wasn’t a hard decision to make. The food was great and the WiFi was strong.

Story Time

Day 316: How does a chicken cross the road, and other Asian traffic tales

Rush hour? Not rush hour.

Arrived in Vietnam! Got in a taxi at peak rush hour yesterday. It looks like we drove into a pedestrian zone? No that’s wheel to wheel floods of moped riders trying to get home.

(Actually, I showed this to some Vietnamese people and this is not rush hour at all, somehow it gets even more intense).

Just like a dogs leg goes when you scratch him, my foot was stomping on the imaginary brakes at every twist and turn. Each time there was the slightest gap in traffic my driver put his foot down to get moving, while at the same time mopeds in front would suddenly lurch out at 90-degree cross angles to us and cyclists just seemed to exist carefree in the middle of this. It was gut-wrenching!

It seems that the only responsibility you have as a driver is to make sure it’s clear in front of you. It’s then everyone’s job behind to swerve you, no matter what mad stunt you have just pulled.

There were people riding the wrong way down the street, on the paths, and doing u-turns all around us.

Somehow it works. I saw no one even bump, let alone crash while I was peeking out.

How does a chicken cross the road?

OK, so watching it from the relative safety of a Grab taxi is one thing. However, the next stage of becoming one with the traffic was finding myself at street level, feet on the tarmac, face to face with the bustle and throng.

I’ve been to Bangkok, and I thought I had learned the secrets of crossing traffic. I was fresh off the plane. Everything was an exciting, eye-catching distraction. Now I was stood at the edge of a 6 lane major road in downtown Siam, wondering how anyone got anywhere.

As I prepared to dash out at full speed the first time there was a glimmer of a gap in the traffic, two older ladies arrived at the edge of the road. I’d already been having a hard time imagining how I would make it to the other side, how were a couple of nice old ladies possibly going to fare well?

After barely a pause they just stepped out into the traffic. The thought flashed through my mind that I was about to see two people get run over, but that’s not what happened next. It turned out that their age was the magic sauce for the situation. Their slow pace blended perfectly with the pace of the traffic and they merged together like the teeth on a zipper. As they stepped into the gap between two cars, the drivers slowed slightly and by the time the car would have been worrying about hitting them they were already into the next lane.

It was my only option so I did the same as them. The next few moments were a blur but I found myself on the other side of the road with no scratches and nobody cursing me for this reckless behaviour.

But I digress, I’m not back there in Bangkok any more, I’m stood about 750km away in the tourist district of Ho Chi Minh City and I need to summon the courage to take the same leap of faith.

What’s changed this time to set me back to square one? Well, it was one thing to step out into the mildly progressing Bangkok traffic but Ho Chi Minh City has a very different traffic profile. It’s not 2-3 cars you have to contend with, its 30-50 mopeds, motorbikes, cyclists, taxis and buses that you have hurtling towards you at “that will hurt” speeds.

Like before in Bangkok, the last thing I thought before I stepped off the pavement was “my mum will be so disappointed with me if I get myself taken out in such a stupid way”, but I’d already been told success was for the bold so I started to walk out into traffic. I suppose you have figured out that if I managed to type this up I somehow survived. Maybe you are secretly hoping I’m going to reveal this was typed from a hospital bed? It would have made for a fun post but no, I am fine, the traffic is fine, and despite me going against everything my parents and teachers taught me about crossing the road, the world is still fine.

In Vietnam, when you step out into fast-moving traffic you are not met with anger, you don’t become the target of a honk or fist shake, you are not immediately mowed down causing a 20 moped pile up. No. They want to get to their destination just like you do. You just become part of the contract of the road. As long as you proceed at a casual pace the traffic will adopt you as their own and flow around you.

It’s maybe better to do it the first few times either with a local or just be not really looking. Mad I know, but staring oncoming traffic down inspires the sudden need to dive out of the way and that’s the worst thing you can actually do on these roads.

I actually saw a taxi do a u-turn on this roundabout. Imagine that middle left white taxi, just slowly turning right and going back the way it came. It blocked everyone up for a minute but nobody got angry. I also saw a white couple just stroll from bottom left to top right without anyone batting an eyelid.

What the beep?

The sound of beeping horns is the bedrock of Saigon’s background noise. It is an erratic yet consistent sound that will lull you to sleep at night. I could sense there was some kind of pattern to the siren song but I couldn’t crack the code. Luckily I have a babysitter while I am here in Vietnam so I have access to a source of local knowledge when I have these types of questions.

