Friday 28 October 2011

Marrying a Vietnamese Person pt 2

Some small steps today. I phoned and managed to get through to the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra. The man who answered was really helpful, although confusing. He confirmed that I needed to send the following documents to the Vietnamese Embassy for Certification:
  • A certificate of being Single,  (also referred to as a No Record). This needs to be no more than 6 months old.
  • A certificate from a Health Organisation to prove that I am Physcologically OK and disease free. When questioned he said any Australian Medical Centre would do.
  • Photocopy of Passport or Identity. The copy needs to be verified by a Public Notary. 
All the documents need to be passed to DFAT and certified. (Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade). This sort of thing is new to me, but I checked their website and it all seems ok, and they even publish their scale of fees. DFAT charges $20 per document, the Notary Public charges by the hour with a minimum $40.
The Vietnamese Embassy also want a $30 Certification fee for each document.
I think that I will get DFAT to certify a copy of my Australian Citizenship Certificate also. I won't send it to the Vietnamese Embassy I will keep it in reserve I just have the feeling that this may come up sooner or later.
I arranged a "NO Record" result from the Births Deaths and Marriages Registry. That was done on the spot. $25 thanks very much.
It's Friday afternoon, offices will close for the weekend, I can only do the copying for now.
I have also asked my Fiancée to investigate at her end what procedures she must do.
The Bludger is working his way through bureaucracy. Slowly.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Foreigner Marrying a Vietnamese Person. Pt 1.

(Update 8/12/2011: This all turns to custard, and the marriage never happens. But read on through the blog & posts if you want to see why).
This is the first of what I expect to be many posts on how to marry a Vietnamese citizen living in Vietnam. There is not much information available on-line. What there is I found to be confusing, not logically laid out, not intended to be a guide to others, or written in Vietnamese, or assumes that the foreigner is based in Vietnam.
My situation is that I live in Australia, I was born in Britain, I hold dual citizenship, that is English and Australian. My girlfriend, Fiancée now, lives in Vietnam. I struggle with Vietnamese, but am learning. My fiancée struggles with English. Despite that we are learning to communicate well.
I met my girlfriend while on holiday in Vietnam. I wasn't looking for love, or a relationship or even sex, I was just on holiday. In fact Vietnam was an add on at the end of the main holiday in Cambodia. The attraction was mutual and almost instantaneous for both of us. We kept in touch after my holiday and I have since been back to spend more time with her.
I am about to blog about this as both a record and an aid to others. I have trawled the net for the best part of 2 days and there is not a lot of helpful information, as I said above. One person who has married a Vietnamese lady blogs under the name The Final Word. You will need to look back in his Archive to July 2006 to start the thread.
I have been in touch with Jonathon who authors the blog, he has told me that a Vietnamese marriage is a lengthy bureaucratic process. Others have confirmed that. Processing speed and acceptance of documents is at the whim of the person that you are dealing with. Obstacles are put in your way that can sometimes dissappear with a gratuity. It was a lengthy process taking a full 3 months for Jonathon and he was based in Vietnam.
The Australian Embassy in Hanoi in Vietnam has some generic information about foreign marriages. However they assume that you are already in the country. I am not. According to the Australian Embassy web site my first steps are to obtain the following documents.
  • Certified copy of passport;
  • Original Single Status Certificate not older than 6 months;
  • If applicable, a certified copy of Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage; Not required for me.
  • If applicable, a certified copy of the Death Certificate of previous spouse. Also not required for me.
That is where I intend to begin.
Until then the Bludger has work to do.

Friday 14 October 2011

Vietnam Day 6 - Meet the parents

Today was the day to meet Phuc's parents, and as it turned out a big chunk of family.
We left the resort early and made our way to Vong Beach where the Superdong hydrofoil leaves for the mainland. This is a journey of about 90 minutes to the port of Rach Gia. No time to explore Rach Gia, we negotiated a taxi trip to where Phuc's family lives.
Leaving Phu Quoc there were 4 of us, Phuc's 10 year old daughter Trinh (pronounced Jin) who is extremely cute and another 3 yo child who was being taken back to his mother. Happy families. I think that I acquitted myself well, but I was glad when I could relieve myself of fatherly duties.
Phuc's parents live at Lac Quoc about 35 Km from Chau Doc in Vietnam, they have a small block of land and farm fish. Their home is very primitive, spartan and minimalist from a Western perspective. I was reminded of early Australian pioneers homes, where you used any materials to hand to build.
Language dificulties prevented any level of conversation, but Phuc's parents were welcoming and her mother had gone to some trouble to meet me as she was wearing make up and nice clothes. I was obviously expected as a large number of neighbours were congregated. I smiled a lot, said hello in Vietnamese and did my best to show myself in a good light.

