Good Morning Vietnam!
Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
37Trip End May 10, 2007
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Lesson #1 of traveling alone - never again share a hotel room with a single British man just for the sake of a) company and b) saving $5. Meet James, a 27 year old hyperactive, investment banker from the South of Britain, with some sort of strange back fungus he contracted in Belize and who likes to drink a lot...and alone.
Here is the breakdown of the nights: Night 1, after ridiculously cheap draft beers in Saigon he offers for me to "join" him in his bed cause he does not mind "sharing, really," I decline - I just met him that day. Night 2- after an evening at the Saigon symphony and sushi he again offers to "join" him in bed cause he does not mind "sharing, really." I contemplate it, he's hot, but I decline again. Night 3 - we've moved locations, I'm already sick and tired of him, especially when he asks me if on night 2 "did anything happen between us last night?" I scowl "NO!" and he tells me, "weird I had a wet dream." Then I start devising my evacuation route. I spend the night drinking wine on the beach with a lovely Israeli family only to return to my room and see James sprawled out naked on his bed. Night 4 - I ditch James and go to bed early, until I am awoken by him and an 18 year old homely looking Parisian girl getting it on in our room - his bare ass in my face is the first sight I see. The next morning, the Parisian girl comes crying to me about how she cheated on her boyfriend back home with an "old man." Safe to say, I am thrilled we had different routes, and I am now sans James.
Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) is a bustling city with so many motorbikes and hardly any crosswalks. When I still thought James was a good guy, I made him hold my hand every time we crossed the street. The idea is to keep a slow, steady pace and just simply walk, the motorbikes will swerve around you. This is scary, but Saigon is incredible. One of my top 5 favorite cities in the world - definitely my favorite in Asia thus far.
We spent our days there touring the city, visiting 3 museums and learning about the impacts of agent orange used during the "American War" as it is referred to here. 3 markets, where I thought I'd see the same kitsch that I see all over SE Asia, but should have known better with Vietnam's close proximity to China, the kitsch was different, but still I did not shop - my backpack is heavy enough already.
Vietnam, part of Indochina (Laos and Cambodia too) is great because the French left behind wine, baguette, and cheese. But, here in Vietnam they also left behind churches. Have not seen one of those in almost as year. Catholic churches dot the country, as do graves, which is another site I have not seen in almost a year, because Buddhists believe in cremation. Another thing that has caught my eye is the Latin based alphabet here in Vietnam, brought over by a French missionary.
After Saigon, I went to Mui Ne, a quiet beach/fishing village known for it's incredible sand dunes. I rented a motorbike and drove deep into the village waving and smiling at everyone, but one thing was different, hardly anyone was smiling and waving back at me. This is a stark difference coming from Cambodia. In Cambodia, I felt like I was on happy pills - everyone smiles and waves, and in my month there I made friends with the locals who would brush my hair and rest on my shoulders while talking. I also had the displeasure of having Vietnamese massage, which was more like torture as the woman beat me up from top to bottom.
Currently, I am rid of James (thank goodness) and crawled my way up through the mountains to Dalat, in South Central Nam. The weather is chilly and I've had to empty the contents of my backpack to get to my one sweater at the very bottom. "Good morning Vietnam!" I am drinking a cup of tea and am about to go rent a bike for the day to see the city. I met a nice Vietnamese man last night at an art gallery while trying to find my way home in the dark last night who offered to help me learn Vietnamese if I helped him with his English, though he thinks I am from Spain - I would not dare let these people know I am American, just not such a smart idea seeing as we have not left the best taste in their mouths. Or perhaps, it is the dog they eat or the cocks balls they claim as a delicatessen.