I just couldn’t figure out the tone behind the beeps. It wasn’t conversational – they hadn’t spotted a friend. It wasn’t confrontational – people were not shaking fists. Yet, it didn’t feel functional either. No matter where I looked I couldn’t see what it was that was actually being beeped at.

So obviously I concluded that if it wasn’t obvious to me then they were all insane, erratic honking madmen.

As I’ve written earlier, it appeared like it was every driver for themselves on the roads which had stopped me from thinking laterally about these strange honks. My local guide told me a tale of her father and how he beeps almost constantly when he is driving, so much so that she has to tell him that she can not hear any more honks, please. Why is he doing this? Well, I cannot possibly drag this out any further, despite my obvious attempts to do so.

The reason for many of the honks is that, as I observed before, the riders are only interested in whats in front of them. Often riders will simply come barreling out of a side road without stopping to check if there is any traffic on the street they are joining. So many of the honks are actually not at anyone or anything, they are just to warn the potential side-street traffic that there are other players in the game.

The rest of it seems to form a kind of sonar-location system that gives the drivers in front a bit of information about the traffic behind them. Car wants to get through? Honk. Somebody is trying to merge into a space they don’t want to give up? Honk. You just joined the back of the traffic. Honk.

And yes, once I did see a rage-honk from my taxi driver when somebody didn’t get the message. That was more like honk, honk, Honk, Honk, HONK.

Daily Life

Day 315: Weight up!

In other news, I was gifted the lovely experience of being the 7th person in a 9 person rated elevator today and I set the weight limit alarm off.

I’d already dashed for it, only to miss it by a hairs-breadth. Luckily one of the riders pressed the door open button and gave me a second chance at travelling up with them.

After sliding in we all stood there for a moment looking at each other before we realised in unison that the beeping noise was because I was too heavy to ride.

Cue me shuffling out again backwards with an awkward smile and my new friends taking to the skies without me.

#officeoftheday

Day 315: Evening #officeoftheday with Mr 8 and egg coffee

After dinner, we decided to put in a few more hours at the laptops, but we definitely needed a boost. After walking around looking for a suitable coffee chain we settled on Mr 8 Coffee. It looked like a tiny 1 table coffee shop at first before we headed upstairs, where it looked like a slightly larger, tiny coffee shop. Big enough to set up a laptop so we were happy.

My friend convinced me to try egg coffee, which sounded like it was going to be some kind of raw egg but was actually a tasty sweetened experience more like a blended egg custard. We also spotted two names that had very funny accidental meanings in English which left us with the serious giggles.

Then I spotted another set of stairs going up and when I poked my head around the corner it turned out it wasn’t a tiny shop at all, there was a full-sized coffee shop layout, with another 10 or so tables and even a merchandise shop up on the third floor.

We found an entertaining spot that looked out onto the roundabout below and I mostly just wrote blog posts rather than getting anything done for my clients.

#officeoftheday

Day 315: Spending the day at L’Usine Le Loi #officeoftheday

My first taste of L’Usine was a literal first taste. As soon as I walked into the shop part of the business I was greeted by my friend who eagerly directed me over to a food cart. Turns out they were preparing for a new menu that day. In exchange for filling out a small form with my opinion, I was invited to sample 5 of the potential menu options. It was a delicious start to the day.

We spent the entire day there in the end, devouring coffees and smoothies before moving on to sharing cakes and a salmon bagel.

Update: Just looked it up and L’Usine means The Factory.

#officeoftheday

Day 314: The Snap Cafe #officeoftheday

This is a family-friendly cafe is in the posh area of Saigon, over in district 2. Upon arrival, we were teased between the choice of sitting over in the side with the childrens park or sitting in the quieter area. There was an attractive looking table that caught our attention in the kids area but just as we were about to set up one of the wait staff asked if we had children with us. We said no and he told us we couldn’t sit on this side then.

My friend said something in Vietnamese to him and I just had a gut feeling I knew exactly what she said. “Did you just tell him I was a big kid?”, I asked. “Yes”, she laughed, “but he still says no.”

I guess it turned out for the best as we moved to the quiet side and got an equally good quality table, near to a power socket and away from the distractions of playful children.

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