19 October 2013

Vietnam, Part 3: Boat to Bike to Train . . .

The next morning I was up early and packing. I wanted to make sure that I was able to catch the sunrise one last time. (Please bare with me geeking out over this entire experience . . . I remember taking the same pictures over and over and over again of the water in Boracay. And now I'm doing the same thing here with the limestone peaks: the water and the peaks change color based on the sun. I can't miss a moment!)

And I was super conscious of being properly hydrated with a full belly before I started back to biking. Properly hydrated: panicking because I had wine with dinner. Water, water, water!

Before breakfast, we took the small boat out to a cove that housed monkeys. While we saw a bunch of trees shaking from the monkeys jumping around--and we most definitely could hear them--we didn't see any. Not like in Singapore, where they just walk right up to you.

After breakfast, before we headed back to shore, I went to pay my drink bill and found out that my cards had been shut down on the Singapore end of things. The worst part about this? I couldn't even get a signal from the ship to call out! Ahhh to have no access to money and out to sea! Lesson learned. From here on out it's cash, cash, cash, cash, cash. 

Because we were going to be continuing our bike trip for the full day, out in the Vietnam countryside, I had no way of handling the monetary issue until I was back at the hotel in Hanoi. So I put it in the back of my mind and enjoyed our day of riding ahead.

After several botched attempts at finding trails to ride (due to construction), we found a beautiful little village to spend the day in. It was like being in Tuscany or France. Absolutely picturesque. So, so lovely! It barely does me justice to describe this town in words, and I'm not sure if even the pictures can really visually describe what we saw . . . But stunning seems to be the only word that comes to mind. The best part? It was a town rooted in clay businesses. So--as you can expect--I was in heaven.

When we finished our ride, we were completely exhausted. Tired of riding, talking, everything. It was an amazing three days and it was time to say our goodbyes. We piled back into the van and drove back into Hanoi.

We dropped off Jeff first and then me. I had to catch a train down to Hue at 11pm. But I was still penniless. To make a long story short, my guide Tony stayed with me until my finances were settled. We had dinner together. He took me to his travel agent's office to get the train tickets and another person's hotel to finally get some cash.

But it was a super-sticky situation. At one point, one of the people we met suggested that the travel agent take my iPhone in exchange for the train tickets since I was holding them and hadn't paid for them yet (this was before I took out the cash). All while he was calling me aunty--which sent me over the edge. Seriously shady. I told him he was a cheat and that I didn't like him at all. He just smiled. Then I turned to Tony and started in on him, and asked if was he trying to get me killed. It was weird. The whole experience felt like I was in an asian gangster film. There I was--this ang mo chick--being drug all over town with all of my luggage, unshowered and exhausted, deep into Vietnamese-only speaking areas trying to figure out what was going on . . . Like I said before: if you aren't living on the edge of death in Asia, you are doing something wrong.

Thankfully everything turned out okay. Tony got me to the train station. We hugged. I got on the train and found my bunk, turned around and Tony was there again to make sure I had gotten on the right train car and found the right bunk. Yes, yes, yes. Everything is fine. It's 1030pm, I'm dirty and about to sit in my own filth for the next 12 hours. All's good. He left, I met the three people I was sharing my cabin with, and then we all fell asleep. Peacefully rockin' away as the train pulled out of the station in Hanoi. More soon . . . 

Wanna read Vietnam, parts 1 and 2? Check them out here and here. Enjoy!

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