Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

“What on earth are you doing here?”

with one comment

Travelfish is one of my favourite guide-type websites for travelling in Asia. I find it gives a simple, personal perspective of arriving in a new place and wondering where to sleep and what to do. And so far it is the only source of travel information I can find on Dong Xoai, the provincial capital where I will be staying for my fieldwork in Binh Phuoc province. Neither the province nor the city appears in the Lonely Planet guide – not even on the maps. And a search for Dong Xoai will net a bunch of Vietnamese sites and some websites about a famous battle fought here in 1965 during the Vietnam War (called the American War over here).

On the Travelfish page for Dong Xoai, the photo at the top bears the following caption: “What on earth are you doing here?” Indeed. The city has no cinema, no sports facilities of any kind and no remarkable natural or heritage sites to visit. And so far, my interpreter is the only person I have met who speaks any English. Dong Xoai is altogether isolated from the tourist trail in Vietnam, both for foreign and Vietnamese tourists.

The Travelfish page notes that only 900 foreigners visit Dong Xoai in a given year, but I have the actual statistical tables, and in 2009 there were 715 foreign visitors. That means on an average day there are two foreigners in the whole of Binh Phuoc province, of which only a portion will be white anglos in Dong Xoai. One day in the city seems to confirm those statistics for me: the zoo animal feeling I had during my walk this evening suggests I am the only nguoi nuoc ngoai (foreigner) in Dong Xoai. People stumbled as they stared at me; women and children snuck glances at me and turned away giggling when I turned their way; and when I stopped to joke around with someone, they inevitably want edto feel the hair on my arms, measure the size of their feet against mine, and estimate how much thicker my thighs are than theirs.

Here are some photos from my walk this evening, on my first day in Dong Xoai. As they show, Dong Xoai is not a little town, but has the beginnings of a multi-story city look to it. The two main roads are wide and lined non-stop with shops. The first two photos are from the roof of my hotel, the Phuong Lam Karaoke Hotel.

The last photo shows the top of the Coop Mart. It is mainly a massive supermarket, which occupies one half of the building. The rest is a mall-type assortment of clothing and other shops, but many are also owned by Coop Mart. Since I was staying in central Saigon, I have not seen a supermarket anywhere near this size since arriving in Vietnam. Ironic that I came to Dong Xoai to see a big supermarket. In any case, I am very glad to have this across from my hotel. Here is the front of the Coop Mart:

Here are a few photos moving up the main north-south road, to the central roundabout, then west along the parallel main road.

Here is the central monument in Dong Xoai, an aggressive-looking memorial to Vietnam’s victory over colonial invaders. The second photo shows prisoners being led away – do they look French or American?

Lastly, here is an amusing ad. I looked up Placentor – it is an anti-ageing cream. The name and red artwork can not be a coincidence, can they?

I am off into the rubber plantations tomorrow, so my following post should include some photos of what I came here to do.

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Written by Kris Terauds

February 28, 2011 at 17:11

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , ,

One Response

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  1. haha placentor! heart that bigtime.

    I LEAN

    February 28, 2011 at 21:30


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