DONG, where is grandfathers AUTOMOBILE?

Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, July 19, 2010

wow things sure are crazy nowadays.  Sari and I are doing our best to travel Asia without killing each other and truth be told, it has been a close call more then a few times but what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger right?  well probably not but that is the adage that is getting me through some tough spells lol.  Or as George from Seinfeld famously said.....serenity now, serenity now.

So you may be wondering what is up and whats new.  Well Sari and I had holed up for a few days in a very charming and quaint town called Hoi an.  I particularly like this little piece of Vietnam and have enjoyed both of my visits here immensely.  There is just something very nice and relaxing about wandering around the old french architecture that is beautifully decrepit and falling apart in such a photogenic manner.  The never ending tailor shops are a bit annoying but nothing is perfect in this world I suppose so you just have to grin and bare it when it comes to the aggressive sell.

Something that absolutely cracks me up about vietnam is that their currency is the DONG.  how fun is that to say everyday?  "hey how much is that vase?"......."10,000 DONG"  too funny.  I could not stop saying that line from the movie sixteen candles.  "Dong, where is grandfathers automobile"  if you know the line you will laugh, if you dont.........well go watch the movie.  I think sari will kill me if i say it one more time

Despite our enjoyment of Hoi An, we were indeed on a schedule so when it came time for us to leave we wandered to the travel booking office in our hotel to try and figure out a train schedule that would fit our needs.  Well we were immediately shot down with that idea since the Vietnamese universities were on holiday so all of the kids were traveling and there were no seats available.  After a bit of digging and prying there was one seat found on the super deluxe VIP train which was out of my price range but Sari snapped that up in a second.  I figured I would take the cheaper bus option and meet sari in Hanoi but once again, all bus tickets were sold out for the day that we wanted to travel and I would have to wait until the next day.

After buying our disjointed tickets we went out to get some dinner in a local restaurant (try the stuffed crab appetizer for $2, delicious!!) and when we came back, the travel clerk called sari over and apologized that the train she was going to take would not arrive on time because there had been some major calamity with the tracks.  When it rains it pours eh?  having no other choice, sari decides to fly but as you guessed it, there were no seats available.  the clerk told us to check back in the morning and sure enough there had been a cancellation so sari was going deluxe.

we parted ways, with her flight leaving one day and my bus leaving the next.  I was pretty sure I was going to see her again but you can never be sure here in Asia.  After she left, i wandered around hoi an and got some great food and took in more ambiance.  I walked though the town at dusk and all of the Chinese lanterns were lit (every shop has a few in front) and there were bats crisscrossing the darkening sky in search of the first meal of the night.  It really was an unreal sight and it felt like some attraction from Disney world. 

The next day i checked out of the hotel much to the disappointment of some of the female staff that i endlessly flirted with.  I took a minibus into Danang which is the major city near hoi an.  As we pulled into the bus station we were confronted with all sorts of bus's.  deluxe sleeper bus's and over night chicken haulers mixed together freely.  Of course the ticket agent had waxed poetic about the luxury of the bus that I would be riding but in the end I had the worst looking bus in the whole damn yard. 

Me and 3 Aussies were the only western people on the bus and we took up most of the seats in the back which displeased the guy in charge of arranging passengers so he comes back and starts screaming at us in Vietnamese while gesturing wildly.  And when i say screaming, I mean screaming.  Well I don't know any Vietnamese but I took his tone of voice for hostility so i started screaming at him in Thai.  why did i do it in Thai?  I have no idea but it sounded more appropriate then English.  the Aussies were properly impressed until i told them that it was Thai and not Vietnamese.  either way, the guy gave us a few muttering curses and then left us alone.

we sat in that bus terminal for almost 3 hours waiting for two things.  the first being more passengers and the second being for the maintenance dude to fix the air con.  we were following his progress quite enthusiastically until there was a large bang and black smoke belched out of every air conditioning vent.  rather unpleasant to say the least.  The bus ride itself was uncomfortable because the Vietnamese make their seats even smaller then the Thais do and then add to the fact that the radio is blaring karaoke that sounds like a wounded cat is being choked to death......then factor it takes 17 hours for them to drive 400 miles and of course dont forget they decide to turn the air con off at 10pm for some unknown reason and you will know my pain.

I finally arrive in Hanoi which is an interesting city with interesting architecture and fucking crazy traffic just like Saigon.  You have to experience the endless flow of motorbikes first hand to truly appreciate the insanity.  I explained to sari that there is a blatant disregard for traffic laws in Thailand but that there are NO traffic laws in Vietnam.  This being said, i jump on the back of a motorbike while the driver precariously holds my back pack between his body and the handle bars of the bike and then BOOM we're off into the insanity, zipping and passing and rubbing shoulders with the dude next to us.  I took this motorbike all the way across the city, through the morning rush hour traffic and all it cost me was a few more Grey hairs, a small coronary and $2.

I pulled up to the hotel just as sari was walking out to go on a tour of hoalong bay.  She was supposed to be on the tour for two days but had not left yet because of epic rain and flooding in Hanoi the night before which prevented the tour company from picking her up.  we talked for a few minutes and compared horror stories (her flight lasted 3 hours instead of 1 while my bus took 17 hours instead of 15.........you can vote who had it worse) and then she was off on her tour.

I was in Hanoi for a day and wandered around a little and took in the sights and I must say that I am quite tired of Vietnam.  I am going to give my official thumbs down for visiting there (unless you go directly to hoi an).  There are plenty of nice people who are very friendly but there is a population of people who just hate tourists/westerners and are very open about it.  there are constant rip offs and many robberies (neither I nor sari experienced a robbery thankfully) and the reward for dealing with all of this shit is just not good enough to justify the effort.  China was hard and there were many trials and tribulations but in the end I saw the great wall of china, the forbidden city, the Terra cotta soldiers etc etc.  it was worth the hassle.  Vietnam on the other hand is not worth the hassle and I am pretty damn glad we left................to be continued
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