Back To Viet-F’n Nan – The Package From Hell, Chapter 2

So there’s one of two theory’s here;

1.  I was naive enough to think, “Hey I should have brought my IPhone for the Wifi, and since Sovereign Bank has been bending me over every ATM and raping me with ridiculous fee’s;  I’ll simply mail my IPhone and a new bank card to Vietnam”.  Noble prize worthy like thinking, right!  Wrong.

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2.  Vietnam’s sending me a message;  “Hey Carl, the last month you spent being taught how your imperialist country pulled out the teeth and fingernails of every man woman and child for fun, while your American POW’s stayed at “Bed and Breakfast” like prison’s with; massage parlors, swimming pools and personal butler services… we don’t think you got the point.   So, you want your package, come back and get it… Punk!”.

Okay, I embellished on the “Punk” part.

Regardless of which theory you buy, I flew back to Vietnam yesterday.  The package that was going to take 6-10 days according to UPS, is on day 44 and counting.  Vietnam sent a letter saying they wont release the package without a copy of my passport and visa (which had long since expired).

You may be asking yourself, “is this package really worth it?”  Well, I have the dollar cost analysis, and pro’s and con’s sheet typed up; feel free to request a copy.

The good news:  Hanoi Backpackers is a great place to be stuck and I may be able to partner up with them for some filming.

Bad news:  $340 of flights, another $65 visa.  Sitting in a coffee shop in Hanoi when I should be on a beach in Sri Lanka, and Finally… I’m complaining to a bunch people who see my complaints as a good enough reason to slap me.

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Editors Note:  On a serious note, these are mistakes that are easily avoidable, so I’ll write a quick post on how and why, coming up next…

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Best Man At An Ukrainian Wedding

I mentioned this a while back but never got a chance to write about it.  While traveling through Ukraine I became the best man at a Ukrainian wedding…

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My friend Nate had been working in Ukraine for the US government for the past 3 years.  Not surprisingly he fell in love with a Ukrainian girl and was eventually engaged.  I was pumped to pay him and his finance Olesia a visit until I found out his project had been completed and he was gone.  An email came through a week after I arrived to Ukraine; Nate was back!

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He had suddenly been reassigned to Laos and had to get married before resettling.  So back in Ukraine at a bar with Nate, Olesia, myself and far too much Vodka, a best man was born!  Some may argue what exactly makes a “Best Man”, but that night watching Nate handle a waitress trying to rip him off $15 US by making it rain handfuls of crumpled American and Ukrainian dollars all over the bar, I knew I was the only man for the job.

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Yes, that’s me fitting in seamlessly with the wedding attire… This could quite possibly been the only time in Ukraine one could wear black and NOT fit in. Go figure.

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The wedding and reception turned out to be an endurance contest.  With my tour of Chernobyl the next day, I was more worried about a hangover than radiation poisoning.

My efforts to drink responsibly were in vain when awkward attempts at Russian conversation’s with Olesia’s family were quickly, and repeatedly, replaced with one unmistakable gesture; cheers (and always a shot).  Then half way through the night Nate’s father in law slams a large bottle of Jack Daniels on the table in front of us, followed by “Mbl 3aKOHuNM” (“we finish”).  And we finished.  To top things off, and while I’m not going to call anybody a liar, there were a lot of “”Ukrainian Wedding Traditions”” that required a lot of extra drinking along with embarrassing tasks just for the groom and best man…

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After a long and incredible night there was only one tradition left to do; head to the bar for some vodka and beer.

Thankfully in the end, my feared hangover never came.  The folks at Tallinn Backpackers and their pre-wedding liver training program “The Game of Life” pulled through.

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Quick Functionality Update (WordPress)

My previous rant about WordPress playing with my emotions when they launch faulty software updates has been fixed.  What does this mean?  From now, until they screw up again, you can click on a photo and see a bigger one.  So for all you creeps trying to enlarge Jamie’s photo from the previous post, I’ve tested it 13 or 14 times and it working.  I’ll test it again later to be sure.

*This was relevant before upgrading the site.

