Ceramic Village Of Hanoi – Bat Trang

Ceramic Village Of Hanoi – Bat Trang

First. Directions to the Ancient Kiln of Bat Trang.
Its called Lo Bau Co, Xóm 3 – Bát Tràng – Gia Lâm – Hà Nội, Gia Lâm, Hà Nội. And looks half shop half temple. When you get to Bat Trang there will be tour guides trying to get your attention DO NOT go with them. They will take you to a tiny pottery house they own and will distract you from seeing the Ancient Kiln. I’ve known many people who come here and don’t see the main attraction because they the tour doesn’t include it as it is free, has free events, and only charges for clay(10k a kg) or if you hire them to glaze your creations.

From the parking lot you go straight till you get to a fork in the road. Make a right go and then straight till you see a white building with brown writing that says “Lo Bau Co”.

You will pass the marketplace on the way here.

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Bat Trang – Vietnams Ancient Ceramic Village. When guests stay more than a few days they almost always ask about this place. A place from 11th Century that was part of the East India Dutch Trading Company network of supplies and trading materials back in the 15th century. The popularity of Bat Trang Ceramics has since dropped but they have continued to produce their products through all the changes time has sent them. A popular tourist destination for locals and schools this place caters to tourists, children, artists and bulk purchasers.

There are three main parts of the village(four if you count the outer area where you can search half empty shops for Mod Podge).

The parking area with street food. The Marketplace, and the Ancient Kiln. Throughout the are there are hole in the wall pottery ‘schools’ covered in grungy decals to attract people for quick lessons at a cost. There’s a few cafes, bun cha spots, restaurants etc too.

I will let the pictures speak for the marketplace.

The Merchants and proprietors were friendly hassle free and happy to have us looking and photographing their beautiful display.  I will be back next week to pick up a tea set.

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Marketplace Courtyard

Next is Lo Bau Co or the ancient Kiln. This is my favorite spot here and I’ve taken several groups of children here for them to make different things with clay. Its open, wide, has swing benches and an ancient kiln to walk around and explore.

Today Major Danger was to make Print Necklaces. A stomped on and grabbed sphere till its flattened holds the memory of his footprint, handprint, and painting skills.

The place has offered to fully bake and glaze our pieces(and fix the plate) for a price of 160k+30k for the clay we used. It will take the 3 or 4 days and they offered to deliver it to anywhere in Hanoi.(For me I’ll just cycle of there next week for the pickup).

An additional 50k for the 10kg bag of clay under my knee.
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Adventures of Major Danger – Ha Long Bay

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Photo of Major Danger age 8 Months

Major danger woke up in a rush. He was bundled up and placed into a big car on a cool morning. One of the first cool morning he’d ever felt but there it was. Cold air and a big open car. Many new things were happening, new family had appeared, new foods and people. Plus he was mobile, something he had been fighting for a long time now. Movement! Still wedged into the car and wrapped in his blanket Major danger was apprehensive. He looked around him. To his right was Mama, and to the left Aunt Sylvia. They seemed excited but nervous. So he knew he needn’t to cry that this morning wasn’t normal. They already knew.

They drove for a long time and he remained calm. At one stop, a big building with lots of shiny objects he could look at but not take. “No, no, we don’t need any souvenirs at this tourist trap.” Mama said to him. Then over food she made lots of faces at him while wearing those mirror eyes. Why does everyone always make faces at him, he pondered. Though the stop was big and he enjoyed all of the paintings, and the women in Au Dai* fusing over him made him smile.

 

‘Huge and large and water!’ Major Danger thought when they stopped. It had warmed up again under the sun and it was unfamiliar place with ‘hot’ black floor and cars. But that golden blue expanse! More familiar than anything else though no one would let him move past the big rocks to join it. Still hustled down a gangplank and onto a rocking floor to another rocking house that sat atop the big blue abyss. “We are on a boat.” Tata said. There was a sputtering, some noise and lots of people around watching the land move further and further away.

Major Danger and Company were at see for the first time ever!

Large rocks shot up from the water to the sky. Covered in green and scattered in the distance the boat rocked under a hot sun towards them, towards Major dangers first adventure.

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On top of the boat was a green grass, but not like grass. Major Danger crawled around up top on the darker bit. He was practicing, for he knew soon things would change, and he’d need his moving speeds at tip top shape. He’d already learned the ‘walk on hands with but in air’ was faster than ‘Seal Crawl’ but ‘knees down hands out’ was easiest. A few people came and made bird noises at him and he showed off by going over the frame from outside to inside. He played with Uncle Kacper, Aunt Sylvia, Tata, Mama, and many others on the top of the boat.

