Friday, May 29, 2020

Vietnam Part 1

Monk goes to a hotdog stand. Know what he says?
 “Make me one with everything”

There’s a hole in the massage table where my face rests. I wrap my belongings in my shirt and place them directly beneath me so I can keep an eye on them and prevent any monkey business (there has never been any monkey business). An hour later I put my shirt back on and there’s a big wet spot. Yep, I fell asleep and drooled all over my shirt. This summarizes my Vietnam experience:  dreamy, luxurious, slow and easy, relaxed and stress free. We didn’t do anything approaching excitement. We fell for the packaged tours and packed on a few pounds while embracing our inner tourists. I am so happy to be a passenger. All the responsibility falls on someone else’s shoulders and I can just stare out the window. I am little more than a lens recording my own voyeurism through the filter of my biased experiences. Your results may differ.
Egg pizza and pajamas

“So I Sold The Camper And Strapped On A Backpack”

Endless hot water, no low hanging cables or tree branches waiting to ruin my day. Tires, filters, leaks, maintenance – Ha! What are those? My biggest concern now is that my zipper doesn’t break on a travel day. Too easy mate.

We drove from Brasil back to our friends’ house in Buenos Aires and left Elsie in the capable hands of Diego and Ana to sell on my behalf. That trip ended. Aleja and I flew back to our respective nations to spend 2 months with family & friends.

In case you’ve just discovered this blog… I traded in my keel for 4 tires and a camper, and after 4+ years I sold the camper in South America. Now we are backpackers in South East Asia. Or for those conspiracy fans amongst you… We’ve changed sound stages on the Hollywood lot.  Spanish got replaced with some tonal alien screaming, the back drops have all been rebuilt to reflect the vastly different architecture of this side of the world, and the food went from high cholesterol to super healthy.
Last chopper out of Saigon 1975

Saigon / AKA: Ho Chi Min City
We spent a week acclimating. It took Aleja 6 days in transit to arrive here. That’s the difference in our ages. She loved her day long lay overs in Mallorca, Hamburg and Bangkok. It sounded like misery to me sleeping in airports for a week but she’s a rock. We ate snails, guzzled gallons of cold beer and drank the world’s best coffee. We liked HCM and gave it 2 thumbs up. Then we got conned into going south
I found the building 45 years later

Can Tho
The original plan was to go to the Mekong Delta and live on a boat for 4 days. Ha! I’m glad we shortened that to 2 days in a hotel. The truth is you need exactly 2 hours in an early morning boat to catch the golden hour of light at sunrise and then get the hell out of that tourist trap. There were more tourist boats then vendor boats. It was tourists taking pictures of tourists, or more accurately: tourists trying to take pictures without other tourists in the frame. There was a lot of cropping going on. In fact, that might be a good question to ask of anyone returning from a trip to see if you might want to go there: “Did you have to crop a lot of your pix”? We got stuck there for 2 days. Great street food. We managed to have soup only once per day.

Vietnam - The Menu
The coffee is abundant & fantastic and the food is even better, but good luck trying to buy both in the same place. Cafes usually don’t sell food, and restaurants usually don’t sell coffee. They are either silly capitalists or very generous with their neighbors for voluntarily losing market share. We ate everything and were damn proud of ourselves. If you don’t gag once a week you aren’t pushing your boundaries, and you should be.

One popular question for our first week: “Are you hungry? What kind of soup do you want?”

If an alien beamed down to the planet and had to report back a brief summary this would be the synopsis: “It's a soup based pajama culture. Visually it looks like they are on the brink of a countrywide sleep over and we believe many of them don’t feel well, hence the abundance of soup.” We ate a lot of soup. It was good. I like soup.
Frog legs

We loved Vietnam so much that we volunteered to create taglines for their chamber of commerce. Here’s a few we came up with:
Vietnam – Where every meal is soup!
Vietnam – Eat all you want and still lose weight with delicious food & dysentery
Vietnam – With coffee this strong you can finally quit meth!

It is, however, impossible to get a dry napkin. Every napkin offered is actually a wet baby wipe. What if you just need something absorbent to get the soup off your face? And it’s mostly soup, most of the time. Did we cover that?

I ate more snails then you ever could

They always want to show you an “autograph book” with testimonials from their past clients about how great everything was, but what the savvy tourist looks for is how many pages have been torn out of that book. The few derogatory entries that are clever enough to slip past the censors make for some humorous reading: “She promised a long trip and it lived up to her promise. I’m sure glad she included the noodle factory as part of the tour.”
War as tourism

Then we went north to Dalat for some higher elevation coffee plantation relaxation. We essentially snuggled in bed for a week only donning our ponchos and umbrellas to go out doors for a meal in the wet downpour. It literally rained 23 hours per day every day but one. We sang karaoke and spent a lot of time indoors.

Vietnam The Sequel When We Return
This concludes part one for the Vietnamese dispatch. I’ll be posting part 2 in a week.

Your man on point,
Captain Bobby

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