Monday, 7 November 2016

Rattle and snore III (Quy Nhon by day train and too many trains of thought)

I check out before 11 because I want to be at the train station no later than 11:20. The next train is not scheduled to depart until 11:40 and the train will most likely be at least one hour late, BUT I don't have a train ticket yet.  Another first for me that is in Vietnam, taking a taxi to a train station without a ticket.
Beach souvenirs
Since today will be a tiny bit of an adventure (no ticket yet, and I have no idea how to get from the train station in Dieu Tri to the 30 km away Quy Nhon), I have planned in a two nights stay in a hotel right at the beach with balcony and ocean view. This will give me time to veg out and shake the train blues.

11 a.m.

The taxi has to take me over the Dragon Bridge to the train station because for some reason the more direct bridge now is only open in one direction.

 At least I get to see the bridge again ;-)

11:15 a.m. Getting the ticket for the next train South was easier than finding the machine that hands out the little pieces of paper with the numbers on them.  An actual improvement, since I remember that at train stations and post offices people would just go straight for the next teller without any sense of queuing or who was there first.  Kind of like the traffic in Ha Noi !   Not bad if you're used to it, but a horrible nightmare if you've never ever seen anything like it.

For 334,000 VND (CAD $20) I have a ticket for a berth in a 4-berth compartment for the 6 hour journey to Dieu Tri. Since I already noticed myself nodding off in the taxi, the berth will come in handy. And what's even better:  Nominally the next train (11:40) takes 6 hours to reach the destination compared to 5 1/4 hours on the train after that(13:10).  

German Engineering. GUESS which nation built the NON-FUNCTIONING display software ?  (AND included GERMAN messages in a product for a VIETNAMESE client LOL) 
However, a HAND-written chalk display board (The Vietnamese know how to help themselves ;-) informs me that my train is actually on time and will leave in 20 minutes (I hope), whereas the faster train is not even expected to arrive until 2 pm the earliest.  That went well.   And it's a reminder that flying by the seat of one's pants often provides the best results ;-)  (Famous last words !!!)

Train rations: about 8 inches across

The train ends up being 20 minutes late after all, but it's departure will be delayed even more because of trouble loading all those middle-aged overweight Western passengers that all seem to carry a private refrigerator in their luggage. 

Then I hear someone with a Viet accent explain to travelers in English that the locomotive's tender has to be exchanged.  Tender?  Coal shoveling?  Maybe they carry their Diesel fuel in tender bunkers? Ah well, I'm not in a rush.  

Scheduled departure was 11:41 and when the train hasn't moved an inch by 12:27 I am actually considering opening one of my bottles of wine.  I know I'm whining. This is by far not as bad as sitting in a plane with the doors closed and some sleazy steward telling you every 20 minutes "We're ALMOST ready to take off now" for 11 solid hours, as happened to that plane trying to take off from one of the Arab Emirates.  In contrast to those poor tortured souls, I can go for a cigarette break anytime I want to, which is exactly what I'm going to do RIGHT NOW !

HA! Can't trust those voices in the corridor either ;-)  There are about 10 Vietnamese rail workers crouching next to one of the wheels of the third or fourth carriage. I guess all those guys walking along the train with their little hammers has found something when he hit THAT axle bearing.   The Vietnamese are actually REALLY GOOD at fixing things, so I have great hopes that I will be able to post this post at some point tomorrow so that the last thing my friends and family hear from me will NOT be some minor news item about some train derailing in Vietnam.  

It's not as bad as it seems.   All the Germans with their carry along refrigerators (in their luggage) and beer kegs (under their shirts) are concentrated in a few compartments at the OTHER end of the carriage, while I have my 4-berth compartment all to myself. In addition, we're still sitting at the station, so that I can listen to Nils Frahm on YouTube using the station Wifi as loud as I want ;-)

OMG, something is happening! It is 12:43 pm and the train is moving ! Backwards !  Have they finally decided to ditch the affected carriage?   No idea, but the train is definitely moving in the direction that it has come from, which is NORTH. I'm about to lose my WIFI connection !  Are these trains even designed to move backwards ???   Am I on the right train even?  No one ever checked my ticket! 

Then the realization hits me that if I had to chose a member of ONE nation to carry out an impromptu patch job on a mechanical thing, I actually would pick the Vietnamese mechanic, because they can fix everything and they can even do it without the proper tools.   I trust them so much that I decide to have a nap.

1:30 pm. I wake up from my nap. The train is NOT moving. WHERE are we?  I quickly get my cell phone out and the GPS informs me that we DID move South and are just to the left of Hoi An, the ancient town that is one of only about 100 sites of World Heritage List. So we've managed to travel about 40 km in two hours. We're letting an opposing train pass and then the train starts moving again. South !

