Thursday, 27 July 2017

6 hours on the Reunification Express..... to DA NANG !

As usual I wake early.   

When I peek down to the street from my balcony, I see Viets doing their morning stretches in the street.

I'm NOT using the hotel-supplied bathroom product.   

Bleach my tan and I might return to Vancouver as an Albino !

Good Bye Quy Nhon !
I’m showered, packed, and head down to the lobby to pay and get my passport back.

The grizzled owner is having a cigarette while drinking tea with a friend at the table in the lobby.  I gesture No Rush and light a cigarette right outside the door.

HEY, I hear.
I turn around, and see him pointing at a small plastic chair.  I sit down to form a triangle with him and his friend, he offers me a cigarette, and pours me a glass of tea.   This is so friggin SIMPLE and UNCOMPLICATED.   He gets out his cell phone with the AMAZING speech-2-text translation app.
Are you happy to be here? 
I am very sad to leave Vietnam.
HUGE grin.
An about 30 year old super-fit Viet and his friend join us to make the triangle into a circle.
What your name?
Hans  (By now I know that the Viet tongue has issues pronouncing my real name)
My name Lee, like Bruce Lee !
I point at his bulging biceps, nod, and make an appreciative face; he grins.

He and his friend soon leave, explaining to me in English that they MUST leave to get his car fixed because yesterday his car broke down.   

Now it’s just me and the old man. 
Where are you from?
Ah. Last week Teacher from Canada here. Happy times. Evening we drink medicinal wine, writes the phone app, while he points at the bottle under the table that I already suspected to contain strange animal remains.

LOL.  Anthony Bourdain was right.  The Viets are the PERFECT Social drinkers.
That reminds me of Taskin in Istanbul, LOL.

The phone displays the questions:  Do you come here to settle?   Are you married? Do you want to marry Vietnamese woman?
When I tell him about my 99 year old Grandma, his face distorts in astonishment and disbelief.
Your Grandmother full and amazing life, comments the phone.
And he understands:
You come to Vietnam when you can.

I can see how the Canadian teacher a few weeks ago could have spent entire evenings drinking and texting with this man.   But I have to catch a train.
So he calls me a taxi, and he relaxes after I tell his phone 8:45 after it had asked me “When train depart?”

The taxi driver is the MADDEST HONKER I’ve ever seen in Vietnam.   No, he doesn’t give the little beep beep warning signs, he HONKS at EVERYONE who could even remotely be suspected of coming anywhere near his straight path  to Ga Dieu Tri.   Once he even shouts at a cyclist through the open passenger window.  PLEASE someone move him to Vancouver, he would fit in SO WELL.

I buy a big seafood noodle soup and a 1L bottle of water from one of the vendors.  20,000 VND.  That's a total of CAD $1.10.
 How can I go back to Canadian prices after this.   
Then I buy two of the Banh-Mi-sized baguettes for a total of 10,000 VND.     Maybe a Hunger Strike back home to protest the HORRENDOUS food costs?
 My eyes actually tear over slightly when I hear the whistle ....   
 and a minute later see the engine of the SE4 Reunification Express. 
  What a name for a train, LOL.
And what a train !

One of my clients is in his 70s.  I send him a message "You are of an age to get a kick out of the fact that part of the last translation was written on a train with the lovely name "Reunificaton Express" that connects Saigon and Hanoi.
Attached to that e-mail is the picture of Ho Chi Minh on the cover of Time Magazine.
And Yes, my client did get a kick out of that, LOL.

They have NEW Bedding !!!!  Much fancier looking than the last time I was on a Vietamese train, which must have been in  December 2016.  I sleep tightly through the first hour.

3.5 hours left until Da Nang.  As every time I’m taking the train there, I’m hoping that Anh My will be scouting the arriving trains for fortunate victims for his Easy Rider motorcycle tours.   If you ever get lucky enough to have an Easy Rider offer you a ride to your hotel from Ga Da Nang, don’t let this opportunity slip by.  And make sure to book at least a one-day trip with them. 

The train steadily click-clacks its way through planes of rice-paddies only limited by the distant mountains and areas dense with vegetation, most notably palm trees.

I’ve never slept as well as on a Vietnamese train, LOL.   This late already and I didn’t have a proper breakfast?  No wonder I’m hungry.   Let’s take that noodle soup container to the boiling water dispenser.  Yup !  They have those in ever car of those train.  And they have to.