I was treated to a lovely meal of lake fish, about the size of large anchovies. The fish were gutted, fins and head removed but back bones were left in and I have to confess that I am not a fan of small fish with bones left in. I ate and was polite and complimentary. There was nothing wrong with the meal, just my western upbringing and prejudices.
Spending all afternoon there, there was time to meet neighbours, observe the work life and help lug a tree around. I spent some time with the children helping them practice English.
I had begun to wonder about sleeping arrangements. The house had a double bed downstairs and what looked like more sleeping accommodation on a higher split level. I was not sure who and how many were sleeping at the house. I assumed the parents, but there was also a daughter with 6 children. I wondered if I would be sleeping on a bed, with Phuc, or various other family members. Whatever it was going to be tight.
As it turned out Phuc informed me that there was no bus on Saturday, the next day, to get me to Saigon, so she and I were taking a bus that night. I was partly happy as I was not going to spend a night in the primitive conditions but also disappointed as I was looking forward to the challenge.
The Bludger will describe the bus trip and next day in a new post.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Vietnam - Day 5

Not much happened today. It poured with rain a large chunk of the day.
A day for reading, blogging, taking it easy. The rain cleared up in the afternoon and I was treated to a lovely sunset. Pictures below.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Vietnam - day 4: Snorkelling @ An Thoi

Today we had decided upon a boat trip and snorkelling around the southern islands. The day was wet and windy and I thought that the trip had been abandoned. However it was still on and we were picked up by Yin in a minibus with driver. We were driven south along Long beach. The road follows closely to the beach with one or two incursions inland to avoid swamps and cross a river. The bitumen ends some 5km south of Duong Dong. The Paris resort is about the last one on the bitumen but is surrounded by construction. This time next year there will be at least 3 more resorts in this section of beach.
The road at this point swings inland and crosses a temporary bridge. The remains of the old one are visible as twisted bits of metal. I believe that it was washed away in a flood about a year ago. The road then curves back to the coast. Driving south we passed small fishing communities, an oyster hatchery and two oyster farms with comprehensive shops attached which sell pearl based jewellery. These are full of glitter and eager young ladies willing to fleece you of all your money. Sorry I meant to say sell you high quality pieces of pearl Jewellery. I escaped unscathed.
We made it into An Thoi, and stopped at a market to buy provisions for the boat. I wasn't sure why we needed provisions as lunch was meant to be provided and I had requested an esky full of cold beer.
The first stop on the way to the market was a Jewellery store. Amid much merriment and laughter on behalf of Phuc and Yin with some guarded looks in my direction a big chunk of the contents of my wallet went over the counter and a ring that looked suspiciously like an engagement ring came back across. The ring ended up on Phuc's ring finger. I wondered if I was engaged and didn't know it. I was glad that I hadn't overloaded the wallet that morning and thought that the beer on the boat better be cold and plentiful after two wily females had gone some way to abusing a priviledge.
We did eventually get to the market and loaded up with fruit. Getting to the boat however proved difficult as there was a lot of construction going on at the wharf. A gate prevented us driving and we had to walk. However then a security guard became quite difficult and would not let me pass. It was a fairly unsubtle power play against a foreigner, justified on the grounds of the danger to me. No concerns with the dozens of locals who went through unimpeded. Having learnt many years ago not to argue with security guards, I stepped back behind the gate to let the situation defuse. The guard eventually relented when one of the boat crew arrived to escort me to the boat.
Nick at the helm

