Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Back to Vietnam

17/6 - Waiting in KL for the HCMC flight and being a clever lad, I left my Malaysian money in the bag I checked in. "Wally" springs to mind, but I have a big bar of dark chocolate I picked up in NZ, so I wont waste away and there was plenty of grub on the flight.
Into HCMC and my bag turned up. I wasn't convinced it would, I shouldn't be so sceptical. Out into the madding crowd, back in Asia. There are hundreds of people milling around, so I couldn't spot Dung, even though she is tall for a Vietnamese. Her brothers girlfriend spotted me, which I thought was very clever, as we hadn't met before. I'd forgotten how hot it gets here, but was reminded when I started to melt, I don't hold out much hope for the chocolate I have left.
Dung has invited me to go to her parents. How could I say no, but I didn't want to. They have come on 2 motos, one borrowed from Dung's auntie Ut, so I hopped on with Luan, her brother and he put my rucksack in front of him, no problem. We had quite a natter on the way to Duc Hoa, their home, which was good considering the traffic in HCMC is like a death ride. Luan speaks better English than Dung, we had a good natter about all sorts, football being a big hit. Dung's village is about 20Km from HCMC, so it took us about 45 minutes from the airport. Along the way the 2 motos were often side by side and everyone nattering. Riding motos is 2nd nature to the Vietnamese. Dung's home is down a track off the main road, about 1Km. Dung told me they are poor and the house certainly backs that up, but it's like going to my Mam's, everyone if very friendly and welcoming. I got the traditional tea and the introductions are made, then we are off to the kitchen for some lunch. 2 of Dung's uncles are here too, giving me the once over I guess. I was given beer and the rest passed the ruou around, rice wine. There is lots of Yo going on, the same as Cheers and drink up. It is a proper family meal, just like in the Grumpy Old Man's days and food is constantly dropped into my bowl, the custom. Everyone is making a big fuss of me, which is not how I like it, but it is good of everyone. After lunch we go to visit Dung's Grandad and Grandma. They live with her uncle, as he is the youngest and tradition dictates that is usually the norm. He is the youngest of 9 and gets a lot of land from his father for the trouble of looking after him. It looks like Dung's Grandad has had a stroke and he told me, via Dung, that he has been in bed for 2 years, but he still manages to smile. He wanted me to lie down and nap with him, but I managed to put it off until the next visit. There are about 10 others here, checking me out, Dung is good, fussing over her Grandad, in fact she makes a fuss of everyone and it seems very proud of me. Her Uncle Hiep tried to get me to go fishing with him, but there is too much going on at the moment. Dung fielded the barrage of questions and everyone is smiling and laughing, I don't know what she is telling them. Dung managed to move us on, back to her house for a nap, the girl is flagging a bit and so am I, but it is not easy to sleep with all the excitement around. I don't get too hot, as everywhere I go, someone appears to plug in a fan. It's like I have one tied to my leg.
Dinner is lots of food again. I can't eat like the Vietnamese, but am constantly encouraged to do so. There's squid, pork, fish, veg and Luan tells me to eat quicker. The rice wine is flowing, but I stick to a beer. Everywhere we go we get tea, but not always the time to drink it before I am moved on. Dung's Mam, Nu, is drifting around in the background doing most of the work, much like Khien's Grandma. She is watching me like a hawk. Understandable.
Next stop, Tu's, Luan's girlfriends. Her house is attached to a Buddhist temple, her Grandma founded after being released from American custody at the end of the war. She seems to have been a bit of a heroine and Tu's Great Grandad is famous throughout Vietnam for standing up to the French. I had better not cause any bother here!! The temple acts as a temporary shelter for poor people and there is a lot of faith healing going on, while I sit around watching. It looks very dramatic, lots of incense smoke and people flopping into monks arms. There is lots of fruit being dished out and I got offered loads. We stayed in the temple, sat on a bench/table/bed, it acted as all 3. Everyone is very curious and friendly with the whitey from Blighty.
Back to Dung's to settle for the night. It is poorer than I expected. There is not a lot of privacy. No need to shout "Goodnight John Boy" here, if you whisper it the house next door will probably reply. There's no upstairs in these houses, no walls to the ceiling and no doors, but it is very homely. The Dutch have a good word to describe it, "Gezellig".
Good night John Boy, time to kip.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

On the move again.

16/6 - I packed last night, so only had to get up and go, well checkout too. I dried my towel in the drier and lobbed my backpack into a locker and hit the streets to find some breakfast fayre, fair or fare and if none of that some food. Bacon and eggs for the second day running, but cheaper and better. How does that work Grandad? Beats me, just enjoy it. Soon it will be noodles or rice again.
Had a quick e-fix and it was time to hit the road to the airport. $13 on the bus to the airport. $30 on the way in, so it's not just the Asians that try the rip off. Checked in and my bag should go all the way to HCMC on its own, with no intervention from me. We'll see. The Kiwis hit you with an unannounced $25 exit tax, a sneaky little move that one. Creditcards accepted. Airport security here and in Aus it tight. I got pulled up because I never put my plastic bag with my toothpaste and deodorant outside my bag. The security bloke was a real dour bugger. I think he would have put me infront of a firing squad for being so stupid. The bloke infront of me had to take the perfume prsents he'd bought, out of the packaging, put them in a clear plastic bag, then repack them once through security. "What's that all about Grandad?". Beats me darling! Through without being executed and chilling, but without a beer. That's becoming a bad habit.
On the plane on the first leg back to Vietnam. It's an hour late, but that's not a bad thing, I've a big wait in Brisbane. In Brisbane, but no boarding pass as yet and the transfer desk is shut. Everybody seems casual about it, there's a sign on the transfer desk for Thai Airways saying go to the gate an hour before boarding, but that's not a lot of use to me, I'm flying with Malaysia Air, but everyone seems to think that is the thing to do, so I had a toastie and a coffee and chilled, then chilled some more, then headed for the gate. The Malaysia Air bloke eventually turned up, so I went over. Guess what he said??? "Go to the transfer desk." I should have known really. The transfer desk wasn't fast, but she was smiley. She said "Ah Mr Brooks, where have you been?" In the bloody queue love!!. Sorted to HCM now and we're on the plane, all but one pillock, so their bags had to be offloaded, but we got away an hour and a bit late, for KL. I have a 3 hour wait there, so it is tighter than Brisbane, but should be no problem. I told myself not to watch any telly onboard and get some shut eye, so I watched a telly and got a bit of shut eye. There was an ignorant Hindu bloke sat next to me, but I didn't let him get to me, I just punched him in the mouth. As iffffffffffffff.
He handed his packet of peanuts to his wife, across the aisle, which I thought was very nice, until she handed them back after opening them for him. Tosser.
I must be tired, using pillock and tosser in the same post. Into KL and the longest leg is done, just a short hop now to HCMC.

Nothing much to report on a chill day.

15/6 - the legs are tiring a bit, so an easy day today, dhobi and a bit of ironing, a walk and a chill in a pub that brews its own beer and very nice it is too. Just like a home from home. The food was good too, but I suppose lamb should be in New Zealand. The banoffee pie was a bit disapointing, probably because I wanted the apple and pear crumble, but they did it with whipped cream, not custard. Morons. I could have stayed, but didn't trust myself to stagger home. The pub is called Galbraiths, just in case you visit Auckland, it is worth calling for a beer, there is a good selection, there looked to be plenty of wine too, but I never tried it or it would definitely have been a bad stagger home, as it was I strolled back for a read, a shave and a shower, but probably not in that order.
I told you it was an easy day. I surprised myself by sticking to a plan, well more of an ad-lib than a plan.