Monday, July 07, 2008

And when he put it on, everyone laughed because it was a comical hat…

Pittstop Works is now defunct, finished, het roi, so let the heralds announce that Hanoi's most whimsical blog is dead, long live Hanoi's most whimsical blog -- the Comical Hat.

Just got it up and running so 'scuse the teething problems, initial clumsiness, crappy design, et cetera.

To our twelve loyal readers who have stuck with Pittstop Works since founder Yorkie Pittstop first wrote some really bad stories in 2003 -- those were the days, oh my sweets, how we thought that summer would last forever... -- thanks for your sporadic yet kind words of encouragement. It kept us going through many a dark and desperate winter night when we smelt of mildew and thought nobody loved us except our landlord on rent day.

Drop your condolences, comments and thoughts over at the Comical Hat. Do not return here. There is nothing to see. The credits have rolled, the curtain has come down, you, me and everyone we know have left the building.

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat! Lên đường may mắn!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pittstop's sabbatical

Due to the intense pressures of maintaining its position as Hanoi's 170,451st most popular blogspot, every one here at Pittstop Works HQ is having a wee rest and staying clear from the blogosphere for a month or so.

Sign up for that reader thingymajig in the top right to make sure you receive notification of when we get back in the saddle of the Pittstop blogmobile, sometime in early June, or late May if you're lucky, and blow your minds through the summer of 2008.

Anyway, at this stage we think you've all figured out how to read Than Nien online and the Snooze in the flesh and laugh at your own conclusions so, perhaps, our work is done here. Or perhaps you've also had enough of this time-consuming and fruitless life online and this sabbatical will help you find the courage to turn off the internet tap and feast your eyes on the world outside your house.

In a way all of us have an El Gaupo to face some day...

[Clippety-clop sounds as man rides horse into a sunset without looking back....]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wondering where the Vietnamese wonders went?
Just when we thought we had the dubious natural wonders campaign all sown up, with the top three spots secured and Mount Everest, Mount Fuji and Niagara Falls eating our proverbial dust, all of sudden Halong Bay, Fansipan and Phong Nha caves get bounced out...

Is the reason a) "According to NewOpenWorld, the organiser of the new world natural wonder selection, Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang and Fansipan Mountain were rejected from the selection list because of lack of official support committees." ... Or is it b) VietNamNet Bridge – NewOpenWorld on April 14 temporarily removed Ha Long Bay from its nomination list of new world natural wonders, said Ngo Hung, Head of the Ha Long Bay Management Board. The reason, according to Hung, is some Vietnamese websites have pirated New7wonders’ logo, photos and contents of NewOpenWorld’s website. c) none of the above and a conspiracy theory of your choice?

Alas now even the Hansel and Gretel-esquely-named Chocolate Hills of Philippines have made the top seven.

no change(1)
Cox's Bazar, BeachBANGLADESH - Asia
no change(2)
Ganges, RiverBANGLADESH/ INDIA - Asia
no change(3)
no change(4)
Mount Everest, MountainNEPAL - Asia
no change(5)
Cocos Island, IslandCOSTA RICA - North America
no change(6)
Mount Fuji, MountainJAPAN - Asia
no change(7)
Chocolate HillsPHILIPPINES - Asia

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stuff you people might or might not like...

* There's a website called Stuff White People Like I clicked on via Upstairsforthinking written by white Americans (Update: the founder is Canadian I'm told) for white Americans who like to be ultra-ironic and self aware 'cos it's cool to know you're trying to be cool when you know really you're not that cool by listening to for example Mos Def, watching Wes Anderson films or eating Sushi or most ironically... being ironic!

Judging by the latest post on rugby with over 1,000 comments it's incredibly popular and is rumoured to have had over 7 million hits this year... so no surprises perhaps that someone has copycatted the idea with Stuff Asian People Like which really isn't funny at all and most of the time doesn't get its own concept quite right: "
It’s safe to say Asians have divided opinions regarding Lucy Liu..."

Maybe it should be called Stuff Asian people have divided opinions on...

Apparently there's also a Stuff Black People Like so in no time we're sure to have the whole spectrum with Stuff Paddys Like (Post one: the Craic!), Stuff Phaps Like (Post one: Wearing a scarf even if its 30 degrees!), Stuff Aussies like (Post one: Pom bashing!)...

Bits and pieces

It's a Happy birthday to the Hung kings who according to legend founded the first kingdom of Vietnam some 3,000 years ago today. I'm celebrating by riding around on a buffalo for the day.

* Heavens to Murgatroyd... what are they feeding these poor mothers?

