Happy Birthday to Kate!

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, September 17, 2011

Flight into Ho Chi Minh from Denang. We are prepared. Booked a taxi, know what we're doing once we get to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) - we'll get a pre-booked taxi. Done.
Get to the airport in ultra quick time, two hours to the flight. Efficient. A man comes up to us as we realise our flight isn't on the board yet.
"Are you on the 12.45 flight?"
"It's been canceled"
"We only have the one plane for the time slot and it's got a mechanical fault (My breathing becomes heavier and faster)", "We can put you on the flight at 6.30pm or if you sit and wait we may be able to get you onto the 11.45am flight - it's full but if someone pulls out we'll put you on". "If we can't get you on then, we'll give you a meal voucher".

A potential 7 hour wait at an airport with no spare seats. A meal voucher wouldn't make up for my floor hardened ass.

At 11.05am, he pulls us up to the counter and checks us in. He apologises that he won't be able to give us the seats we had booked (At this point I assumed we'd be sitting apart), so he'll have to give us the seats in the emergency aisle with more leg room. Drat. We're on an earlier flight with better seats and he's apologising. Nice fella. I wouldn't be saying that if my ass was still shuffling around trying to find some flesh not numb to the core.

The flying isn't getting any easier. I'd never planned for us to fly as often as we had but the train and bus situation in Vietnam and China being as it is (difficult to book and generally slow although enjoyable), this would be our 5th flight out of a potential 14. If anything, I am getting worse. The jiggering man sat next to me didn't make things any easier. He had this terrible habit of pulling at different points of his clothes as if they were sticking to him and all the time while his leg jiggered up and down. At first I thought he was more nervous than me. Then I worked out as he seemed to lean into me to look out the window it's just because he's a fidgety pain in the backside.
The take off was OK but I fear clouds. They always make the plane shudder. The flight itself soaring high above the cumulo-nimbus was fine and I ticked along to Phil Collins enjoying a few pages of Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross is a lot more horny and young in the book than Morgan Freeman in the film, which adds a romantic totally unnecessary edge to the book). The descent was a bitch. Tons of cloud, loads of humidity which seems to make the plane rock from side to side and a heavy landing from a pilot who I take it misjudged the ground by a few metres. At some point I came to the conclusion it was a definite he would have to abort the landing as we were swinging about so much. I do exaggerate I'm sure, but that's how it feels to me!

Easy taxi. Straight to where we wanted, slightly overpriced, but not by too much (we pre-paid at the airport by a booth just after arrivals - about 160 000 dong to the backpacker area). And the hotel was very welcoming. Everything as per the website. Our first afternoon and evening involved a lot of chilling in the hotel and eating in the restaurants just a stones throw away. The place is a little like a holiday resort with people trying to pull you into their cafe/bar/restaurant, but once you've learnt to say no it's all quite easy to handle
Our room was hot. The air conditioning just seemed to be pumping out warm air. We'd paid the lowest we could in this nice hotel which meant we were left with an interior room (we don't tend to spend a lot of time staring out the window anyhow) and for the first night we assumed that it wouldn't go any colder. As we came out of our room in the morning we realised the air-con must be broken. The hotel which takes in the air from outside was actually cooler than our air-conditioned room. I let the reception know and they said they would sort it while we were out.

It was Kate's Birthday. She turned the grand old age of 26, once again catching up with me, only a year behind me now. I'll get a lead again in November. I think we'll end up too-ing and fro-ing like this for years but then eventually she'll catch me up.
I had a package for Kate. Michele (Kate's mum) had given this to me shortly before leaving the UK. She asked me if it would be any problem me carrying it in my bag. I didn't have to if I couldn't manage it. "Not a problem, I'll sort it".

(7 weeks earlier - Heathrow Airport)
"Whats wrong?"
"Oh, nothing - I just forgot to do something"
"Oh what?"
"Nothing, I'll sort it out, nothing to worry about"
"Tell me"
"You don't need to know, so don't worry" (I was desperately thinking of something else I could have forgotten but my mind was blank filled with anger at how I could have left the package under my car seat when I left my car at Dads).
"Well you shouldn't have mentioned anything, cos you knew I'd ask"
"Sorry (Well I bloody realise I shouldn't have said anything now but it's a little too late for them words of wisdom, I've already blurted out that I've got a problem), I'll sort it out, forget about it".

4 weeks later

After an exchange of emails with Dad he arranged for the package to be sent out to Hong Kong where I could pick it up. I emailed the Hotel and they said that would be fine. I was home free.

"You know that thing I had a problem with, it's sorted out now so there's no need to worry"
"so what was it then?"
(Damnit, I have done it again!!!!! - how bloody stupid am I???! Must be all this travelling melting my mind).
"Nothing to worry about, but it's OK now"
"Why mention it if you won't tell me?"
"I don't know, I'm an idiot"
"Fair point"

1 week later
We arrive in Hong Kong and the hotel lady tries to feed me the package over the counter while Kate is standing next to me.
"psssst, not now....I'll come and get it later" "It's for my wife, she can't know about it"
I must have seemed proper dodgy to the hotel lady as I had asked for a package to be kept until my arrival over email and then refused to take it when I got there. Drug lord or something. I snuck out of the room after giving Kate some cock and bull over wanting to get a map from reception and explained to the receptionist. I was finally home free. Placed in my bag, the envelope travelled the next few thousand km from Hong Kong to Saigon.

Kate opened her cards and was very pleased. We hadn't got much planned for the day but it was a nice start. All that effort.
As a real treat we visited a couple of museums. Firstly the City museum which was about as one-sided and biased as it could be (but interesting) and then after some Ice cream and a bit of a break in a cafe where we watched a man take his pet bird for a walk (the bird just hopped around on the floor following him) we went to the War Remnants Museum (which used to be called the Museum of American and Chinese War Crimes - or something like that). What a treat for Kate's birthday.
The museum was extremely interesting, slightly distressing in places, wholly biased, but overwhelmingly poignant. The Americans did do wrong in Vietnam, they shouldn't have been there - but at the same time if you're going to tell a story, make sure you tell both sides - it makes you look ignorant otherwise. The war museum was a good visit, lots of graphic photos, lots of information on how the 'liberation heroes' saved Vietnam from the 'puppets' of the south and the tyrannical Americans. Sadly, even though I know a lot of the other side of the story, I seem to come away even more confused after each visit to a museum. I left with a feeling that the Americans committed atrocities that should be called war crimes or crimes against humanity, and that they seem to have been happy to cut and run to save face (and money).

Not the most positive birthday but we both seemed to enjoy it.
When we got back I set up my Skype account to allow Kate to phone home. Two hours later and we think she's caught up on most of the gossip. She was really chuffed to have talked to everyone and it seemed to give her a bit of a lift. We're both flagging a bit at the moment - I've decided to tidy up my new ginger beard growth to something a little less bushy as soon as I can get hold of some clippers to give me a freshening up.
I called the bank to try and sort out a bad transaction that had happened a few days before and they seem to be sorting it. Skype is awesome.
Some food and drink on the terrace bar in the hotel (less than 30 pounds spent all in all across the day) and we went to bed.
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