We had the boat to ourselves, that is Phuc, Yin, 3 crew and myself. I immediately checked the esky contents which met with my approval on quantity, brand and coldness. The boat undocked with much shouting by the skipper and crew. To my ears all of the boat operations seemed to be conducted with too much harsh shouting but as I observed I realised that this was not a rude harsh captain, but just a necessity to be heard over the loud engine. In fact he and the crew turned out to be father and sons and were a pretty nice family. They even gave me the thumbs up approval of Phuc later in the day. Which was nice to have some confirmation from strangers.
Our first stop was a floating fish farm where we purchased sea urchin and crabs for lunch. So much for the sumptuous squid BBQ lunch that was promised, it seemed to need supplementing with fruit from the market and extra seafood. I didn't really mind as the girls were obviously happy, but also obviously trying to please me. If everyone's happy then everyone's happy as I always say. (What a strange expression, I have never said anything of the sort).
Fish Farm
The boat made its, morbidly slow, passage across to the first island where snorkelling was to begin. I talked to the crewman in the wheel house, who, unbidden, immediately moved aside and let me slip in behind the wheel. I asked him where I was to take the boat but could not understand, so I chose a spot that looked about right based on the current heading and my knowledge of where you might go snorkelling and kept the bows pointed in that direction. My guess proved remarkably accurate and the crewman only took over the wheel when we had a couple of hundred metres to go. In fact he disappeared for a large part of the journey, I think that it was crew meal time.
The weather had definately improved and the bay was quite sheltered. The snorkelling was poor however as the corals were not thriving due to the silt in the water, and the locals preferred transport method was to walk across the shallows. I kept my mouth shut when i saw the coral damage caused by the crew and my companions. Phuc didn't want to snorkel with me, but was persuaded into the water by Yin. She then appeared quite comfortable, although not a strong swimmer, and very adept at finding shellfish for food. While there I inspected a nearby fish farm and could then see how the nets were constructed. One of the crew chased me down and told me not to go there, I was not sure if this was a safety thing, as there was a small current, or an agreement with the fish farmers to prevent their fish being disturbed.
Going back to the boat we were given morning tea, which was sea urchin cooked in the shell and a sea food rice soup. Both of which were very tasty.
We then motored to a second location and did more snorkelling or shellfish gathering. Once again poor coral and sea life, but the weather had improved more and it was a very pleasant place to be. We had lunch after that which consisted of BBQ squid, possibly the tastiest that i have ever had, and rice and noodles and crab with accompaniments. It was a feast and I was very full. I was amazed at the girls ability to stuff food in without appearing to bloat like I did.
Yin (facing) and Phuc serving the meal.
 The boat then returned to port. We cruised past islands and fishing boats and with the sun out it was a lovely laid back experience.
No problems getting through the construction site on the way back and I gave the security guard a cheery wave. My private thoughts were less charitable and definitely unprintable. The van picked us up and we then headed to Sao Beach for a quick look around. It was perfect swimming weather, but with rain clouds rolling in it was decided not to delay there too long.
As it happened it started to pour shortly after leaving the beach resort. It continued heavily all the way back to Duong Dong.
Despite not working, we had dinner at the Cat Food restaurant where Phuc works and were joined by her sister Thu and her husband Coong. We then had drinks and headed out to the "Super Market". This is a travelling market that comes periodically. It has many vendors selling clothes, cookware, shoes, trinkets and many others. Apparently the prices are considerably cheaper than the local shops and the range much greater. Combined with that is an entertainment program. I was treated to Vietnamese "stars" singing Vietnamese songs and doing stage acts. As far as learning a little bit about Vietnamese culture it was great, as far as being entertained it was hard work. I was content to sit back and watch and learn.
And then the Bludger went back to his hotel with partner in tow.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Fwd: Vietnam Day 3 - damn these early rises.

Waking early as the day gets light about 5:30am. I could tell by the quality of the light coming through the window that it looked like an awesome day. I poked my head outside and it was indeed, no wind, little cloud cover and the promise of a hot beach day ahead.
I could hear a boat engine working away just beyond the beach, and when I investigated I could see a fishing boat working just off the beach in front of the resort. It caused some excitement with myself rushing to grab a camera, other tourists doing the same and even some of the staff stopping work and watching proceedings. I spent a little time watching the men reel in the nets.

Phuc and I shared breakfast and then hopped aboard our chariot, the scooter, and toured the northern part of the island. Heading generally north of Duong Dong we travelled on some pretty ordinary dirt tracks at times and then some better quality roads. We passed turn offs to some expensive resorts such as Mango Bay. Due to the isolation caused by the slow travel times, of necessity these resorts are pretty much self contained.
The road ran inland but eventually came back to the coast at the tiny village of Cua Can. This is a very pretty part of the island with isolated fishing villages, deserted white sandy beaches and palm trees. We stopped on several occasions for photographs, once for a cold drink and again at a fishing village where the locals proudly showed us a turtle that they had recently caught. I think that it was designated for a meal. We saw pepper farms, fish and shrimp drying in the sun and shrimp boats working the shoreline. With the weather being sunny it really was a pleasant journey. I was tempted to swim but Phuc wanted to press on.

We came to Ganh Dau, which is the village and region at the north western tip of the island. The village itself is very pretty, consisting of typical ramshackle houses and construction along the shoreline. It is quite a well sheltered harbour and the harbour is filled with fishing boats. After wandering around we chose a restaurant with a view of the boats to have a refreshment. The eating area was built over the water and it was a million dollar view for peanuts. While seated we were approached by some of the local children who soon lost their shyness and wanted photos taken and to see themselves in the pictures. One of the older girls took my camera and wandered around taking shots at random. I held my breath as the camera was held over the water, but it came back safe sound and dry. We nibbled on goodies bought at the nearby market.