Aunt Sylvia, the lady in blue, used the picture device on Uncle. It seemed that everyone needed many pictures even Tata had a time getting pictures of Mr. Danger. He explored the top full of laying down chairs, green grass that’s not grass, the brown floor and some smaller rock floors in the back where Tata and Uncle sat. Last but not least was the bedroom with a big window of the big blue water.

Soon the big sun went down. Everyone tapped glasses together and then a lady showed them how to roll ‘Nem’** with shrimp and vegetables inside. As the clinking of glasses got more frequent he started rubbing his eyes and Mama came to feed him and place him in bed. The sea was calm and always Mama or Tata was in the room to make him feel safe.

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And the sun goes down on the dragons teeth

The sun shone through the bay window into their room. Major Danger opened his eyes and helped himself to the floor. This wasn’t his normal room or crib so it was a new day to explore. He left the warm and cozy bed with Mama and Tata and started his second day. A day to explore an Island and a cave. Mama put a green hat on me to protect my head from the sun.

Through the water a smaller boat cut towards the tower of land and trees that loomed over them. The guides told of a story about the mother of dragons. A long long time ago the king or emperor of Vietnam Sent his beautiful Mother dragon to help Vietnam. After helping Vietnam the dragon came to this bay and placed its emerald teeth here to form a wall to protect Vietnam. Over time the teeth turned into the high towers you see now. The people who live here and in Ha Long stay to show respect to the mother and her dragons who landed onto this bay as “Ha Long” means “Landing Dragon”***.

*Thump* The boat landed on a hard rock of a dragons tooth. Mama and Tata carried the Major across the hot stones to a place where water met a new soft floor. “Beach” Tata said sternly,  “You Go.” Mama helped him put his feet in the water. These sensations were new and exciting. The water moved on its own without Tata, Mama, or he splashing it. With water dripping from his feet mama carried him to the beach.

Now this was something new. A floor that moved under him! He tried ‘knees down hands out’ crawl but only flopped. He braced for impact but the soft sand only moved from his chin. ‘It sticks’ He thought but had no way of conveying it to Mama. Next he tried ‘Seal’ Crawl and moved until he became fascinated with the stickiness of the sand.  He stared at the pieces of beach he held in his hands, moving the slowly. Then he scratched his face and his eyes and… and… Oh No! The sand had stuck to his face and eyes. This time he knew how to tell Mama. He scrunched his face and gave small bleating(like a seal) wails. Concerned and frustrated Mama used water and her hands to un-stick the sand. Then Mama fanned him for some reason.

He continued researching the sand its properties for as long as he could.

Afterwards they went into the dragons tooth! It was dark for Major but Tata carried him in on the slippery steps. They even let him move around in what was called a “Large Cave.” After several rooms they came to the other side and Danger saw what he was waiting for, Stairs! He made his way up and down them getting more and more practice so that one day he would be able to return and explore the dragons teeth again.

With that they returned to the bigger boat. Then back to Ha Long city where they took the big car again and after what felt like forever(he let them know too that it was too long with some good noises), they made it back! Back to home with the puzzle floor, and his own white bed.

Major Danger had gone to Ha long bay and bared through Boats, Beaches, Caves and even Dragons!

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*Au Dai is a traditional Vietnamese dress. Tight fitting with flowing pieces they are usually very colorful and ornate.

** Vietnamese Spring Rolls
*** Usually translated as Descending Dragon. There was no guide who told us this story, we’ve heard it before.

Hanoi’s Hidden&Abandoned Aqua-Park

Ok a quick post. For the past few weeks I’ve been cycling to Ho Thanh Nhan park (Usually with Major Danger). Which is home to a Hanoian Abandoned water park. Each visit I’ve scouted the area trying to find a way in and determined three ways to get in. PM me for details.

On one of the entrances You’re greeted by lovely bear!
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While I was inside the park, I noticed they have been doing a bit of construction so they may be getting ready to renovate it and re-open the park in the future. If so I’m happy I got a quick glance at the park. The Vietnamese have a belief that the area may be haunted.

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Are photos of the main waterway. I assume in the past people would inner tube down these. Can you imagine swimming in it now? I’d love to come here when its raining.

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Afterwards you can enjoy some tea or other things around the soviet-esque park. Also there’s a tiny abandoned Ferris wheel somewhere too. Its in eyesight of a security guard but he is usually sleeping.

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How to Spend a Day at Bangkok’s DMK.

Don Mueang International Airport. I’ve always preferred Suvarnabhumi. I’ve always liked Suvarnabhumi because of its size, open feeling, and it usually had massive seasonal decorations that pleased the eyes and made the brain wonder. DMK had always felt old, and had a wall of conning tourist agents with 500baht taxi insurance fee’s and a wall of even less scrupulous drivers waiting for you once you got out. It felt like a combination airport meets old train station/bus station. But every time I had been through this airport I was rushing to get out so i had only just scratched the surface.

