Sorry for that opener, but when you’re in a country in which the national currency is the “Dong” it’s difficult to resist a small jest, or even an invitation to others to view the magnitude of dong that you’re packing at any given moment. And I am packing significant dong. Approximately 7 million dong stuffed in my trousers at time of writing, and I call it pocket change.
I never thought I’d be a millionaire but here I am in sunny Vietnam settling five and six digit bills without a second thought. “A hundred and fifty thousand huh? A Bargain! Go on sweetheart, stick another ten grand on for yourself as a tip. No, no, I insist! Here, can you break this half million banknote for me?”
This place is fun. It’s vaguely reminiscent of what music festivals used to be like before things got all corporate. Though I’ve only been approached three times this evening by shady gentlemen asking “you want marijuana?”, so there still some way to go before it meets Glastonbury on that score. Don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad, kids.
The food so far is magnificent, the beer is respectable (an ice cold bottle of the local tipple comes in at about 19 pence) and the traffic is so chaotic and brutal that it’d have a seasoned Old-Delhi tuk-tuk driver reaching for the brown trousers. Then there’s the weather, which alternates between downpours of biblical proportions (I’m thinking genesis 6 – 9 here) and at other times it’s so hot and sweaty that, I imagine, it’s not all that dissimilar from being inside of Beelzebub’s posing pouch during his fifteenth consecutive round of table tennis. Thank god the hotel has air con. Oh yeah, the hotel, about that . . . .
We booked the place online before leaving the UK, lured by excellent online rating and a plethora of tales remarking on the comfy rooms, cheap rates, great food and friendly staff, and all this appears true. So what could be wrong? Well, it’s called ‘The Pink Tulip’, does that tell you anything? No? How about the fact that the dnd notice for our door features a large pink flower and the inscription (I shit you not) : “ Too FABULOUS to be disturbed”. Or the large rainbow motif on the reception desk? Yep, boys and girls we’ve somehow found and booked ourselves into Ho Chi Minh City’s one and only Gay Pride Hotel. Still, cheap beer is cheap beer, and as already mentioned, the air con works just fine so there was no need to rummage around in the wardrobe for the complimentary assless chaps.
So, the new adventure begins in much the same way as the last; with spicy food, sweaty nads, and a hunt for a suitable steed. And in a country where over 90% of all road vehicles are motorcycles, that ought to be easier than getting laid in a women’s prison with a pocket full of pardons. You’d think. I’ve seen 50cc scooters and I’ve seen monstrous 1800cc Harley Davidson’s, but bafflingly, almost nothing in between. All I want is a rugged and preferably Japanese two wheeler between 200 – 600cc but in my first day’s forage, slim pickings. And the longer this state of affairs continues, the more the likelihood of my purchasing a Russian military Ural increases. Yes I know that’d be cool but they’re also less reliable than a Chinese Rolex and almost as silly a choice as say, riding a 70 year old Royal Enfield across the Himalayas.
I know of a guy who did that once. Fucking idiot.
Miss Marie-Carmen is indisposed. She decided to treat herself to a Vietnamese massage this afternoon, which it would seem may have been administered by Chuck Norris. Since emerging from this ‘tranquil, relaxing spa experience’ she has done little but lay in bed complaining that her back hurts. Mr Bob graciously offered a back massage. Miss Marie-Carmen was somewhat discourteous when declining this offer.
Any downsides to this lush new land upon which we have so recently set afoot? One word: Mosquitoes. No wait, two words: Fucking Mosquitoes. I’m a true hippy at heart (even if I don’t wear the uniform these days) and would never wish harm upon a single living creature, with this sole exception; if all of the world’s mosquitoes could be crammed into a single enclosed space, I’d happily set about them with a fucking flamethrower. And I’d laugh like Woody Woodpecker all the while. The current score stands at Mr Bob: 5, Bastarding Mosquitoes: 3. I’ll be updating this scoreboard for the duration of the trip.
Farewell for now folks, it’s beer o’clock in Saigon. Wish me luck on the bike hunt, I really don’t want to resort to a scooter and Madame is likely to veto any attempts to purchase a relic from the soviet union.. .
Peace & Love
Robb. (& Marie “Ironside” Carmen)