Day 21: Lactating Ringer’s

I’m in Hue and I’m back on form.

Being too sick to explore Nha Trang was the low point of my trip. In fact, the whole sicklikedeath thing kinda threw me off-kilter for a while there. If it wasn’t for Ross Kemp’s understanding smile/grimace, I’d’ve been on a plane back home before you could say “Where’s Phil?”. But it wasn’t all bad – it meant I got to do a bit of outside-the-box Hospital tourism.

I wasn’t dying or anything, I promise. They shot me up with mystery drugs and an IV, and laid me up on a bed next to an enormous Russian. The IV bag was labelled “Lactated Ringer’s”. LACTATED?!?! I dread to think. So now I’ve 3 puncture wounds in my right armwristhand and am on enough different types of drugs to irradiate a primary school. They didn’t even ask me if I’m allergic to anything. I’m not, but still: it’s a concern. Doctors DO know best right?

When I finally did an OUTSIDE in Nha Trang, I discovered that the beach was about a 3 minute walk from the door of my guesthouse. So I wandered down, lay in the shade, chilled out. Saw a guy being pulled out of the ocean, having CPR, being taken away in an ambulance. Just the everyday stuff, y’know.

I left that night. A monstrosity of a sleeper coach (coffin-like bunks, garish disco lighting) took me from Nha Trang to Hoi An in a cool 11 hours. No toilet on board but we made a quick pit-stop for an al fresco wee, and later the Vietnamese woman a few rows back had an extended and noisy vomiting fit. I doused myself with tiger balm to counteract the smell, tried to ignore the precarious swaying of the coach, and went to sleep. As uncomfortable as it was, there’s something a bit brilliant about dropping off knowing you’ll be speeding your way through the darkness while you sleep, and something even more brilliant about waking up to find yourself in a different city than before. You don’t get the same sense of movement, of things changing, when you travel by aeroplane. It’s a loss.

So I woke up in historic Hoi An, UNESCO World Heritage site and all-round Ye Olde Worlde charmer. Famous for making lanterns, appazza, and tailoring. The Japanese built a well good covered bridge in the Old Town. It’s got old museums and new restaurants, alleyways stuffed with souviner shops, a beautiful Chinese Assembly Hall, and is chock-full of all this French Colonial Architecture that people seem to like. I can see why – it’s all quaint and charming, and harks back to a time when everyone was polite, the weather was always fine, and baguette bushes lined the railways. I did some sightseeing and some photographing (everything was so picturesque!) bought some clothes, sent some postcards, ate. Can’t tell you how amazing it felt to EAT REAL FOOD again! Yeah, I felt a bit sick for a while afterwards but only a BIT sick – nothing that a good ice cream couldn’t cure.

As beautiful as it was, I woke up the morning after I’d arrived and decided to leave. I felt healthy for the first time in bloody ages and had the itch to get going, no more hanging around, engines to warp speed. So I went for breakfast (banana pancake and hot ginger tea) and headed off.

CH2: Goes on public transport, has a Moment

Getting from one place to the next has, so far, consumed the most amount of time. It’s not just the actual travelling but the planning of the actual travelling. When you’re tight on time like I am, the first thing you do when you get to a new place is to start thinking about how you’ll leave. And because the route is pretty well-used, and because it’s usually quicker and more convenient, you find yourself going with bus tour companies more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with the bus companies, obvs, but tell ya what, there’s a helluva lot to be said for the out-and-out ADVENTURE that is negotiating your way around via public transport.

First up, you have to find the bus station or train station. The angry guesthouse girl gave me directions that didn’t lead anywhere. I approached a guy in a shop to see if he could direct me but he eyed me for a second, then shook his head and said “No bus station”, then wouldn’t look at me again. I had more luck at the phone shop: the girl tried to give me directions but I couldn’t understand. Then a French woman came in, the girl explained in French and the French woman explained to me in English. Adventuresome.

Just outside the bus station I’m stopped by two Brazilians – that sounds like the start of a shit joke – who wanted confirmation they were in Hoi An. Yes, am I at the bus station for Danang? Yes. There’s someone shouting but I don’t pay any attention – people are CONSTANTLY shouting at you over here, mostly because they want to sell you stuff. As I go into the bus station, the shouting gets louder. I finally realise that there’s a woman hanging off the back of a bus, shouting directly at me and giving me the old palm-down wave. Humans, I believe I have found my transportation. I run to the bus, am practically thrown on by a guy whose job it is to stand at the back door and throw people onto the bus (and help them off, let’s not lie). First leg: done. I sit back and enjoy it.

As we come into Danang, the waving woman comes to the back of the bus and shoves a map under my nose. I point at the train station, as that’s where I’m headed. A few minutes later, I’m unceremoniously dumped on the side of a busy road with my bag. The bus speeds away, Waving Woman gesticulating vaguely in my direction. I walk to the nearest crossroads to get the street names and – lo and behold! – I’m just down the road from the station. I head on.

At the station a toothless, grinning tuktuk driver tells me that the next train isn’t for two hours. I go to the ticket window to get my ticket – no queuing, everyone just kinda calls out what they want from the teller and she sorts it. Turns out, my train is IN the station, about to leave. Could my timing be any better? I quickly pay, grab my ticket and trot across the tracks to the metal BEHEMOTH that’s waiting. This thing is ENORMOUS, the biggest train I’ve ever seen in real life. I almost can’t haul myself up into the carriage.

