Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Obligatory Travel Guide

Hello dear readers, and welcome back.

Sorry about the lack of writing on Vietnam, I am just taking a little break and trying to spend less time on my devices.

That being said, Vietnam is amazing. The food is great, the scenery is ridiculous, but the best, are the Vietnamese people. They are absolutely warm, nice and welcoming.

And gents, if you have a thing for legs, thin waists, long black hair and ridiculously beautiful smiles, it is a feast for the eyes here.

But no sex before marriage, so don't get any funny ideas m'kay?

I promise I will talk about Vietnam in more details soon, but now I must be that guy, the one who writes a travel guide.

I have traveled 9 months in South-East Asia, seen 5 different countries. I have walked, cycled, bussed, motorbiked and boated my way around. I have not been mugged nor pick-pocketed, and only sustained minor scratches as injuries.

Also, because I'm spending lots of time on a motorbike these days, my mind wanders, and today the brain thought about a travel guide.

Unfortunately, the people who will read this are usually not the ones who should be reading this. Like when you post an article about your profession on Facebook, hoping someone will "get you" more... only your co-workers will read it, not your targeted audience of friends who treat waiters like shit, for instance.

(I don't want to use rules, so these are suggestions only)

The most important, IMHO:

Don't be arrogant.
(That's why the people that should be reading this aren't. They probably think they are the illest and don't need suggestions)

Yes, don't be arrogant. Stay humble. You will understand as you read on.

The dorm is not your house.
You've been partying in Hanoi for a week. The dorm stinks. There's a pile of clothes in the corner. It's yours: bingo! You're an asshole. Maybe you have a messy bedroom at home, and that's fine. Now's the time for mutual respect, however. Nobody wants to walk 20 minutes with 13 kg on their backs after a 16-hour train ride just to get to sleep somewhere that reminds them of a gym locker room.
Your freedom ends where someone else's begins.

You did not grow up in this country.
Yes, it looks chaotic. No, we don't know why we're waiting for an hour inside the bus in 40c weather and they won't turn on the A/C. Yes, it's annoying and even insulting to be scammed, to have to haggle, to pay 4 times what the locals pay. But things are different here, and we have no clue, no right to expect things to work the way we are used to back home. If you're not ready for the mindfuck that's coming, stay home. Our brains are probably patterned differently, being exposed to such different lifestyles. Don't lose your shit over the little lady that doesn't understand your embarrassing mime for sunscreen, your movements mean nothing to her.

Keep smiling, no matter what.
I have tattoos. On my arms, on my legs. I have been told numerous times that here, they are reserved for gangster, so people might be worried when they see me. But I am absolutely convinced that just because I smile a lot, people are still drawn to me. Even when being scammed or in a heated argument about the fact that I was misled an hour out of town, or when I'm mimicking shaving my head because I'm shopping for a razor, I still smile. The other party never feels threatened or ridiculed and when an agreement is reached, you have made a new friend. Yelling and waving your arms around rarely works.

When in doubt, watch a local.
Uncertain about what part of that meat you're supposed to eat? Ask. A little uncomfortable on the motorbike? Follow someone. Don't make it up as you go out try to emulate what you've seen in the movies, you might just end up offending sometimes.

On riding a motorbike.
You are not an expert. As a matter of fact, you don't know shiiiit. Even if you own a bike back home. Actually, especially if you own a bike at home. The rules that you follow are unheard of here. Here's what I have learned in the last week:

There's no left and right lane for each direction. The side of the street is a kind of buffer zone, where old people walk, kids cycle back from school, people eat snacks, motorists merge from side streets or simply text, dogs sleep, chicken roam, cows and water buffalos pass the time, and sometimes goats too. It's better to stay near the middle of the road and move to your right only when you hear a truck honking or see one coming.

Honking doesn't mean "Suck a bag of dicks" like it does at home. Here, you honk in a tight curve to warn unseen oncoming traffic of your presence. You honk when you're about to pass someone, especially if they are about to make a turn. You honk when coming from a side street.

Respect the road. Signs will warn you of heavy curves (but not all the time). There are also signs that announce villages and towns, it's a very good idea to slow down. If you see cow dung, there's usually a few of them around the corner, sometimes sitting right in your path. Be aware of your surroundings.

I made a list of dangers, in progressive order, for fun.

Other tourists.

It's not much of a travel guide, just some pointers, hoping it will save someone a trip to the hospital, or make somebody laugh. The most important thing of course, is to keep an open mind about everything and everyone.

And sometimes, you just need to say "Fuck it, why not".


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