"A 6.6-kg boy was delivered after a difficult caesarean section, said a doctor at the Ha Noi Obstetrics Hospital on Thursday."

* Putting a plug in it... (the shits that is).

"The local Department of Health on April 13 decided to close several restaurants in the two districts of Hoan Kiem and Hai Ba Trung which don’t meet standards on food hygiene and safety.

* The Olympic torch is coming to Ho Chi Minh City...

"Vietnam also rarely tolerates street protests, and officials have pledged a trouble-free leg in Ho Chi Minh City."

* Decoding Pham Xuan An... -- the life and times of Vietnam's celebrated secret agent Part I. The following articles in the series are on the right of the linked page.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Luxuriate me!

"The reason why Asians buy so many luxury brands is that in Asia you are what you wear. A luxury brand is a symbol that defines who you are and your social status." -- Timeout

"In a country whose peasant army once marched on flip-flops cut from old tires, Gucci beach sandals priced at $365 can come as a shock." -- LA Times

Yup, luxury brands are sooooo hot right now.


ASiaLife from HCM City is back on a coffee table somewhere near you in Sunny-Side up Saigon. Not to be confused with the Word which looks exactly like the old AsiaLife did and emerged after some bust up apparently led to a former AsiaLife employee doing a Robbie Williams and flying solo.

Seems a bit sketchy looking online for the time being. Posted the Minsk Olympics party info four days after the event happened and there's a piece on Hanoi's five newest places, one of which isn't open and it also mentions Mao's red lounge which may be a local favourite but it sure ain't new.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Any Arena
Here's a new-ish and fairly slick looking website called Any Arena with mostly Southern based content and an emphasis on glamorous events it seems, you know like, fashion, art and um... boozing like Billio in Sunny-Side-up-Saigon or as in the case below in Mui Ne at a party organised by the JetLag posse.

Haircut numero uno

For those of you wondering who the winner in the category of best haircut at the Minsk Music Festival was...
voila! As sported by Monsieur Arnaud from Polemic Pravda.

Go on Minsk!

Hanoi's handsomest rogues in football shirts, Minsk FC as seen recently on VTV4 at the Stadium of Astro-turf featuring interviews with the Gaffer, Dan Daiquiri and the Huy Man:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Videos of Minsk music festival
Here's a few videos of everyone's favourite Japanese instrumentalists Both Cheese and My Favourite Uncle at the Minsk Music bash the other day... more videos uploaded by Birdy2bad at that link. (With bonus extra and exclusive footage of the Badger)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More on the Minsk 10th anniversary party

More photos of the Minsk Music festival here by Loominpapa. Clearly a fan of Both Cheese and Ngu Cung. And a few over here at the doctor's clinic and a collage of portraits of some fine people on the big day over at Monsieur Wainwright's photo blog.

Funnily enough the President of Belarus was in town, too, at the start of the week and has now returned to the land of the Minsk. He last visited Vietnam ... 10 years ago.

Coincidence? I DON'T THINK SO! No doubt he was there, incognito as it were.

Also via Mr. JAW's blog we checked out's thoughts and scanned pics of a Marie Claire photo shoot in Halong Bay under the cringe-worthy title Vietnam Photo shoot: Apocalypse Wow.

Check it out if only for Jezebel's comments and captions... such as:
"The photographs, by Richard Mazzucco, are absolutely gorgeous, but just a wee bit somber. Well, it is Vietnam, right?

Someone's got her eye on that bicycle, because someone's shoes hurt so bad she needs to sit down. Also, someone wishes this shoot were on the beach in Thailand instead."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Minsk Party

Well done to all the fine people who had the good sense NOT to miss the best party ever in Hanoi on Saturday last. It was an incredible day of music and hi-jinx that will deservedly go down in history.

I'm also sure somebody somewhere has a thought or a comment on the day that was. I'd be interested in what it was so comment away why don't you.

There's some photos of the bands here taken by Aidan B. Dockery with the likes of fuzzy-haired Jun (below) from Stylish Nonsense on stage. He was runner up in the best-hair-do category on the day. I'll post more photos + reviews as I get them.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A gentle reminder...

Happenings on the Blogosphere

Ah the blogosphgere, or Planet Blog, or the realm of Blogdom, or whatever you want to call it. Isn't it just frightening how it takes over your life and turns you into a square eyed nerd. Sad thing is more and more people want to join everyday...

Take Monsieur JAW for example -- he's just set up a Vietnam based photo-blog there so keep your eyes on that one. In the meantime you can check out his photos of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

Then there's Mr. Brian Jeffrey Fabian III, ex-Hanoian, one quarter Panamanian, who's now living it up in San Fran and under the delusion that he can get fit enough to run the SF marathon. He will be chronicling his slow realisation that tacos, absinthe and brews won't help his race for fitness over at this blog.

