My first day in Vietnam (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here

Date Written: 09.11.2013 Place: Koh Phangan, Thailand Time: 15:40

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After coffee it was time to check in. We were in an 8-bed dorm with an en suite bathroom and a balcony overlooking one of Hanoi’s roaring motorbike filled streets.

Three other guys were just as chatty as us in our room, two were from Germany and the other from Austria. All were medical students who were now in Vietnam traveling after volunteering in a Bangkok hospital for several months. Another guy in the room was still asleep on a top bunk, I later found out this guy (when he woke up) was from Canterbury, like me, and my age but we’d never met!  (Cue ‘it’s a small world..’)

After showering, Jill, Fabia and I went to get some lunch. The German guys had left to go to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, whereas the trio from the bar in the morning were still out somewhere.  During lunch Jill explained her friend, also from Belgium, but who had to fly from Paris, was coming to meet her tomorrow and they would travel down through to south Vietnam together.  After some questioning from Fabia, Jill’s ‘friend’ was actually her ex-boyfriend, who she used to live with.  Jill said they were still friends and still wanted to go on this trip together, although it wasn’t obvious, I got the impression Jill was still a bit hurt from the break-up so I changed the subject

Hanoi was hot.  The volume of motorbikes zipping through the Old Quarter’s narrow streets made the heat have a constant buzz.  The Old Quarter itself is like a labyrinth with different streets focusing on selling one thing; so one street would be full of shoe shops, or clothes, or tools (shoe street, clothes street, tool street, you get the picture, these were not the actual street names but our nicknames for them.)  We’d walked round for a fair while, stopping at different beauty salons and shops on the way, to eventually decide getting our nails done was too expensive (for Jill and Fabia, for me I thought 40,000 dong, just over a quid, was a better than cheap price!) and Hanoi, although having many varieties of shoes, did not have Jill’s large shoe size!

Jill carried on looking elsewhere, whereas Fabia and I made our way back to the hostel.  I had a map and navigated our way back, which I could sense Fabia becoming a little frustrated about, maybe it’s because I took control of getting us back or maybe it annoyed her I knew where we were going and she didn’t, in the end.  When we arrived at the hostel I left Fabia to it and ventured alone for my much anticipated manicure and pedicure, then relaxed…

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***

When I returned to the hostel I bumped into Jill in reception, who was still unlucky in her search for her shoe size, not alone a shoe she liked.  The plan was to go to our hostel’s free beer hour when it began, which we found everyone, apart from the German guys, drinking the free beer and playing some card games.

The next few hours that unravelled included a bit of a messy Kings Cup game, which I never really wanted to play.  I said I’d keep out but after several cries of desperation from Simon shouting; “Emma it’s your turn!  Pick up a card!” I didn’t want to upset him so entertained him by then becoming part of the game.  Although I did refuse to the troll card rule, which meant sitting under the table for the rest of the game until the next person picked up the troll card.  Aidan, obviously a hardcore Kings Cup player who took the rules seriously, stepped in my place and sat under the table for a large part of the game.  Good for him…   I also remember playing the “fuck you” game from that morning, only this time with alcohol, whilst noticing Fabia was looking very, very drunk.  Another girl was at the table called Sara, who was equally as drunk as Fabia and who seemed to have met each other before.

There was one toilet at the bar, just one, for boys and girls to use, which I avoided when it was taken and just sprinted up to our dorm room to use the toilet in there.  That’s when I saw the German guys from this morning, chilling out on their individual bunks.  Their tourist outing to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was abruptly cancelled when they got there because the great Ho Chi himself had been shipped to Russia for his yearly visit, to preserve his embalming corpse so I guess he doesn’t start rotting away in a natural process?  I don’t know, I find embalming weird, I saw Lenin’s embalmed dead body in Moscow a few months before and it was really creepy.

I invited the German guys down for a beer but they declined, claiming they were tired. So after my toilet break and feeling quite cheerful after my free beers I went down and brought a big bottle of  beer and sat down with the rest of the guys.  Except as I sat down Simon just stood up; “we’re going to beer hoi!  Come on, lets go!”

Beer hoi is something I would soon find out was very entertaining throughout Vietnam.  Kegs of beer are made fresh that day to sell at a makeshift bar which could be on a street corner or alongside a street equipped with small plastic chairs and to be sold all for the price of 30p (or sometimes less) a cup!

Aidan crawled out from under the table and so I got up to join them…

To be continued…

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