Leaving for the Peanut Sauce
When you opt out of taking a hotel for the night before your flight, and instead wander the streets, eating and drinking whatever you want, at your own leisure (and pleasure)... quite often there are consequences... and I always pay them. I got back to the airport around midnight and had a lovely sleep on a delightful little bench, clutching my new authentically knocked-off red Prada purse close to me... I went from sleeping in the airport to sleeping the entire flight from HCMC to Beijing. At this point, I really thought that I'd won the war. I had managed to keep myself up so long that the 21.5 in-transit was going to be handed to me like a piece of cake.
Trouble was though... it wasn't technically handed to me like a piece of cake... it was handed to me more in the form of... some Bleu cheese pizza.
No rest for the wicked and those who make foolish decisions before long flights are often punished. I was no exception to the rule. I don't think that I had been on the plane from Beijing to Vancouver a total of 10 minutes before it hit me.
The plane hadn't even moved, yet the seat belt signs were already on. Panic was setting in... and then I just ran. It was GO time. That's where it started... 3:30pm in Beijing until 10am in Vancouver.
Bathroom... pass out... nausea... bathroom... pass out... nausea...
On and on...
Nothing in life... nothing... nothing meant more to me during those crucial hours than my airplane vomit bag. Difficult to fathom, but I even passed up TWO Air China meals. Rice, to boot. I was Dierks Bentley... but instead of getting drunk on a plane, I was getting sick on a plane.
... "how do you like Bleu cheese pizza now, Joanna?"...
Once landing in Vancouver, I changed out of summer attire in to rain attire and hit the Canada Line to take me to Waterfront Station... where I planned to get something (not rice) in to my system to kill the bug that had spent the last 10 & 1/2 hours stripping years off my life.
I did eat... I guzzled water... and I even ordered a glass of wine. Regardless of the sleep I had/had not... I could not keep my eyes open... and there remained still 3 hours until my train departed for Mission. Undeniably a rare occurrence, I couldn't even finish my wine... I headed back out in to the drafty train station to pass out on my luggage. No one could stop me. Turns out someone could stop me. Picture me, passed out on a wooden bench, downtown Vancouver, Waterfront Station... suddenly there's a mall cop poking my arm, shining a flashlight in my eyes and asking, "Ma'am... are you OK? Can you hear me? Do you need medical attention?"
Yes... yes, I do need medical attention. And a bed pronto.
Guess you can't sleep in Waterfront Station. It's a rule I was not privy to... but then again, I'd never had occasion to find out on a first hand basis before. Shitty rule if you ask me.
As I sat up, groggily, I caught wind of the most overwhelming stench of urine. I was about to make a snide remark about how it was against the rules to sleep, but fine to urinate all over the place... when I looked around and realized that all the local bums had begun to congregate around my new bedroom. One of them was even so bold as to ask me for money.
All I had was dong... and dong don't buy no drugs here...
...unless, of course, you derive another meaning from that sentence...
I would now like to take this opportunity to write down all the things that I take away from Vietnam. I remember meeting Blaire at the Vancouver Airport and I asked him, "What will be the one big thing that I'll take away from my visit to Vietnam? He pondered the question momentarily and then replied,
"You'll be thankful you don't live there..."
1. Download all city maps to your phone. This will save oodles of time. Especially if you depend on WiFi. Much easier than walking backwards and forwards, trying desperately to figure out where you are on the tourist map your hotel gave you. Glad that I discovered this little trick on November 20th...
2. Pedestrians have no rights. Cars, buses, and motorbikes TAKE the right-of-way, regardless of it they deserve it. Never assume vehicles will stop for you. You need to become one with the road if you ever want to cross.
3. Don’t let your guard down on sidewalks. They’re actually overflow lanes for when traffic gets bad... bringing us right back to pedestrians have no rights! And don't forget they're also moped parking lots...
4. The Vietnam War is the American War. You would assume there would be a certain level of animosity for the Americans, but surprisingly, there isn’t any. Despite all the destruction, people killed and marred, historical monuments destroyed… they really do embrace the American culture. Surreal.
5. Canada's Occupational Health and Safety program is actually not too bad. Bamboo ladders, flip-flops in construction sites, welders shielding their eyes with their hands, scaffolding held together by twine, electrical wires in hideous bundles, sliding down slippery rock with bike helmets on...
6. Learn some Vietnamese. I didn't and it sucked. I still managed to get by... but I should have made more of an effort. The Vietnamese are so willing to help and they really appreciate any effort you put in to speaking their language, while at the same time, take every opportunity to try and practice their English. I showed up in their country, not knowing a word of their language… and leave knowing how to say “Thank you”… and that’s even questionable. I might actually be saying “Shut Up.”
Cam- iun is Shut up. Câm miệng Cam -un is Thank you. Cảm ơn
Nerve racking similarity... if you ask me...
Take sunscreen... wherever you go! The sun is NOT your friend.
Bring extra luggage.
Shopping will overpower you.
Keep your eyes on your bathing suits.
Get a massage every day... so cheap.
Rent a moped... just for the experience. (see below #5 under Do Not)
Eat the street food.
Banh Mi is the best sandwich you'll ever have.
Drink Vietnamese coffee.
Bring toilet paper everywhere you go. And baby wipes! And then bring more toilet paper. You will NOT regret this decision.
Bring Ziploc bags. Someone suggested this to me and I could not have lived without them.
Negotiate everything - from taxi prices to purchasing a silk kimono!! If you think it's too much to pay... walk away! They will follow you and make it cheaper.
Read all the small print on the Vietnam Visa requirements before you enter the country.
Bring two passport size photos of your dumb face.
Try the Vang Dalat.
Don't over pack.
Don't lose sight of your bathing suits.
Don't take the train... as much as you love the idea of a soft seat and as romantic as it sounds. It's cramped, outdated and slow.
Don't accept plastic bags if you don't need them.
Don't rent a moped... you will probably die... and when you do, insurance won't cover you.
Don't expect peanut sauce.
Don't be suckered in to staying at crap hotels because they're cheap. Spend the extra $5. Go for the good pillows.
Don't drink the Vang Dalat.
Don't drink the rice wine... or the corn wine...
Don't eat a Bleu cheese pizza before your flight.
GET USED TO;
The horking. It's everywhere. Men and woman and children. All day long. Everywhere you go. Horking up their phlegm. It's a thing.
A family of 5 on a moped.
Kids without helmets.
Rickshaws following you everywhere trying to entice you to take a ride.
The trash... it's everywhere.
The horn. The soundtrack to Vietnam.
The Vietnamese are lovely people, apart from coughing up mucus and the occasional pushy Patty. Most of the people that I encountered were courteous, obliging and overly accommodating. I really do think that some people I know could benefit by ripping a page out from their hospitably book. As for the dishonest few, the ones that manage to cheat the tourists, I guess I have to let that go and chalk it up to experience, I rest assured knowing that the $30 they striped off of me isn’t going to lead them to a life of integrity… and one day, their criminal ways will catch up with them.
Karma’s a bitch.
Ironically I named this blog "Here for the Peanut Sauce," but somehow it just doesn't seem fitting anymore because I barely found any peanut sauce in the entire country! I had planned to eat my weight in peanut sauce daily... not rice.
The disappointment is real. Figuratively speaking now, I'm leaving for the peanut sauce... Oh... and in case anyone is wondering, I did end up bringing my shit smelling shoes home with me… for the sole purpose of not freezing in Vancouver.
They still smell... they are going in the garbage... and if anyone is looking to get me a "welcome home" present, I'll be accepting gift certificates to Shoe Warehouse all week... Thanks for reading!