Personally I don't think he can even keep his blog going for that long.

A disturbing shot of a deer's head

Don't click on this link if you like Bambi or don't like to see decapitated heads of animals hanging off a clothes line. Via those oh-so-sadistic food lovers at Sticky Rice.

Save us from this misery satellite...

This is ground control to Major Tuan, the plain people of the countryside can't get good reception for the Manchester united games on Saturday or a decent enough internet connection to set up a blog...
"Viet Nam will launch the national satellite VINASAT-1 on the morning of April 12 at a cost of more than US$200 million, bringing countless benefits to farmers and other Vietnamese living in remote and isolated areas." via the SNooze.

Headline of the morning

Cannae find the online version but the morning's Than Nien printed daily's bauld headline read: SPERM SHORTAGE. Certainly got my attention. In case you're interested you have to be between 18-45, have completed the 9th grade and have healthy mobile sperm. VND150,00 a pop apparently.

You might remember...

You might remember the picture of the man with the silly inflatable hat that I posted (see below)... well now that Bertie has resigned as Taoiseach of Ireland due to the "controversy over his private financial affairs", it appears that that man, the bauld Brian Cowen, will indeed be the man on top.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dog's dinner
  • "Dogs are either for eating or guarding the house," Law said. "Walking my dog is like someone walking their chicken."
  • When Daniel Rocher's cat Yin Yang had both back legs broken, the first vet wrapped the bleeding limbs in newspaper. The second vet bound the legs with wire; they then became infected. "The third one came and said the only solution is to cut the legs and make small wheels," said Rocher, a Frenchman who has worked in Vietnam as a marketing consultant for more than a decade. "I was horrified and he said, 'Don't worry,' it will be a cheap price.' "
  • "I [am] ashamed that in a country where people earn $50 a month, I paid $2,000 for this cat."

The International Herald Tribune on expats and their pets in Hanoi. The last bit about young people not eating dogs might just be a result of the guy being interviewed not realising Vietnamese "often downplay the popularity of thit cho" which the article points out right at the start of the article. Like... duh!

Even if one million 18-25 years olds wouldn't eat dog there's another million who would. And that, my friends, is a lot of dog...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The price of petrol

Will Teddy de Burca jnr’s one man boycotts leave him stranded or will the petrol stations finally crumble and apologise?

I’m running out of petrol. I’m also running out of petrol stations. You see I have a few boycotts simultaneously running across town. You can feel free to join me, but I’m fairly confident that my one-man-snub will have the necessary repercussions.

Soon, and perhaps that means years from now, if we are looking at this from a 21st century perspective, the owners of petrol stations on Kim Ma, Hoang Hoa Tham, the other one past the ILu Building on the Dike road, and about seven others around town, hither and thither, will be reeling under the weight of my economic sanctions and be on their knees begging for me to lift the embargo and come back to trade at their rusty old pumps.

You see each of them owes me either a small sum of money or a certain amount of petrol – I’ll accept either, taking current inflated levels into account, along with a heartfelt apology from the masked bandits, who duped me in broad daylight.

Perhaps you might argue it's poetic justice for owning a two-stroke motorbike with a ludicrously large petrol tank which I treated like a bottomless well, but here’s the trick I continually fell for: I roll into the petrol station and the pump attendant starts pumping away (yes, yes innuendo...) with carefree abandon having accidentally forgotten on purpose to swipe the previous customers’ total. Even if I suspected they did it, it was hard to prove with no petrol gauge. I’d lean over and stare inside, but all I’d hear was the sound of the sea.

This quick, sharp cheat can make the little purloiner anything from VND5,000 to VND30,000. So lord knows how much those witches on Tong Dan/ Hang Tre took me for back in the day when I used to drive a two-wheeled tractor called an MZ which had a petrol tank that could have doubled as an ocean liner and ferried oil back and forth from the deep blue yonder.

And to think I kept coming back as I thought they loved me. I used to sing to them while they cooed sweet compliments in my ear to distract me, “Anh dep trai”, “Anh cao the!”, “Anh-this-that-the-other-the!”

I benignly believed they were filling my tank up as much as I’d asked and was continually stumped – yes, I’m slow out of the blocks – to discover myself running out of petrol 24 hours after putting umpteen gallons inside the blasted bike.

The day I finally copped on and caught them they just shrugged their shoulders and left me to spit and spew in the 40 degree heat. But at least I had cottoned on to the con. Not that I probably haven‘t fallen for it since.

