Incidentally, it is everywhere in Vietnam. The country may be lacking in physical infrastructure, but it is certainly staying well-connected. Yes, I’m looking at you, Melbourne – when will you get free Wi-Fi, at least in CBD?
I have done practically zilch work on the sequel, so I thought I might as well write down some of my fresh impressions of Vietnam in a blog post. I will translate them into Isa’s adventure in India some other time.
It’s day seven of my adventure, and so far nothing has gone according to the plan. Truth be told, the plan was not all that well thought through – from memory, every time I got on the web to research the weather or transport options, I inevitably ended up checking stats, blog comments, or my Twitter feed. As a result, we have landed in some pretty crappy weather in Hoi An (yeah, I know it’s winter in the Northern hemisphere, but c’mon! It’s supposed to be the END of the rainy season!). We were also forced to buy two pretty expensive last-minute plane tickets from Hoi An to Nha Trang (yeah, I didn’t realize it would take 10 hours by train, but c’mon! They are so close on the map!).
Josh just read the last bit over my shoulder and concurred – but he has no right to comment, really. Every time he was tasked with booking anything online, I’d hear suspicious sounds of weights hitting a gym floor – he was looking at people deadlifting the equivalent of an average cow.
Anywho, back to more complaints (the silver lining should be coming up any moment!). Everything is more expensive than I expected – the side effect of being overly optimistic. There’s no such thing as “good and cheap” massage or food, or clothes, or anything. Just like anywhere else in the world, you can have good, or you can have cheap. You can find good and moderately priced (compared to ridiculously expensive Melbourne, Australia), so we’ve settled on that. I’ve also passed on having any clothes custom made – I’ve had one bad experience with that in Bali, that was enough. Sure, the fabric was great, but it didn’t fit right, even after two fittings.
To be honest, I’m not loving this trip as much as I was hoping. For starters, it’s hard to enjoy being served and pampered in a country of such drastic contrasts of wealth and poverty. It’s everywhere – from Mercedes on the street next to a rickshaw, to tiny toddlers trying to sell random goods to tourists dining outdoors. It’s especially hard if for whatever reason you decide to start you relaxing vacation with a visit to the war museum, and then you can’t stop quietly weeping, and decide to have a second glass of wine in hopes that it will stop the waterworks, only to find that it makes the flashbacks to the horror that much worse. All I can say is that I was happy to answer “Australian” to the question of “Where are you from?” , because I got a feeling that either “Russian” or “American” would not win me any favors. Actually, now that I think of Australia’s new immigration policies, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and look mysterious…
I wrote the above paragraphs in the airport lounge, waiting for that unplanned flight to Nha Trang, full of anxiety and pre-flight booze. I wish it could be any other way, but unfortunately booze-induced arrogance is the only way you could coax me onto a plane these days. And it has to be planned early – I’ve learned a hard way that you can’t get a drink out of a steward on the plane until the wheels leave the tamarack. Turns out that the liquor license only starts in the air, and that the stewards won’t risk their jobs to pacify a hysterical woman. Not that I was hysterical. I mean, maybe a little.
The flight started off well, and Josh and I were pleasantly surprised at how new the Vietnam Airlines plane looked, compared to the dingy Jetstar Pacific one we took from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An. Then, just before landing, we hit some pretty major (I mean, up-and-down and side-by-side) turbulence, which alone would be enough to plunge me into hysterics. To make matters worse, during one of those down the rollercoaster rides, Josh squeezed my hand and said “I love you” in a way that made me wish very, very hard that we’d opted for that supposedly terrible ten-hour train ride.
We did make it to Nha Trang, but I guess you’d probably already figured that part out. We also made it through an even crazier taxi ride from the airport to the hotel some 40 kilometers away. The driver practically flew through the torrential rain, hitting water puddles with a force of a speeding boat, spraying miserable motorbike drivers in our wake. His radio was sputtering incessantly, a woman’s voice chattering in high-pitched Vietnamese, accompanied by constant blowing of the car horn. Every driver, at all times is blowing the car horn – I’m not at all sure how it helps others, and it certainly pisses of bike riders, which sometimes shake an angry fist in protest. This time, they just hunched down under their plastic ponchos and persevered through the wet misery.
Driving through such conditions would not be a picnic on any road, leave alone a winding stretch between mountains on one side and the drop-off to the ocean on the other. Yet the driver managed to check texts on not one, but two cell phones. I’d thought about asking him to put at least one phone away, but decided against it – not only his English seemed to be limited to basic numbers and pointing, he seemed already sufficiently angry. I did not feel like finding out what his driving would be like if he was royally pissed off at some tourist telling him what to do.
We’ve now checked into our supposedly 4.5 star hotel, which looks like a Roman palace on the outside, and like a dingy 80’s motel on the inside. I’ve already found a wiggly worm in my bathtub, which looks suspiciously like a human parasite. Staff moved us to another, equally dingy room, and assured me that the supposed parasite is actually an adorable and crafty red worm which navigated its way from the soil, up the drainpipes, and into the tub on the first floor. Doesn’t matter, one way or another, it’s not a kind of assassin worm I want to get acquainted with.
Sorry, looks like there will be no silver lining in this particular post. I’ve had cookies and cream ice cream, maybe that counts? I will try harder tomorrow.