Getting Drunk and Lost Part 3 : Vietnam
From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
Bright and early the next day we got a bus to Ho Chi Minh city. It was our first fancy bus which read as “full of white people”. After the awfulness of the Cambodia crossing it was super easy and we arrived in Ho Chi Minh in the evening and immediately set off exploring. After walking through a park we were accosted by a group of university students wanting to practice English. This would be repeated many times throughout South East Asia. We talked for about 30 minutes and they were lovely. I particularly enjoyed Les squirming as they asked if we were getting married and how many children we wanted. We headed off to find a bar as is obligatory in a new city and soon learned in Vietnam this often involves listening to a Katy Perry mega-mix from You Tube. We then headed for a Mexican we had read about and it was so good!!!! Treating ourselves to a cheeky tequila and some of the best Tex-Mex food I’ve ever had we stumbled back to our hotel.
Next morning back down to earth. Les has had his card cloned and someone bought an iPad with it. Not to be too holier than thou but when you have just come from such a poor country as Cambodia anyone who steals money to buy an iPad is a fucking dick. Also thanks to internet banking for being able to know this shit. Traveling is certainly a lot easier with the internet. (She says writing this in a hostel which currently has had no electricity for half an hour)
Deciding to continue the depressing theme of the week we went to the war museum in the city. I wrote my dissertation at uni on the American-Vietnam war so not a lot was new but it was especially interesting to see it from the Vietnam perspective. And man was it their perspective. One of the most biased museums I’ve been to but then again I can’t blame them: the US can and do use the world to megaphone their point of view and have an aversion to saying sorry and learning for their mistakes so fair enough Vietnam. I particularly enjoyed them appropriating the Declaration of Independence and pinning a little section of it about freedom in the room dedicated to war crimes. However the bias does make less impact somehow. Les also made me promise not to take him anywhere depressing again for a while and I definitely concurred.
At this point we were meeting up with a tour we’d booked for 10 days in Vietnam. We met up with everyone and as expected got super drunk on the first night. Definitely a good antidote and I was especially happy to have gone dancing for the first time in ages! We spent some time exploring the city with everyone and then heading up to our first stop Nha Trang on an overnight train. Some good company (thanks Liam and Jess) and a few tigers made it surprisingly a nice journey but arriving somewhere at 6am is never fun. But we had to recover quick as we had a beach party to get to for 11am with one of my favorite inventions: all you can drink booze. It certainly made partying on the beach in the rain much more enjoyable. We finished off our trip to Nha Trang with a communal mud bath which was a lot of fun. Another overnight train and we were at our next stop and joint favorite place in Vietnam – Hoi An. First up was a trip to the tailors made famous by Jeremy Clarkson and gormless co. I was pretty sure I wanted to get something made but Les demurred saying he had just got a tailored suit before we left. After I found a jacket I loved and got a full body scan in my underwear – an unexpected treat- I headed off to catch up with Les and possibly pop to the market. So I found him surrounded by the ladies that work there, arms full of brochures and fabrics and clearly in his element. So much for not needing anything! An hour later and the boredom forcing me to buy another item (lol’z) we hit some markets and then headed back to our hotel where we took full advantage of the pool and had a little pool party. Next day Les woke up to searing tooth pain and I woke up to a bear. After getting a taxi to the hospital and getting some serious pain medication we headed back and I spent the rest of the day trying to prevent an OD situation. Off his face on drugs Les decided he could brave the countryside cycle ride we planned and we headed off in the rain. This would become a theme of Vietnam. It was seriously beautiful which I do have to thank the rain for as it was gorgeously lush and green with little flooded fields all over. Just as we arrived at this old couple’s farm the medication kicked in and while I was taking photos Les was chundering just out of frame. #brit’sabroad. We then went to a little water crossing where you could ride a water buffalo. I was initially keen but the buffalo had the look of your Uber driver when you are the last fare and a bit chatty so we declined. Again rain stopped play and we sheltered in this garage full of (illegal) gambling which was fascinating to watch and even after an hour we couldn’t figure out the rules of the game. Last bit of Hoi An business was to go back to the tailors and complete the fittings. Cue a complete disaster involving the tailoress saying sorry my skirt didn’t fit, apparently my hip to waist ratio is too high. Lol tell me something I don’t know. Body shaming complete we bused off to Hue.