Built in 1914 it is considered the oldest running international airport in Asia and one of the oldest in the world. When Suvarnabhumi opened, DMK closed to be renovated and re-opened to get another title “Largest low-cost carrier hub in the world”. If you’re flying budget airways in Asia, odds are you’ll be visiting the DMK airport. But its not all that bad in fact, in my last trip with just a layover i was blown away by this airport and its surrounding areas. Today I was doing a day in day out Visa run. HAN-DMK-HAN all in under 14 hours.

The day had began like most of my flying days. Frantically sprinting into the airport with minutes left before the counter closes only to go to the wrong carrier. Somehow through an odd series of unfortunate events I’d find myself on the right track and landing in Bangkok. My original plan was to spend all my time in the airport bar till the next flight but I’d forgotten to print out my Visa application papers. One thing I like about BKK is there is a very cheap print shop in the airport. DMK’s print shop is at a business center in the local overpriced hotel across the street. A women with a voice so sickeningly sweet and Polite you know you’ll regret it later on charges you 20 baht per page. Needing three pages and having to use the ATM to withdraw 500baht topped with another 220 withdrawal fee and I felt the pang of regret

On both sides of the street were a variety of street-food outdoor restaurants. So the Hotel had a 550baht buffet that looked OK but these looked better . The kind of places that will serve your food hot, full of spice, and give you a moment of respite as you bare through the heat and people watch.  Half street-food half restaurant. I walked by these and found a 7-11 where I got a beer(52baht) and finished it on the stoop.

Behind 7-11 was a small neighborhood on the water and across the road sat an impressive gold glittered, Buddhist temple. Was not expecting either of these.

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This neighborhood on canal was picturesque. Going down tiny alleys of docks, stone and houses on stilts was something else. They developed an odd culture of understanding to the “lost from the airport” wanderers. Peddling a few small goods, smiles and even a conversation, I felt thrilled getting a moment here. A few entrepreneurs had opened guest houses and hostels in this maze around the canals.

 
Across the street lay one of the friendliest temple I’ve been too. Massive, beautiful, and even a sign that says “Come take a look at our temple” above a camera. After exploring and taking a million polite photos I saw a group of monks studying. Seeing the look in my eyes the teacher approached me and began to encourage me to come in and take photos.

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Had a skewered cat fish, some Thai brown sauce and a beer at the previously mentioned restaurants. Bill came to only 80baht. I strolled through a few more neighborhoods before heading back into the airport.

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Part of me wanted to explore more but if I had I would’ve missed my flight.  On the opposite side of the airport there’s an Air force museum that I missed. So back in the terminal and quick and overpriced chicken burger(220baht) at Piri Piri chicken a few more beers (120baht each) and I was back to Hanoi.
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In Hanoi. The Visa service I used was quick and expedient. The second I was at the passport checkpoint a young man came, took my papers and darted off. 20 minutes later I had a new year business visa for Vietnam and 10 minutes later I was hailing a grab home. I’ve been using the same Visa company for years. If anyone wants to know it you may PM me.

Moral of the story is to read history about the airport and then go exploring outside.

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70km and a Wedding.

70km and a Wedding.

I love cycling and bicycles. I love them because of how underestimated they are and how liberating they can be. I love them because when everyone is worried you won’t make it “Bam!” You come flying through the gates of a city, feet pounding like pistons, sweat-and-steam coming off your skin and a look of madness as your not even the last one to arrive. While everyone is worried about Taxi prices, or where to fuel up I only have myself and this push-powered metal contraption to launch of to anywhere, or anyplace.

It does take time and energy though.

This week It was a 70km ride back forth from my friends wedding.  When I declined to join a group sharing a Taxi I began getting the start of guilt tripping messages as if they were waiting for my cancellation. However I was already packed and good to go.
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As I only own the one Ortlieb bag and am inpatient I put the suit in first(Folded once) and then all the heavier items after.

Once I threw the bag onto my bike I took off. A quick spotify playlist “Rock for Running” and I was quickly blasting my legs to a cadence of Nu Metal in a high gear. For the first 30km the ride was one road, no issues and quiet calm as far as traffic goes. In fact after an hour of cycling if I hadn’t stopped for a quick water I’d have missed my turn left down the 489 ‘road’.

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489 and the varying other roads brought me to a beautiful part of Hanoi “Suburbs”. Vendors with hammocks, Mia Da(Iced Sugar cane juice) coconuts and um Karaoke(?) dotted the side of the road for teens to hand out.