Following that we had a brief boat ride out into the harbour and to a fish farm. The farm is composed of large nets strung below the floating platform which form underwater enclosures with holes too small for the fish to escape. This farm had predominantly mackerel but I later saw others with sea urchins, crabs, shell fish and other fish types.
Returning to shore we left Ganh Dau. The rest of the trip then seemed to degenerate into a rather long, boring uncomfortable motorbike ride. At first we travelled on low quality dirt which at times slowed us to walking pace. While only 17km long it took well over an hour and needed constant attention to avoid the ruts, pot holes and boggy patches. Eventually we got onto well formed bitumen, but even that was a blessing in disguise as for most of the length it seemed to be under construction which required detours and driving on yet to be sealed parts. However, unknown to me, we had been driving a large circle and about the time that I was about to give up the driving we made it back to Duong Dong and hence to the hotel.

The afternoon and evening formed what was becoming a more familiar pattern with Phuc disapearing home for a while, then reappearing before heading off to work. I swam, had lunch and then went to the night market later on for dinner.
The Bludger is living the dream.

Monday 10 October 2011

Fwd: Vietnam - the return

Nick Smith
Sent from my Acer Iconia A500 Tab

Nick Smith <> wrote:
An unevenful flight from Darwin to Saigon. I arrived late and with time differences, by the time I got there I was too tired to explore. The room was quite nice, with air-conditioning, hot water and a comfy bed.
The next morning with a few hours to spare I walked to the Ben Than market which was close by. I bought breakfast which was thick rice noodles in a strong broth with crab and other seafood. It was very nice. My meal cost 30,000VND and i intended to pay with a 50,000 note but inadvertantly gave them 500,000 which caused some consternation. I almost walked off before receiving all my change. They were very honest and made me wait.
While in the market I bought a traditional hat, a Non La, before wandering off. I meandered and came across a book store where for the princely sum of $20, I was able to purchase 2 Vietnamese/English language dictionaries, a cook book and a novel. I could not have bought one of those in Australia for that price.
I stopped for a coffee and by the time that i had finished it was time to go back to the hotel, change, pick up my bags and go to the airport. The taxi that took me back to the hotel was a shark, during the trip the fare magically jumped up when i was not looking and he struggled to find change for me. We got it sorted eventually. The trip to the airport was much longer and only 3 times the price back to the hotel, confirming in my mind that i had been ripped off.
It began to rain quite heavily and i was concerned that my flight may be delayed. However it took off on time and when I arrived in Phu Quoc it was dry, warm and sunny. In fact the weather has improved quite significantly since I left just on 5 weeks ago. Not as humid, slightly cooler and less rain. It is the tail end of the wet, and hinting at the beautiful weather to come.
The objective of this return visit met me at the airport. Her name is Phuc, and since that initial Ph is pronounced like physics it is an unfortunate name. No sniggers please. We headed to the resort that I had booked. Check in was not entirely smooth as she had lost her identity card. This is a big thing in Vietnam as all hotel guests have to show proper ID. The hotels generally retain the passports of foreign tourists, all local Vietnamese carry photo ID. This rule is not strongly enforced in cheap places of dubious quality.
Anyway we got in but were visited a couple of times by the hotel security, once to get further details of Phuc, and once to bring in a printed list of hotel regulations. Gems in the regulations mentioned zero tolerance to prostitution, gates shut between certain hours and no unregistered guests in the rooms. Short of kicking us out the message came through loud and clear.
During the afternoon we reacquainted ourselves with each other and in the evening had dinner at the restaurant in the night market where we had first met.
Nick Smith
Sent from my Acer Iconia A500 Tab

Vietnam - Day 2, Phu Quoc

The hotel breakfast was memorable for what it didn't have on the menu rather than what it did have.
 I ordered the house speciality which was thick noodles a special sauce and various seafod pieces. The waitress came back and apologised that there were no noodles. Phuc took charge and I ended up with a bowl of thin white noodles with squid and prawn. It was quite tasty. The squid had not been prepared to restaurant standards and i pulled out several bits of the cartilage which has the taste and texture of thin clear plastic. But not bad. I am discovering that leaving the cartilage in is standard practice here.
We then went to meet her friend Mau. Mau is acting as interpreter for us. I had met Mua on my last trip, he was pissed at the time and terribly difficult to understand. Things were better this time. Mau was busy so after a coffee we arranged to meet later.

