In case anyone is wondering. I moved my blog to Medium. You can now read me at: https://medium.com/@jdp. In due course I will be moving over some of my better blog posts.
Playing around with Gimp, using some awesome free ultra high quality images from gratisography.com.
My wife and I recently spent about 3 weeks in central Vietnam, and a few days in Singapore. As I’m absolutely hooked on history, our trip largely revolved around exploring the history of Singapore and Vietnam, and Vietnam’s in particular is vast and very colorful. Over a series of blog posts, I will be giving a personal account of the history of central Vietnam and a little bit of Singapore, that we explored during our recent holiday. As the first blog post in the series, I won’t discuss any history, rather just give a very quick overview of the things that most South Africans ask about, when we discuss our holiday in Vietnam.
From Singapore, we flew directly to Da Nang, where central Vietnam’s airport is located, then moved to Huế, and finished our holiday in Hoi An. Also keep in mind that my opinions are based on my experience in central Vietnam. The bigger cities in the far north, Hanoi and south, Ho Chi Minh, might be quite different, just like Cape Town is vastly different from Johannesburg.
Why We Chose Vietnam
It was an inspired, intuitive decision, based on the Vietnam Eyewitness Travel Guide . My only criteria for our overseas holiday, was that I’d like to visit any country with an ancient, rich and vibrant history. I think a further motivation was the exchange rate with the Rand and the fact that things are just cheaper in Vietnam (in comparison I realized South Africa isn’t such a cheap place), which made things a lot more affordable for us. I would say, on average, things are about 50% cheaper in Vietnam than in South Africa. That goes for everything from hotels to buying things at a street market. I envy how cheap a holiday in Vietnam must be for the Europeans and British.
By the way, about the Eyewitness book. It’s a wonderful little book to get inspired about the country, but don’t depend on it to get around Vietnam day-to-day. Your Swiss army knife of info, to survive in Vietnam will be the Lonely Planet’s guide on Vietnam. That book was essential to ensuring an enjoyable stay in Vietnam.
The American War in Vietnam
The first thing most people asked, is if they have yet fully recovered from the war against America. The answer to that is an unequivocal, Yes! There are absolutely no signs in any of the cities, that there has ever been a war like that in Vietnam. And I would hope so, the American war in Vietnam ended almost 40 years ago. At historic buildings and sites some signs of the war are still visible. This is hardly surprising, since these buildings are historically significant and a heritage, therefore major restorations are not really possible or allowed.
When South Africans ask me this question, I realize just how little we know about Vietnam (and the same is true of them about Africa), and that the only, outdated, knowledge South Africans have of this amazing country and people, is that which they got from western news back in the 1970s and American war movies.
In short there are few rich people in Vietnam. But, there are very few people that are desperately poor. Unlike South Africa, where there is a small group of people earning a decent living, and then a massive number of people struggling to make ends meet. Something that really got my attention, was the fact that there are no informal settlements in central Vietnam. Almost everyone has a pretty little house to live in, and many even have a small holding, that they can cultivate. There are also none of those characterless, mass cloned, little matchbox houses, that the South African department of housing builds. Each little home has it’s own style. The main buildings all have the same narrow, rectangular structure, but each building has been given its own unique style by its owner. Everyone wants to sell you something, but you won’t find any beggars at the street corners.
As anyone that has spent some time with South Africans would know, we are always obsessing about crime. I’m therefore pleased to announce that Vietnam is a very safe place indeed. Safer than South Africa. We’ve heard of people’s wallets being pinched, and someone might try to scam you in a transaction at the market, but there are no armed robberies, where peoples’ expensive valuables are stolen at gun point or knife’s edge. For example, you can walk around in the street, late at night, taking pictures with your expensive camera, without fear of being robbed.
The Vietnamese people seem to be a happy bunch, that’s content with life. Everyone was extremely friendly, and helpful (especially if they have something to sell you). Compared to the Singaporeans, I found the Vietnamese to let more of their emotions show. Warm, hearty laughs and smiles, frowns and even arguments in public were more frequent. Whereas the Singaporeans kept an efficient straight face most of the time. In Da Nang we even saw an older lady (I’m guessing the mother) have a massive argument with a younger lady (I’m guessing her daughter), where she later took off her sandals and started hitting the younger woman.
I got a strong sense that the average Vietnamese really doesn’t know a lot about the world outside their country’s border. From the confused expression on their faces when we answered that we’re from South Africa, it was obvious that most Vietnamese would struggle to find South Africa on a map. Most of them thought we were German (but I don’t blame them for this, I would draw the same conclusion listening to Afrikaners talking), and then some went on to tell us, after realizing that there is “Africa” in our country’s name, that we can’t be from South Africa because we are, you guessed it, white!
Twice Vietnamese were so amused to see some westerners, that they started taking photos and videos of us, right in our faces. Now that was a strange, and slightly awkward, experience.
No surprises here: Vietnamese speak and write Vietnamese. However, I was expecting the English conversations to be a much bigger problem, but it turned out that most people’s English is good enough to get the job done. English of younger people from cities are actually good enough to allow a decent conversation.
