Thursday, November 29, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This shot is of one of our lanterns for the full-moon party we had in Koh Phangan, Thailand, which, by the way, was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. Thousands of people on the beach, mostly hippies and backpackers, specifically coming to Koh Phangan every month for this one party. But hey, congrats to all those hippies - they've effortlessly earned the reputation of keeping the world's biggest full-moon party alive.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Initially, shooting huge ship parties seemed lame and redundant to me, but worth a trip around the world. Now, I realize that there really couldn't be a funnier job. As the night goes on, you can convince people to do almost anything, so all I need to do is compose it in a cool way and then I have something different annnnd funny. I haven't quite figured that one out yet, but there is certainly not a party shortage on this damn boat, so I think I'll be ok.
Part of the team at the party last Friday.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
For all of you who I told I would be in Saigon until Friday, I lied, I'm sorry and I'm now in Thailand - Bangkok to be exact.
Did you know that Bangkok is just a take on an abbreviated form of Bangkok's formal name? Well, it is and if you can say it, I'll give you a prize: Krungthep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahadikok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit
annnd it means: "The city of angels, great city, residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn."
(Shot taken as the ship cruised down the Chao Phraya River)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
This. was. a. good. bowl. of. soup. Even better, it has a fantastic history.
It may look like your average Pho Bo, but this bowl comes from Pho Binh (or Yendo Cho), the secret headquarters of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Even the soup shop's waitstaff was made up of VC infiltrators.
At 8:00 p.m. on New Years Day in 1968, on the 2nd floor of this building, central command gave orders to attack all southern cities - hello, Tet Offensive.
Since I was eating on the ground floor (shown below) and wasn't seeing any stairs, I asked the waitress if it was possible to see the infamous room. She asked me to wait for a bit, then lead me through the kitchen and up a dark and narrow staircase. I entered P5 only to experience a bit of historical shock. I'm a history major, I couldn't help it.
I have a ton of pictures, but it really wouldn't do that feeling justice. It's a strange feeling too, because this was 100% from the enemy perspective. Or maybe it just had to do with the sheer magnitude of that offensive and how it altered the war. Very weird feeling.
P.S. - this shop is by no means in the tourist area. I was the only foreigner in this place.
Oh and later that day I almost got myself killed in the War Remnants Museum. I'llllll just leave it at that.
After fighting with the cab driver (who spoke about 3 syllables of English) for about 20 minutes, I finally made my way away from the heart of the city and into the more, let's say, "local" side of Saigon on foot and again, it started to pour. I was being way too Western when I thought that I would find my truly Vietnamese coffee accompanied by a newspaper and a decently comfortable chair in a dry environment.
The above photo was the result of my 10-minute walking survey, asking where to find the best cup of coffee. I learned, as well, that you need to specify "Vietnamese" or you will be sent to Gloria Jean's.
This woman is known in her area for her coffee and I was almost surprised to have her beckon me out of the rain, as she pulled up a plastic stool (about a foot high) next to her. She also spoke very little English, but I was quite happy to just sit and watch both her and the rain. Condensed milk is the Vietnamese way, so I asked no questions and went with it, even though I never take my coffee sweet. I did ask to taste the coffee before she poured it on top of the milk, just to make sure it was as rich and tasty as I had heard. I'm still wondering why they cut that nice, smooth flavor with that sweet, thick crap. Different tastes, I suppose.
I really wish she would have spoken English, or me, more Vietnamese. Actually, no, I've decided Vietnamese is one language I will never even attempt. The accent is in no way appealing to my ears, so much that it's the 2nd reason I couldn't live in Vietnam. The 1st being the simple fact that I'm not really down with Communism, contrary to what my SpeechComm class of last semester might believe.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
A Saigon night - out of focus and over-exposed. Artsy, huh?
Hey, I needed to do something cool Friday night. Huge fashion show and party on the ship. Not really my scene, but if it let's me travel the world, fine with me. Besides, my wish came true and someone fell in the pool. Haha, and then jumped back in again and proceeded to be dragged out by Vietnamese police officers. Funny, funny, funny.
