Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vietnam is thee only place where....


....you can have no dong, and still go to the ATM and pick up a bunch of hos*.

OK. So, me and muh trey Cracka buds hop into a minivan taxi and head to the border, 15 kilometres away. We get dropped off at a point about 1/2 mile from the actual border, and we hafta walk the rest up this steep-ass hill (not as steep as from my garage to my apartment, but still, steep enuff) and get to Chinese exit formalities. Blow through those in 20 minutes (one of the Dutch girls got taken in "The Room" [and ANYBODY whose ever crossed between the US and Canada more than ten times knows "The Room"] but she got escorted out of there and back into line in, like, literally 120 seconds with no worries) and got to Vietnam entry Immigration and Customs.


THAT took an hour, partially because there were, like, two tour buses from China and Taiwan, but also because they Immigration soldiers found it convenient to keep popping MY passport to the bottom of the stack whilst muh three Crackas (two Dutch, one Gordie) got blown through in about 20 minutes. United States Passport....love ya, Dubya! Thanks, you wanker, for ensuring that Americans get such great treatment abroad!!

Obviously, I didn't take any fotograffs.....NOT terribly wise at the China-Vietnam border! But after we crossed the border, the Dutch girls wanted to hop a train in DongDang Town (which, rumour has it, has wooden-slat/park bench-type seating) to Hanoi. The older Gordie gent was having none of that! I was neutral....I had had soooo little sleep as it was, I coulda cared less. The older Gordie Gent won out, and we hopped an air-conditioned bus right at the border for the 180 kilometre journey to Hanoi. JUST AFTER the border, a soldier hopped on the bus and checked everybody's passports again.









Tip: Make SURE that you shoot pics when border guards ARE NOT looking.....


So, after one of these scariest bus rides I had ever taken (scared for the little 100cc skooters, pedestrians, bicyclists and water buffalo on the road), we got into Hanoi. It was about a three hour ride INTO Hanoi...once INSIDE Hanoi, it was literally another hour.

Guys.....NEVER AGAIN bitch about the traffic in your city, please? You'd really hafta live through this.....after Hanoi, traffic jams in North America will seem like a truly Zenful experience. ESPECIALLY compared to Hanoi traffic on a bus with no bafroom onboard.

So, we get dropped off in front of a fairly posh-looking hotel (HMMM.....why THAT hotel?? Random pick, I wonder?) in Hanoi, and, thee moment I get offa the bus - WHOOSH!!! It felt like somebody immediately wrapped me in a steaming hot wet body towel. ALWAYS a nice experience for someone who gets physically ill in anything over eighty degrees Fahrenheit!! I go walk into said hotel, use their rest room, and ask how much for a room tonight?

"700,000 Dong" (ROUGHLY about fiddy bucks)

Well, I'll shop around, I figure. So, I walk out into the parking area (too small to be an actual car park) and this Vietnamese girl comes to me and says "You need a room"?

Now, being thee over-cautious, suspicious, level-headed traveler, I said: "Sure!"

AGAIN, though, like when I arrived in Guangzhou, A) - I had almost zero sleep in the past 24 hours and B) - TRUST ME: This journey from Guangzhou to Hanoi is a LOT more difficult than it sounds. NO...it's NOT like flying from L.A. to PDX and then catching the Amtrak Cascades train to Seattle.......nooooooooo.......

So, I depart ways with muh Cracka buds, and me and two Chinese guys hop a cab to this hotel. It turned out that it's in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, cost 225,000 Dong (fifteen buxx) per night for a private room with private bathroom, hot water, A/C, mini-fridge, satellite TV from Hong Kong and a little lobby downstairs where you can surf their Wi-Fi and drink beer and smoke! Plus, some folks from Western Oregon University stayed here (probably because, up until three years ago, Monmouth, Oregon was a dry town).











Laundry service at $5 for doing a big-ass bag O' laundry, and they had a travel agent (veeeery helpful in these parts, and I can't believe that I am saying that).

Old Quarter Hanoi is probably thee, thee most amazing place on Earth! And, to repeat, I can't believe that I am saying that.....

Now, I enjoy Megacities (anything over, say, 4,000,000 inhabitants) as much as I enjoy a root canal......with no gas or Novocaine. And I enjoy temperatures over 80 degrees the same way I embrace watching the movie “Hard Candy.”

Put 'em BOTH TOGETHER....and for me it's just like having a tooth extracted whilst having my cubes extracted at the same time.....with no sedatives or painkillers of ANY sort.

Nope.....not Hanoi!

I can fill PAGES about Hanoi alone......so....let's just skip to the highlights:


Only place where.....

.......I have EVER consumed more pints of water than of beer.


Had a Vietnamese waiter offer......