Crossing an incredibly WIDE river

The sun is sinking:  Shadow of a train !

NO, I NEVER get tired of the sky reflected in rice paddies before a mountain background ;-)

3:30 pm. I just woke up again and on Google Maps it looks like we have reached the halfway-point, Quang Ngai.  Yes, I can feel it now; I have taken too many trains in the last few days.

Has anyone else noticed that the chose-your-Start-Up-Screen feature in Windows 10 is hopelessly buggered up (among many other 'features' ?  You tell them that you like one and they promptly change it ! Sometimes you can't even give your opinion, like just the time when I logged in now and was staring at a picture of what could ONLY be Vietnamese rice patties with the sky reflecting in them in front of mountains ;-)  I KID YOU NOT !!! (Of course, Windows 10 screen capture does NOT work for the login screen, LOL)

I just came in from a smoke after the hub-bub of letting passengers in and out at Quang Ngai.  The smoking area is at both ends of the carriages, so there is always 2 very close together.  I didn't use the one at the end of my carriage but walked over the carriage joint into the next one because they hadn't closed the door yet and the train was rocking quite significantly. German Blogger MISSING in Vietnam. Confidential sources blame an open train door.  Unconfirmed reports of Western Spies jumping out of moving trains. Provincial officials report that rice farmers have reported finding giant footsteps in their rice paddies. 

Wow. And I haven't even opened that first bottle yet.

The outside is changing.  It looks more rural.  More of those conical rice hats. More water buffaloes. I've trained it through these parts in February when returning to Da Nang from Nha Trang but I slept through quite a lot of the journey then.  I catch myself looking out the window and not even noticing the outrageous views of rice farmers, of palm trees, of strangely shaped houses, of wide shallow rivers, of Vietnamese cemeteries anymore. This place just feels SO RIGHT and normal to me. It's those moments I have to shake myself, tell myself that I'll be back in the cold Gray again in two weeks, and to force myself to SOAK it up as much as possible trough any sense possible.
5 pm.   A Station stop that is not even on the map.  I get a companion in my compartment, a probably around 55 year old woman. The language barrier is insurmountable. 

I keep staring out the window.  Everything looks so peaceful here.Instead of driving fancy cars to some office to work all day for The Man, most people here in the country spend their time all day in the fields with their families, dogs, and life-stock  Baby water buffaloes are the cutest things !  Strange that it was a place and people like this that the US set ablaze with Napalm and bombed the shit out of.  Victims of the herbicide Agent Orange still suffer to this day.

5:15 pm.The time when the clouds in the sky turn from white to pink to grey.  I'll be arriving in Dieu Tri in the dark and the taxi ride into Quy Nhon will be going through the pitch dark country side (NOT).

Ga Dieu Tri
When I exit the train station in Dieu Tri, there are about 10 taxi drivers waving and trying to get a fare. All of them have been waiting for quite a while.  Given the effort they put in, they don't make much just waiting, and could really benefit from a passenger.  There doesn't seem to be any order to the chaos (i.e. a set sequence of who gets a fare next). I walk right twoards the one in the middle and he takes me to his taxi.  He also happened to be the tallest and strongest of the bunch; is that how he ended up in the middle?  Another resolution:  Next time I'll wait and watch the drama unfold; then I will pick the runt of the bunch ;-)
NO, NONE of the two cars will back up.  Everyone waits for the bike owner to move his bike, LOL !

 At first I am not exited about Dieu Tri and Quy Nhon, which is 12 km from the train station at the ocean.   But then I wasn't excited about Da Nang last night ! 

   But this area is missing that lovely serene calmness that I started to appreciate in Dong Hoi.  The main roads of Quy Nhon seem more like a Nha Trang without Russians (I still haven't finished the post about my stay in Nha Trang in February. But I'm working on it !!!).

In how many places can you find a Hammer & Sickle on display these days ? ;-)
 The hotel is a bit of a disappointment too. Having to ask for a water kettle after you have rented the 'suite' is just plain annoying.  The internet not working properly is just a NO-NO ! Luke-warm water with low water pressure? Oh, come on ! (NOT Cam On) But it's a big hotel and it's employees looking after all the little details. Not like Geminai in Dong Hoi, where it was the family that ran the hotel that made sure everything was tip-top.
The inside of the elevator: I just couldn't help it, even though I don't actually mind the dusty windows. 
I walk down to the lobby. One unlucky guy who does not speak ANY English is at the reception.  I say something, he gives me that adorable smile the Vietnamese give when they don't understand a single word.  He calls someone.   By pointing at my watch I figure out that the other person will be here within five minutes.  He arrives even earlier. And his English is barely better than that of the first guy.  You can't be angry with most of these kids (NONE of them is older than 30) !   I tell him my problem and he says :"Fix Wifi".   I go to eat.
Yes, these ARE low-hanging clouds
I wander along the promenade and see the usual range of restaurants. The good thing: I don't see a SINGLE tourist in any of them.   I pick the one that is well populated by middle aged (i.e. 30 to 35) Vietnamese and not the hot new kids on the block that want to show off.   
Now this is a show-off restaurant ! LOL, I am not here.