As I’ve already mentioned, I’m completely addicted to history. So our holiday was specifically targeted at exploring, experiencing and learning about Vietnam’s history, mainly until about the 1920s (i.e. we didn’t really pay attention to the anti colonial revolution against France, and the American war in Vietnam). We visited as many historical places as we could, and often had to walk or cycle long distances in +35°C temperatures. This isn’t very comfortable, and sometimes even a little stressful to find your way, by yourself, in an unknown place. We also stayed in the heart of each city’s centre, which isn’t always the sexiest location, but it’s closest to the action.
However, if you prefer to have more of a resort type holiday, where you relax all the time and enjoy long walks on perfect white sandy beaches, then Vietnam can offer you that as well. There are a large number of modern, luxurious beach resorts to choose from, on the beach from Da Nang to Hoi An (called China Beach). So if you’re thinking of spending a holiday at a Thailand resort, maybe also check out its equivalent in Vietnam. I can highly recommend the Hoi An beachfront for those looking for a hassle free, chill holiday. Hoi An is an old town, that has been beautifully maintained and restored. So if you stay at the Hoi An beachfront, then you will get the best of both worlds – the beach resort and classic town lifestyle. Personally, I found Hoi An to be a little boring, and too much tourist focused. For example, in Hoi An’s old town, there are literally more tourists, than Vietnamese.
We absolutely loved Vietnam. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life. The vibrant history, people, temples, pagodas, tombs and natural beauty was unforgettable. During a three week stay we hardly scratched the surface of what Vietnam has to offer. We will definitely return in a few years (permitting finances allow it), probably to Hanoi, as that is the heart of Vietnam’s northern history.
I moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town almost 2 years ago. I have not regretted it once, the quality of life here is much better than in Johannesburg, and I really enjoy being so close to the sea, mountains, and vineyards. However, during this time I picked up quite a few things that mildly reminds me that I’m in Cape Town.
1. Green Arrows at Traffic Lights. Drivers from Cape Town consistently forget to immediately drive when the green arrow flashes on traffic lights, indicating they can turn right or left onto the crossing street. This is something that constantly happens, to the point that I am quite surprised if the driver in front of me immediately drives when the light flashes. I have no idea why so many people from Cape Town fall a sleep when green arrow traffic lights flash. I always associated bright flashing lights with places that excite me like disco lights, signs of strip joints, and cheap chinese take aways. But somehow it looks like these flashing lights have the opposite effect on Cape Townians. Is it possible that there might be a different meaning in Cape Town? Or that there is some unspoken rule, like wait 50 flashes before driving, that only they know of? I won’t rule that one out, it is the Republic of Cape Town after all!
2. It’s acceptable to drive 80-100km/h in the fast lane on the highway. Even after a year and a half in Cape Town, I am still astonished at (1) how people drive 80Km in the fast lane on the N1, and (2) how only on rare occasions a faster driver will actually get annoyed with the aforementioned driver doing 80 in the fast lane. This just proves how people from Cape Town are much calmer and accepting on the roads, which is probably why Mabale Moloi from 5FM reports 100 less accidents every morning for Cape Town, compared to Jo’burg. But at the same time it can be really annoying to be stuck behind someone doing 80kms in the fast when you’re late for that interview, when the fast lane is completely open if only it wasn’t for mister sleepy in front of you. It doesn’t help too much to freak out, because half the time people have no clue what you’re going on about in case you do.
3. Don’t assume the shop is open after 1PM on Saturday. Wow, yes, no idea why shops close at 1 on a Saturday, but choose to be open the whole of Monday. I mean come on, how many of your customers actually have time to come in and buy that R15000 sofa on a Monday 10am from your shop somewhere on the outskirts of Kommetjie? Seriously, think about it mr. shopkeeper, these customers actually have to work in order to afford your goods, and this happens mostly during weekdays – in case you missed that small detail. Weekends mean the whole of Saturday and Sunday, so it’s probably a good idea to try and be open at those times, so that your customers have more time to visit your shop and you have a greater chance of selling stuff.
The one shop, I think it’s called Trade Roots, isn’t even open on Saturdays. The only shops open late on Saturday and Sunday are ones in a big mall like Canal Walk. Any shop or market, or anything that sells something that is not a restaurant, closes on 1pm Saturday.
4. You strictly can’t buy liquor from Saturday 5pm. Those that know me well will know that I never hesitate to spend enough time carefully selecting the right wines when the wine rack is empty. It doesn’t matter that I have a deadline this afternoon, if I’m out of wine I will take the time over lunch to choose the right wines for the next week or two. I just love wine – one of the reasons I moved to Cape Town. One Saturday afternoon while walking through the local Spar’s aisles, it dawned on me that we’ve run out of wine. I immediately set off to the store’s wine shelf to correct this unacceptable crisis, and as per custom, spent an additional 2o minutes selecting the right wines. Excited from my highly successful wine selection I enthusiastically pushed my trolley to the checkout counter and started unloading my groceries. Everything went well, until I put the wines on the counter. Suddenly the cashier’s face changed to one normally reserved for criminals caught in the act. For a second or two I thought she’s going to “moer” me when she said, “it’s already 5 o’clock so you’re not allowed to buy any liquor.” With enormous disappointment and a little embarrassment for revealing my non-Cape origin so publicly like that, I apologized and reluctantly returned the wines to their place on the shelf.