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Actual Passport Letter:

I took this story from Jamie, but I think we can all relate and it’s hysterical.  Enjoy!

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“This, apparently, is an actual letter received by the UK Passport Office. 

Dear Sirs,

I’m in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe how is it that Sky Television has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a bleeding satellite dish from them back in 1988, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was bloody born and on what date.

Do you guys do this by hand?

My birth date you have on my pension book. 

It’s on all the income tax forms I’ve filed for the past 30 years. 

It is on my National Health card. 

My driving licence. 

My car insurance. 

On the last eight damn passports I’ve had. 

It’s on all those stupid customs declaration forms I’ve had to fill out before being allowed off the plane over the last 30 years. 

All those insufferable census forms. 

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother’s name is Mary Anne, my father’s name is Robert and I’d be absolutely astounded if that WOULD ever change between now and when I die!!

I apologise, I’m really pissed off this morning. 

Between you an’ me, I’ve had enough of this bullshit! 

You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my bleeding address!!

What is going on? Do you have a gang of neanderthal arseholes workin’ there?

Look at my damn picture.

Do I look like Bin Laden?

I don’t want to dig up Yasser Arafat, for shit sakes. I just want to go and park my arse on some sandy beach somewhere.

And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days?

If I ever got the urge to do something wierd to a chicken or a goat, believe you me, you’d be the last fucking people I’d want to tell!

Well, I have to go now,’cause I have to go to the other end of the poxy city to get another fucking copy of my birth certificate, to the tune of £30.

Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day?

Nooooooooooooo, that’d be too damn easy and maybe make sense.

You’d rather have us running all over the fuckin’ place like chickens with our heads cut off, then WE have to find some arsehole to confirm that it’s really me on the damn picture – you know, the one where we’re not allowed to smile?! (bureaucratic fuckin’ morons)

Hey, do you know why we couldn’t smile if we wanted to? Because we’re totally pissed off!

Signed

An Irate Citizen

P.S. Remember what I said above about the picture and getting someone to confirm that it’s me?

Well, my family has been in this country since 1776 …

I have served in the military for something over 30 years and have had full security clearances over 25 of those years enabling me to undertake highly secretive missions all over the world.

However, I have to get someone ‘important’ to verify who I am – you know, someone like my doctor ..

WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN FRIGGIN` PAKISTAN!”

Thanks Jamie!

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Murphy’s Law Strikes Again…

For those of you who aren’t familiar with “Murphy’s Law”, it states “What can go wrong, will go wrong”, and I’m a firm believer in it.

I have always approached this project with; there are those who do, and those who try.  The difference is those who do have something to show for all their effort while those who try have a list of excuses (or in the eloquent words of my high school football coach “Excuses are like assholes.  Everyones got one and they all stink”).  So, as problems arise I try to address them and move on.

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That being said, I think “murphy’s law” has tried to make me his bitch from day one of this project when he crashed a $3000+ computer system the very first day of the pre-production work, which was needed to handle 95% of work load.  The very first day…  and he continues to strike on.  While I try not to whine about the myriad issues I face along the journey, I figure my misery may just serve as your entertainment:

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Some of video and location releases drying on a table after a bottle of Carlsberg exploded in Poland and completely soaked their folder. Fortunately I was able to safely peel them apart, dry them and save the hours of footage they release.

To bang out the list of things I need to get done from my last post I needed one thing; a hotel with a good internet connection.  I chose Siem Reap Cambodia for a few reasons, I wanted to re-film something, I have friends here for when I’m depressed from staring at a computer and it’s relatively quiet.

Well, the internet here sucks!  Why does it suck?  Because the hotel has no power.  Why no power.  Because the entire city of Siem Reap Cambodia has no power.

So I just traveled 13 hours on a bus from a nice quiet beach, with nice internet, and nice people to… lksadjfl;akkjhdfjklsv.asdjfU<kasahhhhhhhhhh!!!

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Working, Kinda… Cambodia

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Sorry I’ve been MIA.  I’m now back in Cambodia.  Being chased by trainees and gangs of child thieves wasn’t enough to keep me away from this Kingdom.