Most recently the little dumpling of a woman at the petrol station closest to my office betrayed me. My suspicions became aroused when she started rubbing my arms and telling me, “Oi gioi oi! Dep the! Dep the!” Jarringly sweet words for a petrol station I now know – En garde diminutive woman!

Sadly for her and her ilk now I’m armed with a petrol gauge so I’m nabbing the cheeky little so-and-sos all over town. But you see that’s part of the problem, I’m running out of petrol stations and now I’m running out of petrol.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tsunami Warning
What do you do when you see a Tsunami in Vung Tau? Please make your way calmly down Nguyen Chi Thanh street of course!

Via The Final Word.

Economy overboiling
What do you do when the economy overboils? Answers on an eCard please folks.

Savour Asia
FYI: Here's a new smart looking website with a guide to Hanoi, as well as other regional cities, called Savour Asia with lots of simple, practical advice for folk coming to Hanoi. If you're wondering what to do with your friends or random friends of friends' friends who turn up at your door demanding to be entertained, print out the 72 hours in Hanoi section (24 hour and 48 hour options also available) and tell them you'll see them in the pub in 73 hours time.

Note to self
Remember why you should be in Hanoi on April 5...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

* Pho real?

Can the pho at Pho 24 really, truly, honestly be the best in the land of pho? Can southern pho really, truly honestly be better than the pho up here the way mama Bear makes it at 4am on a random street of your choice somewhere between a bar stool and the pillow on your bed?

No expert am I -- especially as I haven't eaten in PHO24. Nor have I eaten pho in TPHCM so wouldn't know about the pho down south being 'way better' but it certainly winds up the inner-plastic-patriot in me enough to set up the Interprovincial Pho Challenge.

Boys, prepare my wagon -- unwind the giant ball of pho, fatten the calf, slaughter the chickens, boil the stock, hire some diminutive staff for an absolute pittance, buy some oh-so-wee plastic stools, warm up the Bia Ha Noi and pick out our least mouldy chopsticks. We're going on a road trip and we're not coming back until everyone admits our pho is the bees-knees.

* This is how we roll in Ha Noi...

Local Ong Tay hip-hop celeb D*Rough*T (Yeah, you know me! My name is D*Rough*T!) rolled down Ly Thuong Kiet last night looking for 'dem ladies with a new set of wheels before splashing some big C-notes out at the bia tuoi on lashings of Cha ca and ... um... bia tuoi.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

* Paragraph of the month

From this month's VN Economic news: "The experts have said that when more is spent on imports than earned on exports one can say that inefficiency is present. Experts said that. And this is why this should not be allowed to happen. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has asked its experts to find a way to fix this trade deficit problem. In reply, the experts said that they need to have a long-term state-level research project funded."

As spotted by CLUB CAMA's expert economic research department.

* If you could bottle the craic....

That's the Irish Tanaiste (DPM) there in Hanoi for St. Patrick's Day with a hat on his head that says -- "look-at-me-I'm-Irish-and-I'm -having-the-craic!"

Those two men in dashing silk t-shirts smiles' say "look at us we just crashed this embassy do and stuck a silly hat on the Tanaiste's head -- wahey!"

* 'Emission impossible'

Get ready, Thanh Nien is about to spoil your day: "With the number of pollutant-emitting vehicles approaching 4 million in HCMC, and volumes increasing daily in Vietnam’s cities, you can be sure that you’ll need more than a thin piece of fabric to improve your long-term health prospects here."

* Would the owner of registration....

If the fella who owns this car also reads Thanh Nien he might be smart enough to change the colour of his licence plates...

"The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee has denied ownership of a US$126,000 Mercedes seen driving around the city with government plates recently. City officials Tuesday denied the rumor that the municipal administration owned the Mercedes CLS500, estimated to cost at least VND2 billion. The rumor spread because the car, spotted driving around District 1 by several residents, carries blue government license plates.Under government regulations, official cars provided to HCMC officials must cost no more than VND800 million ($50,400), including taxes..."

* Hair today

The police stopped

200 wee rascals (tieng viet only) driving without their helmets from March 15 to March 16 in HN. Meanwhile 10,000 people still wear helmets without straps and back to front in a fashion that says, "Hey, look at me! I'm having the craic driving this motorbike with my helmet on the wrong way around -- wahey!"

* New airlines...

I'm not sure if Air Speed Up is a name that will inspire confidence in an airline for nervous fliers...

"Vietnam is expected to license its second private airlines named Air Speed Up this month, and a third one called Phu Quoc Air in the next few months..."

Friday, March 14, 2008

* Surprise, surprise, banks want more of your money!

