Thank God for free Wi-Fi!

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.



Filed under General thoughts

37 responses to “Thank God for free Wi-Fi!

  1. So, I’m guessing you won’t be going back to Vietnam after this trip any time soon? LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whenever I talk with people about the disparity of wealth when looking to travel to certain places everyone looks at me like I’m crazy. Thanks for writing about it. Soothing your conscience with with ideas like “well, I’m helping their economy with my travel” just doesn’t solve the problem or the uncomfortable feeling. It’s a tough call and I applaud you for your sensitivity. I wish to travel some day so I can learn these lessons for myself and become more wise in the process. I hope your trip improves greatly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much! I’ve been soothing my conscience by paying the asking price for everything…it’s just hard…I’ve also had the other side of the coin, where I’ve stopped for a day in Doha and stayed in a hotel with all the oil sheikhs. Felt poor! Not great either 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. MewsOfTheMuse

    Your post is hilarious! I love it because I lived in Saigon for 3 years when I was younger. It was a long time ago but I have been to Nha Trang and our school did a trip to Hoi Anh by train. So I’m throughly enjoying your post thanks. Brings so much memories 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you so much! I didn’t even get to the part where I am practically surrounded by Russians in Nha Trang – I have not heard so much Russian in twenty-plus years…feel like I’m a spy amongst them (I’m Russian-born).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I see book ideas in your post. Love it. Keep them coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with Isabella. It will be invaluable material for the book… I had a friend who visited Cuba many years back and made similar comments about the stark social differences and feeling bad about it (although the weather was good there).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Olga – it is indeed invaluable! Just the little details, like so far in 20,000 words it has not rained…now the skies will open up on poor Isa, along with everything else 🙂


  6. Sounds like Vietnam isn’t what you thought it was going to be! Hopefully your trip will get better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. olivia barrington

    The truth shall set you free … or at least make you feel better writing about it. The distinction between rich and poor is prevalent in so many countries that it seems that some people just take it with a grain of salt because it doesn’t affect their own lives. No one wants to talk about the sad things they see. I’m glad you have. I’ve had my bad vacations and they were in the States. Talk about bad hotel rooms… they put me in one where a murder had been committed earlier that evening and when I pulled back my bedspread the mattress was covered in blood. It was in Chicago. Couldn’t get another hotel because there was a convention in town. I’m sorry your vacation is being a bit of a bust so far but things will hopefully get better soon. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Olivia! It’s not raining this morning, so we are going to venture out. I have to perform a factory reset on my attitude 🙂

      Can’t believe the murder scene! Where were the cops, pathologists, CSI? Crazy…

      Liked by 1 person

      • olivia barrington

        They were out front of the hotel leaving as we arrived .We started off with a different room that was so bad they said they would give us a different one when we came back that evening if they had an opening.(not the kind of opening we were looking for) We had been gone for 16 hours. Apparently they thought just flipping the mattress and pulling up the sheets and bedspread would hide the blood, but it seeped right through the mattress. We had opted to stay in a chain motel in the suburbs to save money to do tourist things. BIG mistake! Found out a certain population of gangs lived there full time. And it got great ratings on line. Never again. That isn’t even the whole story but I got all of our money back and got to stay for free the rest of our visit. Couldn’t go anywhere else the Taste of Chicago was going on then and every hotel we called was booked solid. It was a freakin nightmare! I still have pictures somewhere of the rooms and bed. Friends couldn’t believe it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Omg! Olivia, have you written a story about it it a blog post? That’s a comedy of errors, sorry – life truly is stranger than fiction! Write it up! Maybe throw some fiction in it – it almost sounds like a plot for a romcom – a couple books a getaway weekend only to find themselves in a gangland…they fight through the night together and instead of divorcing, renew their vows in the morning…


  8. memopip

    Loved reading this, sounds like the holidays we have. Everyone else seems to have these amazing trips but oftentimes I’m just over the moon to get home. Hope your trip improves vastly.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What’s really bad is that as I was reading this, I recalled similar scenes from my childhood, growing up in poverty. Without going too much into it, it did stir up some feelings I thought I long buried. I even recalled how once I had a conversation with an acquaintance, and I casually brought up how the stench of open sewage reminds me of my youth. They were aghast, but I just shrugged at the time. I have a chuckle remembering this scene!

    I hope your holiday gets better! I don’t know where you’ll get the time to do anything other than travel, but I hope the travelling is fun. I’m personally almost always looking forward to going home whenever I’m forced to take a holiday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Marcos – perhaps the fact that I grew up in poverty in the Soviet Union is making this extra unpleasant. The smell of public toilets brings up childhood memories for me…

      The major silver lining in this is that I am getting what I needed for my book – the culture shock of the protagonist in India 🙂


  10. Very sorry about all thats happened to you. It can be very upsetting when a holiday turns out to be a disaster. My Summer holiday was a disaster too. We ended up in a hotel in a suburb of Athens that was ‘renovating’ but I would call it building. I have asthma and whatever fumes were coming from the building didn`t suit me. I started coughing continuosly and at times could barely breathe. We had to vacate the hotel and pay for another room in another hotel because I thought I might die the asthma was so serious. When I came home I ended up in Accident and Emergency on oxygen for an hour. I spent this Summer on a nebuliser and I have been seeing a lung consultant. I`m healthy again now. The only plus was I went to Athens and Delphi to research my second book and I did manage to visit these places and get some ideas based on the facts I collected while I was there. So I can add these experiences to my story and make some good out of it all. I`m going to Portugal this week and so I`m a little nervous because of the last holiday but it`s so cold and wet here in Ireland it`s worth the stress going to get some sun. Best of luck with the rest of your holiday Anna.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good luck. Hope your trip improves.


  12. Liz

    I grew up in the Philippines and have since lived in the US for so long that when I returned, it was a heck of a culture shock for me as a Filipino. The honking and the driving through red lights, the stench, the contrast of rich and poor, and the weather. December is one of the toughest months to monsoon alley and hopefully things will get better from here.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. In India drivers honk for just abt everything- to tell ppl to move, to thank for giving way and everything in between. Not to mention giving ways to sacred cows, in more rural areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hope you have a good Christmas, wherever you’re spending it 🙂 All the best for 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

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