Vietnam, Ho!

July 31, 2011

I’m apparently not good at signing off posts when I do my journeys. The last day of the Broken Hill trip was fairly ordinary, I’d gotten into a bit of a grump and was fairly jack of it by the end. I do remember driving through some bushfire regrowth area, which was an interesting concatenation of green and black colourings.

But that’s neither here nor there. Time instead now for a few intermittent blog posts from my seemingly annual tripification – this time it’s to Vietnam!

I tired of the Melbourne winter and decided to visit somewhere warm, and Vietnam stuck out a mile. Never having travelled in a country where I couldn’t speak the language (or had a grownup guiding me…), I decided to softcock it and go for the tour to break myself in. Accommodation and plenty of activities organised, but also plenty of free time for wandering (which involves being hassled by touts, it appears)

The adventure started before Vietnam on the flight over with Thai Airlines. I’ve decided I don’t like flying. It’s not the flying per se, but being an enormous lummox I have to get to the airport early in order to have a crack at getting an exit row seat (I physically do not fit in normal economy seats). I then get to sit around in an airport for several hours (what fun) and then get to sit in a damned narrow seat (exit row seats are narrower than normal seats – I won’t bore you with why). So narrow the my narrowish hips are touching both sides – I guess you’re stuffed if you’re a tall woman. I then get to do things like have Dad bring Toddler to my spot as the place to calm toddler down. Yes, I like being the fence-post for a daycare for grumpy toddlers. But that didn’t last long – Dad was replaced with Oldfella, some poor geezer who knocked my out of my dozing when he struck my foot with his shoulder. It’s a little disconcerting to wake up to some old guy flat on his back staring blankly. At first I wondered if he was seizing (I can help there!) but it was clear he wasn’t – and I wondered if he was stroking, in which case he’s kinda fucked since we’re in the air. Very thankfully it was just a hypoglycaemic attack and he woke and was able to tell the staff that, though he did spend the rest of the flight on the floor, poor bugger (we were shuffled off elsewhere). Add to that the point that being in an exit row seat means you don’t have a proper table and the swing-out movie screen isn’t angle right so you can’t see it properly, and add again that being in an overwing seat means you have a door with a tiny porthole overlooking a wing rather than a proper window of some kind… and yes, I’ve decided that flying is being bored and uncomfortable and I don’t like it.

Vietnam, on the other hand, I’m still coming to grips with. Landing in at Ho Cho Minh City was a rough affair, so much so that it was rather obvious what the intent was of the sudden soothing jazz music over the PA. Landed, changed some dollars, and pre-booked a cab from the airport. Herein lay the first challenge – the receipt had the wrong hotel address. I’d showed the driver the right hotel in my documentation. He’d looked agitated, but we couldn’t communicate, so off we set into the crazy HCMC traffic, him at home and knowing where we’re going and a little ticked off – the receipt was for the wrong amount to my hotel, I gathered – and me unable to tell where we were, crazy traffic going everywhere, not thinking straight due to sleep deprivation, and wondering where the hell I would actually end up. I couldn’t even tell if the receipt was too high or too low…

The hotel is nice enough, if a bit oddly appointed. Everything is cheek-by-jowl here, and I’ve had a fairly solid introduction to the ways of SE Asian cities. I went wandering for a bit, got fleeced at the market for a couple of things as I can’t barter to save myself, and went for a walk whereupon the heavens burst. My usual trick of ‘meh, I’m a bit wet, may as well keep going, it’ll dry soon enough’ does not work in the humid tropics – eight hours later, clothes are still damp (more than just sweat damp) lesson learned, but may not be avoidable. It seems too that the greatest invention the Vietnamese have gained is the raincoat – they pop up everywhere when the heavens open, and pillion passengers just huddle under the rider’s coat.

Back to the hotel and meet the guy sharing my twin-share room. Turns out he lives in the next suburb. Turns out he works for a company that is a client of my company. Neither of us are heavily involved in the intersective areas of our respective companies, but damn, that’s weird. We also have in common a complete lack of ability with language, and have each spent much time trying to digest phrase book info and having none of it stick. By the way, Lonely Planet Vietnamese Phrase Book – when you give the ‘english-speaker phonetic approximation’ of how to pronounce a vietnamese word, do not – I repeat, do not – use two new accents that you don’t describe anywhere in the book. Besides, if the sound is ‘k’, then use a damn ‘k’, don’t use an accented ‘g’ with no description. Yes, LPVPB, I’m talking to you.

Not many/any photos for this post, unfortunately. As I was wandering around, I was very conscious of the fact I was sleep dep’d, and given warnings about the touristy areas of HCMC and camera snatchers. I erred on the side of caution since my antennae were in.

Similarly, the sleep dep has disjointed the above narrative a fair bit. So much has happened in 24h (like, for instance, meeting the whole tour group and guide and they seem like a good crew) but I’ve begged off drinking tonight to catch up on sleep so I better hop to it. Off to do boating in the Mekong tomorrow, and I’m not sure when I’ll be posting – it will be spotty. No photos this time around – I need to trim the couple I had down. Next time, I promise.

Nighty-night.

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