We don't often link ye lucky punters up to the bees-knees section but what an opening gambit here at the Guardian -- it's just effortlessly reeled us in: "A kilogram of gold, a Mercedes Benz and a laptop computer are just some of the prizes offered by Vietnam's fledgling banks to woo customers as they feel the squeeze of tighter monetary policy. "

Where do we sign up!?

* 15 seconds of fame/ film

I thought writing 5 0 word short stories was silly enough fun, but check out this marvelous 15-second film from the 15 second film festival now coming nowhere near Hanoi some time soon. You can watch a string of them on line -- a few hits, a few misses, but still, cool idea.

Day and Night on Essex street

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

* Sweet Jesus!

You're clearly just taking the mickey over at the SNooze misspelling poor Bertie's name for a second time in three days. Yes, our poor auld Taoiseach was referred to as Berti Adhern AGAIN! Oh how you cut to the core of a man you little ragamuffins...

The article goes on to also say the Vietnamese PM visited the Irish House of Lords and House of Commons, which don't really exist in Ireland due to a rather large lack of lords and as for commons, well, we're all out of them too, since the Celtic Tiger turned all land into Super-Expensive plots of land that no one can technically afford. I'm just surprised the Vietnamese PM didn't also pop over to take tea and elevenses with the Irish Queen Mary McAleese in O'Buckingham Palace.

Headline of the morning...

Buying drugs as easy as [buying?] vegetables: “We have all kinds of drugs. It is good to have [a?] doctor’s prescription but if patients don’t have [one?], we still sell them the drugs they need. No problem,” said the owner of a drugstore on Trang Thi Street."

Statements like that could create a whole new tourism industry.

* Controversial statement of the year

Vietnamese models wear out ao dai? C'est pas possible! As spotted by my man JAW.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

* That's like soooo Saigon

Ye Hanoi based folk probably know of the New Hanoian website (the community produced expat guide) and now TPHCM-based people can start to write up every restaurant, cafe, bar and gin-joint in the south with the recently launched So Saigon -- exactly the same format, you go somewhere, you like it, or don't like it, or wanna say it's bình thường thôi, then you simply sign up and review it. The site's just started and needs all the reviews it can get it's digital-hands on to get going.

And sure isn't it all happening down there in Sunny Saigon? It reminds us of Manhattan in the 80s when we Pittstop staffers were all living on Wall street making tonnes of cash and spending it all like Billio.

Those were the days. Still have the suit with shoulder pads to prove it all happened.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Here at Pittstop HQ we read the
local papers so you don't have to!

* Drunk with a monk

Here's a strange tale from a local daily about a Gia Lai land official who went to a pagoda after being on the lash with a mate and convinced/ forced the pagoda's monks to join in the fun. He forced the impressionable or perhaps defenseless Buddhists to smoke a few cigarettes and quaff beer with him but rather than this leading to a sense of jovial camaraderie and high spirits, things turned ugly when the official started to lecture the monks on land use rights (hot topic these days don't you know) then chinned a young monk who tried to lead him in the direction of home. The old sot then asked to be forgiven before persuading everyone to go sing karaoke with him. He is probably feeling a wee bit silly after being suspended from ... 'officialdom' so he is now merely a hard-drinking rabble rousing non-official these days.

"Thuan, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to hand in your whistle," said the town's head to the disgraced official.

Pittstop recommended reading rating:

* The town that has no doors
This town in Ca Mau province has no doors and is also home to rather erudite and eloquent xe om drivers: “It’s one of the most unusual places I’ve ever lived in,” said Nam Deo, a local xe om driver.“I can guarantee that anyone who came here would be in total surprise. People leave their stuff unguarded as if they were children’s toys. It’s somewhat like the perfect society Karl Marx once referred to – prosperous with possessions but without greed.”

PRRR: ***

* Barbers set for the chop?

Streetside barbers' days are numbered in Hanoi, so go get your ears cleaned out one last time on the Dyke Road sometime soon.

PRRR: **

* Typo of the morning
Not one to talk about typos, we admit, but the Irish heart of Pittstop Works took a blow at the sight of Ireland's Taoiseach Bertie Ahern being referred to as Berti Adhern in Vietnam News this morning. Bertie was hanging out with the Vietnamese PM in Dublin and showing him some 'cultural sites' which could be a kind of euphemism for going on a pub crawl down Baggot street -- Pinting like two UCD agriculture students on a Thursday night in the direction of Copperface Jacks in the days of yore.