I got to a yellow community center where they local monks(or nuns?) were spreading out swaths of rice around the temple and well. The people were friendly and guided me to my friends Countryside Wedding.

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I arrived in a sweat still in the cycling gear, and before any photos could be spoiled by my gym clothes I cooled down and changed into a the suit stashed in my bicycle.
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I don’t think I will ever understand Vietnamese weddings. They are extremely bright and heavily decorated but then are very short and only for a few hours. I always feel they end too short. After four hours everyone had already eaten and was preparing to leave. It went as follows.

1.Photo Taking
2. Eating, drinking, and talking. My Favorite Part
3. A short walk with Pomelos.
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My Australian Friend V, and her new husband Khoi were stunning and very happy. The food was very good and the area around the house was interesting. People were hospitable friend and all the rest so it was a delight to meet everyone there. To honor V and her philosophy of meeting people, I networked with as many of her friends as I could.

The way back I put the heavier things in the ortlieb bag first before the suit and took off at a slower pace. Some scenery shots and a Mia Da later I was back on the QL1A. An Easy ride and Only encountered traffic within the last few km to Troung Chinh.

To summarize  the riding it took about 1 hour and 20 minutes for the 35km. Spent 3-4 hours at the wedding and had some food, one beer and a shot of their regional 40+% rice wine. Then spent another 2 hours cycling back with some sightseeing.

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https://www.strava.com/activities/1874798145/embed/16132d3a253ba3b1c392933f85226c3d1f8fd454

How to Manually Transplant Your Life Part 1.

How to transplant your life into a new location without a job or visa.

This is no easy procedure, and from time to time you, like any transplanted organ, may reject your host country. The operation itself can easily be done with: 1.) money, or a pre-packaged deal(Which I highly discourage), 2.) having a place you’ve been before with friends who can help you, or 3.) simply plopping down somewhere in the system of a country and making the best of your situation.  When I transplanted my life into Ukraine I used the friend system, a place I had visited before many times, Now my plan is to place myself in the capital of Vietnam. Hanoi, and I’m starting from scratch.

Here’s what you need to transplant yourself.
-A phone
-Half-way Decent Clothes (You’re going to be looking for a job so at least have a button up shirt)
-And Er, people tell me no one will take me seriously if I don’t say Money. So you need money. Its my SO and myself here, and we’ve developed a certain laziness so we decided to use $500* each.
-A Couchsurfing/Free Hospitality account.

Appearing in Hanoi(From a Bicycle Trip), we narrorily found a host via couchsurf

ing. Xuan is her name a bright girl of girls. She has introduced us to her family and told us a bit about different events to meet people in the city, and a Hanoi facebookgroup called Hanoi Massive. First one event, the couchsurfing event every Wednesday and the seconda Language exchange every Thursday. The couchsurfing meeting doesn’t really interest me, but the language exchange does.

Let me explain it a bit, people involved in couchsurfing tend to know other events, and in fact besides the host/surfing it’s a great way to meet people. That being said it’s a horrible place for having a homogenized party, a typical couchsurfing meeting is composed of a variety of different people and wanting to do different things. 9 out of ten times it falls apart after a few hours with everyone going to different places, in different small groups. Well it is great for meeting people and building connections.

Language Exchanges are great places to meet because its usually a group of people all wanting to one things, Talk. They want to talk in different language and many of them turn out to be locals with information of jobs, of parties, of great places and more. So it’s the language exchange we go to.

So we meet a friend, another cyclist from Ukraine, started in Nepal, and she tells us that she has been here for six months and is indeed teaching English. Gives us the low-down.

”English lessons are everywhere. Expect $20 an hour for lessons and if your not a Native speaker they’ll try to cut it in half, don’t let them. Most places to rent will be $150 and better places will be for $250 a room. People normally rent entire houses and have four to five roommates living there. Its Lunar New Year now so all the schools will closed but wi

ll need more teachers when they open back up. Also, teachers are leaving now so during the New Year a lot of people will be looking for roommates.” Excellent, Gather information roll, Success! She tells us to search Hanoi Massive.

So through the facebook group I see apartments for rent and a woman looking for jobs an email and a day later I wrangle my first interview. Four days into a city and I’ve got an interview.

My plans are to meet more people, rustle up some jobs and find an apartment. Remember “Going out equals friends and Friends=goodtimes+connections, connections = employment, employment = Survival Money. Then you get the Power, and then you get the girl! (Or its easier if you have the girl first).

I’ll write about that in the future.

Us couchsurfing at Xuans place with the family.

Us couchsurfing at Xuans place with the family.

*It can be done with a lot less. For Ukraine I must of used between $100-$200 and I have heard of people doing it on no money whatsoever.