Not too shortly after that another of my wishes came true. Six more days in Saigon! More war museums for me!
Anyway, Saturday day was mostly work, but then at night I headed out with the production guys to grab a bite and some dessert. I, of course, had my lil itinerary (and in a quietly pushy way) suggested that we head to Madame Ngoc's Com Nieu Saigon.
I was with a crowd that generally prefers the high-class, white-table cloth kind of place, so when we arrived, they were a little less than thrilled. I was just hoping I was going to see some rice tossed across the room - oh yeah, com nieu is crispy Vietnamese rice prepared in clay pots which are then broken and tossed across the room from waiter to waiter.
Unfortunately the lighting was crappy, so there really wasn't much I could do about pictures, but on the bright side, we did eat frog. The eye fell out on my plate. Haha, no, I didn't eat it. Thought about it though.
Next, we wandered about in District 3 for a bit trying to find a dessert place. These boys have figured out pretty fast that giving me dessert is always a good thing. We stumbled upon the MGM Cafe, one of the biggest cafe/nightclubs in Saigon (I don't understand the cafe/nightclub concept, but whatever) and ended up ordering ice cream. I had the 3-scoop special of taro, durian and rum. Taro (ube in the Philippines) has become one of my favorite flavors. I've only seen it in chip form in the States, but it's everywhere in the Philippines. Durian, also a fruit I became more familiar with in the Philippines, is definitely not my favorite taste or smell, but it was supposed to be a specialty ice cream flavor in Vietnam (you could smell this ice cream coming, so much that I was almost impressed at the fruit's ability to hold it's smell) so I had to try it. By the way, the actual fruit has the consistency of brie. A fruit that is like cheese? Food for thought or thought for food?
And well, rum is rum, though I did expect the alcohol to be boiled out, but c'est la vie.
After our moderate experience at MGM (no relation to the lion), the boys hit the clubs and I went home. I wanted to get up early to go out and get a Vietnamese coffee and a newspaper.
(Photo: view of Saigon from the ship, if that wasn't obvious, which it may not have been.)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Hi Mom, still alive, don't worry.
After finishing a photo shoot in the rain, we were all playing around in some traditional Vietnamese clothes. It's kinda fun to be surrounded by people who know how to play with cameras ... so my mom will finally stop asking me what I look like now.
As if I've changed since I was 4. See, even look at the profile picture - still the same since I left - almost identical even.
and yes, I know I am wearing 2 hats.
First of all, before I get on with all the Saigon info, I'd just like to say that before I left Cebu, I got my hair cut ... for about 110 pesos ($2.20)... by a flaming homosexual named Mr. Bunny ... and it was the best haircut I've ever had.
Ok so anyway, we are still in Saigon and aside from the computer work I've had to do I've been out and about exploring. My responsibilities with the network have grown to producer as well, so I have a bit more on my plate than I had anticipated, but hey I work best that way.
The first day we got here, Eddy and I went out to grab dinner at a Vietnamese place. The food was pretty good, but the more notable experience was getting there. From the port, we were greeted by gads and gads of Vietnamese motorcycle drivers, wanting to take us around. I looked over at Eddy with a "hey, let's go" smile to see his wide-eyed "I've never done this before, are you crazy?" grimace in return.
Obviously we ended up on the bikes and I could hear his charming Romanian accent scream, "I weel keel you!" from about 20 meters behind me. It was raining decently hard and we only had one umbrella (no slickers either), so I let my Romanian friend have it. When we got to the restaurant, I was drenched, but it was worth every minute.
Yesterday I headed out to do my location scouting with part of the team and was again greeted by the motorcycle flock. This time we wanted to get lost on foot, but our friends really didn't understand that. Three of them followed us for close to 40 blocks, picking up new friends every time I stopped to pull out my map (Yes, I put together a location package of where to shoot, eat, hang out, visit, etc. I often question myself if I'm more of a travel agent or more of a producer - but no matter, I like that job too). Finally, when confronting one of these guys for the last time, Cholo had to pull me back as I was getting more and more angry with my requests of "Please Stop! We would like to walk!".
