Sunday, October 9, 2011

On my own, having a 'break' from all the travelling....

I got my flight from Hanoi and managed to wrangle myself a nice window seat. It was wasn’t much of a view though as its a cloudy miserable day.

After landing in Cam Ranh airport I paid for a cheap bus to take me into Nha Trang and as usual over here, about 15 of us were shoved into space meant for about 5 less. It took the driver three goes to shut the door and I’m glad I had nothing breakable inside my big bag. Once we arrived in town, I planned to walk, but it was raining heavily and so I grabbed a taxi the half mile or so to the hotel.
As it was cool and wet, I took advantage and went for a nice run along the seafront, getting strange looks from the locals as they watched me get soaked in the lovely rain.

After dinner it was time for an early night. I am full of a cold and didn’t sleep well last night and didn’t do much better this might either. I kept waking up with a runny nose or aching throat and was pleased when morning came around.

After breakfast I went out and posted home a few things I no longer need before booking my bus out of Nha Trang for Monday. The rest of the afternoon I spent by the swimming pool in one of the seafront restaurants. I had a nice swim and a good lunch, whilst planning my trip to Hong Kong and China for later this month. That is pretty much how the week is going to fan out. I’m here for 5 nights in total and I’m using it as a rest period – No sightseeing, so early mornings and long bus trips and no drinking – I want to recharge my batteries and sort out what’s going to happen over the coming few months up to Christmas in New York.

As its a quiet week I thought I would write a little about Vietnam instead of my usual blog...

Well what can you say? Vietnam is a strange country. On one side its easy to get around – Buses and trains are frequent and cheap as are internal flights. The actual travelling part is easy.. The hard parts come when you get to the city or town you want to visit. Everywhere you go people offer you motorbikes, to rent or to ride as passenger. Taxi drivers pull over when they see you and want to give you a lift. Crossing the road at first is hell, but now its easy – just walk and everyone goes around you, just!

The pavement here is not a pavement as you know it. Here the pavement is also a 2 way motorbike lane, a bar where people drink and socialise. Its cafés and restaurants that appear on every street corner, with tiny plastic chairs and portable grills or real fires cooking local food. The pavement is also a lottery ticket shop, a motorbike parking area and a bedroom for many people. The one thing the pavement isn’t is somewhere to walk. In most cities it is impossible to walk on the pavement, so you walk on the road. OK, the road is two way, but here two way means just that -two way on both sides of the road. If your side is snarled up just cross over and drive or ride on the other side of the road! Its a very dangerous place to be a pedestrian, but also the easiest place over here.

Unusually quiet Vietnamese pavement

Shops are not shops as you know them. Here, a normal shop is also someone’s front room. They have shutters at the front with a TV and a seat in the corner. Whole families gather around you as you walk through their front room to get a cold drink from the fridge, before paying whoever holds out a hand. You push back out past kids eating dinner while sitting on the floor next to a moped or 6. Shops either sell one type of item – shoes, bikes, t-shirts or booze. Or they sell everything from string to motor oil. Whole roads in Hanoi only have one type of shop and are even named after them – There is a Bamboo street for bamboo and a sewing street, where they sell zips, cotton and cloth. If you go into a shop between 1pm and 4pm, you will most likely not find anyone to serve you unless you look under a table or behind the counter, where the staff will be asleep, normally on top of a pile of stock!

A shop on the pavement and the woman is fast asleep!

A little cafe and motorbike park - ITS A PAVEMENT!!

Hotels are not hotels as you know them. Here, a lot of hotels have wide open entrances, where the taxi driver can drive you straight to reception, if its raining. At night the staff bring in their cars and motorbikes and park them safely inside the foyer. If you venture out of you r room between midnight and 6am, you will find all the staff asleep on rigs and mattresses in the middle of the floor. A metre of space is expensive in the cities, so a lot of hotels are tiny but 15 storeys high, with only 2 rooms on each floor!

Not a garage, but a hotel foyer!

The people here are not like the people you know. They want to make some money anyway they can here and try hard to do so. In 10 minutes walking around you will be offered rides on motorbikes by at least 4 or 5 strangers pulling over to you and asking 'Motorbike?', 'Where are you going?', these aren’t taxis, but just locals with nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Old women try to sell you books, sunglasses, dried squid, Vietnamese hats and little trinkets – You cant walk anywhere without being offered something. Local 'students', try to talk English with you, but there is a scam where you end up with a big bar bill from buying them a drink. Men even rush up to you and bend down, attempting to 'fix', something on your shoes with a tube of glue, before holding out their hands for payment.

Sunglass and book sellers taking a break

Barbers on the street

The best way to deal with all this is simple – 'Ignore it!'. At first I felt guilty, but after a few weeks of constant hassle and having to say 'No', about 300 times a day it gets to you and you just walk past ignoring it all. I feel like im being rude, but its the only way to deal with it.

Above all though, Vietnam is great. The local people, when you get to talk with them and they aren’t trying to sell something, will do anything for you. The food is great and its a cheap place to visit. From the mountains to the sea there is a great variety of things to do and see and I like it a lot. Its my last week as so here and I’m just off to Dalat, somewhere I haven’t been yet. So I’m looking forward to that. I hope the pavements are quiet.

when it rains....

it really rains!!

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