Caption: Our Bertie having a nice of cup of tea before setting off to face another day of worrying about whether or not Ryan Giggs has another year left in him with Man Utd

Rumours are a pint of Guinness was downed, somewhere, though our Bertie is actually a Bass man. Famously he told Hot press magazine back in 1986BC he could drink a gallon of the stuff and walk in a straight line when asked about being stopped for a breathalyser test by the cops.

* Drinking in Vietnam

Finally an article tourists will find useful before coming to Vietnam in the travel section of New York Times: One on booze.

"Many people go to Vietnam for the food, for the beaches, for the history. My wife and I went there to drink," writes honest-to-goodness Neil Samson Katz.

As ruou gets a mention, one of Pittstop's HQ away from HQ Highway4 is unsurprisingly in there. There's an accompanying video in which Professor Markus Madeja of Highway4 sings the praises of local men with cash who like to drink, has a pop at French fry eating foreigners, smokes a Thuoc Lao and necks a few shots of Apricot and Ming Mang ruou.

"An apricot liqueur was pleasantly tart with a touch of sweet and a light floral scent. An herbal variety blends more than 20 roots and purports to be a recipe stolen from Emperor Minh Mang’s cellar in Hue. (Mang, a 19th-century monarch who enraged Europe by booting out Christian missionaries, mythically had a 500-woman harem and likely needed a tonic or two to sire his more than 100 children.)"

You can check out his blog (not much on Vietnam there yet) or his flickr photos from the trip.

* Golfing in Vietnam

Katz's colleague from the NY Times also went with his wife to Vietnam, though he was more interested in sinking putts than shots of liquor.

"It felt a little odd, even a touch irreverent, swinging a Callaway driver in the land of “Apocalypse Now,” Khe Sahn (typo!) and Ho Chi Minh. And yet there I stood on a carpet of manicured grass outside Hanoi, looking toward a small flag in the distance."


"Mr. Puchalski acknowledged that betting was a common problem. He said he did his best to discourage it, and that it was just one of many things he has had to impart to first-time students of the game. Other unofficial lessons have included: why you shouldn’t laugh when someone slices into the rough; the value of silence while putting; and the nature of tipping."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

* The Italian Job

From the Guardian's gallery... For those who don't know he's the Irish national football team's new Italian manager and for those who don't care, well you've already started reading the post below...

* Mr. Moneybags
We were inundated with emails at Pittstop HQ a few weeks ago when we suggested a Vietnamese consortium had plans to buy into Arsenal Football Club and replace meat pies with banh mi pate. As if, some of you scoffed Poppycock, said others. Yeah right, snapped the cynics amongst you. Most of you were probably right to think it will never happen, but just for the record, we can confirm that the main man behind the would-be investment into England’s premier League, a Mr. Duc from Hoang Anh company, was said to be worth up to $1 billion last month thanks to owning over 65 million shares in his own company which hit the big time thanks to Vietnam’s property boom. The bad news for “Boss Duc”, who is also the chairman of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Football Team, is now that the property market has slipped into a frosty spell his pile of shares have lost value and he’s said to be worth a mere $875 million – oh woe is him – but, perhaps, we could still interest him in the slightly less fashionable but still accessible by London’s Underground, West Ham or Charlton football clubs instead?

* Who shall be ... the one?
Despite the high tariffs and special consumption tax rates upwardly mobile Vietnamese millionaires have been buying Hummers, Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and Bentleys, but who shall be the first dong-zillionaire to step up to the plate at the Canadian aircraft maker Bombadier’s showroom and fork out $14.5 million for a LearJet 60 XR? The deluxe business aircraft, which was officially unveiled at Noi Bai International Airport North of Hanoi this month, can fly for over five hours, which is enough time to get you from Hanoi to Australia should you feel the need for an impromptu barbie on the Gold Coast.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Here at Pittstop HQ we read the local papers so you don't have to!

* Oliver Stone film stalls: Oliver Stone's attempts to make a Vietnam film as good as Hamburger Hill is turning into a lifelong saga. Now it seems Bruce 'pursed lips' Willis has thrown a spanner in the works of Stone's latest attempt Pinkville, which is based on events surrounding the My Lai Massacre: The filming of “Pinkville”, a movie concerning the 1968 My Lai massacre in Quang Ngai province directed by Oliver Stone, has halted due to a disagreement between Stone and lead actor Bruce Willis..."

My Hollywood contacts tell me Bruce Willis, a well known method actor who has recreated 1968 My Lai-style conditions in the back garden of his Malibu mansion to prepare himself for the role, insists that his character William R. Peers should purse his lips more often and throw in a few wry smiles at those ain't life a bitch but what are you going to about it-moments. Willis is also pushing for a scene where he's battled-scarred, bruised and bloodied, but just won't quit much to the chagrin of his evil nemesis, an East European with wicked and shady past and a penchant for surrounding himself with gormless expendable henchmen. Willis is also said to be concerned at the lack of a catchphrase for his character and proposing, "Xin chao for now soldier."

