Today there was an event that had me reminiscing about the past. Just an hour before returning from doing an easy-rider trip (more on that later), some low-life snuck into our hotel kitchen and stole the most precious item I had. Was it an item of great value that could turn them a profit??? Noooooo…. It was a French press that enabled me and my customers to enjoy a western style coffee in the morning. Such a cup of coffee is very difficult to find in Vietnam, and I often hear words of thanks when I can serve up a hot cup of coffee for breakfast. Dammit!! I am pretty sure that I will not find a replacement in Vietnam, however, I will be in Saigon tomorrow and I will take a look. So how did I get to this point????????? In November of 2009, Mai and I packed it all in and decided to start an early retirement. The original plan was for me to open a small computer IT service to keep me occupied, and Mai would perhaps do something involved with her favorite past time (and mine), cooking. We had no idea how our path in life would be changed, but boy has it!! It is now August of 2011 and our lives are no where near what we had planned. We ended taking over a small hotel that was in fact the closest thing you can get to a
brothel in this country. With some hard work and persistence, we overcame the corruption, gangs, and drunken customers and turned the Tide Hotel into one of the most successful small hotels in Nha Trang. Mai became the backbone of the operation and sees to the guests comfort and the quality state of the building, and I became the PR guy the fellow that worked to keep the project alive running by western standards and rules. I had a very basic understanding of Vietnamese and had lived amongst Asians for many years, but I found my knowledge lacking. I have already experienced much of this country travelling with family and experiencing it through both Vietnamese and Western eyes, but operating a business…… especially a hotel was much more complicated than one might have thought so I set off in search of education. In order to be able to address customer concerns, I needed to gain information to such things as transportation, health services, money issues, tours, taxis, gangs, prostitution, legalities, restaurants, and a host of other things that are too numerous to list. I jumped in with both feet and hired Cyclo and Xe om drivers for some of my education. I could have never recruited the people who helped me without being able to communicate in basic Vietnamese in order to convince them I was not a tourist…….. Time passed, my language skills improved, many of my new Vietnamese friends started to overlook that I was western and began to see me as one of them. My education grew.. Because of help I received from a website called Trip Advisor a couple of years ago from a fellow named Viet1, I have become an advisor myself and try to give honest and helpful advice to people who want to visit Vietnam. I understand how difficult it can be to the wide eyed and all I want is for people to have a chance to experience the richness of the people and the country like I do every day. Many of the posters (and advisors) on this site are tourists and their advice in quite useful, but often a viewpoint from a person who lives and works here is needed…. And that is what I do….. Anyway……..Some seem to have taken notice of the comments that I write and from their queries and influence (all of them wonderful people) the simple IT guy has become an Easy-Rider. It was never my intent, but it just happened. I have to say that it is not only quite a challenge to overcome the skepticism and the surprise, but is quite fun. (and a little tiring) So far in the last month I have accompanied 2 tours, and have escorted 3 others. The result has been quite positive. The experience of the Vietnamese riders and the places to visit along with my explanations and translations seems to be a good combination. Tomorrow I am off to Saigon for a business meeting that may see me change my retirement yet again, to be followed by a few days in Phu Quoc. I am looking forward to the island stay as it is one of the very few places that I have never been in Vietnam. Perhaps the next blog will be about a typical easy rider trip, or Phu Quoc…… who knows?