Highlight of Hue was a motorbike trip around the city with the group. We stopped at some great places including lunch at a nunnery that was seriously yum. It was also amazing to visit the perfume river and get a glimpse of hamburger hill. Again the Vietnam countryside is stunning and this was a great way to see everything. Until my driver slipped in a puddle and crashed the bike. Despite the bike getting trapped under my foot and a nice scrape on my arm I think the worst part was falling in a big puddle in front of everyone. Shame! Anyway a pair of baggy black trousers basically the twins of the ones I was wearing appeared as if from nowhere and we carried on. After the tour we had the best night of the trip a visit to this amazing bar called Brown Eyes with amazing staff and cheap cheap drinks. After getting seriously sloshed and a drunken walk home we woke up with crazy hangovers. The next day despite my protestations we headed off with some others to the imperial citadel, the former capital and cite of some amazing buildings and landscape. Through the fog of my hangover I managed to enjoy it! Even better news for those of us nursing our hangover the heavy rains had flooded the train line so our overnight train turned into a short flight up to Hanoi.
Unfortunately the rains were the preliminary to a typhoon that was expected to hit Hanoi imminently. Our first trip in Hanoi was to be out to Ha Long Bay but due to the typhoon warning the government had closed the site and we had to re plan. There is actually an “inland Ha Long Bay” in the Ninh Binh province and we headed off on the 3 hour journey there. One of the most frustrating things about bus travel in mainland SEA is that you tend to stop after about an hour for the driver to eat and then travel the rest (one time 7hours for us!) without stopping. This was no exception and we all got a bit pissed off waiting for almost an hour!! However undeniably one of the best bits of an organized trip is that they have personal buses so no having to find tickets and endure hours of karaoke. Definitely a treat! When we arrived at Ninh Binh we all got into boats and we shared ours with the tour guide Phil. We were rowed up and down for around 2 hours and the scenery was spectacular. It was a beautiful sunny day – what typhoon – and even with the heightened tourists with the same idea as us it was incredibly calm and relaxing. After a quick and terrible buffet lunch we headed off to some temples and then back into the city for some street beers. Vietnam is one of the cheapest places for beer and you can get a fresh beer for around 15p a glass in these street bars. Even to me it tasted rank though and I was a bit relieved when the fresh stuff had run out when we arrived at the street bar. The street bars themselves are a Hanoi institution with little plastic chairs and everyone crammed in. The police can shut it down if you spill onto the road pavement so every few hours everyone has to shuffle the tables back. A really fun evening ending with a trip to the bar we’d go to a lot in our time in Hanoi: Local. We spent the next couple of days walking around the city and taking it all in. Basically risking your life because in Hanoi the streets are crowded with motorbikes honestly it’s crazy and the pavements are used as a parking for the said bikes! Our final night in Hanoi was fun as we said goodbye to our group and planned to go it alone again in Myanmar. A definite highlight for me of our last night (because I’m a child) was being sat in a tiny plastic chair outside on a very narrow side street as a motorbike drove down just taking out plastic chairs left right and center. The downside was being in the very loud bar and someone bringing in a cat in a fucking jacket. Now I don’t even really like cats that much but it was ridiculous the poor thing was terrified. And made to dress like Michael Jackson c.1985. It also made me learn something about myself that if possible I’ve matured somewhat over the years. Teenage me would definitely have grabbed it and legged it and then had absolutely no idea what to do next! Still if we didn’t have such an early flight in the morning I might have been tempted