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Vietnam

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So here we are, three stops down the road, sitting on the terrace of a riverbank bar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’m enjoying an Angkor draft, “The National Beer”, as Laynni flirts with sugar overload by bravely attacking her second Coke of the day. Of the day. We’ve carefully positioned ourselves to avoid being either a) caught outside, or b) trapped in our little hotel room when inevitably the skies open up sometime this afternoon. As we moved south in Vietnam the rains started getting more and more common like rashes at a swinger’s club. And just as welcome. At least in Cambodia we’ve been able to pin it down to a fairly predictable window – after lunch. In Vietnam, however, it kept surprising us like a sudden case of traveller’s diarrhoea, occurring at various time of day in both Lak Lake and Dalat, cloudy or not. In Saigon, though,…

On to Nha Trang, Vietnam’s beach playground. We took a twelve hour night bus from Hoi An which had three rows of seats stacked two high sort of like a traveling dormitory and was overall pretty good except for a couple nagging details. The seats reclined nearly all the way for sleeping, with just a little 15 degree angle left to make sure that any position except flat on your back resulted in severe spine trauma, leaving one of your hands within easy reach of your shoelaces but the other unable to dig change out of your pocket. Plus, by forcing us to remain in the classic Catscan position, arms tight to our sides, eyes glued to the ceiling, we were free to enjoy the full effect of the Freezerburn 3000, an industrial cooling system designed for meat packing plants that is also equipped to direct powerful gusts of icy…

Multiple shades of green. Deep verdant greens, luminescent greens, dull dirty greens. The grass, the fields, the trees, the rice paddies, the water, the reeds. My lip balm container. Incessant buzzing of motorbikes, honking of squeaky little horns. Every so often a loud, penetrating blast announces the uncommon passing of a truck or bus. Old people, young people, entire families squeezed onto tiny mopeds, weaving through the crowded streets, somehow managing to remain courteous while paying no attention to what Westerners consider to be standard rules of the road. Occasionally this controlled mayhem is thrown into disarray by a tourist carelessly using his (gasp!) signal light. “Hello! Moto?” “Hello! You come look?” “Hello! You want eat?” “Hello! You want drink?” “Hello! Excuse me, free to look!” “Hello! You buy!” ….accepting rejection with a smile a hundred times a day. A smile that demonstrates the supreme gift of unbelievable patience they…

“That was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced”, breathed the young Englishman with a small shudder. The Setting:  Ha Long Bay, Northeast Vietnam, a small island in Cat Ba National Park known ominously as….Monkey Island…dum dum duuum. The Scene:  Feeling hot, lazy and ill-dressed for hiking Laynni and I lounged on the beach. Meanwhile five others, all young, male and palely British, worked their way up the steep jungled cliffs slightly inland. The Shakedown:  As they closed in on the summit they noticed a couple cute brown monkeys perched in the nearby branches. Cameras were powered up, videos began to roll. Meanwhile the crowd of little primates continued to grow, some behind, a few more hovering above, until suddenly , as though in response to some prearranged signal, they shot forward as one. The unwitting hikers fell back in shock, only to realize they were surrounded. The ensuing chaos…

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