And looking at the menu, I know I made the right choice. I'm in for a treat.  I ordered Grilled Eel !  I'm kinda losing my appetite when I hear banging from the back of the restaurant though.  What happens in Chinese stores in Vancouver if you buy eel is that they reach into a bucket containing the live eel, grab one, and then slap its head hard on the counter until it is in the Eternal Wiggling Grounds of the Eels.  The sound does not repeat so I'm pretty sure I just listened  to my dinner being murdered.

The Bia Sai Gon tastes yummily fresh after all the ruou vang do I have been consuming lately.

The neighbouring table has three 'middle-aged' Vietnamese at it and one of them already had inquired where I'm from.   I had to look questioningly 3 times when he asked the "e R you fooo?"question. I should know better by now.   He just approached my table with his beer mug extended and fortunately I did not have a Vulcan moment then, but grabbed my beer mug and forcefully made it collide with his ;-)  This reminds me so much of everyone in rural French cafes shaking everyone else's hand when they enter.  But at least in France I have a tiny chance of communicating with people. Not here ;-(

My suspicion about the death-noises of the eel are confirmed when I am served a 'small portion' (which I had asked for using Google Translate) of a rather large eel (judging by its thickness). My grandfather JJ really liked his eel in his youth (unfortunately for him he married a woman that disliked fish & snakes ;-), and in a very strange way I'm saying Hi to him while devouring this very recently deceased specimen of that species.

More of that strange slapping from the kitchen. Is someone else eating eel?  It's one of about 6 specialties of this place judging by the size of the pictures on the menu ;-)  

Whoooo. The veggie leaves that arrived with the dish are PUNGENT, NO more! What I have started to appreciate about Viet seafood restaurants is the red pepper/salt dipping tray that comes with any dish.  The best one of those I ever had was the one at Be Man B in Da Nang last December.

I'm sitting 50 cms from the curb under a tent-like structure (remember: it's still monsoon season), so OF COURSE it is O.K. to smoke here.   A civilized country, LOL. I order my second bottle of Bia SaiGon (notably, the Viet word Bia is pronounced EXACTLY the same as the German word Bier ;-).

9:30 pm. The Viet posse from the next table is leaving.  Apparently the Viet equivalent of Sayonara is 'Hello Bye'.  

9:35 pm. They're starting to stack tables and chairs. 

I manage to finish my 'small' portion of grilled eel, but not the rice. Grandpa JJ would have LOVED it here !

If you haven't figured it out yet, I rate and judge places by the degree to which they can provide me with new and favourable experiences.  This eel meal (It RHYMES !) just shoved Quy Nhon quite high on that list ;-)

Quy Nhon just popped up another few spots.  The meal of Grilled Eel, Rice, and 2 bottles of beer cost me ..... drum roll ....wait for it .... CAD $7.80 (US $5.82). Now you see what I meant in my last post about having to get away from too many and too stupid tourists? No, it's not about the price I paid; it's about the attitude and morals of the people here.  They have not LEARNED yet how to be GREEDY!  And that's a level of innocence that pushes its way right to my heart.

 (Of course, I DID leave a tip, which in these parts is still unknown, so in a way I led the way to this place becoming just like all the other spoiled places).  On the other hand, I never met people that deserved a tip more.  OMG, life is complicated !  More wine ? LOL!

I get back to my room, start up the laptop again, and .... OMG, the guy who said he would actually DID fix the internet while I was gone.  This town is growing on me ;-)

10:30 pm.   After jumping over they Quay wall down to the beach to get rid of those two beers again I continue staggering back to my hotel. There are definitely fates worse than this ....

Worse fates than this .... ? Like this one maybe?:

Oh right, before I forget: The US of A will elect their Nitwit tomorrow! They used to have a President (still do), but (especially after the current one), that's not really a term one could or should use for the person being elected today. 

Naturally, it's not only the people to be elected who are at fault here. It's more the fault of the electorate.  There is an old saying: "Every people gets the government it deserves". And it has NEVER been more true than on this November 8, 2016, except maybe in that particular election when Germans cast their votes on March 5, 1933.

No comments:

Post a Comment