Cảm ơn, cảm ơn, cảm on

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
Trip End Jan 01, 2014

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Where I stayed
Hanoi Mike's Hotel
Read my review - 1/5 stars

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, April 23, 2012

...do you wanna be in my gang?  No thanks Gary, you are a sick playground dweller and no longer a cult hero, especially not here in Nam.  Of course cảm ơn actually has nothing to do with the fallen idol and instead means thank you in Vietnamese and remains one of the only two phrases I have picked up in nearly three weeks the - the other, more crucially, is gom which means no and every tourist has cause to use this phrase maybe one hundred plus times a day to offers to all sorts of weird and wonderful offerings from street sellers and taxi drivers, including rides (various meanings), cigarettes, fans, paintings, drugs, tissues, postcards, carved wood (practical) and every single food one can think of, and many one can not...

We left matters after a disappointing day in Hue and matters improved slightly in the evening when Shelley and I went to the very small backpacker district and enjoyed a few drinks, including with a crazy Dutch pair we have met in each of the last three places and who tend to end nights out naked (fortunately we are yet to last long enough to witness this).  The rain had happily relented yesterday so we hired a scooter but only after I had been forced to lie to the lady who owned the bikes enquiry as to whether I am a good rider.  Of course I am I replied before wobbling down a busy road and nearly knocking over all the other bikes, domino style, at a rammed gas station, all the while in full view of her shop.  I suspect at this point she was regretting her decision to rent out a few hundred dollar asset for five dollars to a stupid man from whom she had procured no ID, nor deposit...  

Although Hue is much smaller and therefore quieter than Ho Chi Minh/Hanoi, it is still manically busy and a narrow bridge thronging with bikes was not the early that my shredded nerved needed.  I survived the ordeal by bravely pulling in behind a pair of school kids on a bike and going at their pace whilst a thousand horns sounded behind me.  The going got easier as we left the mayhem of the city centre and followed the path of the Perfume River, in respect of which I must upgrade my previous rating to stunningly beautiful and relatively clean, to an impressive old Pagoda (which does have a more impressive name than a pagoda, but we are by now kind of padoga d out...).  We were just about to move on when who should arrive but Phil and Leyla (previously spelt wrongly by me - sic, apologies) on a slightly more impressive semi-automatic bike.  We determined that there was a certain aspect of safety in numbers on the bikes and so set out exploring.  I was soon retracting this when I followed Phil down a ridiculously narrow bike only bridge and was cursing him for having forced me to concentrate more than at any point since i left the circus to become a clown.  By the grace of God/Buddha/pick your own flavour we made it and the next three hours of countryside riding were generally incident free, aside from a very slippery mud track on which i nearly lost the bike and a flip flop, and pitching up at some random guy s house after following a tiny track through some attractive fields.

With a bus to catch at 5pm we all returned to the city centre for a mediocre lunch before Shelley and I returned to the guest house to collect our belongings.  A few doors up the alley from our guest house, construction work had commenced at 5am both days (much to Shelley s delight) and we now witnessed the product of all that admirable industry.  The wall of a building being demolished had been smashed through the neighbouring, fully functioning guest house.  An illustration of the Vietnamese tendency to work incredibly hard, but not always smartly.  We managed to secure a retro nightclub sign from the carnage.  eBay here we come...

The final leg of our open bus ticket also meant the longest journey - 13 hours from Hue to Vietnam s capital city, Hanoi; a journey of around 650 kilometres - and it was therefore with some dismay that we boarded a toilet-less but otherwise OK coach.  Thankfully, with a small nod to humanity, the coach did stop twice during the night - at 8pm and then midnight - but overall it was a miserable experience.  For a road which should have been broadly equivalent to the M1, it was the bumpiest slowest journey imaginable, and by the time we arrived in Hanoi at 8am this morning - 15 hours after setting off - I felt like had spent a week in a cage with the Klicthco brothers and a famished tiger.  However, I did not want to let the journey - nor Shelley s pleas (no one said travelling should be fun) - prevent a full day s exploration of Vietnam s most insanely busy city.  A few coffee and ice lolly bribes have enabled me to achieve this, although Shelley has been passed out in bed for about three hours now whilst I have undertaken the equivalent of russian roulette in running, taking on up to eight lanes of buzzing motorbike traffic with no regard for their own and less so my safety.  I finished an hour ago and must have lost a year s water intake in sweat, not helped by my having totally lost my bearings and the hotel for about half an hour.  De ja-fookin-du...        


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