With time on our hands I hired a motorbike - well that is to say that I expressed the need and Phuc organised it. In the process my wallet transferred itself to her pocket. She is very good at doing that but it generally comes back with most of what it started with less the expenses that we incur. I am being lazy, but it is certainly easier to let her handle the money side of things given my limited Vietnamese. This happened on my first trip and in all honesty, despite my poor attempt at humour, she does not siphon off money. I have learnt to trust her. To date there has been no requests for money other than what we would spend on meals drinks and incidentals.
With wheels under us we were free to hit the road and she took me to the Suoi Tranh waterfall that I had been to on my last visit. Today was different. No doubt the company makes a difference, but the last trip it had been insidiously hot, this time it was cooler and it didn't seem such a big walk. At the waterfall at the end Phuc passed all the valuables to me, including my wallet, and made her way into the pool at the bottom of the falls fully clothed. I stripped down to underwear and followed her in. We played in the water, stood under the waterfall and all that time had the place to ourselves. As far as secluded romantic spots go, it doesn't get much better.

On the way back to meet with Mau we visited the Buddhist temple that I had also visited briefly.
The meeting with Mau didn't quite go as I intended as Phuc decided that she needed to dry off, she was still soaked after the swim, and pick up her boy from school. Mau and I talked at length and I gave him some of the messages that I wanted to get across, knowing that these would be retold later.
Phuc returned with her sister, Thu, and the 4 of us went to lunch. My status as a motorbike rider had obviously been established as I was allowed to drive with both Phuc and Thu on the bike, making 3 adults on a scooter. A bit of a challenge as there is a fair bit of mass there, you feel it when leaning into corners or swerving past slower vehicles. We are all alive to tell the tale.
After getting back to the hotel, Phuc prepared to go off to work. I took her to the Restaurant and prepared to spend an evening alone. However she returned a couple of hours later. The restaurant was not busy and she was not needed for the night. So I am pausing here in the narrative. And I got very confused as she then changed and went back to the restaurant. I was instructed to join her later for dinner.
For dinner I shared a hot pot with Phuc and one other waitress Yin (pronounced ing). The pair of them were bobbing up and down between customers which made for a rather fractured meal. The hot pot itself was very nice, no different to what you would get in many places of the world. A portable gas cooker was placed in the centre of the table with a broth of some description in it. Vegetables went into the broth and when boiling thin slices of meat and seafood were also added. To accompany this we had some baby squid char grilled with various accompaniments.
That pretty much ended the day.
The Bludger was tired, full and well content with life.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Unfinished Business

Later this afternoon I fly to Vietnam for a week. Considering that it is 1pm and my flight is at 6:40pm I really should pack something for this trip. Some underwear or toothbrush would be a good start. So far there is an empty bag on the floor along with a pile of electronics (camera, tablet and ipod) along with their associated cables. Also a pile of paper that consists of printed flight itineraries and hotel vouchers. Passport, a pile of USD cash, toiletries bag. But not even a book to read yet.
I visited Vietnam as part of my Cambodian trip. I was on the island of Phu Quoc from late August to early September. Where I stayed is a fairly quiet beach resort in the process of being overdeveloped into an overcrowded horrible mess. The guide books talk about the new Phuket - discover it before all the development and tourists spoil it.
Despite the fact that it was wet season, it is picture post card territory a long beach (about 20 km) with fine sand, palm trees, warm safe waters and me on a sun lounge with a cocktail in hand.
It still is wet season, well the tail end of it. Although there are several nice sunny days forecast.Maybe I can lie on that sunbed.
The following revelations may surprise some people. During that first visit I met a lady. A local lady. We spent some time together. Since arriving back in Australia we have maintained contact. She professes to love me and wants to come to Australia to be with me. I am going back to spend more time with her. I need to work out if there is unfinished business.
Yes I know what you are thinking, I have all of the same thoughts also. What does she really want? my money? a new start in life to get out of the poverty that she lives in? both? Is she genuine? if not would she still be a suitable partner for me, and I for her? Does it matter if love is not a real factor? there are many arranged marriages and marriages of convenience that work out, many even better than those based on love. Am I making a mistake? Is she? At the end of the day does it all really matter anyway?
(I have just deleted a whole lot of waffle).
I am off to see if I like this lady enough. To work out if we could build a strong relationship, to try and determine if she is genuine. To try to see what lies ahead.
And if all else fails I get a holiday.
The Bludger is apprehensive but excited.