Vietnam closes at about ten, which was a bit of a disappointment.
For the love of god, I just wanted a few beers! Is it too much to ask?
Yesterday evening we ate near to where we’re stopping, about a ten minute walk from the expensive tourist bit, it’s much much cheaper.
A lovely little lady came to take our order and I started messing around and teasing her.
It’s the best way to get talking and it also helps to joke around when you’ve been dragged into a market place to look at some stall lady’s trinkets – ooh er madam.
I apologized later to Nel for playing up to stereotypes but I told the lady that Nel had spent all our money and I can’t carry any more stuff, and then mimed trying to walk and making out the bag is heavier than it was. Actually Nel plays up to it too, she says I won’t let her spend any more money.
It’s crass and I don’t like to do it, I mean, back home I’d just say no and not need to make any excuses, but here it helps. The lady will literally carry on taking stuff down from the top rail with a hook on the end of a pole until you either walk away rudely or until you’ve convinced her you ain’t going to buy anything. One moment she’s really really doing her psychology degree best to sell, then when it dawns you’re not going to buy, she loses interest immediately and she’s craning her head around you to look for someone else.
They really do pray on you psychologically an all, they’re very accomplished salesmen. When you say that you’re not interested in buying a dragonfly, for instance, they will proceed to delve deep into their bag to find other novelty items that you’re not at all interested in and it will take five or six refusals to convince them that you honestly, really don’t want to buy the thing with a light in that you fire into the air at night, lovely as they are.
I need a pair of shoes, but going into a shoe shop is an experience you need to set yourself up for with a hearty breakfast.
Come in come in look.
As yet I’ve not seen one person wearing shoes made of several brightly different coloured leathers, and yet every shop sells them. Too garish for me even and I have been known to be wreckless when it comes to clothes and keeping your dignity.
Many of the shoes that they sell are second hand, the red Roman sandals that Nel looked at were, and when she noticed, the lady said she’d make her a pair, come back six tonight. 350 dongs, about seventeen dollars, eleven quid maybe. And no we didn’t quibble, or haggle as some people call it, no, she said twenty five dollars at first, and Nel said no, and then she came down to seventeen, and that ain’t bad for a pair of handmade Roman sandals in red leather.
The lady drew round Nel’s foot, noted the enormous size and asked for twenty five again.
She measured around her foot, and took the width and said to go back at six.
I have to say I had my doubts about whether they were going to be hand made or whether she’d just nip down the road to buy a pair for ten dollars or less but when we went back at six the straps were too loose. She said ok, tomorrow morning and marked how much of the strap needed to be taken off with a biro.
And so this morning we went to pick up a new pair of handmade Roman sandals, in red leather. And you don’t get that in Pewsley.
She also said she’d make me a pair of trainers and embroider our names on them, and after we’d stopped laughing at that, I thought maybe embroider left and right on them. Only, and here’s the clever bit, see – put left on the right one, and right on the left one. That way they’d be thief proof. I’m brilliant, I am.
Another beautiful Hoi An street
The young lady in the restaurant was soooo sweet. She asked us where we’re from, which is the first psychological move they usually make, to establish a personal contact. But we were buying dinner there so she didn’t need to sell and that was ok.
She said west rich. You can’t really argue with that, although we explained that a few people are rich and many people arent. Same same, we agreed.
We told her we don’t have jobs when we go back, and about where we live, and that we don’t have running water or electric, and she was wide eyed in disbelief that some westerners don’t live in big houses.
What wrenched though was when she told us her friends laugh at her because she’s poor and she only has two friends who don’t, just two real friends.
Her name was Chu, or something. Like Chup, only without the p, and she was so so lovely.
She comes from the mountains near Dak Lak, we marked it on our map and said we could tell people we’d met someone from there. Her mother called her Chu because she was so small when she was born, like a little chicken and chu is the noise a chicken makes.
Talking of chicken, they didn’t have any so I had beef. Shortly afterwards a bloke went out on a bike and came back with a chicken in his hand, which perched on the back of a chair and crowed proudly. Today chicken was back on the menu.