The other and slightly more 'real' reason the film isn't being made at the moment is because those Hollywood writers refuse to write and Oliver is a member of the Writer's Guild.

* Professional help: I find it hard to believe a lot of people are heading to a shrink in these fair waters but, hey, the SNooze says counselling is on the rise in Vietnam so who I am to disagree, but what's REALLY amazing is ...
Hong Anh graduated from the Psychological Faculty of [...] and now works as a telephone counsellor. "I’m paid VND100 for each minute I talk with my clients, so the longer they talk the better," she says.
VND100 a minute? Methinks Hong Anh won't be building her dream eight floor house overlooking her neighbour's seven floor house anytime soon.

The Pittstop Must-read-rating: **

Shhh! Phu Quoc is paradise:
Phu Quoc is declared the best hidden beach in the world which of course is sort of likely to help destroy the very quality that's been rewarded.

The Pittstop Must-read-rating: **

* All fighting waiting staff: Image of the day from a VNnews food review -- "The last time I went to Lan Chin it was late and the ten or so waiting staff had little to do so they amused themselves by fighting each other with a pile of chopsticks."

The Pittstop Must-read-rating: ***

* Born behind bars: These not-so-fortunate babies get to live in prison with their mums -- yes, that's right, it's not all tomfoolery around here you know. We love a hard-hitting exposé every now and then. If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? Eh? EH?!

The Pittstop Must-read-rating: ***

Saturday, March 01, 2008

* Our bleeding ears

Over the years you might have spotted the odd whingeing blog here at Pittstop HQ about the (H)annoying overuse of horns on the streets in this fair city and you might have even read our suggested solution but anyhoo the problem remains and yesterday the SNooze opened the floor to a few disgruntled expats and asked for their tuppence worth. I like one guy's idea of the pre-paid honk account, however impractical it might be, that's the kind of outside the box thinking we need around here!

* Water world Thanh Nien regrets to inform us that "Natural disasters are, naturally, unstoppable..." and thus, albeit indirectly, suggests why ye southern based folk might want to head down to the Russian market and invest in a nice, large pair of Wellington boots.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

* Sharapova spoof story backfires

In the world of tennis Maria Sharapova is one of the biggest super stars going and the Russian bombshell had everyone in a tizzy after a satirical story written by a major Vietnamese daily paper got mistaken for a true story and was subsequently picked up by the international press. A Vietnam-based online English language paper first translated the spoof story that the Australian Open Champion, who really was in Vietnam a while back, saw a bunch of local residents chasing mosquitoes with those buzzing and crackling plastic rackets near Bang Ky bridge in the south and after a mistranslation by her translator she mistakenly believed them to be passionate tennis fans who just couldn’t afford tennis balls. You know because playing with invisible tennis balls is like so much fun! The story continued that Maria was so moved by this tragic scene that she wrote to the Vietnamese tennis federation proposing to open a centre where impoverished tennis players could always find a ball with her name on it. Beautiful story but it turns out that Tuoi Tre ran it as a spoof article and doesn’t everyone feel pretty silly now?

* Hamsters nothing but trouble

The Year of the Rat has led to massive new fad for teenagers in Vietnam and China – keeping a hamster as a pet. This furry little critter is cheap, easily fed and cared for – even a fickle teenager could manage the responsibility! But there are growing fears that this mass movement will lead to an agricultural disaster and health problems for you, me and everyone we know – yes, even your super healthy tennis playing friends who go to yoga and pilates classes and swim 5km before eating a breakfast of muesli and fresh fruit will be defenseless against the bugs that come out of these rampant hamsters. You see droves of these oh-so adorable rodents are being smuggled in from China without quarantine and well, who knows where they’ve been. So if you see or know anyone with a hamster, tell them to put the little fur ball on the first train to Lao Cai and then place it on the other side of the border. We can only hope that we manage to get through to the Year of the Buffalo alive and well but sure then all the kids will want a large heifer for a pet and we'll all be knee deep in cut chau but at least that’ll be the last we hear of the hamsters for another Lunar zodiac cycle.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

* By the power of UNESCO...
Those sterling fellows at UNESCO have stepped in to distance the organisation from the dubious campaign, which I mentioned in the last couple of posts, as it "cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public" -- full press release here.

Obviously this could itself be some sort of ruse to try and get us off the hunt while Mount Fuji slips past Mount Phan Xi Pan into the top three, and if so we're not falling for it -- Fansipan vô địch!

