Saturday, 15 November 2014

Pluie

Cher Jocelyn,

j'allais te demander si tout va bien mais je ne t'ai jamais entendu te plaindre.

Je vais ecrire en anglais car j'ai pas les accents sur le clavier de l'hotel.

Turns out I didn´t check the weather correctly when planning my trip. I've been getting rain for the past week. If I were to push south I would get nice weather, however, but my visa ends in 3 days.

Lucy can't seem to get better. Every time I bring her to the motorbike doctor, they fix a problem but a new one appears. Last time, my motor would simply shut down, even while riding in 4th gear. The mechanic cleaned the engine and over-charged me. Now, the button for the starter is almost disconnected.  My front wheel is bented. The welding on my bag rack just gave up, I have to tie my backpack sideways and it's harder to ride cities that way since everyone drives inches from you.

I decided to leave her at the hotel for a month, for a small fee they will keep an eye on her. I will take a bus to Laos and enjoy a little bit of peace of mind and pick her up on the way back.

Leaving Hanoi with her was amazing, however. We drove to a little beach town during tourism low season and had a good swim, coconuts, and a night drive just watching bored teenagers ride around and shoot the shit.

From there, quiet and short rides through small villages. Every time we'd stop for Pho, the whole village would come by and sit, staring at us and smiling. The kids are the ones who know English and they would practice their textbook sentences with us.

After a few days I decided to go to Pu Mat national park that I had spotted in my road atlas. A quick search online told me that the only thing to do was hike and see waterfalls and that sounded pretty good. Riding the main road towards it, I went passed the small backstreet that takes you inside the park. Stopping for directions in a tiny restaurant (2 tables, a cooler), a small Viet man lets me know through hand gestures that he needs to be going there. Before I can understand, he's sitting on my bike with a huge smile.

Needless to say, it was pretty cramped for the both of us AND my backpack and daybag, but we managed. After another 30 minutes of riding a tiny paved road through even smaller villages I reached a dammed river where 3 restaurants were waiting for customers, built on floating rafts. I asked to go see the waterfall but it was too expensive - you need to rent the whole boat so it gets cheaper with a group - so I just sat with a beer, pondering what to do. Shortly after, a group of young Vietnamese showed up to do the boat tour so I got in with them and enjoyed beautiful scenery of jungle canopy and local people riding on bamboo rafts.

After a quick swim in the river we went back to the restaurant where a young and pretty Vietnamese girl was waiting for me. She owned one of the restaurants and could speak English very well so we started chatting. Within a minute she offered to come with me on my trip before we went back together to Canada. I explained Canadian winter and the fact that people are not nice like the Vietnamese there and she changed her mind. Seeing that it was getting dark, I asked for a place to sleep but there were no hostels of any kind in the area.

I then asked if I could sleep in the restaurant, I would give them some money. The whole family got excited - apparently I was the first ever foreigner to ask such a thing here - and they opened more beers. I spent the night joking with them. They cooked the best fish I have ever eaten, I learned how to suck snails out of their shells and drank rice wine with the men. We then went for coffee and billard and came back to the restaurant where I was shown my bed. A matress and several bedsheets were laid out on the floor but I would be sharing it with the drunk of the family who tried to spoon me all night. I didn't sleep much.

The next morning we jumped off the dam and I made everyone sad when I announced that I had to keep going. It was one of the best days of this trip.

I made it to Phong Nha the next day and had a beer at Easy Tiger Hostel. That's where I saw the most westerners I had seen in a week, all grouped together. I stayed 3 nights in this little town, visiting amazing caves, playing board games, trying grilled pork belly. I met a german guy who was looking for a partner to ride the western branch of the Ho Chi Minh trail - a 200km segment up in the mountains with no gas station and only one village - and I jumped on the offer. It was easily the best drive I have ever taken of my life. Not a soul for hours, delicious curves, ridiculously amazing views. We stopped A LOT to take pictures, and every time we just stared at each other with giant smiles, WHAT the actual FUCK coming out of our mouths a lot.

During a pee and smoke break, we watch a big monkey, black with a white mane and red legs, jump up and down a tree and skillfully swoop around. It was beautiful to watch.

The trail took us about 7 hours to complete and it was pure bliss. Beautiful, not a pothole, not a truck.

The next day we visited, in the same day, an ancient american base and and ancient Viet Cong tunnel system. Impressive stuff.

In Hue we visited the Forbidden Purple City, not as grand as the one in Beijing but more charming. We also visited the tombs and mausoleums of ancient egocentric Nguyen emperors and then I got absolutely hammered in a small bar.

Last week all I did was hang around in Da Nang, the 3rd biggest city in Vietnam. Beautiful, lots of trees, tonnes of tailors, and a beach. I found a good ex-pat bar. I had an interview to get into an Intesol college the next morning so I took it easy in my room, watching HBO and eating Springles all night. The next morning I went for a drive around town and got proper dress pants and a button shirt and cleaned my trekking shoes with a toothbrush to look presentable. The interview went really well.

I spent a few days in Hoi An in this barbaric hostel, hoping to make friends and meet some girls but it turns out that I hated almost everyone I ran into. I got obliterated in another small bar, speaking with the Vietnamese girl working there.

I made it back up to Da Nang after 2 miserable nights and went back to the Ex-Pat bar where I met my first Quebecer, Yves de l'Outaouais. He's been working in Da Nang for a few months and he took me to another, slightly classier bar where the waitresses had a pretty good sense of humour. I closed the bar with them and they then invited me for some street food.

When it was time to leave, 3 young Vietnamese guys invited me over for a beer and I joined them, curious about where this was going. It was 1am. After a whole crate of beer they took me to a Karaoke place. Turns out I can read Vietnamese pretty well and can even sing it, judging by their screams of hapiness. Around 5am, they all took their shirts off and started grinding me - even after showing me pictures of their girlfriends - and after a few minutes of respectfully pushing them back I had to leave, drunk and angry. They had puzzled looks on their faces.

Came back up to Hue to cross over to Laos. The rain just relaxed a little bit. I'm gonna go for a walk, wearing a swimming suit and a poncho.

I miss my friends and family.

Have a good day everyone.

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