.....to buy my "I have a Dream" T-Shirt off of me. Had to decline, as it was a gift. (I'm wearing it in the pic below - the Vietnamese gave me a job as a Banana Monkey, as they were quite impressed with my past employment history as a Counter Toad).













Being an older city....

.....Hanoi is organically-planned. In English? Meaning that the streets have ZERO rhyme or reason....they just got plopped there and paved as the Hanoians went along as time progressed. Kinda like London.....or Pittsburgh. No grid....no hub-and-spoke....just kinda there as they needed them. So, the very first night there, I accidentally left my GPS in the hotel.....and I hadta do the imperialist American thing and catch a bicycle rickshaw (PedCab) home to the hotel after giving the driver the crudly hand-drawn map. THAT was kinda embarrassing.....


Spent a couple hours at the Hanoi Hilton......

.....got a few pics of John McCain's flight suit. If he wins, the Vietnamese have stated that they will officially declare war against the United States.......


Was constantly pestered on the street.....

....the past couple days by various girls showing a fake-looking ID wearing nice white dress shirts saying that she was with some red cross-affiliated group and they always pestered me to sign some book.

Finally, after about the fourth one, to get her offa my back, I said I'd sign it. THEN I read it: It had “Name” - “Country” and “DONATION”!!! I told her that I had no dong (this was actually true!! I only had ten Chinese Yuan on me!) She kept pestering me, so I signed the book “Ulysses S. Grant” and walked away quickly from her!

Welcome to Vietnam, Ulysses S. Grant!


Was a touch bored, and I had a death wish.....

.......so, on my final day, I said: “Fuck it. I'm gonna stare death in the eye and see who flinches first!! I'm gonna rent a skooter!” Now, my family (and, I think, one or two other people) are seriously concerned about my safety over here....and when my mum reads that I rented a skooter, she's absolutely gonna have kittens!!! My father, upon finding out, may go into The Cleveland Clinic for an octuple bypass operation.....but still, I had to do this. It be great dishonour to Honda Helix should I not do this....

You rented a skooter in Hanoi. Yeah. Cool. Nice, who cares?


I mentioned in an earlier post about drivers in Guangzhou, China.

“Yeah. Nice. Who really cares?” you say?

Watch this vid I filmed yesterday of an intersection in Old Quarter Hanoi............


video

You should try it sometime.....it's almost as much fun as trying to cross a street here.....


I chicken-shitted out of......

......my mammoth marathon train / bus trip, where I was supposed to live on a train for 1900 kilometres from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Then, shortly thereafter, hop a bus or riverboat through Cambodia (which I had been warned by a few sources to avoid because of serious safety comcerns), up into Thailand.

It wasn't really a matter of chicken-shitting out of anything, just that I have time-constraints! Sorry.....HAD to spend more time in Hanoi.....there was no question about it. And I never even went outside the Old Quarter!!!!!

So, I fly to Nha Trang tomorrow to vege on the beach forra couple days, then a train to Saigon forra day, then fly to Bangkok for a day and a half, then to Shanghai to meet my dear sister.

HOW do I do this? Simple!

Flying throughout SE Asia on Vietnam Airlines and Air Asia is piss-cheap!!!! Just like Southwest airlines (but ONLY if you catch them at the right time). Train Hanoi to Nha Trang is, like, $80 one way, and takes 24 hours!

Vietnam Airlines? $98....takes an hour and a half.

Figure it out. Yeah, no adventure....but still.....I really hafta see more.....


Pics of Hanoi on next communique.....

-E-

*Dong is the Vietnamese currency....Hos is because all Vietnamese bills have Ho Chi Minh on the front of 'em!

4 comments:

HRD said...

" Welcome to Vietnam, Ulysses S. Grant!" ... hmmmm ... did she try to sell you a copy of your name painted with a brush stuck in her va-jay-jay?

(You're probably the only one who will understand that reference).

CN250 said...

Naw.....nothing THAT bizarre. But still...think that Rikki may get the joke ('cause I loaned her the book after you gave it back to me).....

....but to get these girls pulling that Red Cross scam, I couldn't resist writing "Ulysses S. Grant" since they kept shoving that goddamm logbook in my face....

-E-

Morgan said...

Nice shirt- Is this job better than your last? I had someone ask me "Hey you worked at Beaverton, did they repost that planning position?" Hehe. Can't wait to see you next week!

CN250 said...

Hey Morg....

Actually, it is a bit better than my last position - They said that if I work hard, then I might get a promotion from Banana Monkey to Coconut Cooley. And I actually got the promotion!

They appear to have not advertised for my former position in Beaverton.....last thing I heard ids that my various job duties were being split amongast five people ranging from senior planners (CP-IIIs) to the administrative staff.....too weird....

See ya at Biddy's on Tuesday!!

-E-