Saturday, December 17, 2011


* I don't usually do such "wordy" posts- but if you're interested and you have time (ie a Vietnamese bus trip) to spare then here is some more Asian juice...

Arrive in Ho Chi Minh airport and begin the process of organizing visa's on arrival. I had already done half the process online which means we only had to submit our forms and application letters, supply two passport pictures and pay the visa fees. Perfect.

And from then things went ape.

My passport is full (lucky me) so currently I am traveling with a supplementary temporary passport. The Viets do NOT Like this and they shook their heads at me. A lot. I nodded my head a lot back. I did a bit of sign language and the chicken dance for good measure. They proceeded. We were called to collect our processed visas and they began handing over two passports.
Sorry, no. These aren't our passports- We're not Brazilian. (not today) *Shuffle shuffle* Hand over the correct passports.

We walk over to the immigration counters, as you may know-all immigration officials graduate from Assdom and Bitchfest College. (We believe Vietnam to be the headquarters). You hate your job. We get it. Let's move on.

Handing over our visas to the sunshine immigration champs we discover that the visa people have dated our visa's from 16 Dec 2011 to 16 Jan 2011. This is technically traveling BACK IN TIME. since neither Blake or I had remembered to bring our transistors, this is "quite" the problem. There is a lot of moaning (from the sunshine gang) They fix it.

You get through immigration and collect your bags and make your way to the counters to book tickets for Phu Quoc. They don't take credit card. Cash only. Ok that's fine. You take your card to the ATM. It fails. You try again. "insufficient funds" that's impossible. You try again. FAIL. You panic. You start sweating. You try again. Fail. You panic more. You sweat more. You try one more time. Fail. You begin mentally calculating how much money you have in cash in your bag and if you can survive. These Asians eat bugs, you are sure you will be fine. You sweat some more. You panic. You consider sampling the cockroach on the ATM in preparation). You call Blake (who, PS, has no money source other than Che). Blake tells you that the card is not drawing because it won't draw as a credit card but only as a savings card. (whatever that means. Che + banking + money + exchange rates + ATM = retarded.) You draw money. You stop sweating. A little.

You get tickets to Phu Quoc and organize a taxi to the backpackers place. You get scammed by the taxi driver. You reach the backpackers and get the manager's attention away from her Vietnamese soapie long enough to show you a room. "Room" is on the 5th floor. That means 10 flights of stairs. With backpacks. By the time you get up to the room to "have a look" you are too exhausted to bring your backpack back down again. (smart move Vietnam. Smart. Move. ) You take the room.

You leave your bags and head out into the city to explore. There is TRAFFIC. there is a LOT of traffic. Motorbikes, bicycles, motorbikes, taxis, motorbikes, buses, motorbikes and motorbikes. Crossing the street is complicated. You die.

You get caught in a torrential downpour. You get soaked. You think it's stopped and then you get soaked again. You laugh about it because, well, you're not quite sure, but at this point it's just funny. You seek refuge in a SUPER local restaurant on the side of the street. Actually you're not even sure if you are actually on the side of the street or not since the motorbikes are driving on the pavement too and it all gets a bit confusing. There isn't a foreigner in sight and there are Asian girls with hair extensions dressed in white skimpy next-to-nothings doing cigarette and beer promotions for the locals. Awesome. You eat.

You leave the restaurant (which you realise may in fact be a brothel and not a restaurant at all) and make your way back to your hotel. You finally make it back and hike up the ten flights of stairs to your apartment. it's only 9pm but you spend 15 minutes outside your room in the passage because the door is wonky and it only opens on the 24th try. (with extra force).

The Australians next door are having an argument and the Viets in the passage below are screaming like there's a shoe sale. You try to navigate your room which, considering your two overstuffed backpacks and shoe box sized room is quite an ordeal. It's hot. It's stuffy. There is no space. The lights go out.

It's a blackout. Yes. The entire block. Central Ho Chi Minh. The Australians have now decided to play some lovely music in the darkness and you try shazam it, but you can't- because you have no wifi's. (THIS ISN'T CAMBODIA YOU KNOW). The Vietnamese shoe-sale is still going on in the passage below. The motorbikes are still raging outside in the blackness. Not only is it pitch black. But there is no aircon. You decide that Ho Chi has decided that 9pm is your bedtime. You need to shower. You have carried a backpack up ten flights of stairs, you have sweated over credit card panics, you have eaten off the side of the street, you have been soaked in torrential downpour. It is hot. It is stuffy. Showering: not negotiable.