Now for my highlight of the day: We enter a currency exchange, my two Filipino friends pull out US dollars and I pull out Philippine pesos.
"Guys, where did you get that?"
"Oh, we brought it from home."
I haven't had USD for 3 months. What the hell. The Vietnamese teller looked rather confused as well.
However, the woman shown above was definitely not confused. She lured me into her trap of freshly made Vietnamese waffles pretty easily. All it took was the aroma and a smile. These food vendors can usually see it in my eyes if I'm going to buy and she was no exception. Besides, she was really sweet so who cares if I spent 30,000 VND - same as I spent for some handmade porcelain bracelets (about $2.00) - for a bag of these freshly made delights. Though I couldn't understand the Vietnamese name for them, I did make out that they are made of coconut milk and rice flour. Also, I was very happy to find out that they get better as they get older - a much better crunch.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
"Hey Al -"
"Yes, Dwight -"
"You know how to edit on FCP?
"Want to go around the world on a yacht?"
Friday night: Left Cebu with one bag, a back pack and my baby for Hong Kong.
Saturday morning/afternoon: Ran around Hong Kong, tried to order a waffle and a fresh carrot juice at a stand on the street (no luck, workers spoke 0 English, but fell in love with Daifuku instead -proceeded to buy most every flavor), went on a quest to find my favorite Japanese shampoo/conditioner I had found in Malibu once (success!).
Saturday evening: Departed Hong Kong by yacht for Saigon (Formally Ho Chi Minh City, but Saigon is used as well).
Saturday night-now: swaying away en route to Vietnam, trying to keep myself and my computer from tipping over and I'll have you know that the computer has been doing a far better job than this girl. Every time the boat hits a bad gust of wind, I feel like Mrs. Banks during Admiral Boom's daily cannon-firing (Mary Poppins, kids, come on).
Now that we're all caught up with the past few days, here's the sitch: I've temporarily waived my contract with the production company in Cebu to work for a partner fashion network as their journalist/photojournalist (who sometimes edits when needed) on a yacht that goes around the world. I signed on to be an editor for the network, but as it turns out, they needed both a journalist and a photographer on staff and heeyyyy, guess what, three for the price of one! Not a bad deal for them and not a bad gig for me.
Prior to leaving, with the yacht anchored in Victoria Harbor, the production team decided to hang and have a few drinks out on the deck Friday night. It was a great moment to really look around and be thankful. I glanced toward the city and was awestruck - by past, present and future. I know Compton, I'm lame and I'll "go eat rice." I know, I know.
We should arrive in Saigon tomorrow night, but for now, POSTS!
(Photo: sunset on Saturday as we depart)
Friday, November 02, 2007
I saved one of my favorite pictures for last. This was taken in Dapa where I was surrounded by little kids asking about my home, my appearance, my relationships, you name it. I decided to capitalize on the interrogation by snapping off a few shots and I was quite happy with them.
I'm also going to back track allllll the way to the beginning. Wanna know how I got this gig? By hanging out at the coolest place in Cebu.
When I arrived here, I was on a mission to find the original music scene. Without much luck for the first few weeks, I finally stumbled upon "Outpost". Outpost is an old house, converted into a bar/restaurant with live local and national acts most days of the week.
Outpost was started by a bunch of guys who also happened to start an outdoor equipment company called Habagat. The vibe is so chill, with indoor and outdoor seating, great food and awesome people. Naturally, since I found it, I've been there at least once every week. When you're at a joint that much, you kinda get to know the owners, or at least a few of them.
On a Friday night, about a week before the race, Randy came up to us and asked if we'd like to cover Carrera Habagat. A week of camping and running around on some islands sounded perfect to me.
We bought our tickets and headed to Surigao with the rest of the Habagat guys. Ahead of the race by two days, Randy and co. had booked a pension house for us to stay in.