Chu didn’t believe us when we said that she speaks good English. She’d learned from coming to the town to work and meeting tourists and I think that’s brilliant, especially when the Vietnam alphabet, although it uses Roman letters, has different inflections, crossed Đ’s like that one and accents all over the place. Most words start with Ng, which is a Y sound.
She also told us that she dreams of being able to buy food when she’s hungry, and when we left, we gave her ten thousand dongs by mistake. I meant to give her a hundred thousand to buy something for herself, and I gave her half a dollar.
I really felt like a Trat when I realised but we’ll go there for breakfast tomorrow and do it right.
The little girl at the bridge was brilliant too, she spoke very good English and tried to sell us a thing with a light in that you fire into the sky at night.
She told Nel she has Vietnamee body, tiny like Vietnamee. We spoke with her a while and she said goodbye tall man, goodbye tiny lady. She was so cool and streetwise and smiley. You really can’t not like these people. There’s the hard sell and there’s a bit of nastiness like the woman who wanted money but generally the people we’ve spoken with properly are really sweet.
Really really sweet.
So last night we found a bar that was open after ten. How my heart sang and soared like an eagle.
In the bar were just another two westerners so we struck up conversation. They were from Czech Republic and they were shocked when I asked how things are since Vaclav Havel died and told them I thought he was cool.
He used to sign official state papers and put a heart on it. That’s cool.
Their shock was gobsmacked when I mentioned the Plastic People.
Vaclav Havel was a playwright see, a dissident at the time before the Velvet Revolution and then became President and the band The Plastic People were a part of the movement. They used to play secret gigs where you’d be notified of the location hours before by phone, and then the police would beat everyone up and put the band in jail again. They did that lots.
We spent many hours drinking very reasonably priced Tiger bia and got back at two and, a bit embarrassed we had to wake up the staff by rattling on the gates. Oops, but they do go to bye byes really really early.
Hello? Hello? Rattle Rattle.
Poor bloke was asleep in reception on a camp bed.
A Morning Glory plantation. They eat it a lot. They like fish very much too
We were a little bit late getting up this morning, but that’s ok, the first time we’d done it for ages and the Czechs were good company. More people we’ve said we’d keep in touch with.
Again we parted from strangers with big hugs and handshakes. Matty and Rrrrenata.
Breakfast and coffee near our place again and then down to the river where I drank ginger jasmine tea. They chop a half ounce of ginger and chuck it in til it’s burn your throat gingery gingery hot. Lovely.
There are many boats down by the river, where men stand to attempt to persuade you to go on a trip down the river.
We thought that would be a good way to pass a couple of hours, down the river Hoi, and it was, lots of pictures of Ibis and boats and fisher folk, who bought their boat right close and then asked for a dollar for their picture.
I didn’t have a dollar to give him and I wasn’t going to give him half a million, he was ok when I explained, and I asked the boatman to not do that again cos we had no dollars left. He laughed. His name was Tam and he laughed a lot and steered with his feet.
He was really interested when I showed him a picture of our boat. Like I say, really sweet. But we paid him ten dollars, he was happy.
A fisherman fishing, for fish. They like fish very much
Tonight I have malaria. Nel says it’s a bit of a cold but it’s not, it’s malaria. Not really bad malaria, quite mild really.
We did get quite worried yesterday, late in the afternoon I had a headache and an hour later I had a fever that just got worse and worse.
Didn’t sleep that night and lay wondering if you can buy malaria drugs over the counter or whether I’d need to get a doctor in.
At six in the morning I was close to death, probably, wondering if I could carry my rucksack, comforted by the knowledge that repatriation of my corpse is covered by our travel insurance so Nel would be able to go to Hanoi without having to carry me with her. She was very much comforted by this too.
When I woke at about midday I was feeling much much better and after a hearty breakfast was fine.
Not even malaria stops me.
A fishing contraption, for catching fish with. They like to eat fish very much in Vietnam.