Just rode my new scooter to Samoeng and back. Started in Hang Dong and spent four hours on two lane blacktop full of hairpin turns. Gorgeous! Lush. Rained half the time. At lunch for a dollar in Samoeng and then headed back up the hill to Mae Rim. Wow, this is some of the best motorcycle riding I’ve seen. I learned to ride in the Gold Country of Northern California. Those were dry hills most of the year, blond grass. This is the wet, tropical version, with steeper elevations.
“Car pooling surges on social network apps” reads this morning’s headline. Wow, is that a phenomenon that doesn’t now and will never affect me. I guess if you have an office job in Chicago and live in the suburbs it might, but if you wander around a small town and have no regular schedule, then that sort of thing might as well be happening on Mars.
Today I will take my new motor scooter on its first ride out of town. We’re taking a loop from Hang Dong to Mae Rim. Lots of curves and hairpin turns. Hope the drivers coming the other way think of the center line as more than a vague suggestion.
Visa to Visit Vietnam
Wow, it is expensive! $45 each, and that’s after applying for the letter of approval via the Internet. That’s supposed to be the easier, cheaper way. If I were a member of the Southeast Asian Economic Bloc, then it would be free. No fair! Well, I guess they’re sticking it to us for bombing Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and dropping more bombs on Lao’s Plane of Jars (we weren’t even at war with Laos) than were dropped on Japan and Germany in all of WWII. Maybe that’s part of it.
It’s probably tit for tat on how we treat them. How much do we charge them for a visa? After you add on homeland security fees, background checks, I bet it’s a lot. Probably more than $45.
As I write this it is much hotter back in the Midwest than it is here in Chiang Mai. Not that it’s cool here. I can’t imagine what it was like to live in Thailand before air conditioning.
Most of what motivates us was implanted in our psyches back in early childhood. My visions of Asia came from the black and white TV coverage of the Viet Nam war. I remember seeing lots of slim girls on bicycles, holding parasols in one hand and steering with the other.
Nowadays, in living color, high-def and 3-D, I see lots of girls on motor scooters, either driving or riding sidesaddle as passengers, non-chalantly texting on their cell phones while their boyfriends navigate their way around cars and trucks, just barely missing knocking his passenger’s sandels from her protruding feet.
We’re going to Vietnam next week. I started reading about the place, my knowledge of it limited to the War of 40 years ago (which we lost. Fact facts, y’all, we pulled out, they took Saigon and renamed it Ho Chi Minh City. That means they won) In that war, the Vietnames lost two million people and the U.S. forces lost fifty-eight thousand (with 300,000 wounded.
I remember being on a Peace March in Washington D.C., where I yelled the name of a dead soldier as I shuffled in line past the White House. Nixon wasn’t home to hear it. Back then you could get close to the White House. Now there are concrete bomb barriers everywhere. We were chanting “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win!” Little did we know at the time that our chanting was prescient.
Anyway, today in Vietnam, over half of the population of 87 million is under the age of thirty. Only ten percent are over the age of sixty. This Geezer is going to be special over there.
Hope they don’t hold a grudge.
Why Cheap is Important
It’s sounds sort of sleazy to talk too much about how cheap your adopted country is compared to where you came from. So it’s cheap. So what? There are lots of cheap places on this planet that are real hell-holes. True, there are zillions of places where you could live on less than a dollar a day and squat by the side of the road watching bugs crawl up your legs. There are slums as extensive as Chicago where the water is full of cholera and the air smells like burning dung. So obviously, finding the cheapest place on the planet is not a laudable goal.
At the other extreme, you could live pretty much anywhere in Switzerland, Denmark or Norway and be assured of clean air and water, terrific infrastructure, killer libraries and medical facilities, all clean and cute as can be. But you’ll pay for all that cleanliness and cuteness. And for those of us who depend on social security in the form of ever-depreciating dollars, we might as well be talking about living on Mars.
So what we’re looking for is the intersection of cheap and delightful.. Nicaragua and Thailand fill that bill for me, I’m sure there are many other places in the world that my readers have found as well. If you leave me a comment regarding that, I’d be glad read it, and other readers could read your description of such a place. We could turn this into a sort of mini-dedicated Facebook page about alternative retirement spots.