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But this time it’s less about capturing with a lens and more about playing catch up.  I’ve been traveling and filming for almost half a year and before I continue on I need to get organized and catch up on things I’ve neglected.  Here’s my list;

-Edit a trailer

-Back up 1.5 terabytes of files

-Edit two shorts

-Screen through music with Creative Common Licensees (If you’re an artist please send to [email protected]  Jibe Films legal page.  Thanks!)

-Catch up on the site (Stories that I’ve been too busy to post)

-Find and replace broken gear

-Re-film a botched time-lapse sequence in Angkor Wat (Third try, now a $105 shot)

-Hunt down a mailed package that still hasn’t arrived to Vietnam

-Start planning travel and filming in Sri Lanke, India and Nepal (Hopefully joined by the beautiful talented Photographer/ Filmmaker Fairlight Hubbard, co-owner of Eye Model Management!  Here’s a sliver of her amazing work.)

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I’ve allotted two weeks to get this all done and fly out of Bangkok to Sri Lanke and start traveling north to Nepal.  However the missing package has jammed everything up.  So with hope as my only ally that South East Asia’s mail system may actually pull through, I will be charging forward.

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The Bad News.

This all means me sitting around in a hotel room with a computer for two weeks depressed.

The Good News.

I’ll be feeding the Backpackers Union website with more solid gold.

Stay tuned!

(To help keep you’re attention…)

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Just As I Was Getting Board…

In the past 169 days I’ve traveled across 12 countries and through 27 cities.  A big chunk of my time has been in South East Asia, so it’s probably comes as no surprise that things seemed to start repeating themselves.  Vietnam has been awesome, but it feels like I’ve I done this all before in Cambodia and Thailand… that’s until “Castaway”.

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Even though the trip cost more then bribing the Ukraine government to let me into Chernobyl, it was still worth the $220.  “Castaway” is a boat cruise you do through the “Hanoi Backpackers” Hostel.  It’s essentially a boat trip on the beautiful Ha Long Bay with one day on their private island and two nights of partying with other ‘Castaways’.

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What makes it different is their amazing private island with a small beach surrounded by sheer cliffs.  By day you can go rock climbing, wake boarding, play volleyball, kayak, or just do nothing.

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The nights are made interesting by the way they stagger the guest arrival to the island.  When you show up on the boat, there’s already a crew of Castaways waiting who have been their since the previous day.  You party through the night with them and then they leave early in the morning, leaving the island to you and your crew.  Your last night, it happens again; a boat shows up and you have a new set of guys and girls to party with, then it’s your turn to leave in the morning.  So if you like the laws of probability; you have three chances and two night to “get it right”.  Unfortunately the laws apparently don’t like me.

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It’s a formula for an amazing time and has broken the redundancy of; beach, city, museum, tour, repeat.  Regardless, I think I’m about ready to say goodbye to South East Asia and go somewhere fresh.  Tonight I’ll head to Sapa which is up in Vietnam’s mountains near China, shake off the effects of Ha Long Bay and the Tet New Years, then head to Cambodia where I’ll settle in for a two weeks to play catch up, take care of some busy work and start working on a trailer.  From there it looks like Sri Lanka, India, then Trekking in Nepal are up next… tough life, I know.

PS.  The second day, two of the legendary guides pulled me aside and said they wanted me to apply to become a Castaway guide… When you die you’re suppose to see your life flash before your eyes, at that moment I saw paradise, pure bliss and babes flash before my eyes… But the show must go on and I would miss all the hours of typing on my computer, backing up videos, getting releases signed, doing research and everything that is the Backpackers Union.  Shit, what am I talking about, I think I messed up…

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My First, “I’ve heard of you”…

I feel like the ultimate Z list celebrity!  It went something like this… I told a guy about Backpackers Union at our hostel in Hanoi, and he later said to a girl;

Guy – “This is the kid I was talking about”

Girl – “Oh, I heard about you in Southern Vietnam.  You’re trying to get Americans to travel or something…”

Me – “Kinda…!”

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It was epic by all accounts.  The weight of success is getting heavy though.  May have to lay low for a while.

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Never Stop Exploring.

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