*I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll ...

An angry mob does what the wolf couldn't do to a pig's brick house in Quang Nam and levels it. When you need to get something done, there's nothing like an angry mob...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Certainly makes me wonder...

Now I know what all those kids are doing in internet cafes all around Hanoi.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nowt to do with Vietnam whatsoever parts 561, 562, 563, 564

Well, quite a few days it's been for the Oirish nation. Somebody better prepare the biggest tickertape parade the country has seen since we scored two goals in the European Championships '88.

*First we stuff the Scots at Croke Park in rugby then Spurs captain Robbie Keane lifts a trophy at Wembley...

*Then Glen "Outspan" Hansard won an Oscar...

We made this film two years ago; we shot it on two Handycams. It took us three weeks to make; we made it for a hundred grand. We never thought we'd ever come into a room like this and be in front of you people
Irishman Glen Hansard, who won best song - along with co-star Marketa Irglova - for Falling Slowly from their film Once

*He's not really Irish but he lives in Wicklow and that's good enough for us -- then Daniel Day Lewis also won an Oscar...

That's the closest I'll ever come to getting a knighthood
Daniel Day-Lewis on picking up his best actor Oscar from The Queen star Helen Mirren

* And most importantly we decide to send a gloved puppet to the Eurovision song contest...

UPDATE: I apologise for actually posting the song earlier-- it truly is a turkey. Ba dum tish.

Friday, February 22, 2008

* As commanded the sun is out and all the lovely young people are blowing around without the lid on -- just like these eight year olds (from a vnexpress photo essay) who would appear to be about three foot above sea level.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

* There's a website dedicated to compiling a list of the seven natural wonders of the world. You can vote for whatever you want as long as it is on the long list of the 77 wonders. Of course, you cynics might say it's therefore more of an indicator of who's got their marketing game going. I say poppycock! It' s about pride, glory, sticking it to the other so-called wonders and making them languish in a battle for mediocrity in the league of wonders.

Vietnam currently has three wonders in the top seven (Bangladesh also has three) -- eat that Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Angel Falls, Niagara Falls, Powerscourt...

* The mysterious case of the super stimulating substance that makes vegetables grow quicker... reminds me of a film...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

*I would just like to say, if I were near this sandwich, I would eat it.

*Plus two for Tuesday on a Wednesday over at upstairsforthinking...

*The Vietnamese Ugly Betty hit the screens last night and you could have heard a pin drop on the streets of Hanoi as families crowded around the telly to watch... yes, it's been a long, dark and desperate winter and we've arrived at the last resort: VTV comedy shows. Springtime you can't come to soon. May we all be sitting in a bia hoi wearing shorts this time tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

* Dust off your Red Dzao Hat and fill your H'Mong satchel with rượu and thuốc lào, one of Hanoi's most tres bien watering holes, Roots is throwing an Ethnic minority themed fancy dress party on Feb 22nd with DJs and turntablists (Jew's harp and chèo mash ups anyone?) and it's all for charity. More info at the Grapevine.

Rakishly tilted Red Dzao hats are sooooo hot right now.

* It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry on this busy little carriage. Huddling together means at least you'll stay warm I suppose. Now not that I would want to be harping on about the weather -- but check out these pix of the northern pastures.

* Of course, you can always warm up by stripping off and wrestling in a sandpit.

Monday, February 18, 2008

* Headline of the morning:
PM orders counter-offensive against north’s bitter cold spell.
"Slip on your long johns and woolly jumpers and fill the hot water bottles with piping hot trà, lads, we're going in!"
(Maybe Oslo can draw us a buffalo with a beanie or a cardigan?)

* Smoker's Delight... (via Vintage Advertising)

...of course, smoking killed the poor bastard in the end.

* "Nearby in a garden, thick vines curl around a concrete tree trunk that grows into a nude maiden, the main house. Two concrete giraffes house a cafe. A giant eagle perches on an egg-shaped fireplace. The giant spiderweb is made of wires and tubes and hangs over the pond. The solitary spider is carved out of wood, but there are other webs woven through the branches of the pines and extending to the house’s roof. They make bizarre patterns against the sky..."

Can you guess where? Need a clue? Think... Gnarls Barkley...
Answer here.

* Well, in terms of Rolls Royces, TPHCM is leaving Hanoi trailing in its wake, with a 5-1 advantage. Even diminutive middle aged women are getting in on the act as Bà Diệp (pictured below) splashed out a cool $1.3 million for a rolls just before Tet. But as a responsible adult you'd have to be concerned that she might not be able see over the steering wheel, non? Or am I forgetting about Anh Jeeves?