Sunday, April 25, 2010

On MOUs, Marble and Music

The recent drought of postings was because I've been busy travelling. This week I was back in Vietnam - two days in Hanoi, two days in Da Nang (where I am right now) and half a day stopover in HCMC.

Da Nang was the key focus of this trip. It's still one of my favourite cities in Vietnam and I've been engaging with various government agencies there for a number of years. The purpose of this trip was to oversee the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the People's Committee of Da Nang and Cisco. I had been working towards this for quite a while, and believed this to be a significant milestone in our partnership. More on this event can be read here.

After the official work was over, I had a chance to pay a visit to Marble Mountain, one of a cluster of five marble/limestone mountains located a few km south of Da Nang, that stretch from the coast inwards (in a westerly direction). The mountains are named after the five elements; Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). There are many caves and tunnels in the mountains and I read that they were used quite a bit during the Vietnam (or American, depending on which side you are on) War. The area is now famous for stone sculpture making and stone-cutting crafts.

Here's a shot of the area where the Marble Mountains are located. You can see three out of the five mountains ...

And here are some shots taken at one of the many stone sculpture shops.

So remember .... if you want to order some marble lions or dragons or deities or nude maidens or fountains for your grand mansions, you can place an order with me. Shipment to all corners of the world provided. I'll give you some good rates. LOL

Finally after dinner last night, I was invited to a music lounge to enjoy some traditional Vietnamese music and modern pop hits. I was impressed by the quality of the musicians (the white-haired violinist you see in the photo is particularly good!). And of course, there was a variety of singers doing everything from Vietnamese ballads to Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me". Alas, none attempted "Nobody".

All the lady singers I saw were lovely and had extremely powerful vocals. This was evident as each lass belted out soulful numbers one after the other with ease.

Da Nang and its surroundings are indeed fascinating places - ideal for relaxation and for exploring the real Vietnam. It is clean, safe, scenic and the people are mostly friendly. I have quite a number of friends in Da Nang and I'd certainly recommend it to all.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Fools' Day - Jokes and Pranks

Yesterday was 1st April, which most people know as April Fool's Day or All Fools' Day. The day is marked by the creation of hoaxes and other practical jokes and pranks of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on a fool's errand, the aim of which is simply to have some fun and to embarrass the gullible or unsuspecting. Most of these jokes are small but some are pretty big scale. Some can be quite hilarious (except perhaps to the victims of the prank) and still memorable after many years.

I remember one April Fool's Day back in the late 70's when I was in London, the BBC's "That's Life" program announced that a new species of creature had been discovered. They showed footage of something called the Lirpa Loof which looked somewhat like a cross between a small monkey and a koala. They even showed the stool of this strange creature to be purple in colour and glowed in the dark (making good use of colour tv technology obviously). The announcer said the creature was now in captivity at the London Zoo. As a result hundreds of people called in and crowds flocked to London Zoo hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature.

Another joke I read about was when the BBC programme Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing Italians harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest, the spaghetti weevil, had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees.

Another one is about Decimal Time. This has been repeated several times in various countries. This hoax involves claiming that the time system will be changed to one in which units of time are based on powers of 10. So in the "new" system, 100 seconds will make 1 minute and 100 minutes will make 1 hour. Hmmm ... this could have interesting implications for clock & watch makers, exam-taking students or runners trying to break sporting records.

Over to you ....

Are there any good April Fool jokes you remember from your life?

Did you play any jokes yesterday and were they successful?

Did anyone get you yesterday with their April Fool prank?