The view from the lower berth

The Reunification Express takes 2.5 days or 60 hours to complete the 1726 km trip from Sai Gon to Ha Noi.  CLICK HERE for A 1-MINUTE VIDEO OF THE VIEW

And if you’re crazy or courageous enough to do the entire trip In one, you’ll need your morning coffee at least twice.   And lunch twice. And dinner twice.   The long journey alone would be torture but without hot coffee and at least a yummy noodle soup?   Add to that the fact that the air conditioning in the sleeping compartments is set a tad too low (it’s fine if you’re huddled in your blanket) so a bit of hot liquid is a definite bonus !

Ga Da Nang.  
Finally.  6 hours train at night is easy, but during the day 6 hours is my limit.

I look for My, but he's not there.  Another guy approaches me making a two-handed motorcycle engine revving gesture.   Easy Rider ?, I ask, and he's surprised to have been uncloaked so fast.

Helmet on and off we go on the by now very familiar ride.

Familiar?  Hell NO!  I am SHOCKED how the city has changed in the 9 months since I was here last.

I'm back in Jazz hotel at the comparatively quiet end of the endless beach (End of an Endless beach? I must be losing it ;-)

They even bring me a pretty welcome drink (Virgin, unfortunately)

A bit posh, but I wanted B&B (Beach & Balcony)
Sheraton, Hilton & Co have arrived in force and are erecting a concrete wall between the beach and the city.  

Even walking the two blocks back into Hello-Land from the beach promenade, I see MAJOR changes.  Every third lot is a construction site for new 2 or 3 level houses.   This is the very same street where I asked for Wine only last year through a small shop window and was offered Vodka because they never heard the word for wine before.   Now look at it:

This is what it looked like 11 months ago
Remnants of the old life are still here:
But for how long?

Even in the local market some people have LEARNED in the last 11 months how to RIP OFF tourists.  The nail clippers cost 40 cents in one store.  But then I fall into the tourist traps in a T-shirt store. She wants 400,000 Dong, 20 bucks for 2 T-shirts.   I'm stupid enough to buy them for 300,000 Dong.  She wants to show me pants too and I notice other VENDORS shouting NO, NO, NO !  I only realize WHY they were shouting that when I get home.  The T-shirt has a price tag of 22,000 Dong. 1 Dollar.   She tried to get 10 times that for it.  

11 months ago I was able to state with conviction that the Viets had not learned YET how to be greedy. Not Anymore.  They're fast learners.  
For now the others don't like what she learned. 
For how long? 
or The End?

That restaurant is NEW.  There was an empty lot with children playing and a guy with a tire-fixing water bucket and his old trusty compressor sitting there last time I was here

But some things haven't changed.  My store is still there (although a 10 level hotel went up in the last 9 months one block to the right of it) and the owner recognizes me and even remembers the hotel that I stayed in 2 years ago.   
Smiling owner on the right

And there is that maybe 13 year old girl who greats me with Hola (now that is a new one) and when I reply with Xin Chao and keep on walking I can hear her behind me reporting this outworldly experience to her house-mates. I hear her repeating "Hola" and  "XIN CHAO !!!!".  

The cities might be changing here into something very Western but I have some hope that the Viet people will be able to resist the change into bland Lulu-Lemon-wearing veggies.  They still have common sense here.

I'm on my way back to the hotel and I'm walking by a restaurant where I've eaten THAT chicken 1.5 years ago.  The kitchen took FOREVER to bring me the chicken.
Yes, that was the time they explained themselves with "We had to pluck it first".  
Here is the Chicken Lady delivering those chickens to that same restaurant. They are ALIVE.  Which means that they not only had to pluck it !
A chicken got its head cut off just because I pointed at a menu item !
On the other hand: eating plastic-wrapped chicken sitting for however long on your local Western supermarket shelf for some strange reason no longer is my thing ;-)

I've just finished a mediocre seafood pizza (the taste was ok, but where is the seafood?.  I should have known though; I'm staying and eating in a tourist place), when I see three people crossing the road in their swimming outfits who look mighty familiar.  
It's the Dutch family who rented the scooters at the Kiwi Connection in Quy Nhon.  They're traveling the length of Vietnam by camper van after their cute son had convinced them to come here after he had worked in the Seagull hotel some time in the last year. Lucky Bastard, LOL


More translating work to do .....

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