Hanoi, Vietnam
July 12th, 2010

I haven’t been blogging much lately because we haven’t been doing much lately. We’re sitting around in Hanoi trying to sell the bikes, which is proving more difficult than expected. In Saigon we met plenty of people who were planning to ride upcountry, and plenty of people selling Minsks, but in Hanoi supply and demand is flipped the other way around.

“Kristie said you talked to some French guys about the bikes last night,” I said this morning.

“One of them, yeah. He’s not interested in buying it, but he said he’d tell people and see if anyone was interested. So, yeah, it’s as good as nothing.”

 

We did go and get them serviced by a mechanic at Flamingo Travel, which set us back about half a million dong each. I’m not sure if I should have bothered, since it looks like I’m probably going to be selling it to a dealer for less than $200 US anyway. Chris is still holding out for $400. His bike is worth that much… just not here.

Our hotel is going to hold on to them for us while we go to Ha Long Bay over the next few days. We signed up for an organised tour. Normally we hate organised tours with a burning passion and avoid them wherever possible, but Ha Long Bay is not a place you can easily travel independently through, and we have the girls with us, and neither of us are really up for the hassles and difficulties of independent travel in Vietnam at this point. I may be beating a dead horse at this point, but Vietnam is truly a frustrating and unappealing country. And we’re not the only people who think that.

On the plus side, Hanoi is much nicer than Saigon. On the way up we met a lot of people who hated it, but none of them had been to Saigon yet. Hanoi boasts the Old Quarter, a compact cluster of old French colonial buildings with winding alleyways and narrow streets and lots of overhanging trees. It’s no Hoi An, but it’s a hell of a lot more pleasant that Saigon. Even in spite of the oppressive heat, it’s an interesting place to just walk around in.

 

This photo is somewhat unusual in that it has a car in it. Fuck ever driving a car in this city – let alone a truck or a bus. I think every four-wheeled driver in Hanoi only has a limited amount of time before he snaps and goes on a Grand Theft Auto rampage through the city, mowing down thousands of scooters.

We haven’t gone to see any sights or anything – we were going to go check out Ho Chi Minh’s pickled corpse, but it’s only open for three hours in the morning, and we’ve all slipped into a routine of sleeping very late. Actually, come too think of it, Kristie and I did go see the Temple of Literature on our second day here. It was a very unremarkable collection of buildings that rivalled Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion for a Things To See vs. Huge Swarms Of Tourists ratio.

Apart from that, our days here have consisted of going out to get lunch, coming back and lolling about in the air-con, going out to get dinner, and coming back to watch some god-awful movie on Cinemax or HBO. That suits me just fine. It beats spending an average of six hours a day at a mechanic’s.

 

And you know what, I’m going to get the jump on this before either Elisha or Kristie go “SCREEECH oh my god I look terrible in this photo delete it!!!” This is one of those common, ordinary things that happens all the time and which I’ve only just abruptly gotten sick of: women complaining about photos of themselves and thinking they look terrible. This happens literally 99% of the time, all over the world, whenever anyone takes a photo of a woman. You look fine. Sheesh.

We’re going to the cinema tonight to see Eclipse, since Elisha likes Twilight and the rest of us also like it but for completely different reasons. New Moon was the best comedy of 2009. I challenge anyone to watch that movie and see Edward Cullen get out of his car with a fan blowing his hair and shirt back, and awesome music playing, and not collapse onto the floor in huge heaving sobs of laughter. Then when we get back I have to pack all my stuff into my backpack for the first time in more than a month… which will be difficult.

“I’m really not looking forward to getting on a bus for three hours tomorrow,” Chris said over lunch today.

“I am,” I replied. After forty days with that wretched motorcycle, I really truly am looking forward to travelling by bus and boat and train again. Oh my, yes!

Oh, and one last unrelated note: I seem to have built up a reputation, more on Facebook than here, for being a complainer. This comes from people who clearly don’t understand what is interesting and what is not. Nobody wants to hear claptrap about somebody having a fantastic time on holiday – about going on an elephant ride that was SO AMAZING or seeing a waterfall that was SO BEAUTIFUL or about how the local culture is SO PURE COMPARED TO OUR COMMERCIAL CONSUMERISM. They want problems and hassles and hilarious misadventures. They want schadenfreude. One of the first rules about writing is that a story without conflict isn’t just a bad story – it’s not a story at all. Anybody who knows me knows that, despite my bitching and moaning, I’m not actually a pessimist. I’m usually complaining simply because I find it amusing and funny. (The same goes for Chris). So unless you want me to start posting dull status updates and writing boring blog entries about only the good things in my day, stop complaining about me complaining.

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