Bearing in mind the stuffed backpack, pokey room, extreme heat and general "pitch-blackness"- showering is " interesting".
First you try and balance your iPhone on the towel rail to give yourself some extra light. This fails and you end up making an emergency call to China. You balance your clothes in the sink to avoid anything touching the floor because there are definitely diseases lurking there. You realize you have no towel.

You open the bathroom door to ask your brother to kindly pass you a towel. As you open the bathroom door, You become aware that Brother has in fact opened the room door and is standing in the passage because the room is so fekking hot. You yell for him but not too loudly because you dont want the Australians to come out of their shoe-box into the passage. That would make things pretty awkward.

You get a towel. You succeed in showering, whilst trying to use iLight without making any more calls to china and keeping everything precious off the disease-floor. You put your sleeping t-shirt (ie first-thing-that-came-out-of-backpack-in-darkness-shirt) on and realize it is soaked. Because, the sink, just like the toilet, is RIGHT under the piddle of the shower. Cool.

You climb into the concrete slab that is your bed and begin to wonder if the itchings are just in your head or if they are actually ON your head. Nevermind, you probably shouldn't sleep since it's best anyway to keep one eye on the door. You listen as Ho Chi hustles on in the dark. Motorbikes, taxis, Viets screeching, Aussies playing their music. You toss and turn. It's hot. There is no aircon. You feel restless. You'll probably never sleep.
Finally. Finally after what seems like a million years, you start drifting into a peaceful sleepy state and as you close your weary eyes... OLLEH!!! THE LIGHTS COME ON!!

You lie in bed and think to yourself that in three and a half years of living in Asia and having visited 10 Asian countries that NOTHING feels more like Asia than this day.

You turn off the lights, close your eyes and prepare yourself for tomorrow's GOODMORNING VIETNAM!


Wazza said...

Oh my greatness, epic! You always need a good chicken dance & someone to manage your finances ;)

Weezafish said...

I'm loving your travels, thanks for blogging them. And for suffering the likes of this hotel, which means we get to read about it. Makes a change to see so many words and no pics in this post :)

Deekershaw said...

0h no. Can just picture the scene. Sounds AWFUL!!!!! You sure experiencing the "true" culture! Good luck

Plum said...

had such a good laugh reading this. I travelled with two passports (temporary and new one that arrived days before I flew out) and had so many problems with check-ins and customs, trying to explain why i had 2 passports and why my visa stamp was in the temporary passport and not in the new one. Huge language barrier! My mom had a problem now coming to SA with her visa as customs wrote that it was valid until December 2011 when it was meant to be 2012, but they managed to get my dad's right. SMH. These experiences you have in Asia are ones you will never forget...hehe... I got food poisoning the first time I went to Bali and the day before I left I got sunstroke and the SOS doctor couldn't understand a word I said and ended up putting me on antibiotics I was allergic too. Had a huge laugh when I finally got back to SA :-)

Lisa said...


I loved reading this mainly because I am so glad my backpacker days are behind me.  I loved Vietnam and I stayed in hotels and had a tour guide.........I know I don't have the interesting (read unique) stories that you do but I had aircon, bellboys (OK I batted my eyelashes and got someone to help me carry my suitcase)and luxury (albeit 3* as precious little is 5* in Vietnam).  The traffic is interesting and the women covered in head to toe to avoid getting sunburnt (and their skin being darker than it already is)is something else in the heat but when you stand at a traffic light look up.....the electrical wiring is VERY interesting!!!

Have a great time and if you get the chance there is something sacred to riding a bicycle through the country side in the early morning and screaming at the top of your lungs GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!!! The locals thing you are crazy but the moment is priceless.....oh and same same but different becomes your mantra!!!
Lisa from honibunblogspot 

Vanessanberger said...

Reminds me exactly of our time in Saigon! Crazy hey. nothing quite like it! 

Che Strawberries said...

hahahaha i FEEEL your pain! i am just WAITING to see what will entail when i hit Laos and there REALLY is no more space in my non-temporary passport. I may be made to don a uniform and work as a government spy. On the other hand... may make for an epic story :) thanks for reading our travel woes! haha

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