The train journey is spectacular. Mountains and jungle and wide bays and beaches and rice paddies and tiny shacks and little towns. The train makes the most incredible noise as it goes, clattering and clunking and groaning along the tracks. The window by my seat doesn’t open so I go out into the walkway and open the windows on the doors, one on each side, and try to take photos that reflect how stunning the scenery is. I fail, obvs, but I don’t mind. Got the wind in my hair (air con, schmair con) and the world rolling by. All is good.

Next thing you know, I’m here. I find my way into town easily, my first-choice guesthouse practically throws itself on my lap, and then I get a room upgrade because there are ants in my bed. SHUDDER.

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Hope you’re enjoying the snow, UK-dwellers!

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Day 17: The Bristol 7s

The fish in Phnom Pehn feels like lifetimes ago. I’ve remained classy. You can tell I’ve remained classy because I’ve had the shits for 3 days straight – we’re talking a 7 on the Bristol Scale. Not kidding. You’re welcome. But not only that. Also because I’ve got mozzie bites in unspeakable places, because the sunburn on my legs looks like a map of a haphazard archipelago, and because I bought a bad taste wolf tshirt on purpose for lolz. My legs are unshaven, my clothes are filthy, and I smell slightly gone off. I wear a fanny pack every day and not even ironically. Total mess. Bloody love it.

The following has happened: Laura went south to the Cambodian beaches; I headed East and crossed the boarder into Vietnam. In Saigon I stayed in a dodgy guesthouse with ants on the walls, bars on the windows and stains on the curtains, all for the knockdown price of $10, buy today, offer ends midnight. At night they pull a huge metal gate across the front of the building and lock it with an enormous padlock. Terrifying. At first I thought I was the only one there and that I was definitely going to get murdered, but I awoke the first morning to hear the father of the family who owns the guesthouse giving his daughter French lessons, which made it OK. People deffo don’t die in places where dads give their kids French lessons. It’s just science.

Saigon. Sounds so exotic. Or warsome. Bit of both. I wasn’t really there long enough to form an option. It’s a city. They have ALL motorbikes. They have street vendors. They have a cool indoor market that sells All Of The Things, including coffee made from beans that have been picked out of weasel shit. Nic and Rob, if you’re reading this, expect some through the post in the next month or so. I have no idea how the postal system works here. I’m carrying a bag-load of postcards but haven’t seen a single post-place. I should get on that.

As well as weasel-shit coffee, Saigon also has non-weasel Vietnamese drip coffee (totally delicious – iced, of course), road signs and traffic police (unlike Phnom Phen), a presidential palace (so dull I left the tour after 5 minutes, fuck the entrance fee), and a War Remnants museum that’s easily worth triple what you pay to get in.

In Saigon I had my first pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) with chicken – maybe the most delicious thing I’ve eaten so far – but I also ate mystery-fish pho, which resulted in the old Bristol 7s, stomach cramps, and a complete aversion to all foods, possibly forever. Ups and downs.

From Saigon I caught a coach north to Mui Ne. Beach town. Lots of Russians. 6 hours on a coach with the shits but no toilet. Pretty wild. HOWEVER, not only did I manage to NOT soil myself, I buddied up off the coach with a friendly giant, found a guesthouse with a pool for $10 a night, went to a beach with creamy sand and lined with palms, and swam in the warm green waters of the South China sea. Tough gig. Except that then I felt even worse so went back “home” and slept for 15 hrs straight.

Tonight (it’s 22:15 here) I’m in Nha Trang, massive beach city 5 hrs north of Mui Ne. Yesterday I spent hours by the pool, then had a walk by the sea, then went to watch the friendly giant eat crocodile. Tasted a bit. SRSLY YUMZA! Like meaty tuna steak. Was filled with jealousy. Also on offer in tanks along the ocean road – all live! – were fish, lobsters, MASSIVE shrimp, crabs, frogs, eels, turtles and A PYTHON. I really wanted lobster but was too much death.

I’m too sick to explore Nha Trang so am under a sheet in an air-con room thinking about the one dollar kid in Angkor and grinning to myself.

Kid (with a massive grin the whole way through): “Hey laydeeeeeee! You buy flute? One dollar.”
Me: “No thanks”
Kid: “Want water? One dollar.”
Me: “No, I’ve got water thanks”
Kid: “Postcard? Ten only one dollar”
Me: “Just bought postcards, thanks. I don’t need anything.”
Kid: “Nothing?”
Me: “Yeah.”
Kid: “Want nothing, one dollar.”

LOLZ.

Oh, here’s a photo of (among other things) the item I’m most glad I brought travelling – a bad taste Ross Kemp pillowcase

ROSS KEMP PROS
– Flat-pack travel companion
– Do an actual out-loud chuckle every time I look at it
– Convenient for separating and transporting dirty washing
– Protects head from minging guesthouse pillows
– The bestworst of ALL the shitbutbrilliant things
– Can be the first in a long line of shitbutbrilliant pillow cases

ROSS KEMP CONS
– There are literally no cons to owning a Ross Kemp pillowcase

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