Wait, wait... this is another good visual for you guys:
A single pension house room, only 4 actual beds with at least 4 mattresses on the floor. Me plus a roomful of mountain guys ranging in age from 26 to I don't know, 50ish?
Haha, I loved it. The guys spent a majority of time making fun of me because I didn't understand their jokes. A lot of the time, jokes translated from Visayan into English lose their punch in the punchline - so when the line is delivered, I generally just stare back. It either makes no sense or just isn't funny. However, I then became the joke, so that was ok - haha. Very cool group of guys.
Oh and they also managed to snore quite harmoniously- I would imagine it takes either great skill or very close friendship to produce that symphonic of a sound.
From Borgus, we proceeded to General Luna, the finish line of the race. I can honestly say that going on this week-long excursion was one of the best decisions I've ever made - right up there with switching into Steve Manuel's photo class junior year and moving to the Philippines.
The final night was a giant celebration, with Buzzy cooking fresh cuddle fish, octopus and pretty much anything that he could get straight from the sea.
We stayed one more day in Siargao, biking and hiking before we were slated to head back to Surigao on a ferry.
When we got back to Surigao the next day, we had about 7 hours before our overnight ferry back to Cebu. Luckily, one of the guys we were traveling with happened to be a tour guide in Surigao sooo I finally found what I was looking for: the local delicacy.
Called Sayongsong, it is a sweet treat made of finely ground rice, sugar, coconut milk, oil annd some other things that I couldn't quite make out. The consistency is somewhere in between bread dough and pie dough and best eaten hot - straight out of the steamer (we were lucky enough to catch a fresh batch). As you can see, the banana leaf is kinda like a cupcake paper, but if you let it sit a bit, you get a hint of the leaf, which is a nice touch.
Only 5 pesos a piece - about 10 cents. So if you know me, you would know that if the price is right and it's delicious, you can count on some coming home with me.
We walked about Surigao for the remainder of the day and finally boarded the ferry. Our cots were awesome. We reserved cots right next to the captain's quarters, out in the open air. The sea was calm and the night was spent jamming out on our private deck, as we were traveling with a band from Cebu.
I was sitting on the edge of the deck, watching the ferry push water out from under the boat, enjoying the hum and vibration of the engine along with the music. Out of nowhere, dolphins came popping out of the water, criss-crossing back and forth underneath. I've seen dolphins before, but never lit by the moon. This is lame, but I wouldn't trade that sort of serenity for anything.
Our next destination was Borgus, more-or-less a breaking check point in the race. This CP was the rappel site, located on a cliff above the sea. We ended up staying at this point for two days, traveling by night to get there. It was a nice hour ride on the back of the bike, with me just starring at the stars as we flew by. Aside from the noise of the bike, it was the kind of silence that only a certain mindset truly appreciates. That was one of the first times I grew curious about lives at home.
In any case, the first overnight was spent on that cliff above the sea, in a non-waterproof sleeping bag, sleeping with one tarp above us (set up on sticks) and one below annnd guess what ... it frickin' poured. Now I can, with confidence, say that I've slept in a large puddle. I mean what was I supposed to do, but go back to sleep? There was absolutely nothing I could do.
When I awoke, I was obviously drenched and in desperate need of a shower. Luckily, there was a missionary aways down the road that came up to offer us just that. This missionary is unlike any I've ever heard of, as it was started by some surfers that wanted to do things in addition to surfing and partying.
Not only did they provide us with fresh coffee and fresh water, but they let us borrow some of their surf boards. By the way, Siargao, the island we were on is the surfing capital of the Philippines, hosting at least two international surfing competitions at its increasingly more famous break, Cloud 9.
We took the whole morning to surf with the rationale that by the time we were done, we could catch the tail of the race to photograph the stragglers. Good plan, right?
The second night, we slept on the beach. Not a soul around with the light of the CP shining in the distance.
Back to the pic: I love fresh coconuts. A nice young fellow climbed alllll the way to the top of a coconut tree situated on the cliff to pick one for me. Such a refreshing snack. I think I had about 7 coconuts over the duration of the trip.