Afterwards, during long walk back to the car, I unsuccessfully tried to find a deeper meaning to this law. The only thing I could think was that anyone that really wanted to get their hands on some wine, and get drunk can do so easily but visiting their local “watergat”, shebeen or just any street corner in lower Woodstock. Surely this law is not going to deter any determined alcoholic to quench their first, or will it? Would be interesting to see actual statistics on the issue, and whether it actually made a difference to the number of rowdy and drunk characters slinging through the streets.
5. Smart casual is more casual, and less smart. During my time so far in Cape Town I’ve gone to a number of events and venues (I’m quite surprised about this myself, these days it’s getting harder to go out and requires ever increasing levels of motivation to not chill at home with a good wine and a book). At a number of these I was quite surprised to see how casual people dress when they go out. As a direct comparison, Cubana’s in Cedar Square (Fourways) will often stop you at the door if you’re not dressed correctly, and by correctly they mean rather smart. In the Republic on the other hand, Cubana’s in Tableview will allow you in even if you have shorts and “plakkies” on. Even at more serious things like a classical music performance, at least half the people wear very casual clothes, like K-Way jackets.
I really enjoy this characteristic of CT. Especially by someone like myself that really couldn’t be bothered about what I wear when I go out, and whether people realize that I am wearing clothes from Ackermans. However generally Cape Townians aren’t so generous and casual with their friendship, and prefer to stick to the brands, I mean friends, they know… but that’s another day’s story about the Republic’s friendship etiquette.
I got married last year on the 9th of December. We decided to take the unconventional route of sending a digital invitation to our guests, instead of mailing the traditional paper card.
Personally I hate printing things. The reason is that producing, transporting, printing, and even recycling paper, creates a considerable amount of waste, and consumes a lot of energy and scarce resources. This is something people never consider when they mindlessly print pages with every attachment they get in their in-box.
I also thought that it would make a subtle statement, that we are a dynamic couple that doesn’t hesitate to embrace new, better, ways of doing things, by questioning and breaking down ingrained habits.
Ken Micallef covered the making of Paul van Dyk’s latest album, In Between, over at Remix Magazine. In the article Paul van Dyk reveals what his live setup is, and how he performs with it. It also gives details of the hardware equipment and software used to produce the album. Very good info to know.
Like many of today’s top DJs, Ableton Live features at the front of his live configuration. He also explains how he started using Ableton Live with one MacBook, and progressed to his current 2 MacBook: “When I started with Ableton, I wasn’t using any more than a laptop and four channels and bringing things in and out. The next challenge was playing something on top, then adding loops, then triggering them from the outside. Then I thought it would be cool to sequence ideas, and that is when the second laptop came in.”
To my delight the tools used to create the last track, Fall With Me, is explained in some detail, and it’s interesting to see what was used to create some of the track’s cool sounds:
• Bass line – Spectrasonics Trilogy Software Synth.
• Bass drums – Roland TR-808 and Spectrasonics Stylus RMX drum module.
• Chattering sound over the top – Spectrasonics Atmosphere Dream Synth.
• “Rrrgghh wrrrggghh” sound – Native Instruments Massive.
• Filter – TBK2 from Sonalksis.
In Between was made with:
Computers, DAW/recording software, consoles
Apple MacBook Pro (2), Mac G5 2.5 GHz running Apple Logic Pro 7 and Ableton Live 6, 23-inch Ci nema Display
Euphonix System 5-MC Integrated
Audio Mixing System
Mackie C4 Control Pro, Control Universal with seven Control Universal XT extensions
M-Audio UC33e Advanced USB MIDI control surface
RME Intelligent Audio Solutions HDSP
Card with 64 I/O, ADI-648 MADI to ADAT interface, (8) ADI8DS Converter
Access Virus TI Pølar
Clavia Nord Lead Rack
M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 MIDI keyboard
Novation Supernova Module
Roland JP-8000, Juno-106, JV-1080, TR-808, TR-909, TB-303
DJ mixer, sampler/drum machine
Allen & Heath Xone:3D DJ mixer
Akai MPC2500 sampling workstation
EQs, compressors, effects
Aphex Dominator II Master Kompressor
iZotope Ozone 3 mastering effects
Native Instruments Spektral Delay
Sonalksis TBK2 Digital Grimebox sonic
Waves Platinum Bundle
Software synths, plug-ins
Arturia Prophet V Prophet 5/VS synth
Music Lab Real Guitar
Native Instruments Massive, Komplete 4
Rob Papen Albino 3, BLUE
Spectrasonics Atmosphere Dream Synth
Module, Stylus RMX Realtime Groove
Module, Trilogy Total Bass Module
KRK 7000Bs, V12S subwoofer
Head over to MixMag.com and read the while shebang.