2013-01-29 002 2013-01-24 259

(Overnight in Kuala Lumpur due to  6 am flight to Hanoi)
It was not a good start of the day ….3.5 hours of napping with breaks, getting up at 3 am and of course! The taxi didn’t show up at all. Fortunately, the Malaysian manager seemed particularly nice and carrying and called for another taxi. The guy was driving like a maniac, and suddenly I saw an animal jumping right in front of the car and shortly after heard a dull hit-noise. DEAD! The driver didn’t even get a chance to notice it coming….I kept thinking, was it a dog or something else? It run out of the forest… I felt guilty of not staying at the airport Tune hotel and taking that damn taxi! Poor animal.

The flight to Hanoi was not full, thanks God I got the entire raw for myself. I listened to forest music on my iPad and had a dream about being in a jungle…when I woke up there was a fresh coconut in front of me! It confused me first, as I totally forgot I ordered it on line. It was more than delicious! Young coconut for a breakfast on the flight! I wish united airlines could serve this type of breakfast….(or any eatable breakfast would be just fine.)
The emigration took forever. The airport was empty, the air was static. The colors were grey….very grey. The communism was undoubtedly in the air. The emigration officers acted powerful and enjoyed intimidating people. I knew that “game” from my childhood well… Mr. J was waiting for me with a driver, and I was very grateful for not having to deal with the taxi drivers again! As we were getting closer to the center, it became clear to me that Vietnam is poorer than Indonesia but richer than Nepal. The presence of communism was evident and present on the streets. But the colonial architecture and vivid colors of some houses brighten the mood up.

2013-01-29 002 2013-01-20 015
It was 9 am and I was exhausted after short night, and a week of teaching. Well… I had to handle several hours of practice in the afternoon, tv interview and preparation. I was starving! But all my snacks were gone. It was week number something 6 perhaps… I ordered some unknown soup and even less known green vegetable, which was delivered to the Embassy. The Embassy guest suite was spectacular. I also needed to get my hair done for the interview and went to a local salon.
I was asked if I want a mask, which I assumed was a hair mask, like in Indonesia. But to my surprise I was shown cucumbers and yogurt as my choices. I thought it was just coincident that cucumbers were laying next to shampoo. Shortly after I heard the hair stylist grinding the cucumbers and soon I was all covered in cucumbers! My face that is. I was hungry, and considered eating it for a moment, but most likely they were unpeeled.
The stylist started her work, without stopping to chat with her friends. Unfortunately for me she had long nails and kept hurting my scalp. I told her a few times to be more gently, but her memory lasted for maybe 5 seconds. My head was on fire.

The TV interview was enjoyable. I was also asked to perform, but hoped they would only play the images, as the piano was very run down and terribly out of tune. I got a chance to talk a little bit about program and my mission to promote classical music around the world.

I woke the next morning in my down jacket…. I forgot to check the weather and wrongly assumed it would be warm as it was in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia… Bad idea! I was glad I didn’t sent all my warm clothes by mail from Indonesia so I still had my jeans, wool top and hiking long pants and a wind breaker. It was gloomy and foggy but not terribly cold, just 15c down from Kuala Lumpur, so my body was in shocked.

I had to do two more TV interviews. And of course they want to record the concert live and use on their programs . I agreed to partial recording but made it clear that there is no on stage filming or moving permitted. To my surprise, during my concert! I see THREE men with cameras walking on the stage DURING my second piece and setting up the equipment, making terrible noise and smiling to me at the same time. I almost stopped! And I was furious. I looked at them between the pieces and gave them no sign waiting for them to get off the stage. They moved to the center of the stage! And kept starring at me. I was not going to play until they got off the stage. Finally they did. The stage was mine, but they continued making noise and walking around…. I knew there were several ambassadors in the audience so I tried to be diplomatic. I was not happy!
The concert was very successful, the theater was packed. I managed to forget during the performance about uneven stage ( piano was leaning downwards creating weight imbalance in my arms and spine ) and a horribly run down Petrof piano. That said, I really had fun on stage. How strange!

I had only two days left in Vietnam after the concerts and all interviews. It was a really difficult decision what to do. I wanted to see the mountains and go to the North-land, but there was not enough time…. I decided to go to the touristy Halong Bay and bought a rather expensive two day tour with Glory Cruises, with the overnight stay on the boat. Everything was great except for the weather. It was still nice to be cruising along the beautiful picks and green water, but it was a bit grim and gray. The food was fantastic though , plenty of seafood, fruits and deserts. All kind of drinks could be purchased on board and the cabin was luxurious. Money well spent!
On the last evening I saw the Temple of Literature and went to buy a few souvenirs. Passing by some street food vendors I noticed  a women selling some strangely looking white balls of different sizes. I asked two white women who were eating them what those were. They said they had no clue but recommend trying it . I joined them and ordered the mysterious balls with ginger syrup and we started to talk. They asked me if I was the famous Polish pianist who gave a concert couple days ago.. Apparently it was well advertised. I was with my osprey backpack and in jeans, nothing like Anna Kijanowska from the publicity photo and I was glad! The evening ended with the delicious pho soup  and a  fresh coconut, bought on the street and shared with the locals. The locals stared at me and smiled and I hoped they didn’t know I was that famous pianist in town…